Opening February 1, 2020, Body of Work: Tattoo Culture explores the rich history and modern artistry of tattooing as a dynamic, ever-evolving artform whose mainstream acceptance has been driven by popular culture. The exhibition features large-scale, original works of art created by Northwest-based artists who demonstrate the wide range of styles possible in tattoo art.
One of those artists is LolliPop Morlock, whose background as a performer in unapologetically feminist bands informs her tattoo designs. Her psychedelic and playful style heals trauma and creates joy for her clients, encouraging viewers to rethink preconceived notions about identity, femininity, and popular culture with humor and empathy.
When did you start tattooing?
Lolli: I started tattooing about two and a half years ago. I was working at this coffee shop in Fremont at the time that shared a building with a tattoo studio, so the owners of both the shop and the tattoo studio were husband and wife. So when I was working at the coffee shop, I was serving the tattoo artists coffee and I started to think about those ideas there because I would see them taking photos of their clients tattoos outside when I was taking out the garbage and walking by and seeing that interaction that they were having was really captivating. It was just so cool how they were connecting with each other after the tattoo was done and just to see how the client was reacting and how excited they were was really cool, just how genuine that moment was. That's when I started to think about it. So, I put together a portfolio and just went down there and was like, ‘I want to apprentice, how do I do this?’ The person who ended up apprenticing me had me do a whole other portfolio in a week and she was like, ‘show me something else. Let's see what you can do.’ So I put together images based off of what I thought their tattoo studio vibe was, which was kind of dark and gothic. It's called TygerWolf, so I did a tiger. I drew a wolf. I ended up getting the gig.
How did you develop your artistic style?
Lolli: I think a lot of it came from making art in bands that I was in before I started tattooing. That's when I really started to develop my style. I was booking a lot of shows for a period of time and playing a lot of shows, so I was making show flyers and band merch and album art for the different projects I was in. Namely ‘Mommy Long Legs’ was the last project I was in that I feel really crosses over to the way I tattoo. The sound we had was really unapologetic and feminist and gnarly and snotty. That's where the sentiment of my tattoos comes from. So that is one of the biggest influences, I think, for me was that band.
How do you feel social media has changed the tattoo industry?
Lolli: It's just exposure. It connects people worldwide with you. I can't imagine where I would be without Instagram. It's connected me with people in Europe. It's connected me with people who have traveled here from all sorts of different places. It's just giving young artists a lot of exposure when they wouldn't have otherwise gotten it.
How do you feel about the more traditional style of American tattoo?
Lolli: There are certain things that I can look and be like, that is so cool, I really like the way that it's shaded. I like the technique. I especially like some original Sailor Jerry stuff. It's cool to look at. I think it's fascinating. But I guess it strikes me as really odd that people don't really want to develop their own personal styles because that's what I think is so beautiful and fun about tattooing. Because tattooing is art, it's boundless. Why would you want to just do that same thing over and over again that somebody's done? But I can respect the technique for sure. It's cool. But I like it when people take the traditional style and add their own personal element to it. I think that that's really fun to play with.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the tattoo industry?
Lolli: I would say that if you can't find an apprenticeship that is going to respect you, respect your time, and treat you like a human and not put you through some kind of weird hazing process, if you can't find a studio that supports you, learn on your own. Figure out how to keep your space sanitary, really understand the process of setting up and breaking down and cross contamination. Keep it safe, but you can do it yourself. I think that we're fortunate to come into this time where social media is a really amazing way to connect people and if you're putting out work, then people connect with that and so many people are willing to get tattoos from people who aren't very experienced. I had a number of people who were really willing to help me figure it out on them and that's really cool.