KAT VON D
HOT INK
by Lisa Sharer
Photos by Chase Lisbon
From the October 2006 issue of PRICK Magazine



Kat Von D, the mistress of tattoo television is also the number one pick for our 6th anniversary Hot Ink. Tattoo artist by day and party girl by night, who better fits our qualifications? This Mexican-American bombshell has taken the tattoo world by storm, and she's only just begun.

Born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Von D is fluent in Spanish and a lover of the culture. In fact, many of her tattoos are of actresses from Mexican cinema. She and her family moved to the San Bernardino area in 1986, where she spent the majority of her childhood. This was also the site for her first encounter with the ink machine, or lack thereof. At 14 years old, Von D tattooed a Misfits' skull on one of the neighborhood punk rock kids with a machine that was rigged up by a cassette player motor and guitar string. Although this may have not been her best work, she did go on to tattoo the drummer from the Misfits himself.




With very little job opportunity available to 14-year olds,Von D was left to practice her artwork on the streets. "So I tattooed on my own until I was 16, and it was then that I got into my first tattoo shop in San Bernardino. There I learned lots of things, but I also had to un-learn so many of the bad habits I had [picked up], due to the lack of a proper apprenticeship." It's safe to say that even Von D's natural talent was benefited by the experience that can only be found in an apprenticeship.

It wasn't long after her first job she began craving bigger and better things. At 17, she moved to Los Angeles and she has been living in Hollywood ever since. This is where she eventually found a home at True Tattoo, with the talented Chris Garver. Garver was so sure of Von D's aptitude that when Darren Brass was out for an elbow injury, he recommended her for Miami Ink. TLC had been looking for a female artist, and Garver knew they would find none better.

Von D confesses that her life has changed a great deal since appearing on the show. Specifically, there has been a change in her view of reality TV shows, "even though I am not an avid TV watcher, being on a reality TV show has definitely ruined it for me. I don't believe anything on TV. The power that editors have to fabricate emotions and scenarios out of nothing is pretty mind-blowing."

It isn't just TV that has changed for her, however. She has found that being a part of the show has become very time consuming. In fact, she has been forced to hire an entire team of people to help keep her life from being lost in chaos. What 24-year old woman doesn't want her own personal assistant? "Originally, when I started getting a lot more attention I felt kind of weird about hiring help, because it felt pretentious; but now it has gotten to the point where there is just no way I would be able to continue tattooing and take care of everything else without help."

When asked about the difficulties of being a female artist in the tattoo industry, Von D had some very insightful words: "I have tried really hard not to make my gender an issue in any way. The last thing I want is for people to base their opinion on me because of my gender. I think because I never make it an issue it has been easy for me to function with the boys. I mean, I've been in a tattoo shop since I was 16, and growing up around boys makes it very easy for me to be part of the boys. I think as long as I do my best, I can just let my work speak for itself."


Tattoo by Kat Von D


Her work speaks to the masses, and she expresses sincere appreciation for all those artists she's worked with along the way. She particularly shows an interest in the work of Kore Flatmo. "Hands down [he is] my tattoo hero. Kore has always been able to say all the things I feel about tattooing but could never put into words, aside from how completely fucking amazing his tattooing is." These influences have helped to make Von D the artist she is today. Her work is mainly portraits and she is a big fan of black and gray. Her portraits are very realistic and entirely unmistakable. Her natural talent blended with the inspiration of other artists makes for amazing skin art.

As far as her own choice in tattoos, she is not one for choosing tattoos out of meaning. "I like to get stuff that I like to look at. Most of my tattoos are just pretty girls and pretty flowers." She also pays tribute to her sister with a portrait on her left arm, and tribute to her favorite pianist with tattoos of Beethoven. She has many fine line black and gray tattoos as well as "lots of gangster shit."

Von D's favorite band is Motley Crüe, and she has a CD collection including everything from the New York Dolls to Slayer. When she does find a moment of spare time, however, Von D enjoys playing classical piano. These days she is finding it hard to satisfy her party girl lifestyle. "Between the filming, conventions, my marriage, training, traveling, trying to start my clothing line, emails, and tattooing I haven’t found much spare time. I used to go out and drink all the time, living in Hollywood, there's always a party, but I've really mellowed out in this last year. Lately I've been enjoying going to the gym, believe it or not!"

As successful as she is, Von D is always looking towards the future. "I've always told myself to aim high, so that no matter what you get—it'll be good!" For her, that means building her own empire from the ground up. She hopes to get a little house in the Hollywood Hills as well as have her own private studio. She is always looking forward to spending time with her family and hopes to travel the world.




For more information, go to www.katvond.net.


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