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“We are all lucky to have reference so easily accessible but it has come far enough that we as an industry need to get better at using it.”Jesso Lange
Lady Tattooers: Let’s chat about your first experience with tattoos and the impact it had…
Jesso Lange: I got my first tattoo at a street shop in Berkeley, California when I was 18 years old. The design was a tiny heart with tribal thorns behind it, from a sheet of flash, that I was semi guilt-tripped into by my best friend. I still have it and love it. Not because its the best tattoo (although it is surprisingly well done and standing the test of time), but more for the memory of that point in my life and the living reminder of a major life change. That was my first real introduction to the world of tattoos and the first day I ever considered becoming a tattoo artist. I hadn’t really seen many well done tattoos up until that point so I didn’t realize how awesome/powerful/artful/(positive adjective) tattoos were until I got one.
LT: What was your first time tattooing like?
Jesso: The first thing I ever tattooed was a custom tribal design on my cousins lower back. I used a Mickey Sharpz machines that I had over zealously bought on the second day of my apprenticeship. My mentor was Nate Montessi at Dv8 Tattoos in Concord, California and he’d finally gotten tired of me pestering him on when was going to be my day. So he let me do a tattoo to help show how much I didn’t know…
My cousin’s tattoo came out surprisingly alright, but by the end of tattooing for 5 hours on something that would now take me 45 minutes, I did admit to not knowing much. Or anything maybe. I had been so confident going in to the tattoo because I was an asshole 19 year old and was sure of my ultimate knowledge of all things. But afterwards I felt really scared of how different tattooing was from drawing and how ignorant I was of it all. I might have fallen off the horse and not gotten back on but my mentor saw something in me and forced me to do another one directly after (with tired shaking hands) so that I could learn to conquer the fear.
LT: We’re sure glad your mentor forced you to continue!
LT: What was going on in your life before tattooing?
Jesso: Before tattooing I was getting a general education at the community college in Pleasant Hill, California and working a desk job for Kaiser. I remember even with school and work I seemed to have infinitely more free time than what I have ever known as a tattoo artist. So I had all kinds of hobbies and activities going on but realistically it was definitely worth the trade-off. Free time for purpose.
LT: Are you heavily tattooed?
Jesso: I have a lot of my body tattooed but I plan on getting most of the rest of it as well. I have hand and neck tattoos and feel cool with doing them for anyone who understands what they are getting into (someone who already has tattoos and understands the social impact). That being said, they are not my favorite places to do tattoos on people.
LT: How has social media affected your career?
Jesso: I started tattooing over 10 years ago now, just before tattoo reality TV and tattoo celebrities in the mainstream existed. I’m sure there was probably Myspace and internet options for getting your work out there but realistically I have always been pretty terrible about marketing myself with a plan so I’m sure I didn’t take advantage of much until Instagram made it too easy not to.
Social media has affected my career positively for sure. Although I always say I am going to get better about it, I definitely don’t spend enough time on there nurturing my connections and interacting, but even still I do feel really honored by the people who follow my work, send me encouragements and come get tattooed. I don’t think it is mandatory to utilize social media in order to have a successful career, but I can say from personal experience just a little effort in that area can create exponential benefits.
LT: What are your feelings about the accessibility of reference on Google, Instagram, etc?
Jesso: Tattooers are all lucky to have reference so easily accessible but it has come far enough that we as an industry need to get better at using it. If we are all going to see/use the same reference, we need to be redrawing stuff with our own flavor to it or just change it somehow. It really sucks seeing the same imagery, done the same way in tattoo after tattoo, from artist to artist.
LT: Do you love animals like we do?
Jesso: I love animals! My favorite of course is my fur baby/prince Doom. He’s the cutest/coolest English bulldog that ever lived (IMO).
LT: It’s been great chatting Jesso, great work!