Dan Lorenzo: I think college is overrated. Did you get what you paid for out of it?
Jessa Bigelow: I don't think I got what I paid for, but I did pick up a few things about marketing, so I guess that's helped me out in my career today. I could've done without the student loans, though; that totally wasn't worth it.
When did you decide you wanted to do this for a living?
My dad's covered in tattoos from throat to feet, so I've always known about tattooing and had an interest in it. When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to tattoo, but I didn't think I could find an apprenticeship and I didn't want to do it out of a house so that's why I went the college route. A week into college I found an apprenticeship, but I'd already made my first tuition payment. Funny how that stuff works out. I spent the rest of college drawing flash in the back of class and rushing off to the shop every day as soon as my classes were out.
How was it coming into the scene for you as a woman?
I'm fairly new in the tattoo world; I've only been tattooing for four years. When I came into it, there were plenty of awesome female tattooers already out there who I'm sure had to deal with a lot more shit than I did. The most I've ever gotten was from walk-in clients, when I worked in Newark, who would be surprised that I was the artist who would be tattooing them and not the receptionist. Other than that I haven't had a hard time at all, and almost feel like it's become an advantage, because I've had a lot of female clients who maybe aren't so comfortable with their bodies and feel a bit more comfortable with a female tattooing them. Other artists have never given me a problem about it and the other guys at the shop now are almost like big brothers, so they watch out for me.
Which tattoo artists influenced you the most?
I am a huge fan of Jeff Gogue. I don't do anything close to what he does, but I stare at his tattoos in awe just trying to take them all in. As far as style, I love Emily Rose Murray; her girl heads are insane and just right to me. I've also always been a fan of Fernie Andrade since I started tattooing. I saw a whole torso piece he did when I first started out and immediately took an interest in his work. Those are just a few of the big names that influenced me, but on a more local scale, all the guys I work with now, David Osorio, Jimmy Ingram, and Frank O'Dowd are always doing awesome stuff, and we do a lot of collaborations so they all keep me on my toes and get me trying new stuff.
What is your typical set-up?
I buy most of my supplies from PainfulPleasures. Machine-wise I've been using the Cheyenne Pen pretty religiously lately, but if I feel like using coils, my three go-to machines are a Seth Ciferri liner, an Aaron Kane liner, and a Soba shader. I use Peak Needles, both Blood and Quartz cartridges depending on size. Dynamic Black is my go-to; I buy it in bulk because I go through it so quickly. Silverback Greywash, Eternal colors, and Starbrite white. I'm also a big fan of Recovery Rx aftercare, specifically the tattoo salve during the tattoo, and I recommend it as aftercare as well because it's basically foolproof. When my clients are getting large pieces done and need a bit of relief, I usually recommend the Recovery Numb Cream and it seems to make a big difference in how well they sit.
You told me you went to Colombia for plastic surgery. That sounds dangerous. Why not do it here?
[laughs] I did go to Colombia for some cosmetic surgery and it was the best decision I could've made for myself. It's totally not any more dangerous than surgery in the US. If anything, you just need to make sure you research your doctor and make sure they're board certified and working out of a safe hospital. I was in the best hospital in South America with a responsible, board certified doctor whom I'd corresponded with for a while before setting anything up. I felt totally comfortable with him and I chose Colombia, because the procedure I had done is a lot more common there than in the US and from what I'd researched, the results were way better. Colombia is one of the leaders in plastic surgery, ya know! I'd go back again if I ever wanted something else done.
And you went for the butt enlargement? Was that for you or a special someone?
Butt Enlargement. [laughs] I went for a Brazilian Butt Lift, or BBL, which is basically where they take unwanted fat from other areas of your body, and use it to shape and contour your butt to make it more shapely or larger if you're looking for that. I was definitely looking for that. I didn't do it for any special someone out there, just for myself. I'm so happy about it and so much more confident in myself and my appearance. I really love the results my doctor gave me and now I'm just working on maintaining it all through exercise and a good diet. I think it's a lot like tattooing; you're altering your appearance permanently because that's the version of yourself you'd like to see in the mirror and I'm all for that.
Where do you envision yourself ten years from now?
In 10 years I see myself tattooing in my own shop, even though I love working with my mentor — ya gotta spread your wings someday, ya know? I see myself still traveling for conventions; I'd love to be guest spotting, too. Basically I'd love to let tattooing take me around the country or the world if I get lucky enough. Tattooing has already been so good to me in four short years, it's hard to guess what's next. I just want to keep putting my all into it, keep learning more and more, keep meeting other artists, and loving what I do. That's my main goal. I just want to wake up every day and love what I do. That's what I strive for in the future and right now as well. I'm super grateful for the past four years and everyone who's been a part of it, so I'm sure the next ten will be even greater.
Under Skin Art
8 Palisade Avenue
Bergenfield, NJ 07621