AT WORK: Tattoo artist in Wallingford

AT WORK: Tattoo artist in Wallingford

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WALLINGFORD — A few weeks after opening Fox Den on North Colony Street, owner and tattoo artist Jeannine LaGrow, 31, sat down with the Record-Journal to talk about her job, shop, co-workers and changes in the tattoo industry.

Q: What made you want to open a tattoo place?

LaGrow: I’ve been tattooing for 11 years and I’ve been in one shop and that one shop was just me and one other person. It was time for me to do my own thing.

Q:  What got you into tattoo art?

LaGrow: My friends, everyone just kind of pushed me into tattooing because I was good at art.

I didn’t think I was good enough to be a tattoo artist but I just started doing it and got better and better and now it’s a passion. Now it’s my life. 

Q: What kind of art did you do before tattooing?

LaGrow: I sketched, I drew and my friends really were the driving force to this.

Q: How did you start?

LaGrow: I graduated high school (in Wallingford) and I started tattooing. I knew I was going to be a tattoo artist at 18, but by 21 I was doing it.

Q: What is the most requested tattoo design?

LaGrow: Right now, dot work. People want black dots and ornamental stuff. Tattoos are becoming so much more trendy, small tattoos are becoming a thing of the past.

People want big tattoos now. It’s much more socially accepted. 

Q: How has the industry changed in the last decade?

LaGrow: Ten years ago it was still really taboo to be a female in the industry and it was still really taboo to be a female with tattoos, as covered as I am. Five years ago I feel like everything got mainstreamed. The tattoo TV shows and just how available tattooing became to a lot of people who didn’t necessarily understand the culture before.

Within that five-year span we were all licensed in the state and it became such a mainstream thing that there was a tattoo shop opening on every block. 

Q: What is the licensing process like?

LaGrow: The licensing process is very new to this state and I feel like there’s a lot of bugs being worked out as far as how it all comes together. I had to be licensed a few years ago by just proving that I was tattooing for as long as I was.

Now to be licensed you have to become an apprentice legally, fill out that requirement from your mentor and that mentor will license you. 

Q: How has the demand increased?

LaGrow: It went from “I kind of want a tattoo” every now and then, to really regular clients. People want to get tattooed once a month.

Q: What kind of skills do you need to be a tattoo artist?

LaGrow: Basic drawing skills is a must, really good attention to detail and sanitation detail. 

Q: What is the safety aspect like?

LaGrow: The art is absolutely important but the more important part in my opinion is really the sanitation and the protection of your clients. We have to understand what the risk is and we do, we take it very seriously.

Q: How many tattoos do you have yourself?

LaGrow: I’ve lost count. The number is actually going down, so I’m not climbing in numbers anymore – everything is just kind of becoming one tattoo.

I hope to be fully sleeved someday. A lot of my tattoos have a lot of personal meanings as far as people in my life and events in my life. 

Q: Anything with that kind of significance that you’ve been able to do for someone else?

LaGrow: I’m actually having a week now, one of my best friends lost her stepfather on Father’s Day and to see her hurt has been a really sad thing.

So I tattooed her and her sister late last night just because they needed something for him.

It means a lot to me that I can help my friends with catharsis through tattooing and also give them something that will help them through the grief process.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting their first tattoo?

LaGrow: Ask a lot of questions. Ask how they sterilize things, if they use single-use items or a proper disinfectant. Just small things, new needles, cartridges.

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