Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Number of years in career: Tattooing for 10 years, art teacherin' for 12
Astrological sign: Sagittarius
Where are your family roots from?
My Dad was born to two high school sweethearts of Italian and Irish lineage, in Jersey City, NJ. My Mom is of self-described “hillbilly“ stock, the granddaughter of a West Virginia coal miner and daughter of a wild woman who fled those hills the first chance she got. I grew up in a sunny South Florida suburb and met my Cuban-Honduran husband at the tattoo shop where we both apprenticed.
How have your parents/guardians/teachers/mentors influenced you? My parents both agreed that doing well in school and going to college was non-negotiable - what I chose to do with my time there was up to me. Freedom to explore within a stable and structured life was a huge privilege. They trusted me, and emphasized happiness, personal expression and service. I was also blessed with an amazing teacher in elementary school who taught me time management skills and list making that have helped me manage my chaos.
Can you remember one childhood memory of happiness and one of fear? The happy one is kind of silly, but I loved sitting in church with my cousin, taking turns doodling fake ads and Ren and Stimpy characters on the blank spaces of the newsletter. My mom wasn’t catholic, but my grandma made me go with my aunt so it was one of my first tastes of freedom and rebellion to goof around like that. For fear, I remember scaring the absolute crap out of myself after reading books about ghost hunting - I still to this day get scared in the dark.
Is there something in your life that you feel very passionate about? I am passionate about equity in education and the arts. I’m passionate about the idea that anyone can learn to draw. I’m passionate about eating veggies, the magic of tattoos, 90s alt rock, coffee and clean floors.
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? Why? I’d love to be a bat because they’re one of my all time favorite animals, are incredibly useful and commonly misunderstood like the basic grown up Wednesday Addams that I am. I also love fruit and hate mosquitoes, if I could eat thousands of them it would be very satisfying. Being a dog would be rad too, to run around and roll in the grass and have a sharp sense of smell.
What is it about being a/an_________________that keeps you satisfied in your career? I stay satisfied as a tattoo artist because it is an ever evolving craft personally, but one that has remained largely unchanged for most of its existence in the modern Western world. The possibility of creating new types of work is almost endless, but exist within the very temporary and limited context of the human body, needles, and ink. It's a peaceful dichotomy.
What is your creative process? And major influencers? As an educator, my creative process often begins with a question, seeing a work and wondering how it was made and how I can
learn that in order to show other people how. I’m always looking for ways to get people as hyped about art as I am. I’ve been hugely influenced by Corita Kent and David McDiarmid, two community art educators from completely different eras and lifestyles who worked tirelessly to serve and inspire their community through artistic empowerment.
Can you tell us something you just learned that intrigued you? My kids and I have been working outdoors a lot during the past months and learning a lot about the bugs and plants in our yard. I had no idea that ladybugs went through a similar metamorphosis to butterflies and moths. I think I just assumed that they popped out of their eggs as mini ladybugs.
What is something people often get wrong about you? People are often surprised to hear how old I am. Maybe I look young or maybe I just walk around with dirty Chuck Taylors and paint on my jeans and thusly can’t be perceived as a real grown up adult.
What are you listening to these days? Oh, have you not read my two most recent zines professing my undying devotion to Dave Grohl? 2020 is the year of reconciling my responsibilities and love of research to my punk rock teen years, and I guess that looks like the Foo Fighters. My 4 year old LOVES Gorillaz and Oliver Tree right now, so we listen to that a lot. I also have the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack on a pretty constant rotation.
What’s the best and worst decision you ever made? Worst; Becoming attracted to someone’s power, like some freaky Sailor Moon villain, even though they were emotionally unavailable and kind of abusive. Letting that define me.
Best: Studying art. Learning to use watercolor. Having my babies.
Can you narrate your proudest moment? Recently I listened to my son defend himself and create a really meaningful boundary in an interaction with a relative, with absolutely no input from me.
What do you find ridiculous about life? How expensive childcare is. Despite how huge the world is that you can still run into someone you haven’t seen in years in a parking lot in a town neither of you live in.
Can you share a topic that causes your blood to boil & how you deal with the frustration? I mean, it's almost trite at this point but the ability of inarticulate, unprofessional criminals to rise to the greatest ranks of power and respectability in our society. I deal with the frustration by vocalizing empathy whenever I can, even and almost especially for people I could see as enemies. I want my kids and everyone around me to know that understanding, context and forgiveness are essential to growth and progress in every situation.
If you could take a peek in your future (say 10 years from now), what would it look like? Wow, that feels really loaded for me right now, but I can say that I’m SO excited to imagine what my children’s educational lives will look like, who their friends will be. How many new babies will be in our extended family and friend group. I’m imagining groups of kids congregating in my living room and yard, driving them to band practices and their friends shows, making my own art and reading a lot and hopefully still having my close friends.
Bonus: What’s one thing you are deeply grateful for right now? I am deeply grateful for a very brief trip to my hometown that we took this past week. I got to sit in the same county park where I celebrated countless birthday parties and attended country music festivals and watch my kids run around. I drove past my old house and things were still there, a little different but mostly the same. My past didn’t disappear. I’m still the same person even though I feel a million miles disconnected from my pre-parenthood life.
*all photo are from Kristyn's instagram and facebook page and approved