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Thursday Q & A: Jessie Villars

This week I sit down with Studio 85 owner and visionary, Jessie Villars. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week, we hope to continue to have increase input from you guys as this moves forward!

So to begin; How long did you apprentice? A year. There was a lot of that time that I feel wasn’t utilized in the best manner, but that is here nor there. It took a year and it shaped who I am in many ways.

When did you start your career as a tattoo artist? My interest began while away at college after getting my first tattoo. Some time after, I left college and began getting more tattoos and piercings and my interest became more focused. In 2008 I began my apprenticeship, and I started tattooing in January of 2009. You know, I was really looking to make my parents proud by dropping out of school and becoming a tattoo artist.

Speaking on that further, what did your family and friends think about you getting into the tattoo industry? They were supportive. Especially my friends. People love being test dummies for stuff like this. My parents may have been a little concerned that I was getting into weird stuff, just because of the stereotypes associated with the industry, but they are very supportive and proud of me.

When did you first decide to get tattooed? When I was away at college in 2004. I was attending a school in Tennessee. It was a very religious school that definitely would have frowned upon that sort of thing. But I did the really cool thing that every young girl did for their first tattoo back then, I got a small japanese symbol the size of a quarter on my hip. Not many people know what it stands for, and that’s a secret I’ll save for another day.

What is your favorite tattoo on your body and why? It’s too hard to pick a favorite. My favorite to look at is the one on my neck and shoulder, done by the very talented Teresa Sharpe. However, many of my other tattoos hold sentimental value and they are important to me in that way. Most of my pieces reflect moments or people in my life that are of great importance to me.

What would you say is your largest personal influence? My family. Everything I do and am in life is because of them. I want to be the best version of myself, and I am always trying to grow. I want to show my son while he is growing that anything is possible if you work hard, and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not tattooing? I like to explore other artistic avenues, like painting, or creating things I haven’t made before. With the small amount of leisure time I have, I enjoy going to movies, playing video games, going out with friends and experiencing new things. I try to avoid getting stuck in routines when it comes to my time outside of work, so I sort of figure out as I go what I want to do for fun that day.

What moment in your career did it hit you that this was absolutely what you wanted to do? It’s kind of weird actually. I remember very vividly the first time I did a color tattoo. It was probably my 4th or 5th tattoo, and it was a small pumpkin on my good friend Kyle’s arm. I remember as we took a break, we were standing outside while he had a smoke and I just told him that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew it more certainly than I had known many things up until that point. That’s the moment I knew. What I didn’t know is that I would have a long road ahead that would lead me to believe differently. I considered for a year or more finding a different career path, but after having my son I decided to get more serious about my craft and I started taking the steps to open my own studio. Since then, I have had no doubts about what I want to do in life. I can’t imagine being anywhere other than where I am.

What do you think, or hope, your tattoo style says about you? I hope that it says that I like a challenge, and that it is expressive and dynamic. I hope that people can see the time and thought that I put into each piece, large or small. I still feel like I float between many different styles so maybe I haven’t hit an exact style per se, but I feel like my work is strong from a technical standpoint, and it is consistent in that regard.

What would you say is your favorite part of the job? The people, which is also sometimes my least favorite part. I enjoy getting know people from all walks of life, many different personalities, senses of humor, artistic preferences, etc. It’s really cool to get to learn about other people’s lives and what makes them unique. I have formed many strong friendships and connections with people I have worked with over the years and I am happy to know so many amazing people.

What would you say to anyone who is considering getting into this industry? If you want to do it, go big and do it. Don’t take no for an answer. If you don’t get an apprenticeship at the shop you want, work on your art and go back again. Get tattooed at that place. Get to know the people there. Offer to help out. Draw all the time. Continue growing your portfolio and ask for criticism from the artists there. It’s not something I would recommend as a hobby or a part time gig. If you want to do it, it can be a very time consuming difficult career choice if you are taking it seriously. It is a year or more of really shit income before you start getting anywhere with it. But stick to it, persevere, and grow as an artist every day. And for the love of god, don’t buy a tattoo kit on ebay and start tattooing your friends in your kitchen. That’s the fastest way to never be taken seriously or respected in an industry that places a lot of value on that sort of thing, and it will be difficult to get hired anywhere.

If you were a hot dog, and you were stranded on a desert island, would you eat yourself? I mean, I guess if it would help me live longer I would, but I would imagine that could kill me? It also depends on if the island is nice or not. If it sucked and I wasn’t getting home ever, I would let someone else eat me so I can just move on to hot dog heaven (or hell).

Starting a business is always a big risk; what was the deciding factor that compelled you to take the chance of opening your own studio? Honestly, my husband, Nick. I was flip flopping on whether I should or not for a while, and he just looked at me and said, just do it. There’s always a million reasons not to do something. If you want to succeed, you will.

Where do you hope to see yourself, and or your business, in the next 5 years? Well, since we just signed a new 5 year lease at a new building, I see myself spending a lot of time there growing my craft and helping the people around me do the same. I hope to travel a little less for now, and possibly more in the future when my son is a bit older. I haven’t set any goals for that far out, but I am sure I will think of something before then.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a tattoo artist? The most rewarding thing is helping people feel good in their own skin. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that not only does someone value your art, but they value it enough to wear it around with them for the rest of their lives. It makes me continue to strive to provide the best that I can because everyone I tattoo deserves the best of what I have to offer. It’s always awesome seeing that person post a picture of themselves with their new tattoo, feeling good about themselves and feeling happy and knowing that you helped provide some source of happiness to them. Tattoos are very therapeutic, and some can be strong incentives or reminders. They help people in many ways and it’s really awesome to be involved in that.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a business owner? The ability to be more involved and to be more in control of how things are done at the place I work. I also want to provide a comfortable and relaxed place to work for the people who work with me. We have a very strong family at the studio and we all get along really well. Also, now I have a bit more flexibility with when I can work, where I can go, and what I can do. I can also provide that flexibility for my coworkers, and it is important to me that they also enjoy what they do and where they do it. There is nothing worse than waking up and having to give yourself a pep talk just to get out of the car and walk into your place of employment. I never want that for them. We all have fun and we like getting our clients involved as well. At the end of the day though, if something isn’t right or things need adjusted, it’s something that I am able to do to make it a better place for everyone.

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