I was humbled last month to be interviewed by journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza about how I integrate a trauma aware approach into my tattooing, and I was absolutely thrilled to find out that our story was recently picked up by the Washington Post.
It's not easy trying to change the way people perceive or experience getting tattooed, especially when the industry has been rough around the edges for so long. But by creating a safe space with open communication and a gentle approach, I hope to make changes that inspire other artists to as well.
I've included a few snippets of the story below, but be sure to head over to washingtonpost.com for the full article.
WHY ‘TRAUMA-INFORMED’ CARE IS SPREADING FROM THE THERAPIST’S OFFICE TO YOGA CLASSES AND TATTOO PARLORS
Article reposted with permission from Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Original story published 2/21/22 • Washingtonpost.com
"For years, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and mental health counselors have practiced trauma-informed care, an approach that acknowledges that people have traumatic experiences and that those experiences can affect their behavior and understanding of the world. The goal of trauma-informed care is to offer more effective therapy by acknowledging trauma, recognizing the signs of trauma, responding to those signs and avoiding re-traumatizing the patient.
Now, professionals and service providers of all kinds outside the mental health field are adopting a trauma-informed mind-set. Lawyers, yoga teachers, photographers, career coaches and tattoo artists are educating themselves about the effects of trauma, approaching their work with this new knowledge in mind and labeling their businesses “trauma-informed.”'
"Ruby Gore is a Philadelphia tattoo artist educating herself about trauma. Like everyone in her field, Gore spends a great deal of time in close physical contact with others, which can be difficult for someone who has had a traumatic experience. She said that when several clients started asking her for scar coverups, often the result of a traumatic event or its long-term effects, she recognized that she needed a specialized approach."
Interview with Philly TalksRead Now
My Background as an Artist
My name is Ruby Gore and I'm a tattoo artist here at Philadelphia Tattoo Collective. I specialize in scientific illustration and botanical blackwork. Ever since I was really little I've been an artist and I wanted to do something where I was going to be drawing. When I was 15, I told my parents I wanted to draw, and they were like "okay, well that's not a real career... so what are you really gonna do?"
So I went to the Art Institute and specialized in graphic design, marketing, photography...kind of a little bit of everything. When I moved up to Oregon in 2011, I decided to change careers and become a tattoo artist. It was a little easier to get into the industry up there, and I was just so done with graphic design, I just couldn't be a slave to the desk anymore.
Ethical & Empathetic
I almost didn't want to start tattooing because I hated hurting people, it really bothered me that much. I try and create a really different experience for people when they're getting tattooed...I want it to be progressive. I have pet heating pad that I turn on for people who just need to be a little bit warmer. or I've got numbing spray that I'll put on them after we've done the linework.
Now I have people traveling quite a ways because they like my style, but it's also a bonus that they're into getting a Vegan tattoo...everyone else is just curious, I have yet to find somebody who's opposed to it. There are a couple of key things that I do that are a little bit less traditional:
Let it Consume You and Take No Shit
I have a to-do list that would make anybody cry and I love it... I just like getting better at what I do. I'm always finding inspiration every which way I go, it's why I like traveling so much. Even on the shittiest trip, I'm like, "this is terrible, I'm tired, I want to go home". And then as I'm on the plane going home, I'm so glad I did that because I learned this, or I met this person, or now I have this new idea to start a spin-off project.
Let what you love consume you. I mean, I definitely don't recommend going on as few hours of sleep as I do, but when you really love something you just lose track of time. Like when you realize it's 4:00 in the morning and that you should probably go to bed, but then it's like, oh wait, hold on one more thing... which is why I have a notepad on me at all times writing out all these ideas.
I never took no for an answer, I just realized that with some things I needed to get better and then come back. Learning how to take criticism was the best thing I ever could have done, art school helped with that a lot, but also just learning how to have a tough outer shell because the world's gonna be shitty regardless... not caring what other people think was probably the best thing I ever learned how to do.
How did you get your start as a tattoo artist?
Well, I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil as my parents have always been very supportive of my interest in becoming an artist from an early age. I told them when I was a teenager that I wanted to be a tattoo artist, but they were a little concerned about their sweet little girl entering such a "tough and dangerous" industry back then.
It was also not a very common thing to see women in the industry at that time. So without trying to crush my dreams, they encouraged me to go to college instead, hoping that they had steered me in the right direction towards a career that (safely) satisfied my artistic passion.
I graduated from the Art Institute of California, San Diego with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art and Design, majoring in Digital Illustration and Graphic Design, minoring in Marketing, Photography and Web Design. I stayed in the design industry for about ten years, jumping back and forth between freelancing and office jobs before I realized that that industry was just not for me. I had little to no ability as a graphic designer to do my own illustrations or express myself the way I wanted to with the body art that had always been obsessively drawn to from the beginning.
So at twenty-nine years old, I finally set out to pursue my dream career as a tattoo artist. I worked an exhausting sixty+ hours a week at my full-time Graphic Design job as I secretly snuck away four weekday nights and two full weekend days to my apprenticeship. It was not a traditional apprenticeship, as I was one of many artists at my shop, with little guidance or supervision unless requested.
This was the first time I really learned how to assert myself because I was more in love with tattooing than I ever could have imagined, and needed to learn as much as I possibly could. Luckily when I was finished with my apprenticeship, I recognized that it was a perfect time to start an online presence as an artist, and so I used this to my advantage by creating a memorable brand name for myself and by honing in on a style that I was not only in love with, but something that would resonate with my target market at the same time.
