At first glance, Rose Red Tattoo looks like a fairy tale cottage — small and cozy, complete with a mowed green lawn, shady trees, colorful flowers, and manicured hedgery. Nonetheless, clients should not be mistaken: Rose Red is a professional tattoo and permanent makeup studio employing a team of skilled, specialized artists. This past month, PainfulPleasures was fortunate enough to pay Rose Red a visit and chat with the talented shop owner and tattoo artist, Lisa Doll.
Built in 1958 in Ellicott City, MD, the commercial house where Rose Red is established has a classic, intimate, and homey feel. When Lisa Doll leased the building in 2014, she was quick to wave her wand and add the magical finishing touches that make a visit to this custom shop so memorable. She re-painted the walls and added a textured, faux finish. Ornamented mirrors, warm gold chandeliers, custom paintings, fluffy rugs, potted flowers, and logo-embroidered pillows are just a few of her implementations that help to make clients feel right at home.
Needless to say, it’s a far cry from the “fringe shops” of the past, devoted to an underground subculture that defies the mainstream. In the beginning of her career as a tattoo artist, Lisa Doll was both accustomed to and eager to escape from this kind of environment. She talked about her desire to establish a business that served the mainstream public, and had more privacy for clients undergoing vulnerable or sensitive procedures:
“These women are coming in [to fringe shops] and are scared of the environment. It’s all out in the open, they don’t have privacy, and I was having a hard time charging what the permanent makeup was worth in that area [...] I got to the point where I was like, okay, I can’t think of anybody in Maryland that I necessarily wanna work for and do this type of work with because none of the shops — at least that I was aware of, really fit that [...] So, I opened up a business that caters to our clientele and our demographic, instead of trying to fight against the demographic.”
Unlike the wide open “pits” that are common to older, more traditional shops, Rose Red offers appointments with total privacy; each artist has her own room and station, personalized with wall art that boasts their individual style. It’s hard not to feel immediately safe, welcome, and relaxed the minute you step foot in Rose Red Tattoo. Clients first walk into the foyer, a glass enclosed front porch, and ring the doorbell to announce their arrival. They are then immediately greeted by their artist of choice, all of whom are remarkably friendly.
Rose Red specializes in custom tattooing, but also has a heavy emphasis on permanent makeup and scar cover-up procedures. Lisa Doll has helped countless clients embrace their bodies, rectify their insecurities, and improve their overall well-being. From a nineteen-year-old burn victim to women suffering after the traumas of breast cancer, clients have been fortunate to find themselves in Lisa Doll's hands. She has performed admirable work that she has honed over her years in the industry. In the beginning of her career, she occasionally did cover-up procedures for free to develop her skill set, learn about the skin, and improve her craft. Ultimately, she is a passionate artist concerned with giving clients results that make them happy.
“I don’t compromise my integrity and accept any client just to make money. A lot of that stuff I did at first was pro-bono or very low-cost, so I could get used to the area and help out the women. I wanted to be a positive addition.”
Lisa Doll, of course, also emphasized how talented her staff is — and after taking a gander at some of their amazing work, it becomes evident you will leave with a quality piece of body art no matter who you see for your appointment. Every artist currently on staff is female, a fact Lisa Doll briefly addressed during our conversation with her:
“[Rose Red Tattoo] is a beacon for other female tattoo artists. Obviously with the permanent makeup and everything else, it has a bit more of a female aesthetic to it. I would love to hire a man in the future. It’s just about being talented and working with this environment.”
The shop is in no way an exclusionist establishment; men and women alike come to get tattooed in equal measure. It is perhaps this “female aesthetic” Lisa Doll mentions that makes clients feel more nurtured, comfortable, and safe.
“We tattoo plenty of men. Even some of them have said online, ‘I just feel really comfortable with the female tattooers and this particular environment.' So, it works out for both [...] I like having a studio where you can get tattooed, but you can also bring your mom or your grandma, and everybody has a good time, and they all have a good experience."
In fact, it is this safe refuge environment that is most striking about Rose Red Tattoo. The place is a haven in the tattoo industry which, in the past, has been male-dominated and often intimidating to potential clients. Lisa makes clear that her doors are open to anyone and everyone:
“I do a lot of work with the transgender community, too. [...] They’re looking for the same services, and having an environment like this is so much nicer for them than going into some other studio where they feel like they might be judged, or just have to be all out in the open and explain their story to everyone whether they want to or not.”
It was evident from our brief visit that it isn’t just a custom, bad-ass, cute, or beautiful tattoo Rose Red offers — it's a memorable (and sometimes healing!) experience. Appointments are more than just “skin-deep.” In fact, more than a few clients have left Rose Red Tattoo with a newfound sense of “happily ever after.”
“I think my favorite part [of being an artist] is just how impacting it is for both sides. I like meeting people, I like having a lot of the conversations I have with my clients, and just really getting an idea of their lifestyles, their different points of view. I love that. Getting to experience people is just awesome.”
Lisa Doll had a lot more to say about work ethic, body image, artistry, and creating an environment that is entirely her own. Read our full interview with Lisa Doll here!