Ink Defense recently talked with Pro-team member Nicolette “Nic” Lee, 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!
Nicolette “Nic” Lee lives in Molalla, Oregon with her husband and five children and an array of interesting feathered and scaled friends. She describes her husband as the most patient and gentle man to live in a household of eclectic artists and animal lovers. "He's a saint to put up with my eccentricities"
Nicolette has a simple philosophy to living life: work hard - play hard- survive to thrive.