We had the good fortune of connecting with Natisse Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natisse, would love to get a better understanding of the role tech plays in your industry?
I believe the tattoo industry has made huge strides thanks to the advancement of technology and applying it to the tattoo industry. Tablets and drawing apps, specifically procreate on the iPad Pro has been a huge game changer for developing art. Not only devolving high quality precision art but also being able to create it quickly and on the go when traveling. You have everything you need in one platform. Paper styles, every kind of pen, pencil, paint, whatever medium you like to use. On top of all that you can easily erase or change the colors in your design, create different layers with different elements of the drawing that you can independently move around or change. There is a lot more freedom to play with the design or easily change something requested by the client without having to redesign the entire piece of art, which saves a lot of time. Saving time is such an important element in many businesses. I can also import pictures of my clients into my procreate app and draw right on top of the photo so that my design fits to their unique body and body part perfectly, eliminating a lot of redrawing and manipulating of the design on the day of the tattoo to fit the client properly. It also gives the client a better idea of how the tattoo will look on their body, Social media outlets have also been instrumental in being able to promote ourselves as artists and have become virtual portfolios, making it easy to show someone current work that is constantly updating. Even when applying for conventions now they ask for your Instagram account to inspect your work before approving your application and also to post on their websites so potential clients can check out your work and contact you. When going to do guest spots in other cities I have been able to fully book my work days through Instagram alone! I am very excited to see where the next stages of technology takes us and how we can apply it to the tattoo industry. People joke about tattooing robots and ask if I am worried about being replaced by machines. I think there will always be a want for human connection when going through the tattoo process. It is an intimate process and the energy of the ancient ritual of tattooing will always be there keeping that need for human to human connection.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
You cannot get anywhere without a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. Although it has not been the easiest journey, it has been the most rewarding one of my life. There were many times I thought I would fail or didn’t know if I would ever “get it” but with the help of my support system and a personality that refuses to give up, I stuck through it. I absolutely LOVE what I do. I am writing this during the Covid-19 quarantine and have never missed working so much in my life. I have found out that I am the most inspired and creative when I am designing artwork for a tattoo. I love everything about tattoos and tattooing. The reasons why people get certain things, complimenting everyone’s unique bodies with my designs and working with the flow of an organic figure, the vast and interesting history of tattooing, and I love connecting with people in the way that only tattooing allows. It makes me so happy that my artwork can literally change the way someone feels about their body and the fact that people come to me specifically for my artwork is the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. I always wanted to be an artist and sell my artwork but for someone to want me to put my artwork permanently on their body and bring them so much joy is the most amazing feeling I have ever felt. That feeling is why I can keep going on forever. It has pushed me through the rough patches, pushed me through 12-14 hour days of non stop work, inspired me to develop better and better artwork and it will get me through this quarantine because I know once this is over I can get right back to doing what I love and what gives me purpose. I have learned that you can’t get anywhere the easy way. If you want to be great at anything it takes a lot of dedication, drive and frustration, but you cannot give up. The prize is worth the journey and the journey will always make you stronger. I have a really hard time creating artwork for myself or drawing ideas that I want to tattoo, but I love creating for other people. I love to connect with my clients and really try to get a good feel on their energy so I can design the best artwork for them. I get the most inspiration from my clients and their ideas and figuring out how to make it work the best for them and their body. It is usually a different challenge every time and I love a good challenge.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love to take people to amazing vegan restaurants. There is such a stigma that vegan food doesn’t taste good and you have to sacrifice the pleasure of good food to eat vegan but that is so false! There are so many amazing places and amazing ways to make veggie based food. My top 2 favorites are Shojin, which is a vegan and gluten free Japanese restaurant (I prefer the Culver City location) and Gracias Madre. They are 2 types of food that most people cannot imagine eating vegan. I love showing people alternative options that they would otherwise never think of trying. I grew up on the west side, all through Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu. These areas have changed a lot since I was a kid but I still love taking people to the beach all through the Venice area. This has always been my favorite part of Los Angeles and my favorite bars are mostly in Venice. I grew up always living close to the beach, so these areas have been a huge part of my life. I think every visitor needs to see Hollywood. The real Hollywood not just the glamorized TV version. There is so much city history all throughout the Hollywood area. The Museum of Death is a must, and the Hollywood Museum is awesome if you are into movies and props and behind the scenes facts and I used to love taking friends to Geisha House before it closed. There’s an amazing street taco place on the corner of Cherokee and Hollywood Blvd, the absolute best street tacos I’ve ever had. I also love taking people to West Hollywood, specifically to boutique stores on Melrose. Melrose has been my favorite shopping area since I was a teenager. It’s a great place to take visitors and there is some amazing food in that area as well. I’m not a big club goer. I prefer a good dive bar with pool, darts, shuffle board and maybe a ping pong table. One of my favorite places to take people is the Cozy Inn in Culver City. There is also a taco spot across the street that is open all night so it’s a great place to end with some drinks, games and then a little grub.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I could not be where I am today and would definitely not be as successful if it wasn’t for my husband Jason Thomas. He was not only my mentor and taught me everything I know when it comes to body modification but he has been a non stop source of inspiration and support. My artwork continues to evolve under his critique and he motivates and encourages me to constantly step outside my comfort zone and push myself to greater possibilities. He is my partner in life and in my career and I feel very grateful to have his love and support in this life. I also have to shout out my friend Liz Vasquez who has been such a huge inspiration and source of knowledge as well, I have met many amazing artists that I am so happy to call my friends but I met Liz in my apprenticeship and she has been another incredible driving force in my life to help me keep pushing myself further in my career. I am also so very grateful to all the people that let me learn how to tattoo on them, without them I would not have been able to get to where I am today. Last but certainly not least my incredible family has supported me on every endeavor I have taken in life, even though no one else has tattoos they have always supported my artwork and my career. I feel very lucky to have so many amazing people in my life.