By Robyn Gautschy The Register-Mail, Galesburg, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Andria Wages discusses her favorite tattoos, the ins and outs of running a tattoo shop, and how her love for tattoos first started.
"What are you going to do with all those tattoos when you get older?"
It's been said by parents to their children for generations, and Andria Wages would like to answer that question once and for all.
"The oldest person I have tattooed was 73. It was on her bucket list," said Wages, the 32-year-old tattoo artist and owner at Studio 24 Tattoos in Galesburg. "Since then I have had the pleasure of tattooing many in that age range. The one thing they have all said to me is that they wish they would have started getting tattooed sooner! The love of tattoos is definitely ageless."
Wages has been working for herself since her early 20s, and before that, she learned plenty of business lessons by working with her aunt and uncle in their flooring business.
She became an entrepreneur herself in September 2016, opening her own tattoo shop on Broad Street after several years working at Phoenix Tattoo Studio.
Wage's main goal, she says is to create original, one-off tattoos for her clients.
"Tattoos are very personal to anyone who has one," she said. "No one should ever run into their tattoo double walking down the street. Your tattoo should be as original as you are."
Read on as Wages discusses her favorite tattoos, the ins and outs of running a creative business, and how her love for tattoos first started.
Register-Mail: First, some background on you: Where did you grow up and go to school? What kind of work did you do before becoming a tattoo artist?
Andria Wages: I was born and raised in Peoria and attended Limestone Community High School near the Greater Peoria Airport. Originally, I wanted to be a graphic designer. My junior year I placed sixth in state in graphic design through Vica Skills USA. After working in management for a few years, I studied tattooing under a couple of artists in New York.
RM: What drew you to a career as a tattoo artist? What fascinated you about tattoos when you were younger, and what do you still love about them now?
AW: The idea of transforming art into your skin was very interesting to me from the start. I started getting my first tattoos when I was only 17. From there on, I was drawing tattoos for either myself or friends. As I have developed as an artist over the years, so has my appreciation for the trade. I still find myself impressed by how much detail and realism can be put into a tattoo.
RM: Care to tell us about your own tattoos? Or, do you have a favorite or one that's really special to you?
AW: I would have to say that my favorite tattoos on myself are very traditional. I enjoy the meaning and stories behind the "sailor" tattoos. For instance, I have a rooster tattooed on one foot and a pig on the other. On the ship, they would have been in wooden crates. At the event of a shipwreck, they would float. Sailors would get them tattooed on their feet to "never sink."
RM: You were raised by an aunt and uncle who owned their own business. Were you involved in the business as well? What did you learn about business from your family?
AW: Absolutely! They had a flooring business, and I spent a lot of summers helping out the business here and there. Customer service goes a long way. There will always be competition in anything you do. Take care of your clientele, and give them an experience they won't be able to find somewhere else.
RM: How did you come to open your own tattoo shop?
AW: I started my professional career as a tattoo artist in a studio that just opened in Galesburg in 2008. In 2015 the studio closed, but there was no doubt in my mind that it was time to open up my own personal studio. It took me about a year with a part-time job to save and open Studio 24 Tattoos.
RM: Why did you choose Galesburg for your location? What do you like about doing business in this area?
AW: Over the years I have developed a strong clientele base here, and have made very close connections with other small-business owners. I wanted to continue giving that support back to the community as well!
RM: What's next for Studio 24? Any new ideas or projects in the works?
AW: Always! In the year Studio 24 has been open, I have already started expanding. I have a few business opportunities with other small business I would like to see come together in the next year. It's great to have a local network to work together with!
RM: You've said that your main goal is original, one-off tattoos. How do you come up with your designs and techniques? What inspires you?
AW: Tattoos are very personal to anyone who has one. I truly believe that's how it should be approached, too. In design, I push myself to make sure that happens. No one should ever run into their tattoo double walking down the street. Your tattoo should be as original as you are. Even if a certain style becomes popular, let's sit down and talk about how we can change it to become yours, not just flash or artwork done over and over. In return, it keeps me sharp as an artist.
RM: How do you balance the creative and business sides of your tattoo shop?
AW: I have to schedule separate time just for the business. There are days that I'd would love to be tattooing or designing another piece, but the business has to come first. Every couple of weeks, I'm in the studio just balancing books, orders and taxes on my day off. It is definitely a balance I'm learning a lot of self-discipline from.
RM: What is the best part about owning your own business?
AW: The freedom, both creatively and professionally. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of headaches in owning your own business. At the end of the day though, it's nice to be able to lock up the business with the peace of mind that everything is taken care of.
RM: How common are female tattoo artists in our area and in general? What advice do you have for other women wanting to become tattoo artists, or work in any field that is typically dominated by men?
AW: In our area, there are only a couple of women in the industry. I do have close contacts to studios in the Peoria area that are also owned and operated by women. As a whole, the industry has typically been a man's role. I've seen a lot of change in the last 10 years, and I think we are going to see it shift more equally in the future. Male or female, there are a lot of very strong artists out there. The stronger and more original your portfolio is, the better. Even if one door shuts, the next opportunity is still out there.
RM: What are some common misconceptions people have about tattoos, and how do you address those misconceptions? It seems like tattoos have become more common and "socially acceptable."
AW: The famous one: "What are you going to do with all those tattoos when you get older?" The oldest person I have tattooed was 73. It was on her bucket list. Since then I have had the pleasure of tattooing many in that age range. The one thing they have all said to me is that they wish they would have started getting tattooed sooner! The love of tattoos is definitely ageless.