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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Profile: Danielle Distefano, tattoo artist

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After tattooing for eight years in New York and Atlanta, Danielle Distefano recently opened her own tattoo shop, Only You Tattoo, in Grant Park.

How long have you been a tattoo artist?

Eight years, professionally. I was an apprentice for a year and a half before.

What was the first tattoo you gave?

It was a little anchor with a shield that I never finished, because my machine stopped working and I didn’t know how to fix it. That was before I was an apprentice. I got a machine from a friend and was playing around with it.

What’s the strangest tattoo you’ve ever drawn before?

[laughs]. That’s a tough question. I guess a unicorn puking up a rainbow, jumping out of someone’s skin. With lightning bolts coming out of its horns.

How would you describe your style?

It’s based in American traditional classic “tough guy” with Japanese influence. Kind of like sailor tattoos mixed with a Japanese style.

How do you think body art has changed within the last generation?

I think it’s more accepted outside of the tattoo community. People selling tattoo designs have a deep respect and appreciation for their art.

Is it difficult being a woman in a field that is dominated by men?

I feel like I was really lucky. When I first started tattooing, I was accepted because I proved myself as an artist. I never used excuses. I played the game just like anybody else did and I think I got a lot of respect for that.

So were you treated differently when you first started out?

People are always a little skeptical when you first break into the industry because of the competition. People are gonna make you pay your dues.

How long did it take before people finally accepted you?

It was definitely a couple years before people were appreciating what I did. I’m actually not from Atlanta, so it was hard to get used to.

Have you ever had anyone come in with an unrealistic expectation of a design?

Yeah. It’s really hard, because you want to work with the person, and you really want to translate their ambition to a tattoo. But honestly, some designs are just better on paper. And I try to be really honest with everybody. I want to create something I can be proud of. I want to create something that the person will be happy with for years, not just for one moment.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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