Ink Defense talked with Pro-team member Nicolette “Nic” Ferrerira, artist and owner of Back40 Tattoo in Molalla, Oregon to learn about her interesting experiences getting into tattooing and growing her craft.
ID: Life is an adventure or you should make it one - that seems to be a guiding principle for you. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I came from a broken family and I knew I wanted more for my own children. Early on I worked as a private banker for Wells Fargo. During my time with Wells Fargo, I worked to get my degree in business. I am also an entrepreneur. I have been in the restaurant and catering business, owned my own cafe while I was working at Wells Fargo. I am also an ordained minister, notary, and published writer, to name a few hats I wear. I also teach continuing education in the tattoo industry; I just have my fingers in all kinds of stuff… I love to multitask. Most importantly the more I teach, the more I truly learn.
ID: You have had a variety of careers. So how did you get into tattooing?
I experienced a traumatic event in my life that made me take a step back and look at the bigger picture. At the cafe, I enjoyed sharing time with my customers. I would often sit on the front porch of the cafe and drink coffee with my customers.
During one of those shared moments on the front porch, I was talking with a regular customer about needing a career change. She noticed I was heavily tat'd myself (which I kept concealed when I was working in corporate). She suggested maybe become a tattooist myself. I laughed and shook my head. No way! It's one thing to receive them it's a whole other to give. What if I f*$# up? This is permanent!
She worked at the tattoo school just up the road from my cafe. She pushed relentlessly for me to come and at least observe what was happening from the artist’s side… and I was intrigued. Knowledge is power and this was a brand new world with its own language and energy.
ID: Tell us about your tattooing experience, your style.
Tattooing is a skill I had a desire to learn. I have always been a painter but this was a new way to express my art. My mentor, Damon Lomax of Saints and Sinners in Portland, Oregon, explained that art is only 50% of the business. Art comes from the heart; and I had that! But you need business skills, marketing, customer service, and more. My business degree has helped me develop my business including my shop, Back40 Tattoos.
As for a specific style, I learned them all. I love doing anything flora or fauna related. I also like tribal, particularly Polynesian style. Font or script work is another favorite. It is more than just line work for me; it is turning it into something special. I am a high-detail artist - every color matters to me!
ID: You build connections with your clients. Tell us about that. Connecting with your clients
Relating to my clients is huge. While I am an artist and a business person, I am also part therapist. I approach tattooing as a mother, a nuturter. When you have someone in a vulnerable state. They are trusting you for something that is permanent. You can’t help but put yourself into it. There is a spiritual connection with my tattooing. I have an intuitive connection with my clients, because of my life experiences I can offer an unbiased ear. And I give a little piece of myself in every tattoo I do.
I am a "families" tattooist. I build relationships with my clients and their families. I have so many relationships and return clients that my books have been closed to new clients for two years. I only accept immediate referrals from the families I already serve.
ID: Tell us about your shop, Back40 Tattoo
Back40 Tattoo is the only tattoo shop in Molalla, Oregon and it is an all-woman shop. We focus on empowerment for women and especially mothers. The most powerful thing is when I get to make a woman feel beautiful again. Nurturing is so important. I approach the shop not as an owner, but as part of the sisterhood. Their success is my success. I strived to lead by example. My oldest child is now working as a tattoo apprentice in our shop, and someday I hope to see her take on my legacy and make it her own.
ID: What has been your most interesting/unique tattooing experience as an artist?
A woman messaged me to request a tattoo. She wanted 65 purple roses below her breasts. She had cystic fibrosis (CF) which is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs. She explained that 65 roses is a symbol of cystic fibrosis. I was excited about this design and started in.
The woman came in and I was shocked. I had made this design of 65 roses but this woman was extremely petite in frame. She was so excited to be there, just to be alive. Mighty strength in such a small package. She was 20 years old and this would be her first tattoo. When she arrived for her appointment she explained that she was on anti-rejection drugs. I realized I needed to rethink the design and my approach. We made an appointment two months later.
I consulted with my mentor for strategies for redesign and how to counter the rejection of pigments due to the anti-rejection drugs. When her appointment came, we worked diligently. I placed each rose individually...that was 65 roses done individually.
The experience was life changing for the client. It empowered her. She found her voice, realizing that she wasn’t broken by the disease. She became an advocate and speaker for CF, particularly for early detection and mental health awareness. For me, it was the moment that I stayed with it, finished it even when challenges presented themselves....and empowered us both in the process.
ID: You have a special connection with animals. Tell us about that.
I am Mother to all animals. I do animal rescue, feather, scales, and fur. My parents breed exotic birds, through their connection in the exotics world, I grew up around all sorts of creatures. Now there isn’t an animal I won’t rescue; possums, pythons, parrots, you name it! Ion, a greenwing macaw who is the logo and mascot for Back40 Tattoo, (I chose him for his vibrance in colors) was just an egg when I got him and his siblings. I assisted in his hatch and have had him ever since.
I am also a huntress and avid angler. Contradiction I know. I follow ancient ways; I respect the animal that provides nourishment for my family. I never take more than I need. When I meet a creature in the field or sea, I offer thanks to that animal and not a single part is wasted. I refuse to eat an animal that has been denied its life. Raised in a cage for slaughter hurts my heart.
Nicolette “Nic” Ferrerira, lives in Molalla, Oregon with her family and an array of interesting feathered and scaled friends. Nicolette has a simple philosophy to living life: work hard - play hard- survive to thrive.