Life at Miss Hall’sJan 20, 2023

updated Nov 20, 2023

Making Her Mark

Viv ’23 leaves a lasting impression

For Viv ’23, her preferred art medium is a family tradition.

A practicing tattoo artist with a list of clients in line for her work, Viv grew up around her father’s tattoo studio, so her interest in the body art practice came quite naturally. “I’ve spent all of my free time in my dad’s shop since I was a kid,” says Viv, whose father, Stephan, is a well-known tattoo artist. In fact, Stephan is the reason tattooing is legal in Massachusetts. In 2000, he won a lawsuit that overturned the state’s ban on the practice.

Two years ago, Viv began the process to become licensed in Massachusetts. She took online courses during the pandemic and has been apprenticing with her father — apprenticeships take about two years, or 2,400 hours! The learning began with creating tattoo-style drawings.

“You start with being able to draw, and draw in a certain way – bold, thick lines and bright colors,” explains Viv, who has always had an affinity for art, in school and on her own time. “You need to create images that translate well into tattoos, and you have to be able to look at an image, pull out big lines, and make them into a tattoo.”

Viv practiced by going over existing tattoos, and her dad was a willing canvas. Her first official tattoo was a “Hot Stuff” devil, an iconic image in the tattoo world, that she did for her father at the end of May.

Each tattoo, Viv explains, begins with a drawing and plan, deciding which lines come first and which lines come next, on through to completing the tattoo. Viv typically starts with the smaller lines, working her way through inside and outside lines, using different-sized needles as needed, and usually progressing from the darkest color to the lightest. “You also have to have a steady hand,” she advises.

This past summer, Viv began accepting her own customers. One day of work each week soon became two, then three, then five. Before she knew it, Viv had three months of work booked, with the initial goal of buying her own equipment.

“Tattoo equipment is really expensive,” she explains. “I was using dad’s, but he’s got his own customers, so I worked all summer to buy my own machine, needles, and ink.”

This year, Viv has been able to work her avocation into her Horizons experience, alternating between the tattoo studio and the MHS Ceramics Studio, where she helps Ceramics Teacher Gary Grosenbeck work with 9th graders as they create mugs for the Miss Hall’s Dining Room and ceramic pots for the annual 9th Grade Plant Sale.

“This system is perfect because I get to switch back and forth each week, and I get to explore each of my passions fully,” she says. “I love that I was given the trust and flexibility to tailor my Horizons experience to my own interests like that!” Viv even got to introduce tattoo flash — designs typically displayed to provide clients with ideas for tattoos — to students in the Independent Projects in Art class.

As for the future, Viv plans to work tattooing into her college experience and beyond. Though she has not decided yet on a college, she plans to pursue a career in art education for high school students, while ideally working art history and agriculture/sustainable farming/food insecurity into her experience. The portability of new tattoo technology means she can take her machine with her and tattoo wherever she likes, potentially getting a job in a local shop near where she goes to school.

“Tattooing has such a rich and beautiful history, and it’s been part of my life forever. I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life in the future,” Viv explains, adding that what she enjoys most about the art are the connections that are formed with clients.

“There are lots of prescribed notions about tattoos and the people who get them, but there is an intimate bond that forms when you are working with someone. People are not afraid of baring all when they come into the studio, and it takes a lot of trust, and it is so cool to get to make that connection, learn about people, and have them trust you enough to leave a permanent mark on their skin.”