Slinging Ink and Spilling Tea
What It’s Really Like to Be a Female Tattoo Artist

Ashlynn Sash has dreamed of being a tattoo artist since her days in art class at Mayo High School. After graduation, she moved to California to pursue a career in tattoo. Going shop to shop looking for an apprenticeship opportunity was harder than she had envisioned. In an industry that often views female artists as a gimmick, the only offers she got were from shop owners who were looking for favors in return for tattoo training. After two frustrating years, Sash made the tough decision to return home to Rochester in the middle of a pandemic with three newborn kittens in tow.

After a few months trying to get on her feet, feeling hopeless and defeated, fate stepped in. She was chatting with a coworker at Trader Joe’s about her experience out West and the obstacles in the way of her tattoo dreams. Unbeknownst to her, the coworker happened to be Stephanie Holt, co-owner of Sacred Heart Studio. Holt mentioned that they were looking for an apprentice and invited Sash to apply. This glimmer of hope had her running for the staff bathroom to cry tears of joy and relief.

Mad Maud mentors
Halfway through her apprenticeship now, Sash is thankful for her role models, including Rachel Parker, a fellow Sacred Heart artist. Parker has felt fortunate to be a part of the Sacred Heart team since she came to town two and a half years ago. She was instantly impressed by the artistic freedom and supportive culture of the studio. Sacred Heart is a completely custom studio, which gives artists the space and encouragement to explore their craft and provides clients with their own unique body art.

Parker (nicknamed “Mad Maud” after the first female American tattoo artist) stresses that tattooists need to be versatile and able to accommodate their clients’ wishes, but she always gets excited whenever she has the opportunity to design extremely illustrated tattoos.

Ink as therapy
Having experienced the traumatic effects of breast cancer in her family, Parker’s goal is to offer no-cost reconstructive tattoos to mastectomy patients. Living in the Med City, she feels this service would be invaluable to patients who come here for treatment. In 2019, Mayo Clinic reported on their website that they performed over 675 mastectomies. These surgeries leave visible scars, often on top of emotional ones, and Parker would love to help patients feel like themselves again by providing tattoos that cover the scars and recreate the look of the lost breast. Parker has researched grants and is in the process of looking for a cancer care team in Rochester with whom she can collaborate.

A softer touch
Holland Van Lin, of Skin Lab, has been tattooing for 14 years and has found that clients often seek out a female artist for their first tattoo or when getting one in an intimate spot. People tend to believe that women are lighter handed, with a softer touch. Making clients comfortable with their entire tattoo experience is her number-one priority.

Van Lin advises women who are interested in a body art career to “draw everything and put together a well rounded portfolio” when applying for apprenticeships. A strong handshake and assertive attitude also go a long way in establishing your dedication to your craft.

In a traditionally male-dominated field, with only about 20 female body artists currently working in Minnesota, Rochester is home to several talented and passionate artists who are ready and willing to work with you to create your own custom body art

Holland Van Lin
Skin Lab @hollandvanlin
Rachel Parker
Sacred Heart Studios @vhexi
Ashlynn Sash
Sacred Heart Studios @ashipoohh
Contact Info
Skin Lab Piercing and Tattoo
1117 7th Street NW • 507-208-4465
Sacred Heart Studios
821 N Broadway Ave • 507-271-4954

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