Friday, September 15, 2017

Featured Tattoo Artist | Mary Joy Scott

Photo by @alexa_lechatnoir

Name: Mary Joy
Location: San Francisco

How did you get into the industry?

 I got into the industry by getting tattooed a lot. I was obsessed and got as many as I could. It really took off for me after I graduated from University. I was working on art and having shows, doing zines and murals, embroidering...just making as much art as I could and hanging with artists and tattooers in the San Francisco art scene. 

I landed an unpaid "job" as a curator for an art gallery devoted to showing work by tattooers. The first show featured work from the collection of CW Eldridge, one of the most important tattoo historians and the steward of the Tattoo Archive and Paul Rogers Research Foundation and Don Ed Hardy. 

Ed Hardy is one of the most important tattooers in the world. He started tattooing in 1966 after getting his art degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. He tattooed all over the world, pioneering countless styles of tattooing. He also published books on tattooing that changed the face of the industry irrevocably, notably Tattoo Time in the 90s and the Sailor Jerry Flash books. 

The show was named Gettin' it On, the History of the Tattoo Stencil. It was cool, I got to visit CW's archive as he pulled items to use. I also spent a lot of time with Ed working on captions and fliers. He came in while I was hanging the show and drew four big stencil designs in charcoal on canvas. This is what they used to use to apply stencils in the acetate days before thermofax.

 I was in awe watching him draw a symmetrical girl head with eagle wings with no preliminary drawing. Just straight on. That authority, confidence and ease he has in drawing was hard earned by decades of tattooing. I am always amazed by it.

So this was my first connection with the deep history of tattooing. The good stuff. The magic. I was hooked and I have never looked back. 

I got a tiger tattoo from Ed a few months later and he asked to see my artwork. I showed him all the work I had been doing, which was a lot. I couldn't stop drawing, and it was heavy laden with traditional American tattoo imagery and occult symbolism. 

Was it hard to find an apprenticeship?

I had dreamed of it for years but no doors opened for me. Then it fell in my lap. I got a call from Ed after I got my tiger tattoo that he needed someone to work as front person at the shop. Kahlil Rintye remembered meeting me at the gallery and said "How about Mary?" Ed agreed since he knew me and I started soon thereafter. 

I worked my ass off as front person. I knew I wanted to tattoo but the people I had told mostly laughed at me so I kept my mouth shut about it. I got there early every day, mopped the floors, cleaned everything, went above and beyond. I was watching and asking questions. I got tattooed a lot. I drew whenever I had time and started combing the massive collection of flash and reference library for images to use in my drawings. 

One day, Kahlil let me put a little line in on my boyfriend's (now husband) tattoo he was working on and I got a crazy thrill. It was like getting struck by lightning. It had that big of an effect on my psyche. Still does. The first line was shaky as fuck but then I got into it. I put in three teeny lines on an area that was going to be shaded later and I couldn't stop thinking about it afterward. 

Anyway, Kahlil told Ed and then Ed said "Oh, we should teach Mary how to tattoo". So that was it. Ed dropped the news to me as a question, which of course I agreed to. He said "ok get a drawing ready. You are going to tattoo yourself on Sunday." It was Wednesday when he asked. So that was the start of it. I apprenticed with Ed Hardy and Kahlil was the second in charge. He tried to give me all the nuts and bolts. He's a crazy good tattooer and a good friend so that was great. 

I already had a big base of friends in the SF music and art scene so I had no shortage of people to tattoo. It just took off from there. 

How long have you been tattooing?

Ten and a half years. 

What inspires you?

Art, nature, my family, music! My husband is a musician and my son plays too so our house is kind of like punk rock sound of music with cats and plants everywhere. We sing all day long. It rules. I love my family more than anything in this world. 

I am obsessed with art history and I go to museums and search the internet for it any chance I get. I mostly look at work made before 1940. Of course I look at tattoos and Ed's archive whenever I get a chance also. I haunt the bookstores of course...always looking for inspiration and new (old) images. 

Who are your favourite tattoo artists?

Ed Hardy, Chris Garver, Chris Conn, Tim Lehi, Theo Mindell, Jack Rudy, Chuey Quintanar, Valerie Vargas,  Andreas Coenen, Grez, Mike Rubendall, Debra Yarian, Good Time Charlie, Junii and Bill Salmon, oh man...I could go on for a while. Most of the tattooers I really admire are the ones who give something back to tattooing and really understand how lucky we all are to be a part of it, that it's bigger than the individual. There are too many to mention and many many who are no longer with us that inspire me daily, like Sailor Jerry, Cap Coleman, the Wagner family, Christian Wahrlich, Ben Corday, Bert Grimm...

How would you describe your tattoo style? 

Apocalyptic medieval magic occult dark nature beauty infused with traditional tattoo technique? Haha, it's hard to distill it down. My favorite things to tattoo are lady heads and skulls...devils, bats, ravens, hell scenes, ancient Egyptian imagery.  

I grew up listening to post-punk and wearing lots of black and Cleopatra eyeliner. I spent time in goth clubs and reading tarot cards and runes in my youth and I really haven't changed at all. I'm even wearing a Bauhaus shirt of mine from high school as I write this. 

I find that a lot of my clients now are looking for some kind of iconography that offers a bit of magic, like a talisman. I use my years of research to help find the right design and open up new visual possibilities. I love it when a  client comes back to tell me the transformative power the tattoo has in their life. 

If you weren't tattooing what would you be doing? 

Well, I used to paint one shot signs for a living. I also painted murals and designed logos for small businesses. I painted leather jackets and did commissioned portraits so I would probably pick one of those or just hustle on all of them like I used to. 

I have always worked hard since I was 11 or something. Started with a paper route. I have always put in way extra than asked, especially with tattooing, because I love it deep down in my dark heart. 

What advice do you have to people considering careers in tattooing?

My advice to people interested in tattooing is: go get tattooed. Most apprenticeships come from real friendships. If you are lucky enough to have the talent and character to be offered an apprenticeship by a legitimate tattooer, then give it your all. Both feet in. It's a job that requires a lot of hard work and long hours if you want to be any good. 

You have to love it deep in your bones, and it helps to like people. I see it as a duty to do right by clients and make sure you give them the very best you can, every time. 

So, go get tattooed by Jack Rudy, by Lal Hardy, by CW Eldridge and people who care about doing great work. You will learn something every time you get tattooed. Pay your respects to the tattooers who came before and worked hard to make this industry better.  

What are some of the best things you have experienced as a result of your career? 

Traveling the world,  meeting great people and building friendships with my clients and peers, visiting art museums. I'm writing this on a plane to Paris and I get to do what I love for a living so I'd say the benefits are pretty good. I also have my work published in several books and have exhibited in museums, worked with world class print makers like Paul Mullowney. I can't complain...

Where do you currently tattoo? 

I work at Tattoo City in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.  I tattoo at three European conventions a year: Mondiale di Tatouage in Paris, Kaiserstadt Tattoo Expo in Aachen, Germany, and the London Tattoo Convention. I also tattoo at the Bay Area Tattoo Convention in Burlingame near San Francisco.