Tasha is a Bethlehem, PA based tattoo artist and co-owner of Obsidian Parlor, with her husband and professional body piercer, Andy. Together they have two sons, a hairless cat, five dogs, and a passion for vintage Volkswagens and modern Audi’s.

Over the last few years, Tasha has gone through nearly a half-dozen laser tattoo removal treatments on her neck and chest to make room for some new tattoos.  She walks us through how the process of tattoo removal has gone for her and what it’s like as an artist to do cover-ups on skin that has had tattoo removal. She also explains the challenges of entering the tattoo industry as a woman and what she overcame to be one of the most respected artists in her area. Follow her on Instagram at @bowzerwowz.

When did you start getting tattoos?

I was 18 and it’s a funny story! My first tattoo was the day after my 18th birthday, and I kept it a secret because I was not allowed to have tattoos or piercings until I moved out. This was a hard rule by my parents.

After a few months, my mother found out about the tattoo and grounded me for 3 months. I was an 18-year-old adult being grounded! Before moving out I got several more tattoos, none came with a grounding though.

The funny bit in this story comes full circle, as the years passed, I have tattooed my mom and all my sisters (who didn’t get in trouble!). I plan to have that first tattoo lasered soon, to make room for something new, but my mom wants me to keep it!

When did you decide to pursue a career as a tattoo artist, and why?

When I was 3 years old, my uncle came home with a tattoo of his fraternity on his ankle, the Greek letters. Ever since I saw that small tattoo and realized that I could draw on people, and it would stay, I was hooked.

I started drawing on anyone who would allow me. Including my sisters while they slept (sorry mom!). The older I got, the more I came to love and understand tattooing. All throughout school, I talked of becoming a tattoo artist with everyone who asked or would listen. The passion for tattooing and the tattoo industry started very early and has never faded.

My day would come, I was sure of it. Art was my obsession. Everyone in my family is artistic, in different ways; I’ve always enjoyed being surrounded by creatives and draw inspiration and have admiration for all forms.

The pursuit of art as a career led me to enroll and then graduate from art school, so I’d have a more formal background and to fully immerse myself in the arts. The next step was landing a tattoo apprenticeship.

A few months prior to graduating, I spoke with a local shop about my desire to apprentice, and they told me to come back when I was ready. Graduated now and ready to start my career, I returned to the shop with my portfolio and was quickly shut down. For being a woman. This wrecked me. I quit art.

I got a full-time job at a major retail store and worked my way up to management. I was miserable. I missed being creative, I missed art.

My friend approached me, her mom’s boyfriend just opened a tattoo shop in Allentown, PA, and he had a portfolio of work that he was looking to tattoo to build his portfolio. One drawing was a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe, my favorite poet. I quickly contacted him to schedule an appointment.

We shared the same love for art and quickly became friends, he soon thereafter asked me to come in and answer the phones. I did this for months, for free, because I wanted to be in a tattoo shop, I wanted to learn, and was willing to do anything to make it happen.

He saw my passion for art and knew my time was being wasted at the front desk; I quickly accepted his offer for an apprenticeship when he offered me the opportunity.

That was a decade ago. There weren’t a lot of prominent female tattoo artists, but I wanted to be one of them. I pursued this career path because I’m passionate about art, and because I wanted to prove to myself that I can do what the men can do; I wanted to prove to the guy who told me no all those years ago that I was worthy of this craft.

My apprenticeship was alongside an amazing female tattoo artist, she left an impression on me, and I still look up to her. I’m good enough to be a part of this community, as a human, and more importantly as a respected artist.

What style of tattooing do you do / do you love to do? 

I absolutely love everything animal related, especially dogs. I love dogs and answer to five of them daily! Bright bold color is my favorite, but I do black and grey work, too.

As of late, I’m digging blackwork a lot, but don’t tell a soul!

You’ve had some exhaustive laser tattoo removal done over the years, what made you want to change your appearance?

Cover-up tattoo done by: @connor.tattoos

The tattoos I had weren’t terrible tattoos. In fact, they were nicely done. I just grew out of them and the style they were done in, I needed a change. A much younger me was into a very different style of tattoos, and over time my taste changed. As the years went on, I was unhappy with my appearance, so I decided to start making changes towards a happier me.

Why did you decide to do tattoo removal treatments before getting cover-ups done? 

Being a tattoo artist, I know that the lighter the original tattoo is, the easier it is to cover and the less of a headache it causes for everyone involved.

Cover-up tattoo done by: @connor.tattoos

Not to mention, fading a tattoo gives so many more options for what you can put where the old tattoo previously existed. Like I said, I was super unhappy with my appearance and wanted to make sure the tattoos I had were light enough to never see again, and I could get the artwork I wanted.

As someone that has gone through tattoo removal to facilitate a cover-up, and does cover-up tattoos, do you recommend laser tattoo removal?  If so, why? 

Absolutely. When a client comes into my shop for a cover-up and If I feel that a few laser sessions will make it easier to ensure that old tattoo never sees the light of day again, I send them to Removery. Specifically, script or lettering tattoos. Our eyes are trained to read what we see automatically and if my job is to cover those words, I highly recommend a few zaps to ensure we never see those letters again.

Is it different tattooing over areas that have been lasered, or is basically the same? 

Honestly, in my experience, it depends on where the laser removal is done. I have had people come in with terrible skin from poor quality laser removal, and it’s so much harder to tattoo over.

If the removal is done properly, I find it to not be a problem. This is why I always recommend Removery. My clients trust me because I was a client, and they can see the results firsthand!