My name is Nhi Phan and I started my tattoo career back when I was 19. I started my career originally at a shop in Omaha in 2015. On December 2020, I decided to partner up with who once was a former apprentice who I mentored, Quinn, to start our very own women-led tattoo shop.
A lot of people always ask me how I started or what peaked my interest to go into what once was a very male dominated industry. It's quite a funny story and something I think I have a better time explaining in person. I was always interested in art and wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to utilize and challenge my creativity and problem solving.
Although, to summarize it--when I was 19 and working in retail in a small town in Nebraska, my boss at the time, Jen, asked me to design her a tattoo of her family in my illustrative chibi portrait style. She ended going to Paul at Omega Point to get it done, most likely talking me up, and the shop found my design unique at the time to have me reach out about an apprenticeship.
The funny thing is when I was attending art school back in St. Paul when I was 17, I was always drawing and painting on myself entertaining body art, but I really had no idea about the tattoo industry, had any tattoos then for myself, nor entertained that being a career--might have been the small town growing that did it.
Once the opportunity landed right at my feet, my mom who was once so against tattoos before told me I should chase this dream. I grew up pretty poor and was pretty nervous about pursuing it because I had no idea what it all entailed and if it was something affordable for me to start up. When they say it takes blood, sweat, and tears to make it in this industry--it's no joke. After words of encouragement and support--I took that leap and fell quickly and absolutely in love with it.
I know it's clichés of every artist saying they've been drawing since they could pick up a pencil but I find it incredibly true! I definitely have been practicing art and more so building a style for myself since around the age of 9. Of course nothing amazing then, but that's why this is a craft and something I've consistently put time, studying, refining, and investments to getting better. It's been a transition learning how to translate 2-d work from just paper and stretched canvases to now walking 3D human canvases where it's a whole new ballgame and rules to follow.
I recommend to all my clients on making designs that flow with the human anatomy and not a simple flat image. Even if I am not YOUR artist, I always recommend clients to research their artist and check their portfolio work to see if they match the style you're looking for and be a person to directly support. There's many talented artists out there, but it's easily an over-saturated industry believing it's just "easy" money.
You give me a part of your skin, and I'm giving you a part of my soul. One of the things I love about my career is the genuine connections I've been able to make with many of my clients when I am there for hours at a time chipping away at a piece or through repeated clients who continuously come back and see me. I'm super appreciative of my supportive clientele and the people who reach out and wait to get work done by me because I realize there is a waitlist. Thank you for your support and love.
At the end of the day, I think body art helps us love our bodies and take back ownership, it allows us to embellish our skin with a nifty piece of artwork, aesthetic, or sentiment-- either or, placing it on areas that we may not be confident about or dislike is life changing and physically altering. At least for me and previous clients, I feel it allows us to start loving our bodies in our ability to reinvent and modifying our expression. Thanks for considering me and letting me be a part of the process.
Below are some people who have let me done just that!
In addition, I am strongly for empowering other women, other women-led businesses, and finding our strengths. I love seeing women embody their existence, who they are, and what they bring to the world. One of the things I want to provide by being in this industry is a safe place to get your tattoo done and person to connect with. When I do take on commissions, that I am someone who captures and hears your vision and refines it with my personal and professional insight. Someone who can educate you why this or that doesn't work and not make you feel like an idiot when you don't understand why your ideas doesn't translate. I am here to collaborate with you!
Along with creating a safe place, I also know where I started as a young artist and the difficulties of pursuing art as a career. Although I know my time is limited and my mentorship has a preciseness that is unable to teaching everybody and giving the opportunity to learn how and if you can be a tattoo artist. I do believe there's a multitude of aspects that help with prospective opportunities.
A big part of the art community is learning how to network and getting to know people and having an interest enough to support other artists. You can't expect to be seen if you're not seeing other people, if that makes sense. After networking, it's on you to manage your social media and content and production of work. There's a vulnerable aspect of posting your work, but there's also validation that comes from people around you who love what you are doing and also your artist freinds critique to improve your work. You have to appreciate constructive critique!
That's where I can come in. Although I am not here to teach art to an apprentice, I am here to help refine work and give another perspective. Even if you are not directly my apprentice, if you catch me or want to pick my brain and have me review your work--I can help give tips and tricks on ways to hone your craft, grow your art, network, and what areas to work on and creating a portfolio that can make you stand out. At the end of the day, my mission is to help people and this is a job that lets me be creative and do just that.