We had the good fortune of connecting with Aimi Tran and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aimi, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Starting my own business wasn’t as much of a thought process, but more of the opportunities and the connections that came along with becoming a tattoo artist. I jumped the gun on leaving a shop and going independent. As of now, I’m getting by with each tattoo I am able to book. I guess I can do better; my biggest challenge is having the self discipline to promote and advertise. I’m sure once I get that going, I’ll be able to keep my head above water for longer periods of time.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It took me a long time to make the decision to dedicate the time into becoming a tattoo artist. Starting off, I was constantly discouraged. I was told that I was too soft for the industry, or that it was the lowliest form of art. Well I’ve done worse for money, like work retail for minimum wage. I had my first apprenticeship at a very questionable shop while I was a pole dancer at a bikini bar. My first “client” was a prostitute, whom I had tattooed her pimp’s name on her thigh with a janky Frankenstein of a tattoo machine. She left very unhappy. I was told that I was the worst tattoo artist on Crenshaw, and that I was lucky to have an apprenticeship that I don’t have to “put out” for. I was eventually kicked out because my friend brought me pizza and we were discussing me giving her a piercing, when I should have been shadowing my mentor. My mentor was beaten with a baseball bat by the owner of the shop not too long after my exhile.

Over the course of my twenties, I’ve go go danced and angle grind (look it up) at fetish parties in LA and Vegas. I worked hostessing, waiting and bartending at several restaurants in Downtown LA. I was lucky enough to make some amazing connections and had a couple of art shows. I eventually got married and moved to Mexico for a couple of years with the intention of starting a family business with my husband and in-laws at the time. That did not work out. I returned to LA broke as shit with a dog. I slept in a tent in my friend’s garage in exchange for manual labor at their house and got a bartending job. I was able to get back on my feet financially and was ready to make a big change with my life. I asked for an apprenticeship and got one. I did 6 months of free grueling labor. I’ve removed sinks, painted walls, tiled 1600 square ft of a whole shop and ran the shop. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone unless it was about booking their appointments, I wasn’t allowed to draw or do anything tattoo related. I left after witnessing how poorly the business was ran and how unhappy the other artists were working at that shop. I realized I could not trust my mentor at the time to mentor me. I had to count my losses but I did learn how to build and run a shop, and what not to do. That is also where I had met Sherri. She and I experienced the unfairness of that particular shop. She took me in as an apprentice, my third and final apprenticeship! Since then my life has taken a huge turn around, For one I started tattooing, also I never would have fathomed me getting a guest spot in Hawaii and am also making connections in New York.

I often get asked what my style is. I love so may different things that my style kinda is everywhere. I’ve managed to narrow it down a little. I like to draw demonic looking fairies, my inspiration comes from strippers and stories of women whom become demonized for being sexual beings. I also love combining Japanese folklore with 1920’s noir. I also take inspiration from Georges Melies, Junji Ito, Toshio Saeki, Eyvind Earle, Erte and many mythologies, folklore, manga, comic books, horror, anything with a good story. I do get asked to do a lot of fine line tattoos, I guess that is my specialty. My favorites to tattoo are my own illustrations and black and grey anything.

What I had learned from the thick of it all was that things started working out for me when I had stopped listening to people that did not share my interests. I’m also the “learn from your mistakes” type of person. I’m thankful that it has worked out the way that it did and I’m not sorry for anything.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hands down Jumbo’s Clown Room! It’s an awesome bar with the coolest alternative pole dancers. I like to go there to feel inspired and I love giving the girls all of my money. Mo’s House of Axe, drink and throw axes. Little Tokyo for shopping, sushi and ramen. Crane’s Bar, a dark, earthquake proof, sports, dive bar in an underground old bank vault in DTLA.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Sherri Austria is a good friend and mentor. She witnessed me go through a grueling apprenticeship. She decided to take me in as apprentice. She’s extremely talented, generous and encouraging. I am a tattoo artist because of her.

Instagram: @onigirlaitattoo

Other: That’s it, lol.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.