Emilie Robinson Focuses on Inclusivity at The Aldrich Tattoo Parlour
The Midwest might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about progressive politics or inclusivity, but Minneapolis is a city that stands out.
Located just across the river from St. Paul in Hennepin County, the Mill City is known for its liberalism and diversity. It’s here—on Lyndale Ave—that you’ll find tattoo artist Emilie Robinson and her shop The Aldrich Tattoo Parlour.
Robinson was born in St. Martin d’Hérès, France. She lived in Brussels, Dublin, and the town of Kandern, Germany before settling down in the Twin Cities. “When I moved to the U.S., my family was still in Europe, so I came with a best friend to college in Minneapolis, where her family was from,” she says. “I happened to fall in love with the city—and with a man—so I stayed and built a life here.”
After apprenticing at a couple of different shops in the city and spending over two years at the now-closed Twilight Tattoo run by Shane Wallin, Robinson decided it was time to open up a space of her own.
The Aldrich: A Safe Space for ALL Bodies
In February of 2018, Robinson started to map out her vision for a tattoo shop that would be a welcoming, warm space for all people, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or size. That’s when plans for the Aldrich started to take shape.
“We wanted to create a safe, relaxing place to get a tattoo,” says Robinson. “We wanted everything that went through the Aldrich—be it tattoos or collaborations—to come through a lens where respect was always the focus.”
The private studio, located on the second floor of the Greenway Building, opened in May of 2018. It offers a cheerful, calming environment—with pink-painted walls and plant-filled corners. Robinson says the studio is meant to be a relaxing, restful haven for all of her clients.
“Tattooing is an intimate artform, and it’s a place where we talk about everything,” she says. “My clients are mostly women, queer, and femme folks and I love to create space to talk about social issues, body positivity, and life in America.”
Robinson’s mission of inclusion comes through in the tagline of the Aldrich, which simply reads “Respect Every Body.” It’s a stake-in-the-ground statement that the shop owner takes very seriously.
“We respect people of color here, we respect plus people here, we respect non-binary folks here,” she says. “We are always learning and getting feedback about how to better serve diverse clients. Every decision—from collaborating artistically to things we buy for the shop—is measured against that statement.”
Flower Babe Tattoos Open Up Body-Positive Conversations
Robinson’s style of tattooing takes its cues from the American Traditional playbook, but she imbues her art with a unique blend of stylized, illustrative portraiture and vintage floral vibes.
Some of Robinson’s most popular tattoos are pin-up tattoos with flowers for heads, that she refers to as “babes” (in the “gender-neutral” sense, of course). “The headless babes happened by happy accident,” she says. “It was an exploration of drawing the human form, and drawing flowers, and they just came together.”
Robinson explains that the babe tattoos have become a medium for exploring and celebrating self love for her clients. “I’ve been drawing curvy babes, and non binary and trans babes,” she says. “The babes have started to be a vehicle to start talking about body positivity.”
When clients are interested in one of these tattoos, Robinson consults with them and asks how they want the babe tattoo to be represented. She lets her clients pick different options, such as having a flower or other kind of object for a head, whether the babe has tattoos or not, and the shape and color of the babe’s body.
“I feel like the clientele I’ve cultivated through doing this work takes this vibe and then runs with it,” says Robinson. “They constantly bring me amazing ideas and we collaborate. It is literally perfection.”
Being a Conduit for Change in the Tattoo Industry
Though Robinson is extremely grateful for her career as a tattoo artist, she admits that she’s had negative experiences that have spurred her to try to be a beacon of positive energy. “I’ve had some challenges with jerks and misogynists, as have most women who are in any career,” says Robinson, “but I’m lucky to have found a welcoming group of people to work with today.”
Robinson believes the makeup of the tattoo industry is shifting in a positive direction and more diverse artists are starting to gain the recognition they deserve. “The tattoo industry has changed a lot,” she says. “More women and people of color and queer people are getting tattooed than ever, and the diversity among tattoo artists is slowly changing with it.”
To help drive change and diversity in the tattoo industry, Robinson says that it’s up to people getting tattooed to invest in artists from all races, genders, and backgrounds. The solution, she says, is simple. “Support the artists you see reflecting this change by being tattooed by them,” says Robinson. “Find your queer/trans/person-of-color/female/body-positive artists and give them all your money!”
All images via Emilie Robinson on Instagram.