Karen Costleigh Tattoos

Posted: Oct 20 2015

Los Angeles based tattooer and friend of the brand Karen Costleigh was kind enough to let us stop by and snap a few shots of her doing what she does best. Her tattoos are exceptional and her work ethic and kind heart are hard to miss the minute you meet her. Below we asked Karen a few questions. Check it out and look up her work here.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? What are you into?

I'm currently living in Hollywood. I am mainly a homebody, so if I'm not at True Tattoo or Ten Thousand Waves Tattoo, I'm more then likely at home. Work consumes a lot of my time, but I always make time for my friends and family.

What made you want to start tattooing?

I can't say that I always knew I wanted to be a tattooer. I really knew nothing about it until I started getting tattooed. Back then tattooing wasn't really out in the main stream like it is today. It's funny to me now because high school kids are now trying to come in and do their senior project on tattooers and aspire to tattoo when they graduate, when first, they really don't know anything about the industry apart from what they see on "reality TV " and second, they haven't ever been tattooed yet. So how would they even know if they like it? Because you sure can't sell something you've never bought.  But still even that this is currently a popular career option, kinda  blows my mind because this was never even a twinkle of an idea 10-15 years ago.  I didn't even know this was a career option till I started hangin out and getting tattooed. I had started hangin around psycho city tattoo when I was 18 yrs old. Everyone there was super cool and I just gravitated towards the energy. Shortly after they decided to hire me as their helper/piercer. And I got my first tattoo at 19 yrs old and my collection grew rapidly from there.  I really wanted to tattoo but back then you couldn't really ASK for an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships were only given and not something that could be bought or begged for. They were more rare and more carefully selected because you would forever become a representative of your teacher. You would come from that tattoo family. Your teacher is in a way co signing that they selected you and in good faith believe that you will give back to tattooing more then you take and that you will be responsible with it and make a contribution in the tattoo world. Not just be in it as a hobby or to be mr cool guy for a few years. This would be your career for life. After a few years Mike Pike and Jojo Ackermann decided to apprentice me. I am forever grateful to these men and I still try to let them know that. I worked at psycho city for 7 years and then worked at American Made, which was psycho city's sister shop. After a few years Jojo decided to close the doors on American Made so I decided to move to Hollywood and wanted to try to work at true tattoo because of it's amazing reputation and longevity it's had for being the go to tattoo spot in Hollywood. I never thought I could actually work here but I thought it couldn't hurt to try. It would be the first and only place I applied at.  And I was absolutely shocked and happy when I was hired and fortunate enough to be able to join the amazingly talented crew at True Tattoo. I've been there ever since, And am currently still at True Tattoo and am also working back with Jojo Ackermann at his and Robert Atkinsons shop Ten Thousand Waves Tattoo.  I really feel so blessed to get to work with all of the artists at both of these shops. I learn so much from them daily and they always inspire me to try to do better and work harder.

Tell us about your style of tattooing

As far as a style of tattooing I dont really have a favorite. I love traditional and fine line black and grey. I think it just depends on what the image is and what style that image would be best translated into a tattoo in and be readable and age well.

What are your thoughts on women in the industry? Is it pretty equal? Any advice for girls trying to break into the industry?

As for women in the industry, I think its still primarily male dominated, but women are definitely getting it in and growing in numbers. For people that think it's hard to be a woman in this industry, I think it's just hard to be a woman period, nothing industry specific.  But as far as the tattoo industry goes, we have had so many strong women in tattooing before us open the door and really pave the way and made our journey into tattooing smooth sailing which all female tattooers should be grateful for them. I think how you conduct yourself in this Industry will decide the level of respect you will receive. My advise for any woman or anyone for that matter trying to break in to tattooing right now I would first say DONT. This industry is pretty flooded out and it's really a shame when you see people who have been tattooing for 20 years who are no longer booked or who are barley tattooing even though they have mastered their craft and been committed to it and working hard but because they are not "Instagram famous" they are slow.  Tattooers don't have a retirement plans so seeing a tattooer that is slow after years of grinding is heartbreaking. If someone was actually serious about tattooing, my best advise would be to actually get tattooed by the people who's work you admire and spend some time in a shop and talk with the artists and buy yourself tattoos because they are the things that you hope to sell one day. How would you expect someone to commit their skin to your artwork when you yourself have not done the same? I personally would never get tattooed by someone who didn't have any. It's really the only way to observe what actually happens in a tattoo shop and to find out if you are even really interested in doing this trade for the rest of your life.

Any last thoughts?

My last thoughts would just be to say how thankful I am for tattooing and for Mike Pike and Jojo Ackermann for teaching me this amazing trade that has given me everything I have. And for their continued presence, love and support In my life. And thank you to Oliver peck for giving me the opportunity to work at True Tattoo, I am forever grateful you gave me the chance and I hope to make you proud. And for all of my co workers and friends in this industry that are a continuing source of inspiration and friendly competition that makes me want keep working hard at this craft that we were all lucky enough to learn and be able to have a chance to give back.

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