Ladies of Ink Tour Bringing Black Female Tattoo Artists to a City Near You
If you plan on visiting a tattoo convention this summer or fall in cities including Houston, Detroit, Toronto, and Tampa, chances are you’ll see a large booth somewhere on the floor with a team of women, all wearing matching t-shirts that read “Ladies of Ink.”
For 35-year-old tattoo artist and Ladies of Ink founder Lorri “Lady L” Thomas, attending conventions and getting in front of tattoo fans and other artists is an important part of her group’s mission to bring greater visibility to black, female artists in the industry.
“The idea of the Ladies of Ink Tour came to me in 2012. That year I had a flashback of how I felt walking into conventions and shops, not seeing many artists that represented my culture,” says Thomas, who tattoos out of Detroit Inkspot. “Not many black artists. Not any black, women artists.”
Thomas decided to take to social media and ask her followers one question—”How many black, female tattoo artists do you know?” The answer shocked her.
“Most replied, ‘You… Only you… Just you!’” she says. ”That’s when I knew I wanted to fix that.”
Breaking Barriers and Fighting Stereotypes
In 2014, Thomas began reaching out personally to black female tattoo artists that she knew and told them about her idea to start a convention tour. “I told them individually about the tour to see if it would interest them,” she says. “I built a team, and four years later it’s still a growing success.”
Now in its fifth year, the Ladies of Ink Tour brings a large group of talented women to cities all over the country in an attempt to build awareness, break stereotypes, and promote the work of black, female tattoo artists.
“Some of us have gone through hell to be where we are,” says Thomas. “Some experienced injustice in the workplace just because of [our] skin color. No one should have to experience that.”
Thomas believes that black, female artists are finally starting to gain some traction in the industry thanks to the boom of social media and exposure from some reality television shows. But she still feels like there is an imbalance and a lack of representation. It’s something she’s working hard to change.
“I still feel we are underrepresented in the industry as a whole,” says Thomas. “If you search the word ‘tattoos’ and look through the images, you won’t see many tattoos on people with darker skin. Let’s face it—there’s a certain way that you tattoo darker skin, and I feel a lot of artists don’t know how, don’t want to learn, and simply won’t post the work.”
The Artists of the 2019 Ladies of Ink Tour
Despite an uphill battle to bring black, female tattoo artists to the forefront of the industry, Thomas says that the whole tour experience with Ladies of Ink is fun and supportive. “We are like a sorority. We are tattoo sisterhood,” she says. “Even being from different places, having different backgrounds, our art brings us together.”
The 2019 lineup includes Krissy the Butcher, who co-owns Bloodline Dynasty in Farmington Hills, Michigan; Cris Montana, who tattoos in D.C. and Maryland; Nychelle Elise, who works out of a private studio in Plano, Texas; Yoki Tatts, who tattoos in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; Lorenda Thompson, who owns LeveldUpInk in Missouri City, Texas; and Bree Sinclair, who also tattoos at Bloodline Dynasty. The 2019 tour will also include guest artists who will be tattooing with the group for select dates.
“We are the show stoppers! When people see our booth at conventions they are in awe,” says Thomas. “People gravitate to us and love the energy we bring. Female artists from all cultures love what we are doing and support us.”
Setting the Stage for Young, Black Artists
Thomas says that her work with Ladies of Ink is partially driven by her desire to help younger, black female artists find their place in the tattoo industry. She wants to pave the way for more black women to get involved and be successful.
“Unfortunately, racism is an issue—no one wants to discuss it but it’s there. There are situations where this can cause problems with furthering your career as a black woman,” says Thomas. “It’s important that I inspire up-and-coming black female artists so they know they are not alone. I want them to know that we are creating more lanes and opportunities for them.”
Follow along with Ladies of Ink on Instagram for updates about tour dates and to see all of the photos and videos from the events. Individuals interested in being tattooed at one of the stops should reach out to the artists directly to book. Deposits are required to hold dates and time slots.