There are a lot of tattoo shops in Rochester that have been around for a long time. Many of the artists are veterans in the business. Recently though, there have been a big boom of a younger generation of tattoo artists that do great work. So I set out to find a few of these newer artists and talk to them. The Fresh Ink series will showcase a new up and coming artist working in the city.
On this adventure I interviewed Ashli Hill, a young up and coming tattoo artist. I wanted to get some new ink done by her, so I went down to Monroe and into SteadFast Tattoo shop, where I find Ashli finishing up a tattoo of a punk raccoon on Corey Trash. I had been telling Ashli that I would interview her for a few weeks now but never got around to doing it. Originally I was just going to get the tattoo done and not interview her, yet she convinced me otherwise. So I got my tattoo and after, while she was tattooing my friend, I asked her a few question. With the buzzing of the tattoo gun and the majority of her focus on her work, I knew this was going to be a fun interview to go over later. So over the loud constant buzzing and blaring punk music I asked my questions.
What made you want to start Tattooing?
I always been into art so when I was younger. My dad is a really big biker dude so he has some tattoos and I was all about them and that’s all I wanted to do.
How old were when you started?
I actually had a previous apprenticeship before Steadfast it wasn’t even in Rochester. The guys were super mean to me and they just called me names all the time and I generally didn’t like it there so I eventually left and was like I fucking hate this.
What made you go to Steadfast?
I talked to Eric a lot and got tattooed by him before hand and we always talked about if I ever moved here if he would give me a job. It happened which I wasn’t expecting.
What kind of style do you tattoo?
I haven’t really established anything, but the pieces I enjoy doing is like stippling work or American Traditional, basically I’ll dabble in anything I just don’t know yet. Eventually I would like to do portrait work but I just don’t know yet
What’s your most memorable moment as an artist so far?
I don’t know a lot of good ones and weird ones. One specifically was this lady that was into BDSM and I did like a kanji symbol for slave on her and she kept telling me that her boyfriend would really like it. I was just like ‘fuck’.
Well I was going to ask who is the weirdest person you ever tattooed?
I have been working on this huge piece there was like separate stuff on her leg and its all like boobs and vaginas, dicks, Russian prison tattoos, death, and all this fucked up shit. It’s really fun to do.
Anything you ever wanted to tattoo and haven’t yet?
I guess within images that I’ve already drawn flash of for Friday the Thirteenth I made this ghost tampon and nobody even took it and I was like ‘fuck man now i really want to do it’. Nobody even considered [getting the tattoo] they were all ‘fuck that’. So I have really wanted to put that on somebody. I have this sweet flash, what’s that type of ice cream?
No it’s like… chocolate and strawberry?
Yeah that. It’s a hand in an ice cream cone its all the colors of the ice cream but it’s in a shocker sign you know like the two fingers were the pink strawberry and then the one is the chocolate you know. So I have always wanted to do that too, because it’s awesome
So how long have you been doing this now?
Well that’s a good question I think it’s been about eight or nine months.
So that’s legit.
Yeah I have been tattooing my friends a lot before but as of right now working here it’s been like 8 or 9 months
How many tattoos do you have?
I have no fucking idea man my legs almost already filled. I’m trying to fill in my torso even though it hurts a lot, one arm is almost filled. I’m trying not to fill my other arm so when I’m old I can get stuff that I want.
Being a newer tattoo artist is harder to get appointments?
I have a few regulars. Obviously the other guys get more stuff and obviously there is stuff I’m just not ready for you know?
Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?
I love Valerie Vargas, she does really awesome traditional women figures. Adam Francey is fucking awesome, he did this little baby thing on me. Of course Eric because that’s who I originally started apprenticing under. I have tons of them it’s hard to pick a favorite.
So what’s your goal as a tattoo artist?
Mostly to just travel and make a name for myself. I told them from the beginning that if I started working I would love to travel to other places other than Rochester to tattoo. Oh yeah there is another one of my favorite tattoo artists Pat Whelan he is from Philly he and I made that Simpsons flash, the Simpsons punk rock flash. You can buy it online he’s just fucking awesome and he’s always doing punk rock tattoos and he’s who I might venture out with.
I know you also do comics can you talk about that and your other art?
I like to make comics because people in Rochester aren’t as funny as me. I’ve made some henna skulls basically putting fake henna tattoos on skulls. I do this thing where I tattoo kewpie dolls, I just basically draw on them with sharpies and sell them. Other than that I just basically make tattoo flash all day every day
Alright is there anything else you want to say?
I was going to say I think one big thing when it comes to Rochester and tattooing its difficult when you’re a lady. I mean really in any area because it’s a boy’s game and people are telling you to sell sex appeal and that’s like definitely not my game. It sucks pretty much being a newcomer and a girl. The struggle is real, so I feel for all other female tattoo artists.
There is a rise in female tattoo artists though I think?
Oh yeah definitely, but I think it’s still hard it’s still a boys game yours stepping into things that guys have been doing for a long time. In the circus days women would get tattoos from their husbands and they would be the tattoo ladies but then they would start tattooing themselves so it was there but it’s still definitely not easy especially when you’re walking into a shop and people are like boobs and dicks and I’m just like I just want to tattoo you know?