Sofia from Geeked Magazine talked to tattoo artist Gia Rose for us about tattoos, being a female artist and her battle with cancer. Read her interview below and don’t forget to check out more of Gia Rose’s work on her Instagram.
Sofia: “Having been diagnosed with a chronic illness – even though not dangerous/deadly – it affects my everyday life, I draw a lot of strength from the artist Frida Kahlo who suffered for more than 30 years, but has never let her health deter her from doing her art. When I decided on getting Frida tattooed on me I knew I wanted a woman to do it. I remembered seeing the awesome portfolio of tattoo artist Gia Rose from Art Machine Productions in Philadelphia, so I decided to look her up. Sadly she was off work on medical leave due to cervical cancer, but hopefully she would survive it, get better and come back to work as soon as she had recovered. Thankfully that happened and today I have the most wonderful tattoo I could have ever asked for, full of meaning, passion and female strength. Here are some questions I asked Gia about her amazing turbulent and brave journey.”
Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you come to be a tattoo artist? I consider myself an accidental tattooist. I pretty much stumbled into my apprenticeship with all the excitability and ignorance that youth offers! After a few years of being a general misfit and vagabond I landed myself in Asheville North Carolina. I always drew and never fancied myself an artist but liked the idea of learning a trade, so I hastily put together a portfolio of sketches and drawings and threw myself at Miss Kitty, who owned Sky People Tattoo (a private tattoo studio that no longer exists), but she still tattoos in Asheville! I know now that getting an apprenticeship like that is not the norm and pretty difficult these days! I did my apprenticeship for a year, then left to work in a street shop in New Orleans. After that I pursued a degree in Illustration in Portland, Oregon. That’s the short of the long. It’s been a long journey!
What’s it like being a female artist in the tattoo industry? To be frank, it’s awesome. In the beginning, I definitely felt the differences in what being a woman meant. It meant I had to work harder, push harder, strive for more and be very careful about who I dated. We live in a patriarchal world that still subjugates women and uses them as a commodity. So we face these challenges in our daily lives in all fields. So in all actuality, I would argue that the tattoo industry may offer more benefits to women, mainly the fact that I make the same amount of money as my male co-workers. Getting into tattooing is hard for anyone at first. But once past those gates and once you establish your skills and place in the industry, there’s a whole world there to support you.
I did my apprenticeship in 2003 and I’ve seen girls explode into the tattoo industry with such awesome creativity and skills, it’s been so cool. I’m very proud to be a female artist and I feel very supported by the guys. Yes, there is the “sex sells” aspect to this industry, but that’s in ANY industry, tattooing just has no shame in it. So it’s hard at times, we do indeed have to work harder, but I think it’s just hard being a girl in this world sometimes.
Which is why I love Things&Ink magazine, us ladies gotta stick together and celebrate what we bring to the table.
Where do you get your inspiration? Other female artists, and a lot from fashion collections and jewellery artists, as well as artisans and crafts people. I find so much inspiration from Instagram! I like pulling things from life and peeking into people’s personal curating of the world around them. Sometimes I’ll design a tattoo completely around a piece of jewellery I saw.
Your life has been brutally interrupted and affected recently by cancer, how did this affect your work, your life as an artist and as a woman?
Holy hell. Cancer blows. But it’s also a really great gift once you find your centre. You don’t just learn about yourself, you learn what you’re fucking made of!
I was diagnosed in January 2014 with an aggressive cervical cancer. Uninsured like most American artists, I found myself very alone and very afraid. I refused to wait to even see someone, so I did something I will never ever regret doing. Via social media I went public and reached out to my tattoo community for help. We also had a fundraiser that raised over 30K to help me in my fight. Through Tattoos Cure Cancer and tattoo artists all over the country I was able to get the best care possible. I had a radical hysterectomy in February 2014 and found out in May that at this time, due to fast acting and early detection, no further treatment is necessary. I’m 100% convinced my industry saved my life. I will never have children but in a way, I feel like this gives me more drive to push myself as an artist and reach out to other women survivors and continue to add my efforts to making people feel beautiful and strong.
Every January (cervical cancer awareness month) starting this year, I will be donating proceeds from my tattoos to someone battling cervical cancer like I was. This has been the most humbling experience in my life. The tattoo industry has made me so proud. Tattoo artists are some of the most generous people on the planet.
It’s definitely made me a stronger artist and person. Life’s too short to fuck around.
How did you feel about tattooing Frida Kahlo on me? I LOVED it. This was seriously a bucket list tattoo for me. Frida Kahlo is one of my personal artist heroes and I find her radiating such beauty and strength! I hope I captured it well. It was also very empowering to get the opportunity! This is my second colour portrait so it was challenging, which I like and I’m very happy with it. My stuff is usually very illustrative, which I think this tattoo is, but it works.
I love it. Hands down one of my favourites.