Two Tattoo Artists on the Importance of Tattoos as Self-Expression


Hailey Malin Tattoos Client (Courtesy of @desertmousetattoo on Instagram)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


According to a study done by psychologist Luzelle Naudé, the majority of college-aged adults have positive opinions about tattoos, especially when, “[they have] personal meaning or [are] a means of expression.”

Past articles from the Daily Utah Chronicle have focused on the functionality of tattoos, how they can perpetuate exoticism, promote self-healing and how perceptions of them can hinder a person’s social standing in the professional field. However, practically, tattoos are an avenue of self-expression for the person with the tattoo, as well as the tattoo artist.

Tats and Teddy Bears

Originally, Hailey Malin went to college to become an elementary school teacher. After speaking with an old friend who had a successful career as a tattoo artist, she decided to pursue the same. After self-teaching, Malin mainly did “flash” pieces, or tattoos that are pre-drawn and pre-colored.

“I’ve loved painting, drawing and watercolors ever since I was young,” Malin said in a Zoom interview. “I loved to try everything. This was a new medium for me, a different kind of canvas.”

Over time, Malin began to find her groove and develop her own technique. Not only was she helping people solidify their personal style, but she was also developing one of her own as well. She considers herself very lucky to see where other people find meaning in the designs they choose.

“Whether I realize it or not, parts of my style came through in my work,” Malin said. “I think it’s interesting when customers choose a flash piece and say, ‘Okay, this is mine now.’”

Today, Malin regularly advertises her work on her Instagram. Social media has been a great tool for artists to market themselves, but Malin doesn’t believe it is too competitive because each artist is so unique.

Among her favorite designs to create are depictions of childhood stuffed animals that belong to clients. They send Malin a photo of the stuffed animal, like a teddy bear.

“They always end up looking kind of scruffy,” Malin said. “It’s always fun to give them their special friend to keep permanently.”

Flashes, Fruits and Flowers

Ever since they were a kid, Sam Walker has loved art. When the pandemic began, Walker took a break from school and art to pursue other opportunities that would eventually lead to tattooing at Everybody Tattoo Studio.

“I think that tattooing is a skilled medium that is chosen by the artist. Just like some artists choose oils or charcoal for their main medium,” Walker said. “Mastering tattooing is no less impressive than mastering oil painting.”

Though Walker mainly does preconceived flash designs and rarely accepts custom requests, they have had a consistent stream of work. They have noticed that by promoting their work on Instagram, they have maintained a diverse clientele who sometimes book sessions months in advance.

“Tattoos are a great way of helping build self-confidence and acceptance toward one’s own body,” Walker said. “I know that, for me at least, having beautiful artwork on my body has made me feel more confident. It makes me love parts of myself that don’t align with societal standards of beauty.”

Walker describes tattoos as a great way for building self-acceptance as well as memorializing important events in people’s lives. It’s especially important for Walker themselves given that they are a queer female artist who is helping other queer people like them enter an avenue of self-expression.

After having done many tattoos of mushrooms, fruits, flowers, hummingbirds and incredible, fantastical, psychedelic designs, Walker doesn’t have a favorite design that they do. However, one among them still stands out.

“Being able to tattoo my own art every day has helped me only create art that I am truly so stoked about,” Walker said. “I think my most unusual design was a goose wearing a monocle and top hat with the words ‘What’s quakin’?’ on a man’s butt cheek.”

More than Skin Deep

A poll published by Ipsos 3 years ago found that 30% of Americans had at least one tattoo, showing a 21% increase from the year 2012. The majority of those with tattoos skewed younger, with 18 to 34-year-olds comprising the bulk of them.

Both Walker and Malin said that they have seen an increase in self-taught tattoo artists as materials become more accessible and demand for tattoo artists grows, as well as more young adults become clients.

Additionally, they both affirm that this is not a field someone should not enter carelessly as proper training and sanitation are key to running a successful practice.

Given that this trend of people getting tattoos and entering the field has increased in recent years and seems likely to continue increasing, it is important to remember that the meaning tattoos carry is not diluted.

“I would say it’s like a sticker; it’s like collecting little timestamps of where you’re at in life or bits of your past,” Malin said. “Things that make you who you are. Things that you just think are pretty, things that you enjoy, artists that you admire. I think it’s a way to build a personal gallery.”


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