The ink on Tessa Rae

Tessa Rae from Arizona

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Tucson, I've moved back and forth and traveled a lot, but that is where I've been most of my life.

How was it growing up there, would you say that it influenced you?
I grew up in foster care, so it was pretty rough. It has made me such a strong person. Not ever having a stable family as a child made me want one so badly, now that I am an adult I have made a stronger tight-knit family than most. I am very fortunate.

When did you start getting tattoos?
My first few tattoos I got the year I turned 18, they were all pretty small. I started working on my sleeves when I was 20, and haven't stopped since.

How would you describe your style?
I am very unique. All of my tattoos have symbolic, deep meaning. I won't just get anything. I am kind of a hippie at heart, I am a peaceful person but very strong willed. I don't conform, I embrace my individuality. I don't really know how to describe myself in a paragraph, there's just too much to who I am. I am ME.

Do you consider tattoos as a serious art form?
Absolutely. Tattoos aren't just flash designs, at least not to me. They are a collection of memories, artwork beautifully displayed on a body canvas. People have said eyes are windows to the soul, I say tattoos are windows to mine.

How do you see the tattoo culture right now?
I don't consider it an industry, I consider it a lifestyle. It is growing, thriving, and full of beautiful people. I am surrounded by people that are heavily tattooed, and I am at conventions all the time. These people are humble, down to earth, amazing people. In a way we are all connected; one big family.

What has been your inspiration for getting them?
My entire life. Every tattoo I have represents a part of me. Whether it be a person or something I have been through, each one is rooted to my heart.

What’s your favorite piece?
It's so hard to pick just one. I love the portrait of my mom, but I would have to say my knuckles. They say "Love Life." Since they are on my fingers, I see them every time I use my hands, and it is a reminder that no matter what happens, life is a beautiful blessing, and to always cherish every day.

Do you catch people starring at you because of your ink?
ALL the time, but it is rarely negative. I get compliments all the time on how beautiful my tattoos are, from all different types and ages of people. It's pretty awesome actually.

Do your tattoos change your mood often?
Not really. I am at a shop every day, getting tattooed all the time or watching someone else get tattooed. Tattoos have just become a part of who I am.

What is your most significant tattoo and why?
The portrait of my mom. She has been missing since 2003, so I got her portrait as a stone statue with parts of it cracking. It signifies the broken memory I have of her...and the stone because she is forever etched in stone on my skin. Above her portrait are the words "She took my heart"...pretty self-explanatory.

What advice would you give to someone getting their first tattoo?
DO IT! No regrets.

Will you be getting anymore?
Without a doubt! I want to start on my back next, then both of my sides after that.

What’s your biggest inspiration, what keeps you going?
I feel like getting tattooed is a release. I have been through so many things that have hurt me and damaged me. When I get a tattoo that represents what I've gone through it is my closure. It helps me move on, and remember that pain has made me so much stronger.

What is one thing life has taught you?
Life is one hell of a ride. As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason. If anything in my life happened a different way, I wouldn't be where or who I am today. I couldn't imagine it. Life is a beautiful thing, if you just take the time to set aside the bullshit and really look at what matters the most.

Do you have a favorite quote?
It is tattooed across my chest. 
"Imagine All the People Living Life In Peace." -John Lennon.

Anything else you would like to add?
Don't judge others for their appearance. Each and every person has a story that you don't know or understand. Just the same as "don't judge a book by the cover." An old saying, but so true. Just because someone looks a certain way, that doesn't define who they are.


Photographer's Credit.  
Ken Yeaglin - 1-5.
Daveed Benito - Last Picture.