Tue. Nov 30th, 2021

I once was like you. I rolled my eyes and guffawed at all the young knuckleheads I saw with tattoos on their necks, their eyelids, their arms. I’d look at some young, tatted up dude and think, Do you not know that the snarling tiger on your bicep is going to look like an asthmatic weasel in 20 years? Don’t be stupid. Do not deface your body. That was my attitude.

Then, something horrible happened about a year ago and, not to be too dramatic about it, I almost died. Afterward, I spent many days in a darkened room with no windows and when I finally came home, all I did was sleep. Eventually, I was able to get out of bed, and I found I didn’t want to. What was the point? The world was nothing but doom and gloom except for these two little wondrous creatures, my granddaughters, Isabel and Rosie, who would sneak in to my bedroom and tell me I needed to get up and play with them. They made me laugh. They made me happy, even if only momentarily.

So, I did something I was certain I’d never do: I decided to get a tattoo. But who to do it? After spending days looking at the Instagram accounts of dozens of tattoo artists and feeling a bit like Goldilocks — this one’s images were too violent; this one’s too florid — I found a woman whose elegant, simple work seemed just right. She came up with a graceful design, Isabel and Rosie’s names entwined inside a small heart. Such a simple thing. But life affirming. Now, I love my tattoo. It reminds me every day why I should get out of bed.

“You started to see people on TV with tattoos and it became kind of normal in society. Now, it seems like more people have tattoos than don’t.” — Jay’e Jones
The tattoo industry is and has always been dominated by men. But, like a lot of things in our society, that’s changing. A growing number of fierce young women — many of them graduates of prestigious art academies — are entering the business. Their aesthetic is, perhaps, a little more delicate. A little more refined. It’s less about cigarette-smoking skulls and more about the stories and meaning behind their art.

“A desert rose is never just a desert rose,” says Taylor Elyse Compton, a tattoo artist in Yucca Valley. “It’s a symbol. Maybe of love or loss or grieving or rebirth — all kinds of things. Each desert rose is unique to the client, depending on what it represents. It’s a deep heart-to-heart thing with my clients. My art is the connection between us.”

Hear from five women whose tattoo art is blooming in the desert.

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