Angel Rose Fergerstrom Talks Going From Ink Master to Shop Owner
If you simply look at tattoo artist Angel Rose Fergerstrom, it might seem easy to brush her off.
Standing 5 feet, 2 inches tall at just 24 years old, Rose says that she’s used to people underestimating her. Throughout her career, she’s channeled that dismissiveness and negativity into motivational fuel.
“I can’t tell you how many times people stood at the front of my booth at conventions, flipping through my portfolio and squinting at my banner, then flipping through my portfolio again before finally asking ‘Where’s the artist?’” she says. “It would have been partially satisfying to be offended by this ignorance, but it was twice as satisfying getting to smile and tell them ‘It’s me.’”
While Fergerstrom may be diminutive in stature, her career as a burgeoning tattoo artist—and now shop owner— has been pretty epic.
“I have an undying ambition that never seems to stop growing,” she says. “First, I wanted to be the best apprentice. Then, I wanted to be like the heavy hitters in the industry that I looked up to. Before long, I was putting myself on the line, competing at expos and competing on television. The thirst never seems to be quenched.”
Embracing Her Time on Ink Master
That thirst is what helped Fergerstrom propel herself to the eighth round of Ink Master: Grudge Match as one of the female contestants on the team of coach Christian Buckingham.
Entering filming, Fergerstrom was one of the youngest and least experienced tattoo artists to compete on the eleventh season of the reality television show, but she lasted longer than other veteran artists.
Looking back, Fergerstrom says that she views her time on the series as a worthwhile learning experience.
“The most valuable thing I took away from the Ink Master experience was a chance to be vulnerable. I think that vulnerability might be the most healthy thing that a tattoo artist can have,” she says. “It’s very easy to fall into a cycle of making the same mistakes every day and never getting called out for it. Without Ink Master airing out all that dirty laundry, I might not have even known how to analyze my work in that way.”
Rose still keeps in touch with her fellow contestants and comments regularly on new seasons of the show. It’s a time in her life, she says, that she looks back on fondly.
“I walked away from Ink Master with so much raw experience and knowledge that couldn’t be found anywhere else,” she says. “I also walked away with unbreakable friendships forged in all the chaos. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Opening Dark Moon Studios in Los Angeles
As Fergerstrom was learning the ropes and gaining experience, she always knew she wanted to—one day—open up her own tattoo studio. That day came in late
“Through the grapevine, I heard of a tattoo shop that was expanding and in need of a tenant to fill their previous location,” says Fergerstrom.
Fergerstrom met with Stephanie Anders, owner of Royal Heritage Tattoo, which is now located in Venice, California. Anders helped Fergerstrom through the process of leasing the tattoo shop.
“Stephanie—upon meeting me—had every intention of watching me succeed. She later helped me through every step of the process and sold me the majority of the things I needed,” says Fergerstrom. “Suddenly, I had the keys to my new shop in my hands and a shoebox full of cash to make shit happen. I can’t imagine many times in my life that felt happier than that.”
“Owning my own shop seems to give me a lot more of a recognizable brand and presence in the world,” says Fergerstrom. “It means that while I’m tattooing, other people can come and be a part of the little world I built without having to actually get tattooed by me. I think that’s powerful, because every single part of the way we do things is exactly how I’d want it. It’s a part of me.”
Mastering Her Black and Grey Style
Fergerstrom has always been drawn to dark, moody artwork. Even as a kid, she says she never reached for colored pencils or crayons.
“I would spend long hours at work with my dad, hanging out after school just drawing in his office with ballpoint pens or whatever pencils I could find,” she says. “Towards the end of high school, I developed an obsession with pen and ink drawing and graphite realism.”
When Fergerstrom started her tattoo apprenticeship, she focused on illustrative blackwork
Fergerstrom, who studied film for three years in school, says that she’s largely inspired by the techniques of filmmaking. She applies what she learned about composition, light and shadow, perspective and storytelling into her tattoos.
“My goal is to create artwork that is thought provoking. I want to tell stories on people’s skin,” she says. “Yes, everyone wants a black and grey wolf tattoo, but it’s my job to make that wolf tattoo unique to that person. The creation process is arguably my favorite part of being a tattoo artist.”
Changing the Narrative of Women in the Tattoo Industry
As a young tattoo artist, Fergerstrom says that unlike other female artists who rose through the ranks before her, she doesn’t feel pressure to use her looks or her sexuality to get ahead.
“I do believe that the women coming up in the industry even just a few years ago had a lot more pressure to be [sexual] in order to gain traction,” says Fergerstrom. “I will not knock any woman’s hustle. I will however, be part of the crowd that believes that I do not have to become a sex symbol in order to succeed.”
Fergerstrom admits that despite her efforts to make her art and her tattoo work the focus of her social media accounts and her online persona, she still gets creepy and inappropriate messages from followers.
“I get DMs from people regularly, complaining about how my photos aren’t revealing enough,” she says. “It’s almost as though it’s expected of me, as a female tattooer, to reveal my skin to my followers because that’s what they came for. I’m not here for that.”
In an Instagram post that shows a photo of herself and fellow Ink Master contestant Amanda Boone, Fergerstrom discusses the importance of visibility for female tattoo artists as artists and not just as “hyper-sexualized” women. Fergerstrom says that she sees the artwork and experience of women tattooers starting to take precedence over their looks.
“We are now holding seminars and fundraisers and competing on television. The reason that is possible is because of the art,” she says. “My goal is to make my art and my work and my voice so valuable that it outweighs all else. I hope that in doing this, I can inspire other women to feel the freedom to do the same.”
Fergerstrom says that women who are interested in tattooing as a career need to put in the work and be focused on constant development and continual learning.
“This industry will hand you nothing, but hard work is always rewarded,” she says. “Develop a hunger for growth. Do this and you won’t have time to doubt yourself. Tattooing is an incredible movement to be a part of—love it with everything you have and it will reward you accordingly.”
Photos: Angel Rose Fergerstrom via Instagram.