Grace Powell, Loyola graphic design senior, went from drawing up doodles for her parents as a child to exploring her dreams of entering the tattoo industry as a young woman. Since she can remember, Powell has been encouraged by those around her to express herself through her art.
Over the past several generations tattoos have become less stigmatized and highly popularized. According to a research report put out by industry market research company IBIS World, 46.0% of Americans have at least one tattoo as of 2021. Over the last five years, the increasing popularity of tattoos has driven rapid growth in the tattoo industry.
The rapid expansion of the tattoo industry has led some Loyola arts students like Powell to embrace this flourishing career path with open arms.
“Growing up, my parents and I would watch ‘Ink Master’ and we would always talk about how cool it was. My parents would say, ‘Grace you could do that, you could be better than these people,’” Powell said.
At the time, the budding tattoo artist dismissed these encouragements as simple jokes, but after realizing how tattooing could elevate her art to the next level, Powell made the decision to pursue a career as a tattoo artist.
Now, on the verge of graduation, the art student is looking forward to joining an industry that offers her the promise of a sustainable career and allows her to continue exploring the medium she loves.
“A fear of mine that I have always had with art was not making enough money with an art career but, I am glad I get to do something that I love and then also make a career out of it,” said Powell.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time tattoo artists currently bring in an annual average income of $49,000. This promise of job security combined with a passion for the arts also led Loyola alumnus Paul Roach to join this growing industry.
Roach, a New Orleans native, attended Loyola for a studio arts degree from 2016 to 2020. He said he began tattooing during his junior year of college.
“I had no idea I was going to do that, but it gave me a plan for when I finished,” Roach said.
Like Powell, Roach expressed that one of the reasons he started his tattoo practice is because of the job security it provides artists. Tattooing also gives Roach time to explore other artistic endeavors like painting murals.
“Tattooing gives me a comfortable income where I can do my other stuff on the side and not feel like ‘Oh I have got to sell this. I have to sell this.’ You know, I can make it because I want to make it and know that I’ll be okay from this. It has been the best thing in my life,” Roach said.
At the moment, Roach is a guest artist at Tough Love Tattoos, a tattoo shop in the heart of the Marigny co-owned by Loyola alumnus Kat Dilonno and her partner.
The native New Orleanian said he is ready for a change of scenery after having tattooed in New Orleans for two years and plans to move to Austin, Texas in December. Born and raised in New Orleans, Roach hopes this move will allow him to build a life and a name for himself in a new city.
“I was never looking to tattoo. It kind of just fell into my lap and I got very lucky,” said Roach.