Artist Stories

Sophie is noticing the little things

Sophie's work is influenced by their natural surroundings and the connections they make with each client who walks through the door.

In Sophie’s rural home town in Northern California, they were drawn to art since before they can remember. “When I first started tattooing, my mom sent me this picture of myself as a two year old with a blue magic marker,” they say. “I covered my whole body with it.” 

This interest in creating followed Sophie through school where they studied fine arts and painting. But the medium left them wanting more. “I felt pretty dissatisfied with the 2D representational art I was learning,” they say. This prompted Sophie to explore experimental courses in sculpture and performance. One particular professor, A. Laurie Palmer, made an impression on them, opening them up to the world of conceptual art. “That was when I started feeling really excited about art,” says Sophie.

But after graduation, that flame soon dwindled. Sophie graduated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing their creative cocoon of art school. “When you're in that world, you have a group of peers who are validating what you're doing,” they say. “Without that, I felt pretty disconnected from my ‘why’ for making art.”


Sophie had been teaching forest school throughout their last year of college, but following graduation and in the pandemic, this job became where they found a new connection to art and play through spending time outdoors with children. It’s here they developed a new connection to art. “I started feeling like relationship building can be art,” they say. They found fulfillment in collaboration, community, and interacting with nature, with young children, who's openness to the world gave them a new lens through which to see magic in the materials around them.

It was this realization that created a natural segue into tattooing. Even still, the move wasn’t intentional. “It was totally an accident,” says Sophie. As they explored new ways to approach creativity, they bought a handpoking kit online with the intention of learning with a friend. “One day, I was feeling really intense solstice energy and I called my friend and I was like, ‘I'm doing it right now.’”

Sophie’s first tattoo was a lantern fly they inked on themself. They posted their work on their personal Instagram, testing the waters with their audience in Santa Cruz and offering free and cheap tattoos to anyone willing to take a chance on a beginner. “Pretty quickly, I started being the town tattooer for the gays,” they say. “I feel really lucky that so many people trusted me from such an early stage.”

The timing of this newfound art form was serendipitous, developing just as Sophie planned to leave California to travel indefinitely. Tattooing became a means to allow them to do so while working. “I came to London to visit friends and they were like, ‘You should do a guest spot,” they say.

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This first experience working among other artists in a formal studio became a chance for Sophie to immerse themselves in the DIY tattoo scene, where artists share knowledge and create informal structures for learning. “I call myself community taught rather than self taught,” they say. While hand poking is their medium of choice, they’ve now been learning from other artists how to use a machine. “I have pretty bad chronic pain,” Sophie says. “my hope is that learning to use a machine can be one way to make the physical impact of tattooing less intense so I can keep doing it for a long time."

I feel very tapped into the way small moments can be so impactful in nature. I’m trying to allow myself to be amazed by mundane things.

Still, Sophie has no plans to completely transition away from hand poking.”I think people really value the slowness of it,” they say. Sophie loves the intimacy and imperfection of the method. “That's an important thing to return to in a world of so much mechanization.”

The theme of connectedness is central to Sophie’s work, as they find much of their inspiration from the natural world around them. “I feel very tapped into the way small moments can be so impactful in nature,” they say. “I’m trying to allow myself to be amazed by mundane things.” Sophie brings this attention to detail to their work—especially to the human moments. 


“Tattooing is so much more than just image making,” they say. “There's so much reading in between the lines and interpreting body language to provide an attentive tattoo experience.” 

Sophie sees the human aspect of the craft as a critical part of their role, though they feel it’s largely undervalued in the industry. “My wish for the tattoo world is an attention to centering the client and building some kind of community around that process,” Sophie says.

“It's such a special thing to get to create a space where people feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable,” they say. “That's a huge gift of tattooing.” 

As their own natural environment provides inspiration for their drawings, the real magic happens for Sophie when it intersects with their client’s own imaginations. “I make images from these quiet moments of encounter with my world, but these images really come alive through the process of tattooing. When people wear my art on their skin, they're also wearing the layers of relationship that make up the whole process.” they say.

Sophie writes a monthly newsletter where they share their reflections on their creative process, and about the mundane and magical moments with the materials they are inspired by

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