Your tattoos have a distinct style which you describe as "dark illustrative botanical tattoos" what have been some of your influences?
Illustration by Maria Sibylla Merian
My love for Naturalism Art really got started in art history class in college. My eyes were opened to artists that my work is heavily inspired by today such as Maria Sibylla Merian, John James Audubon and Ernst Haeckel. Upon entering the tattoo industry, I have quickly become inspired by tattoo artists such as Kirsten Holliday, Kelly Violence, and most recently the Murray brothers.
It's hard not to write laundry list a mile long with everyone who has inspired me along the way, but these few I mentioned above are the heavy influencers right this moment. I also wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today if it weren't for the influence and guidance of my tattoo family at Philadelphia Tattoo Collective: Evan Lovett, Benji Harris, Barnsey, Andrew Lally and Steve Bishov.
How long have you been Vegan? How does that effect your tattoo practices?
I've been on and off vegan/vegetarian for about 10 years, but just recently converted to full-blown vegan again earlier this year, when I was finally successful with honing in a healthy diet that has been working really well for me. Transitioning into vegan tattooing is what finally sealed the deal on my diet back in March, but it's been so eye opening to find out what kind of animal byproducts are used in everyday tattooing supplies.
Most reputable ink companies are vegan these days, but there are so many other products used in making a tattoo than just the ink. The salves we use during the process, the tape/adhesive bandages, the stencil paper and transfer cream could all have animal derived ingredients in them. If you're interested in a full list of the certified Vegan products I use during my procedures, I have created a page specifically for it on my website: Vegan Tattoos
Any advice for Vegans who want to make sure they are staying ethical during the tattoo and healing process?
It's always okay to ask your artist to share with you what products they are using and what they suggest for aftercare. If they aren't willing to share this information with you, then that might be a red flag that they aren't actually using cruelty-free products. I also have a page on my website with suggestions for aftercare products that anyone can order prior to their tattoo appointment from certified vegan companies: Vegan Aftercare Products
I’m a fan of the #qttr hashtag to find queer artists and I see you have QTTR in your bio on your Instagram. Has openly identifying as queer had an effect on the clients interested in your work?
It has! I am so happy that I have had such a positive response to not just my recent coming out as pansexual/poly, but with creating a safe space for my queer/trans clients. I proudly wear the QTTR tag on the front of my Instagram page in hopes that it creates more visibility and acceptance for our community. I also want to thank @queer_tattooers for accepting me as a tattooer in their online artist community and frequently featuring my tattoo work on their page. <3
What challenges have you faced in your growth as an artist?
Well, haha, it's never an easy job being a tattoo artist. There are so many more sides to this career than just making drawings and tattooing them on people. Many clients come to me after they have experienced trauma in their life, and are looking at this experience with me as a closure point in their healing process, and that was something that I didn't realize would affect me so much, being as empathetic as I am.
Let's just say that it gets really heavy in the studio somedays. I also do a lot of self-harm scar cover-up work, and more times that not, those are the sessions that end hugs and tears between the two of us. It's an extremely humbling experience and I am so honored that I get to make that level of impact on so many people's lives.
How has the culture of the tattoo industry changed since you started tattooing/getting tattooed?
Well, it's changed a lot in so many ways. Female tattooers are more present than ever before, and technology has really allowed us to come a long way in regards to how quickly we are able to put our work at people's fingertips.
I started getting tattooed over 14 years ago, and I ended up with some really terrible tattoos (that are now mostly covered) because I wasn't aware that there was anything past the flash on the walls that my local shop had to offer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's nice now to see such a wide variety of styles from some seriously talented tattoo artists so that we can find artwork that resonates with us wear proudly for the rest of our lives.
Do you have a favorite tattoo (or type) you've done?
Petunia the Pig, made by Ruby
I am so madly in love with tattooing animals and bugs right now! Especially for clients that are vegan. I've got to say that my favorite tattoo so far is Petunia the Pig, she was recently featured in an article featuring vegan tattooers on ChooseVeg.com
Do you practice your art outside of tattooing?
Yes, but not as much a I would like haha. It's most important for me right now that I spend as much time as it takes drawing every client's tattoo to perfection before moving on to working on my own personal drawings and paintings.
What advice would you give to someone starting out now?
Draw more, be resilient and learn everything that you can to make yourself successful. It's not going to be easy to jump into this game now, because of the way social media has become, but don't let that deter you. Immerse yourself and become obsessed until you succeed. And the best advice I was given was, "get as many needles in skin as you can in your first few years."
View the original interview on SecondSkin's website here!
Collaboration With MontattooRead Now
Before I get to exciting announcements, I would like to welcome you to my new blog! Things have gotten so exciting this past year that I decided to put all of my projects and adventures in once place for you all to see a little more in depth with full write-ups and tons of photos!
Now that introductions are out of the way...I am pleased to announce that I have just completed my first big collaboration with Montattoo to create temporary tattoos of my work!
I'm so excited about how beautiful these turned out! Take a look at some of the product shots I took earlier today below:
The full sheet includes 4 floral designs and 3 insects (pictured below) and is available for purchase now exclusively through Montattoo for $9.95 with free shipping worldwide.
Thank you to Montattoo for making this such a wonderful experience for my first collaboration, I'll definitely be working with them again in the future as well as some new companies that I'm excited to announce later this year!