Dan Lorenzo: I know you like to travel, but do you ever envision moving from San Diego?
Reese Hilburn: I can't imagine that I would leave. The surf is sweet, the weather always wonderful, and the vibe is laid back. However, I never like to say never, especially for the right opportunity.
You were very close to studying abroad in Scotland before you got the call from Tattoo Nightmares. Tell me what was going through your mind when you got that call.
Honestly, I was extremely nervous. My instinct was telling me to take the job, but I had been planning Scotland for a couple of years at that point. I have always listened to my instinct even when I was skeptical. So I had a bit of faith and took the leap to do Nightmares. It was [the] most rewarding experience.
What was it like for your friends and family when you first appeared on the show?
It was surreal, to say the least, even for me. I was getting messages from people I haven't heard from in years, telling me they thought they saw me on television, which was hilarious. For my mother, it was probably the biggest turning point in her mind; she wasn't very fond of my leaving a "real job" as an accountant to pursue tattooing. Now she couldn't be more proud and more supportive.
I met you at a convention in Connecticut. Is it hard for you to get on a plane and fly thousands of miles when you can make just as much money chilling in California?
Oh boy, it definitely is! But this industry, especially if you'd like to make the most of your tattoo career, is all about networking. The age old saying, "It's all about who you know," is a living statement. For example, I would not have met you, and I may not have had this interview. But at the end of the day, I don't mind the travel. I see amazing places and I get to make money while I am there. Not many can say that.
Both of us love to read, but I'll only read non-fiction. I know you enjoy fiction. Do you ever feel weird that you're learning about things that didn't really happen?
No way! I embrace it. I think as an artist, to visually picture the going-ons in books is something of a brain exercise for your craft. Plus, I can be somewhat of a recluse sometimes - especially after a long tattoo convention tour, and reading is my escape from reality.
You talk as fast as I do. What were you telling me the other day? Something about being obsessed with an uprising in Scotland in 1752?
[laughs] It's Scotland 1745, the Jacobite uprising. I have an affinity for historical fiction novels. Susana Kearsley is the author in the market for this particular genre; all her books revolve around this time in history. I just can't help but love the mentality behind the uprisings. To make a long story short, Scotland knew they were going to lose their battles, but they died trying anyway because of what they believed in. Who doesn't love that kind of heart? And to add icing to the cake, throw in some highlanders. Swoon!
I was surprised you told me you were a huge fan of Bob Dylan.
What's funny is that it was an old college fling that turned me onto him. When I continued to ignore the fling's phone calls, he wrote me a text and said, "Well, you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows." He used a Dylan quote to let me know he got the hint I didn't want to see him anymore! I was flabbergasted and had listened to that album every day for at least two semesters thereafter. I think I was just trying to find other lyrics that pertained to life without being obvious. Dylan is a genius!
I know you do yoga and run and try to live a healthy life. Can I convince you to stop eating meat, Reese?
I can definitely be convinced. Honestly, my mother doesn't eat meat and my brother is a full blown gluten-free vegan, both for medical reasons though, not truly by choice. I think if I was taught how not to eat meat properly, I would give it the good ole' college try.
And how hard is it for you to work next to a bakery?
Well, when you have a cookie monster living inside of you, how hard do you think it might be? [laughs] I have really resilient discipline, but the lovely yet evil woman, the baker next door, is just trying my patience. Especially the smells. Good grief! It's making my mouth water just thinking about it.
Do you really consider yourself a hippie?
I do in some ways. I think yoga and the ocean bring it out of me. I gain energy from the water, that's why I am not sure I could leave living a block away from the beach. And yoga is not only a physical challenge, but also a mental and spiritual one. I find that I get my optimism from the mentality that both Mother Nature and yoga bring. [laughs] I call it, "Getting my hippie on."
On your website there is a photo of you painting while in your panties. Is that really how you dress when you're painting?
[aughs] [laughs some more] As a matter of fact, I am the kind of gal that doesn't like to wear much clothing! Thus San Diego living. If I could jump out of the ocean after a surf sesh and go straight to work in my bathing suit, I would. I am sure some of my clients wouldn't mind, but I don't need to be anymore distracting in my attire than I already am. I dress for me, and I am proud of it.
What are your hopes for 2017?
I always try and outdo myself every year, every month, every day. Whether it be in my paintings, drawings, or tattoos. I want to continue to travel, spreading my love of art one tattoo at a time. Right now, I am focusing on getting my shop ready to open, my body ready for another photo shoot, and paintings ready for an upcoming art show. I am a very driven individual, and I am ready for any new adventure that may present itself. Living one day at a time and trying to stay in the moment has always worked best for me. Why wait until the new year to pursue what you want? Why not start today?