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Monday, March 9, 2009

Speakeasy with 'LA Ink's' Kat Von D

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Unlike reality shows that revolve around big hair and elimination ceremonies, TLC's "LA Ink" follows the life and art of tattooist Kat Von D. A stint in South Beach on the network's "Miami Ink" garnered Von D enough of a following to return home for her own spin-off in 2007. From her shop's bubble-gum pink walls to her facial tattoos and rock star boyfriend (Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx — OK maybe there is some big hair happening here), she's made a name for herself as a tough-as-nails girly girl. Von D recently published High Voltage Tattoo, which details the former runaway's tumultuous rise to fame and shares her unique view of the tattoo world. Von D appears at the Buckhead Barnes and Noble Mon., Feb. 23.

Now that your book is on the shelves, what other artistic projects do you have in the works?

Taking up oil painting. So I’ve been doing a lot of that, a lot of photography. I just invested a bunch of money into these fancy ass sewing machines, so I’ve wanted to start making some clothes and whatnot. And then been talking about coming out with a high-end shoe line, like a platform heel type stuff. There’s definitely another book in the projects. And, obviously, I tattoo almost every day, so it’s pretty busy.

Tell me about your photography. How is it affected by your tattoo fame?

The photography stuff I’m probably going to put out under an alias. Like some guy’s name or something. Every time I’ve put up my photography on MySpace or whatever, it’s like people can’t look at it without associating it with Kat. I just want you to look at it and if you like it, you like it. And if you don’t, you don’t. But when people associate it with a name, it’s like the singer-gone-actress or vice versa. I’ve been taking pictures since I was a kid and I mean I’m relearning it with digital cameras, but still, nonetheless. Back in the day, Chopin’s girlfriend, she was a writer when women weren’t allowed to write. So she would write under a man’s name. I thought it would be kinda cool to do something like that and really see the feedback.

Speaking of pre-conceived notions, what’s it like being a female tattoo artist in a male-dominated industry?

Um, it’s different. I think earlier in my career, prior to this show and stuff, I definitely had to work 110 percent to be regular or be thought of as a respected tattooer. That’s OK. I never really made it my agenda or issue and I definitely don’t want to start. I think people in general are far too sensitive and that’s why everybody fucking sues each other. And everybody takes offense and sees opportunities to bitch about stuff.

I didn’t get any fucking hazing or anything like that. I think now I got to the point where the proof is in the pudding. People can say whatever the fuck they want to say. You know, when it comes down to it, I know I give my tattoos 100 percent and I know they look good. I’m not being conceited or anything, but you know what I mean. I don’t think it was until after the show came out that I realized how much of a positive influence it would be on women. I mean not that people want to be tatooers. But women in general. Having my cast, my crew that is prominently female on the show, are really showing people that, for lack of a better term, you can do it.

What do you see for your future down the line?

I just plan on being a creepy, old gypsy woman that lives in some castle with my hairless cat. I’ll never stop tattooing ever, but as far as doing the show, if I one day stop doing it, or when I do, it’ll free my time up a lot. I got so many artistic ideas that I want to kinda start mastering, or try to at least. Or like playing the accordion. I just love the accordion. I want to learn how to play it. I’m going to teach myself.

Kat Von D will sign books Mon., Feb. 23, 12:30-3:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 2900 Peachtree Road. 404-261-7747. www.barnesandnobleinc.com.

(Photo courtesy www.katvond.net)

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