Walking through Carytown one lovely Saturday afternoon, I spotted a guy sitting at the door of a tattoo shop having a smoke break. I commented on the beautiful tattoo on his arm and he stated it was done by the girl upstairs, Amy Black. She was so good (even in those early years) that he had traveled from New York just to have her do the work. Fast forward twelve years and the majority of my friends, past co-workers, and even a few family members have all had their work done by Amy Black.
As if owning and running your own tattoo shop was not enough, Amy has spoken at the VMFA, TEDxRVA, owned a side business selling organic and recycled clothing, jewelry and housewares, hosted the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery for their visits to Richmond Virginia, and has started a non-profit organization called Pink Ink Fund assisting breast cancer patients with post-mastectomy reconstructive, restorative, and recovery tattoos. It’s a wonder this woman has time to sleep!
Her talent is impressive indeed, but the love and passion she puts into any and all work she does is beyond extraordinary. As this week’s WORK Folk, she was kind enough to take a break in her busy schedule to answer some questions for me.
1- What you do (I know, I already know this)?
I own and operate out of my private, by appointment tattoo studio in Richmond, Virginia.
2 - How long you've been doing this particular work.
3 - How did you get started/interested in this field?
I apprenticed at the shop I now fully own. I got interested after getting heavily tattooed and loving the art form
4 - What are the particular tools/ inspiration that help you continue to do this to the high standards/quality you insist upon?
I want people's tattoos to last them a lifetime, and for them to be happy with them that long too. Instilling proper composition of tattoos and keeping up the correct technical applications of them are priorities to me.
5 - Is there someone in particular that inspires you or inspired you when you started?
My tattoo teacher and also a lot of other tattoo artists, as well as artists in other genres like painters, sculptors, etc. I get energy from keeping an eclectic roster of influences to keep things fresh, so not just one person ever.
6 - Our brand (WORK Labs) focuses a lot on work ethic. Can you describe your work ethic, short-cuts you will not take, things you won't give in on, even if it meant more business, money, etc.?
My work ethic is to be a professional, treat people as I would want to be treated, be honest with clients even if it means they don't like to hear it, stick by the technical tattoo rules that were passed down to me out of respect to the trade, keep my tools and products I use as clean as possible, no drama type of atmosphere. I would -and have- turned people around from getting tattooed if I felt they weren't ready at the beginning of their first scheduled tattoo appointment because I feel so strongly about not letting someone get something they aren't sure about. It’s already cost me upwards of $500+ in a lost appointment but being fair and honest outweighs letting someone stumble into a permanent tattoo they can't change if they aren't ready for it.
7 - Any advice to individuals starting out in a similar field?
Be humble, work hard, be respectful of others, don't waste your or others time, don't disrespect the trade and its rules, don't take this job for granted
If you’d like to contact Amy for tattoo work, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out Instagram for her portfolio: amyblacktattoos, Facebook: amyblacktattoos and Twitter: amyblacktattoos.
Warning: Some of these photos may not be considered safe for work as they are images of post-mastectomy tattoos.