Looking at tattoo artists: A student’s senior project

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Michell Howell shows off one of her tattoos. For her senior project, she's interviewing tattoo artists in the region. Preface/NICK WORT
Michell Howell shows off one of her tattoos. For her senior project, she’s interviewing tattoo artists in the region. Preface/NICK WORT

Staff Writer

The last semester of your senior year in college can be more than a little stressful. But even with this added stress, many students end up creating interesting projects and writing fascinating papers for their capstone classes.

One of these students is Michell Howell, an IUSB psychology major. Her project focuses on tattoo artists and how they view their work.

“I’m basically looking at tattoo artists as opposed to people who get tattooed, because there’s really not that much [research] on tattoo artists” Howell said. “I’m looking at how they do their work. If they see themselves more as a professional artist or if they see themselves as a supplier of tattooing, and how they view their style and the process that goes into creating tattoos.”

Howell plans to visit various tattoo artists and ask them a series of questions. Afterwards, she will transcribe the interviews and analyze the results.

“I’m going to first separate them based on their years of experience,” Howell said. “And then I’ll see if they view themselves more as just a supplier of tattoos, and kind of separate those from people who view it as more of an artwork.”

The interviewing will begin in March, with the project having to be completed by the end of the semester.

Howell plans on expanding her research past the Michiana area to cover a larger variety of artists.

“I plan to branch out. I know a couple [artists] in Indy, so I’m gonna contact them and see if I can interview there,” Howell said. “And a couple people in my class suggested Chicago [artists], so I’m gonna ask them for their contact information and try to cover a wider area.”

The project was inspired by Howell’s own love for tattoos. She has eight herself.

“I’m covered in tattoos. I absolutely love tattooing and everything to do with it. I have a strong connection with my tattoo artist and we pretty much tackle it like an art project,” Howell said. “It’s not just a tattoo for me, it has deeper meaning. I don’t just get a spur of the moment tattoo. It has to be precisely planned. I love the style that goes into it.”

Howell pointed out that the recent weather and class cancellation has been troublesome for her project, because the class only meets once a week.

Though Howell loves tattoos and tattooing in general, she did mention that visible tattoos can be a problem in professional work environments.

“If you’re going into a professional field, I feel like they should be more hidden, because otherwise people aren’t gonna take you seriously,” she said. “Though I do enjoy all kinds of people’s tattoo work. I mean, I don’t mind if you have a total sleeve. They’re usually pretty cool.”

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