Finding your dream tattoo can be a different process these days than, let’s say, walking into a tattoo parlor and choosing a random flash design from the walls.
Social media allows for the more modern experience of finding an artist who speaks to your own personal tattoo style. You can see all the different kinds of tats they’ve worked on through their feed instead of having to wait to flip through a portfolio. And on Instagram, you can easily come across different women tattoo artists whose work you admire, and who might even inspire that special design you want forever inked on your body.
Earth Altar Studio is a female-operated LA-based tattoo studio founded by Justine Serebrin that specializes in everything from traditional tattoos, piercings, laser hair removal, and cosmetic tattooing. There, you’ll find talented, badass women like tattoo artist Melissa Martell. Before Melissa began her career as a tattoo artist, she worked in graphic design. After her first experience getting inked herself, she realized tattooing was her destiny. “I fell in love with it and became obsessed with researching and finding out as much as I could,” she explains to HelloGiggles. That’s when she met and connected with Justine, who ended up becoming her tattoo mentor.
We talked to Melissa about what it’s like to work in an all-female tattoo studio, and the craziest tattoo she’s ever worked on.
HelloGiggles: How would you describe your tattooing style?
Melissa Martell: I’m known for stylized blackwork and for traditional tattoos with a contemporary color palette.
HG: How has your journey been since you began? Has your style changed a lot?
MM: My style has evolved to incorporate more fine-lined details, but I always favor a more bold tattoo rooted in the American Traditional style.
HG: What is it like being a woman in the tattoo industry? Have you ever faced any discrimination?
MM: No, and I have been incredibly lucky in that respect! I started tattooing at a private, female-owned studio and continue to work at a female-owned shop. I am lucky enough to say I haven’t faced discrimination thanks to the women tattooers who paved the way for new tattooers like me. If anything, being a woman in this industry can be an advantage. I think clients are searching for someone they can connect with, and the more diversity, the better!
HG: What’s the best thing about working in a tattoo studio with all women?
HG: Who are some artists that you admire?
HG: Tell me about the first tattoo you got.
MM: My first tattoo is a cute lady wearing a cat mask. I was on a reunion trip with my two younger sisters and we decided to get tattoos together. I’ll always love that tattoo, not only because it’s a beautiful piece of art but also for the memory it carries.
HG: What was the craziest thing you’ve tattooed on someone?
MM: The craziest tattoo I’ve done is also one of my favorites! A woman asked if I could tattoo a cute bag of Hot Cheeto Fries. I loved the idea and am also a big fan of Hot Cheetos Fries! We quickly became close friends. That’s part of why I love tattooing — some of my best friends started out as clients.