Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurel Tynes.
Hi Laurel, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was always drawing and creating since a young age. I was fascinated with tattoos all growing up but wasn’t really exposed to them in the town I grew up in — at least not to my definition of what makes a “good” tattoo. I started getting tattooed professionally when I was 18. Not long after, I was the “shop rat,” as I was called by some of the artists there, or more considerately put, a shop helper/assistant. That included sterilization, general cleaning, managing shop bills, answering the phone, helping schedule for tattooers, and more. This eventually turned into an apprenticeship. I’d like to mention that during my time apprenticing, Chris Cole really looked after me and taught me so much — in tattooing and in life. Although he was not the one that was supposed to be teaching me, I do attribute most of my fundamentals and proper lessons to him.
After three years of being in that shop in Washington, I moved to San Diego to continue my career with only eleven months of tattooing under my belt. I bought a one-way ticket, packed some clothes and tattoo supplies, and had a stay at an AirBnB arranged for one week. I had no real plan of what I was doing except that I needed to tattoo and I needed to make it happen in San Diego. Mark Nes, owner of and tattooer at Golden Days Tattoo Parlour, was gracious enough to sit down with me and talk about my experiences in the world of tattooing up until that point (literally the day I flew into San Diego) and invited me to a paint night that was the following day. I spent a few weeks going and introducing myself at tattoo shops and heard the same response everywhere I went — “you have potential, but you have no clientele base here and it just won’t work.” Meanwhile, I was attending the weekly paint night and meeting a lot of great tattooers and learning a lot in the short amount of time I had been in San Diego. Mark offered me a position, and a week later, I took him up on it. I have worked at Golden Days Tattoo the entirety of my time tattooing in San Diego and I would not have it any other way. Mark had faith in me and provided me a place to grow and continue my journey. I am very grateful to have a team around me that operates as a family and that pushes me every single day to be better. I am beholden to so many wonderful people that have shared their tattoo secrets and stories with me. I am so thankful to have grown my tattoo family even bigger with so many lovely people in San Diego and surrounding areas (and in Washington too, of course). The world works in mysterious ways and right when you think you’re out of options, the right one becomes clear to you.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
In every phase of life, there are highs and lows. Without darkness, we would not be able to appreciate the light. Personally, I prefer to focus on what I am appreciative of rather than what has led me astray or has been a roadblock for me. I think that if there are always “smooth roads” then you aren’t really transforming. Growth requires being uncomfortable and making decisions that aren’t always the “easy” route but will allow you to expand. That being said, one of the things that challenged me in my career and as a person was moving to San Diego from Washington state. Although I had job offers in Seattle, I did need to experience some change in my surroundings to challenge myself further and also to escape an unsafe situation. Apprenticeships will make or break you; mine did both. Luckily, I am in a position where I can travel and work so I do frequently tattoo in Washington. Starting my life in a new place and creating a new clientele base was scary for me, but hard work pays off. I feel blessed to have such wonderful clients in California and in Washington.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m in the business of permanently adorning people’s skin. I specialize in creating American Traditional tattoos. However, I do not limit myself to solely making traditional tattoos. I love tattooing in all facets, so lettering, illustrative, ornamental work, and more all make me feel the same magic spark as traditional tattoos. I will do anything that is within my capability to provide a clean, professional tattoo that will enhance someone’s life and expression of themselves. I’m proud of my ability to build relationships with people from all walks of life through tattooing and provide positive experiences before, during, and after the tattoo process. I’m grateful to be able make tattoos for people that they can carry with them through their lifetime. I think that tattooing being my one true love, sets me apart from a lot of tattooers, but that is not something that is exclusive to me. I share that same adoration with so many tattooers— just not all of them.
What matters most to you?
There are so many different ways I could answer this — values I hold, principles I live by, ethics I practice. Although these are good topics to dive into, in a general scope, I have to say that tattooing matters the most to me. Tattooing has saved my life in so many ways; whether that’s from my own disdain, providing me a family and network of incredible people, allowing me to support myself financially, or giving me purpose. There’s not an achievable “end”— you constantly are learning and evolving and I think that’s part of the allure to me. Tattooing has granted me an opportunity to really grow into my authentic self in the truest capacity while I navigate through this journey. All I can do is give back to tattooing what I can. I’m borrowing this incredible thing that doesn’t belong to me — or to anybody— and giving it my all and hoping to at least give back to it in a positive light. There’s a magic within tattooing that needs to be honored and upheld.
I am so grateful to be apart of this thing that not only has changed my life but has given me a chance to touch the lives of those around me as well. Tattoos are transformative for tattooers and for the people we tattoo. Every single day, I am testing my abilities and striving for improvement— improved skills, understanding of the history of this craft, relationships, and an improvement of myself in all capacities. Thank you to all of those who have trail-blazed this path for us. Thank you to everyone who has shared their knowledge with me and supported me in this voyage. Thank you to my clients for letting me be apart of their journey and trusting me to adorn them. Thank you tattooing for keeping me alive and well. I am eternally grateful to this craft and what it has done for me. Tattooing is everything to me.
- I currently charge $180 per hour.
- Email: LaurelTynesTattoos@gmail.com
- Instagram: @laureltynestattoos
Nick Llerenas / @beoriginick