Talking Ink with Sarah de Azevedo
Tattooing is an underrated art-form in the world of design. An artist must undergo years of training and refining their craft through an apprenticeship before they can even consider themselves a professional. Sarah de Azevedo went through her own tattooing trials many years ago and was one of the first female tattooists in Utah to do it. Since her last interview with SLUG in 2009, a lot has changed. Not only is she now the proud owner of local tattoo studio Locust Tattoo, but she has also taken on an apprentice of her own.
With 20+ years of experience, de Azevedo has tattooed pretty much every style you can think of. Her work varies drastically from client to client, so it’s hard to pin down her designs to one specific style. “I usually make a joke that I have a dozen favorite styles. If I had to pick one thing to do forever, it would be still-life flowers, solid blackout or a mix of both … I just do everything,” de Azevedo says. She prides herself on being able to pull off almost any style.
“If I had to pick one thing to do forever, it would be still-life flowers, solid blackout or a mix of both … I just do everything.”
Many people aren’t aware of just how much work goes into crafting the perfect tattoo. The design has to be in harmony with its placement on the body, otherwise, you risk accidentally making a great design look goofy. “If you don’t think about those things, it can turn out really weird. [It will] look embarrassing or just stupid,” de Azevedo says.
Tattoo apprenticeships have evolved a lot in the 21 years since she first started at Big Deluxe Tattoo in 2002. “[My apprenticeship] was kind of old-school, very stereotypical,” she says. “You know, you work the front, you clean everything. Usually you’re getting pretty hazed.” De Azevedo worked as an apprentice for two years before graduating to a full-time tattoo artist. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m a girl apprentice in this man’s world,’ and I had to make it a point to go, ‘I am the same as these guys,’” she says.
In spite of the hardships of her training, de Azevedo still heavily encourages aspiring tattooists to seek an apprenticeship. To make sure her apprentices don’t feel stretched thin, she came up with a different training method that worked best for her team. Any aspiring apprentices start out as a subscriber to her Patreon, where she gives advice on joining the industry, assigns design challenges and more.
Her current apprentice, Aria Adams, was subscribed to her Patreon for a year before starting as an official apprentice, and all that hard work has paid off. Adams has recently completed her 100th tattoo. De Azevedo explains that Adams will graduate once they both feel she’s consistently tattooing great designs. “Not just good ones, but great tattoos,” she says. An apprentice should expect to have their designs completely honed in before they even consider working on real skin; to be a great tattoo artist, you first have to be an amazing artist.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m a girl apprentice in this man’s world,’ and I had to make it a point to go, ‘I am the same as these guys.'”
As a reputable tattooist, de Azevedo created the @safe_tattoos_utah Instagram page as a source for new artists to learn more about ethical, sterile tattooing practices and how to spot “tattoo certification scams.” With tattoos becoming more accepted in the mainstream, “it kind of turned into, ‘They’re not a big deal,’ which turns into, ‘Doing them isn’t a big deal,’” she says. Avoiding nasty infections is a core reason that de Azevedo is such an advocate for extensive tattoo training. She wants to make sure that the only blood, sweat and tears going into a tattoo are metaphorical ones.
At the end of the day, the top priority for de Azevedo and all of her employees at Locust Tattoo is creating beautiful designs—through safe, professional practices—that clients will never feel the need to cover up or remove. To keep up with her work, follow her on Instagram at @sheer_serror and @locust_tattoo.