I’ve had the honor and bliss to interview one of my favorite tattoo artists – Christa Z. LaNatra from Into The Woods Gallery and Tattoo Studio in Florida! enjoy 🙂
How long have you been tattooing?
I’ve been around the tattoo industry for the last 10 years, tattooing for around 7 1/2 years with the last 5 years being full-time ever since I graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (got my bachelor’s degree in Illustration-not related to the tattooing).
When was your first encounter with the world of tattoos and what attracted you to it?
My first encounter was meeting my husband Frank. It was my first class in college at the Art Institute where I met Frank and got to know him & I had never seen really great tattoos before. His work was so amazing and beautiful to me as an artist especially, I fell in love and wanted to know all about it. We were both studying animation, so our career focus was that & school, as Frank had already been tattooing since the late 90’s, early 2000’s when we met, but we hung out at the shop 2-3 days a week and I would watch him tattoo and interact with clients and really liked everything about it.
It didn’t take long before Frank was teaching me as we were falling for each other, I was falling for tattooing. I started getting them and haven’t stopped since.
I definitely didn’t have a traditional apprenticeship, I was taught by not only my boyfriend-husband who is the best teacher & friend out there, not to mention badass and insanely talented, but I did have a regular apprenticeship at a street shop with all men. I was 20 when I started and I went through a long, hard apprenticeship. I wanted to pay my dues and learn the right way and pay respect to it. I believe in showing appreciation for your mentors, everyone who came before you, the way of life and everything else that goes with being a tattoo artist.
2 years into our education, we switched majors to Illustration as Frank’s career in tattooing started to take off and I was nearing the end of my apprenticeship.
We then graduated the summer of 2012 and opened Into the Woods Gallery in November that year.
When did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
This happened organically for me as I was apprenticing but not really sold on he whole tattooing thing until I started getting tattooed and was addicted immediately. I fell in love with the whole industry & lifestyle of tattooing and I feel honored everyday to have this job. It’s more than a job to me, I’m helping people express themselves and heal and building bonds and friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
How did you plan to accomplish that and how did it actually happen?
I didn’t really plan on being a tattoo artist, I planned on learning the trade and did everything I needed to to get that done, but meeting Frank was definitely the catalyst that made it possible.
What do you remember about your training/apprenticeship?
I remember a lot of work and tears haha. I didn’t have a thick skin when I started my apprenticeship but I do now. I was taught the old school way in a regular shop with 4-5 guys above me tattooing and I put my all into it. I also learned in the old days of coil machines and metal tubes that I would have to scrub everyday for 2-3 hours. Now it’s so much easier for apprentices with everything being disposable and more women in the industry is making it easier for other women to get into it. It’s also much more of an art form now than it was when I started.
What was the hardest thing about it?
Sticking with it and not quitting. There were more bad days than good as I was so nervous with everything, especially messing up on the early tattoos I was doing and being teased by all the guys in the shop.
Good work is hard work and going to college full time while learning a trade was very hard but I stuck with it and I’m so happy that I did!
I think just trusting your teacher and doing everything you can to be better or to get where you wanna be pays off in the end.
What did your portfolio include at the time? (if you have any old pictures of it we’d be grateful…:)
When I started learning, I had some drawings I had done but that was it. I had only painted a few times in high school which was watercolor and had done some colored pencil pieces. School taught me all of the different mediums including oil paint which helped me tattooing as that’s just a different medium as well. I really have to be grateful for the Art Institute as that was where I learned art. The shop taught me how to handle clients, the process of tattooing and life skills but school is where my portfolio grew at an insane rate. 5 years of school was worth 20 years of experience on my own. I highly recommend anyone wanting to tattoo to focus on their art first because a shop isn’t going to teach you all of that(unless you apprentice with us) and if you can’t do something on paper, you can’t do it on skin.
How long did it take you to find your style and how would you define it?
I feel like I’m still finding it. Style is organic as art is and some artists have a distinct style early on and others find it later in their career. I’m learning to focus on taking designs I like and putting my all into them to develop my style.
Tattooing is different as client’s are coming to you for a certain thing and you can get lost in a lot of different styles and not really know where you fit in which is fine in the beginning but as time goes on, I feel like naturally you get drawn toward where you belong and your style comes out that way.
What do you like tattooing the most?
I get most excited about portraits-people or animals are the most fun to do for me. They’re the most challenging also which is fun.
What’s the hardest and what’s the best thing about being a tattoo artist?
The hardest is figuring out client’s and making them happy as well as yourself and juggling so many clients and appointments and growing your career at the same time.
The best thing is the feeling of doing an awesome tattoo and making your client happy. Also building relationships with your clients can be very rewarding.
What would you do differently if you could go back in time?
I would slow down even more on my apprenticeship. It’s not a race to tattoo as fast as possible, but focus on quality and honing your skills first.
Last but not least… one tip for aspiring artists who are seeking apprenticeships and one tip for those already under an apprenticeship.
Go get tattooed by someone in the industry, someone you love their work and see how they work/where they work and ask them questions. Go to tattoo conventions and draw your ass off everyday. Go to art school and learn art first and build up your portfolio. Set yourself up to be the perfect apprentice and the opportunity will come along. Nobody’s gonna do the work for you!
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Love & Ink,