February 05, 2011

Interview: Kendra Clementine of Indelible Ink

I’m so pleased to feature local tattoo artist and painter Kendra Clementine as my second interview. When I decided to get “love” tattooed on my inner lip, I knew I wanted go to a female artist and was directed towards Kendra at Indelible Ink. Upon meeting her, I knew I’d made the right choice, not just because of her unassuming demeanor but because I noticed a copy of my go-to spiritual text, Remember: Be Here Now , at her station. 

Me getting tattooed by Kendra
*When did your interest in art and drawing begin?
Ever since I liked coloring books. It started off there and I just kinda tried to copy pictures as best I could. I’d have a picture and then I’d blow it up in my head and make it as big as possible on the papers I had, try to make it as perfect as I could. So that’s kinda how I got started and why I tattoo the styles that I do.

An earlier work of art by Kendra
*What was your earliest interest in tattoos. Was it seeing the design turned into a tattoo?
I think maybe my dad had gotten 2 tattoos before I designed that [piece] for his girlfriend. I just thought they were so cool

*What are your artistic inspirations outside of the tattoo industry?
I really love art nouveau. I’ve always fancied that. I think it’s beautiful and designed really well. It’s symmetrical, which is kind of a weird design thing for tattoos, but it’s visually symmetrical instead of being perfectly so. Mucha is my favorite artist-- he was amazing, just amazing. People don’t take the time to design stuff like that [now]. Art’s a different thing than it was back then.

*What are your inspirations within the tattoo industry?
I don’t know that I really have any. When I was younger I copied tattoos that I liked out of tattoo magazines and tried to do the whole blow it up factor to those and then try to modify it, so I don’t know. I ‘ve never really been [exclusively drawn to, say] Japanese or traditional styles. I like all stuff across the board. There’s even stuff in tribal [that I like even though] that isn’t too keen for a lot of people anymore. I mean, its not 1989 or 92 so… but there’s still really nicely designed stuff.

Finished pufferfish
*How much of a trend-oriented industry would you say tattooing is?
It’s huge. Like when Bill [my partner and also a tattoo artist] got started, he tattooed Tasmanian devils for like 3 years. It’s weird- it depends on what kind of time warp you’re stuck in. We’re pretty with the times here in Eugene, [although] a little behind Portland. But out at the coast they’re probably still tattooing Tasmanian devils or kanji, because it goes in big chunks: there was the Tasmanian time period, then there was tribal, then there was kanji and Japanese stuff and now its coming all the way back around to traditional style tattoos [but] with new twists

*What challenges would you say you face in the industry as a woman?
I think that it’s a lot different now than even if I’d started ten years ago. There’s a lot of places that still largely frown on women being tattooists because its such a male-driven sailor-style industry. A lot of people don’t think women have a place in tattooing even today. I don’t believe in that, I believe the girls can do whatever they want to do [Amen sister!]. But I’m not one of the traditional girly-girls, either. It’s weird being a girl and a tattooist. A lot of girls dress the part… there’s a lot of things in our industry that are… kinda like being a stripper. A lot of girls put on the costume and try to live that as a life

*What costume?
Like the whole, “I wear a dress and look cute and do makeup and my hair has to be rockabilly”…. That’s not me; I’m a t-shirt and jeans kinda girl. This is me.
Still in progress
*Do you see that as part of a trend? I’ve heard a lot of discussion of the “rockstarization” of tattoo artists?
I think people who try play that part, be that character, that’s a big driving force for them. I’m not doing this to be famous. That’s not my driving force. I don’t want to travel and do the tour circuit, conventions and such. I am more about being local. It’d be nice if I branch out but I’m still really new in this industry. I think a lot of people who just get their license and jump into this fake persona and… jump into the whole scene too fast, it doesn’t work at all. It’s weird to me that people don’t think about things like that either. I’ve been tattooing for 2 years, who the hell am I?

*How do you feel about shows like L.A. Ink or any of those tattoo reality TV shows?
I think they’re chumped-up drama just for the fact of being on TV. There’s a lot of really personal things for tattooing. I [personally] hate explaining my tattoos to people, it’s none of their damn business. I got them for me. The sensationalism of the TV shows really makes me sad honestly. It feels like they’re exploiting people’s experiences [of] tattoos just for the sensationalism of having it [broadcast].

*What’s the most challenging tattoo you’ve ever done?
Wow! Probably [it would] have to be the area of the body, not neccasarily the tattoo itself. High articulation areas like necks…. Necks are miserable to do because you can’t stretch them enough. It’s stretchy skin anyway…. Ribs and necks and bellies are really hard to do, especially on women. Women that have had children, it’s a tough thing because those areas on women are supposed to stretch to accommodate extra room. You can stretch all day long and you’re not gonna get it to stretch as much as you need it to [in order] to tattoo it, so it’s tough. 

Skull by Kendra
*Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start out who may not already have connections in the industry?
Here in [Oregon] we have to go through a school. I would definetly go check out a few different schools [and] check out the portfolios of the people you’ll be working with because there’s a lot of fly by night schools in this area. My schooling took me a year and I still didn’t feel equipped enough to go out into the work force after a year so I’m really grateful that I still have the ability to work with the guy that trained me. Even 2 years of being licensed, I still have tons of questions all the time. [It’s] just the nature of the beast, that’s why I wanted to do this. It’s always a changing [industry] and there’s no stagnation in tattooing. [Except with regards to] the economy, that’s the only stagnant thing about tattooing right now is just keep clientele in here. It’s tough when we’re… [basically a] luxury industry and a lot of people have to pay their bills and put gas in their cars and can’t afford to come get tattooed.

Painting by Kendra
*What etiquette suggestions would you have for someone getting a first tattoo who may feel hesitant or undecided but wants to make a good first impression?
[Please realize that] we’re professional. A lot of people will come in who’ve gotten a tattoo out of someone’s kitchen and paid 20 bucks and a pack of beer for it. Don’t insult me. I paid a lot of money to go to school to do this and it’s not cheap to have the gear that I have and the sterilization that I have. People aren’t going to get extra that they didn’t pay for. When you get a tattoo out of someone’s kitchen, who knows? You could be getting Hep C or HIV… just because they didn’t take the time to clean their gear or know how to go about the process of doing this appropriately.

So many people are intimidated their first time coming into a tattoo shop. Your tattooist should work with you on what you want designed and you shouldn’t have this weird intimidation factor. So shop around, definitely… if you have an idea of what you’d like, bring it with you and just talk to a few different people. I wouldn’t go to somebody that rubbed me the wrong way or treated me badly.

To schedule an appointment with Kendra, call Indelible Ink at (541) 343-4658. Although her technique and equipment are absolutely sterile, her calm but warm personality certainly is not!

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  1. I loved reading this interview! I don't know anything about tattoos so this was interesting and informative :)

  2. Great interview :) - the inside of your lip is such an unusual spot for a tattoo - I really like that it is hidden in plain sight if that makes sense :)

    Thanks for your butt clenching comment :D It 's the funniest thing - I had to try it to belive it :)

    Have a great start to the week!


looking forward to hearing from you!