How this trailblazer inked a name for herself as ‘America’s Tattoo Godmother’
Art Business

How this trailblazer inked a name for herself as ‘America’s Tattoo Godmother’

America’s Tattoo Godmother has been granting wishes for four decades. Kate Hellenbrand, 74, draws clients to her Austin, Texas shop and to tattoo conventions across the country because she’s a trailblazer in what has long been a predominantly male industry. One recent customer, Kayla Wernig, told Moneyish that she chose Hellenbrand to tattoo a Sailor Jerry design (another tattoo icon) on her at the United Ink Summer Vibe Tattoo Festival on July 1 because she was “a strong female in the field, even when it wasn’t popular to be.” Hellenbrand remembers when sailors and military men in would line up for hours on their paydays in San Diego in the early 1970s to get a tattoo from her. She reminded them of their mother, their sister or their girlfriend, she says — and that made her not just a novelty, but also an economic threat. She didn’t consider herself an oddity, however. “I was about the work. It’s all about the work,” she said. “And I worked as hard as any man, or harder.” In the decades since, tattooing has gone from the domain of sailors, bikers, prisoners and rebels to become mainstream. About three in 10 Americans — […]

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