We continue our conversation with Pro-Team artist Nicolette "Nic" Lee of Back40 Tattoo in Molalla, Oregon. In this part we discuss relating to clients and interesting experiences.
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.