A Day in the Life of Tattooing

Tara Fenn, 28, grew up in her father’s tattoo studio where she fell in love with the art of tattooing.

“Being surrounded by so many artistic people with their individual styles was very inspiring, especially at such an early age.”

Body Designs, located in Bay Shore, NY, was home.

Tara Fenn spent much of her childhood drawing and making other crafts, two things that remain part of her identity to this day. “I’d bring line drawings to school and color them with my friends during lunch. I also spent a lot of time at the studio drawing and making other crafts,” she said. “When I’m not tattooing I enjoy painting, crocheting, and crafting. I actually have a half sleeve of different craft items.”

Art class was always Tara Fenn’s favorite although, especially in high school, she wanted to do what she wanted to do and not necessarily what the teachers wanted her to do.

It wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she was finally able to convince her father, Michael Fenn, to take her on as his apprentice. “This incredible opportunity gave me my start as a tattoo artist and earned me the distinction of being the last 16 year old to become certified to tattoo in Suffolk County,” she said. When she went to the health department to take her certification test they were apprehensive about certifying a 16-year-old. Now, according to Suffolk County regulations, tattoo apprentices need to be at least 18 years old.

“Its not something that I wanted necessarily for her. I was hoping she would go to school and get maybe a better line of work,” her father, Michael Fenn said.

But Tara proved herself worthy and is constantly learning new things. In 2012 she enrolled at Premier Pigments Institute in Texas to learn how to do permanent cosmetics and to enhance her skills “The day that you stop learning should be the day that you put down your machine and walk away,” she said.

Now at age 28, she has been tattooing for 11 years and loves every second of it. “It’s such a great thing to take someone’s ideas and experience their reactions and joy when tattoo ideas come to life.”

“Her work and her talent is the main reason why I come here but it’s her professionalism which makes me continue to come back,” Mathew Hogan, 29, said. “From the time I walk through the door to the drawing process, it’s very good to have an artist that is very patient. I’ll always continue to come back.”

Tara Fenn’s favorite part of tattooing is making someone happy. “You don’t really realize sometimes how big of an affect this small or large piece you’re getting to do on a person can actually have on them,” she said.

Working as a tattoo artist has had its challenges over the years as well. One of the biggest challenges she faces on a day-to-day basis is a client failing to bring in references. “So many people come in and they aren’t good at explaining what they want to get done. If they don’t bring in references and I don’t have a visual aid I tell them I wish I could read your mind but I’m a tattoo artist not a psychic.”

Tara Fenn’s ability to help bring ideas to life also sparked her aspiration to help raise money for cancer research. In 2009 she created an annual event called Tattoo’s for Cancer Research to help raise money for the American Association for Cancer Research. “Every person in America knows at least one other person who has or had cancer,” she said. “We want to raise money through tattooing in the hopes that each tattoo done gets them one step closer to a cure.” Combined she has raised nearly $15,000 towards finding a cure.

Tara Fenn specializes in custom designs, animal portraits, human portraits, flowers, lettering, creatures, and pin-ups. Over the years she has tattooed family members as well as herself. In fact, the first tattoo she ever put on her body was her own work. It was a random design with no significant meaning other than the fact that it was her first. “The tattoo’s that I have on my body are kind of like a little yearbook for me to take a look back at and remember what was going on in my life at that time,” she said. For her, tattoos are the best way of expressing herself. In fact, she believes anyone who wants to express themselves through tattoos should be able to do so without fear of losing their job or being denied a position.

When it comes to tattoos in the workplace Tara Fenn has a very strong opinion. “Having tattoos doesn’t change who you are,” she said.   Regarding recent controversy over teachers with tattoos she refuses to see it as a problem. “In my opinion people with tattoos tend to be a bit more imaginative. I would definitely want someone with a bigger imagination teaching my children.”

Tara Fenn currently works as a full-time artist and manager at Body Designs, which she now co-owns with her father.

“I couldn’t cut her any slack because she’s my daughter,” Michael Fenn said. “But she had a lot of artistic ability and showed that she could do the simple stuff and progressed from there, to where she’s an outstanding artist today.”


About valeriepolite

Valerie Polite has had a passion for writing since elementary school. She spent most of her early years writing short stories and poetry and spent her first year of college studying English education. It was soon after completing her second semester she discovered her love of journalism and reporting. Now she is a semester away from graduation Suffolk County Community College with her Associates degree and plans to transfer to Stony Brook to pursue her degree even further.

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