Sarah de Azevedo’s interest in tattooing began at the unlikely age of 16, after one of her friends received an awful fairy tattoo in someone’s basement. “This thing had the biggest sailor boobs, dread locks, pissed-off cheek bones, one arm was super long and the fingers looked like sausages,” she jokes. “I looked at it and thought, I can do a better job than that blind-folded.” In 2002, at 18, de Azevedo landed an apprenticeship at Big Deluxe under Rich D. She had completed just one semester of college and had decided that all she wanted to do was tattoo. “All I could do was just doodle on all of my papers,” she jokes. Eighteen may seem ridiculously early to make such an important decision, but de Azevedo had always been in love with art. “All I ever did was draw,” she says. She still has notebooks filled with drawings of pews and the backs of peoples heads that she created when she was 6 years old in sacrament meetings. Although the majority of her family are active members of the LDS Church, they have been nothing but supportive of her career choice.
“I brought in a sketchbook to some of the tattoo shops that I would want to work in to ask their opinions,” she says. “I just kept going back in to show that I was serious.” After landing her apprenticeship, de Azevedo was expected to do the dirty work around the shop. Her duties included answering phones, assisting customers, giving price quotes, sweeping, mopping, running errands and cleaning up the artists’ stations.
Most apprentices are unpaid, and de Azevedo was no exception. During her internship, she worked full-time at Silver Express, working at the tattoo shop for about six hours afterward and an 11-hour shift at the shop on Saturdays. “The most difficult part of my apprenticeship was the adjustment to working with cursing, drinking, smoking, older men,” she says.“ I was brought up in a very Mormon household, and even though I hadn’t chosen that lifestyle for myself, it was all I knew.” She did her first tattoo, a 1-inch by 1-inch star on her friend’s back, about a year and a half later. “It took me almost 2 hours. I have never shaken so badly in my whole life. It was ridiculous,” de Azevedo says.
In 2006, de Azevedo left Big Deluxe to work at the newly opened Oni Tattoo Gallery.
Since 2002, she has quickly risen to become one of the most prominent female tattoo artists in Salt Lake City.
“Getting into [tattooing], I was really concerned that it would be an issue that I was a girl,” de Azevedo says. Her initial concerns were quickly thwarted when she realized that many people saw it as “a special exciting thing” to be tattooed by a woman. “I would like to pretend that I’m not special because I’m a female, but that I’m special because of the work that I do and the way that I treat my clients,” de Azevedo says.
Although de Azevedo says she has faced no hardships in her profession due to her gender, aside from a few stupid comments about women not tattooing as hard as men, she does realize the many misconceptions that society still maintains about heavily tattooed females. “People look at you and immediately judge you. They decide that you’re probably a certain way––a drug addict, or an alcoholic,” she says. Her father is a prominent member of the LDS community, who, according to de Azevedo, is often confronted with the fact that his daughter is covered in tattoos. “He just says, ‘Don’t make it any more than what it is. Don’t judge her by her appearance. She has a lot of tattoos and all it means is that she’s passionate about what she does.’”
Ultimately, de Azevedo loves the shop she works for, her clients and her job. “I’m really lucky to work with four other tattoo artists, where I know that I can send someone in and if I can’t help them, they will get taken care of. They will get treated with respect, get a lot of thought put into their tattoo and get a good tattoo,” she continues. “I don’t think I’ll ever move, because I don’t want to give up my regulars.”
This month, de Azevedo will participate in her first formal non-tattoo-related art show, Battle Axes Art Show with photographer Michelle Emerson and painter and mixed media artist Shauntay Ramsey. de Azevedo’s portion of the show will include small “cutsey-creepy” watercolor paintings and drawings with the theme of Baby Teeth. The collection will include cupcakes, creepy animals, teeth, dinosaurs, bats, cats, shark and severed girl heads. “It’s nice to not be expected to do tattoo stuff all the time. I can do my default setting, which is creepy cute dinosaurs for some reason,” de Azevedo says. The show will open Feb. 12 at the Broken Record on 300 West 1051 South. All of her pieces will be for sale, most of them in frames decorated with ribbons.
Sarah de Azevedo currently works out of Oni Tattoo Gallery, does occasional guest spots at Loyalty Ink in Kenvil, New Jersey and will be working the 5th annual Salt Lake City Tattoo Convention. Check out de Azevedo’s portfolio at www.onitattoogallery.com, swing by the shop on 325 E 900 S or visit her at the Salt Lake City Tattoo Convention on Feb. 15, 16 and 17 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.