By Carly Quellman
Spooky season has arrived, folks. Grab your nearest pumpkin-spiced latte, slip into costume, and head down to Bogart St., because FRIENDS NYC is back with a tattoo Halloween-esque event. Join us Sunday, Oct. 28 from 3-7 p.m. for Spooky Tattoo Natty - we’re talkin’ scary good deals. Venture through our humongous selection of branded and vintage items to receive 20% off all purchases, free pizza from our forever-friends at Archie’s Bar & Pizza, plus natural “boos” to sip on while you shop. We’re also offering $30 themed flash tattoos - the real kind - after spending $30 or more in store. Get inked by Brooklyn-based tattoo artists Erica Kenia, Ariel Wyu and Jhonny Wolf, who will feature original preset drawings for your choosing.
Counting down the days until our event, we wanted to feature each of the wicked awesome artists partnering with us for Spooky Tattoo Natty. We sat down with Erica (@st.kenia), Ariel (@arielisgood), and Jhonny (@thorn.wolf, @ghost.glare.tattoo) to learn more about the artists imprinting on your body. We’re creepin’ it real.
Erica Kenia has lived many lives over the last (nearly) 20 years, working in New York City as an artist. After graduating from Parsons School of Design with a degree in Communication Design, she ended up in the fashion industry. Erica soon found that the 9-5 Midtown grind was not for her and was pulled into the creativity and fun that working in nightlife offered. In 2015, she found herself wanting to learn a new tactile skill. Having worked in a tattoo shop in the past, she knew the basics, but wanted to work in an atmosphere focused on making a safe space for LGBTQ and POC clients that promoted diversity and body positivity. She feels having a private studio allows her to give people the experience that she would want when getting a tattoo. Spooky Tattoo Natty veteran Erica sat down with FRIENDS NYC to discuss being an independent business owner and why she doesn’t really consider herself to have a tattoo “style.”
CQ: What ultimately made you decide to work for yourself?
EK: I actually worked at a tattoo shop for awhile. I didn’t even think about tattooing while I worked there because anybody that wanted an apprenticeship seemed to be greeted with disrespect. Seeing the dynamic of how people were treated, sort of like a fraternity, the hazing… It seemed a little bit misogynistic. After working in the nightlife for a few years, I wanted to get back into art and working for myself.
CQ: I heard this is going to be your fourth pop-up with FRIENDS NYC?
EK: Yes! This will be my fourth pop-up. I actually met FRIENDS NYC co-owner Emma through a client who turned out to be Emma’s husband. He got Ozzy Osbourne smiley faces tattooed on his knees.
CQ: What do you like so much about pop-up tattoo events?
EK: Pop-ups are great because I can cram a bunch of people into my day, keep prices low, and meet a bunch of people. I love meeting people, building a new client base. Pop-ups are always super, super fun.
CQ: Can you give us any hints for what your flash sheet looks like this year?
EK: There’s going to be a couple movie references, definitely some things that aren’t too Halloween-y… it’s good stuff. Definitely stuff I would get.
CQ: What would you label your style of tattooing as?
EK: I don’t know how to describe my style. There’s a lot of styles out there, and because I don’t do a lot of shading, I kind of get grouped into a “line-base” part of styles, but that’s more of a theme. I don’t mind though, because that’s what I’ve been drawing since I was a teenager - simple objects.
CQ: Do you still pursue other art mediums on the side?
EK: I do a lot of sketches and stuff, but they never turn into flashes. I make T-shirts, and those are way more abstract. And on top of that, I sew and have worked in fashion.
CQ: Is there a memorable tattoo experience that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
EK: You know, there’s a couple tattoos that now looking back I’m like, “WOW, I can’t believe I tattooed that guy’s head at that pop-up and only charged him $20!” Like that’s crazy. But it’s always so rewarding to get challenging work and be proud of yourself for your progression.
CQ: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an independent business owner?
EK: I’m constantly learning. I’m at a stage right where everything is growth. I’ve had to learn to budget my time, and I’ve also had had to learn to stick to my guns and not fold on the things I don’t want to do. I’m very sympathetic, I take things into consideration.
CQ: Why do you think your work sells?
EK: I think maybe because there’s a sense of humor about my drawings. Using Instagram and being able to show people [Instagram] stories, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so professional. I’m just connecting with people.
CQ: Would you say Instagram has helped your business?
EK: Definitely. You know, I think Instagram grows with the people. I tattoo someone I met through Instagram, and then I’m tattooing two of their friends. It just seems like the world is getting smaller and smaller. It’s like a degree of separation, so it’s about closing that gap.
CQ: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be an independent tattoo artist?
EK: Practice a lot! I practiced a lot on myself. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt anybody. When you’re getting started, do as much reading as you can on the safety and people’s comfort levels. Be safe and have fun!
CQ: What do you hope people say about their experience with you?
EK: I want it to be a personal experience, a friend experience. *Laughs* Oh, and I have a lot of cats, so people will be meeting my cats.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 28 so you can meet Erica in-person and cop some permanent inkage. To schedule an appointment with Erica (and her multiple cats), slide in her DM’s on Instagram @st.kenia. #SquadGhouls