Hannah Medeiros : Interview 39
Hannah Medeiros is an up and coming tattoo artist at Brilliance Tattoo in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s a graduate of MassArt and has been featured in The Take Magazine as one of ten tattoo artists to follow on Instagram. Hannah and I met at Brilliance and chatted about her path from art school to the tattoo shop, volunteering to do grunt work, fear of failed potential, and the beauty of self-reflection. Oh, and of course she answered Five Questions. Meet Hannah.
Is there a moment in your life that you wish you could change?
At times I wish I could have foregone going to college. Those four years I could have spent starting to tattoo and start my career. But in hindsight, my college experience gave me more time to think about what kind of environment would be right for me. My mentor Elize [Nazelie] gave me an experience that tattooers wish they had. She didn’t verbally abuse me, she didn’t make me do anything inappropriate or anything like that. Basically, she’s taught me everything I know and nurtured me like an older sister would. I know people had experiences from when they started tattooing or getting into the industry, they were younger and less experienced and got taken advantage of or did things they felt uncomfortable about, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to go through an experience like that.
The fact that I went to MassArt didn’t matter to Elize. Some people would consider someone who went to art school, I’ve heard the word pretentious get tossed around. I don’t believe in that, but I’ve heard it. I’m sure people have thought that about me sometimes because, well, I’ve heard people say it. Because it’s a fact. [Laughter] So she looked at my portfolio when I was being tattooed at the shop by a woman by the name of Abby and asked [Elize] if she wouldn’t mind taking the time to look at my portfolio because it had been a while since I’d had anyone critique my work. She looked at it and she said, “These are the things you’re good at and these are the things you need to work on.” And I would come back to get tattooed with my portfolio updated, persistently, very persistently, so that gave her an indication that I’m not wasting her time or my time too because it’s a lot of time. That said, I also volunteered to clean at the shop on my off days. That helped me get my foot in the door.
Me: So you chose to do the grunt work.
Hannah: Absolutely, I very willingly did. Nothing’s going to get handed to you. You need to show that you have a talent, first of all, obviously, but the work ethic that goes behind it as well. I worked full-time at a bakery after I graduated college and on my off days, I would come in [to the tattoo shop] and clean because [Elize], right off the bat, told me, “I’m not going to offer you an apprenticeship.” So I did it thinking that it would just be a good experience. And she would give me a good recommendation down the road. So after a few months of doing that, she offered me an apprenticeship. And I had no idea that was coming. I was thinking, “She hates me, she’s not going to give me anything.” I had absolutely zero idea. I cried.
Me: How long ago was that?
Hannah: That was just over three years ago. It was a two-year apprenticeship that I had just completed—actually it was June, next month, on the 13th, it’ll be my one-year anniversary of not being an apprentice anymore.
Hannah: Ah, it feels great, thank you! It’s a good feeling.
What’s your greatest fear?
Oh, OK. That’s an easy one. Not working to my full potential is my biggest fear. Or being not as good as I can be. I always strive to do the best version that I can and I’m definitely my biggest critic, hands down. I tear myself up about it. My anxiety drives me to needlessly keep working and working and working. I fear that I won’t progress as an artist too. But if I look back on work that I did a year ago or, God forbid, five years ago, I’m like, “Oh God, who did that?? That’s not mine!” So I look back on my own work a lot and tear myself up about it, but then feel better that my work doesn’t look like that anymore. Or that, “I did this and it looks fine, but I can do it better now.” Natural progression is important and I know that I push myself a little too hard at times, but I’m afraid of not doing everything I can do.
How do you define failure?
Failure either artistically or in my life in general, is just not thinking things through, taking my time making it perfect. Also with the internet now, you can look at all the different ways you can do things and you see an example that an artist does and you’re like, “Whoa that is so cool.” And they’ll be, for instance, younger than you and you’re like, “My stuff when I was that old did not look that skilled or advanced.” Which is a good thing, I mean it pushes you to work harder—myself personally, it’s just a constant motivation seeing things and thinking I can get better if I work hard like this person does. The comparison has its positives and negatives.
How do you define being “in love”?
It’s something you feel and you can’t control, but it’s also being able to balance with someone else. You can love someone, but to be in love and to have that other person love you and to have it work, you need to have compromises and balance and be understanding and work with that person. My boyfriend, Andy, for instance, is the most stable and understanding person I have ever been with. He makes dinner all the time because I don’t have time to. He understands that my work schedule is insane and I think he just puts it in perspective. And my balance is to do nice things for him and to recognize and appreciate when he goes above and beyond what he has to do, but he loves me, so he does help me out. That’s probably the best way for me to describe it. Unfortunately, I’m not a very romantic person. [Laughter] I don’t have a very romantic way of putting it.
Me: Do you think romance is part of it?
Hannah: Oh absolutely, yeah. When I think of romance, I think of just taking the time to do something nice for the other person and show them that you care and acknowledge that you’re doing something nice for me and I’m going to do it back for you. Whether it’s him making me dinner and me making him breakfast in the morning, or something like that. I’m very simple in that way. I don’t need a dozen roses or anything like that.
What's one thing you don't know now, but feel compelled to know before you die?
No one really knows what’s after death and I feel very curious to know what’s out there. I don’t think I’ll ever get an answer, I don’t think anyone ever does… I think the closest thing you can find to an answer is just faith which is just what you feel in your heart. I’ll never know. I’ve always battled with it—my parents are Roman Catholic, so I was raised like that. I went to Catholic high school and that turned me off of organized religion, but I don’t even think of that as a faith or a spirituality thing which are totally different in my mind. I think about it often and I wonder, but I don’t think I’ll ever know. I don’t think there’s really any way to know, so I’ll constantly not know. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. [Laughter]
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
What I’ll miss the most when I’m gone, besides food, would be the beauty in the world. I feel like, nowadays, all I do—and I think a lot of people just focus on negative things, it’s kind of hard not to with the news, it’s bombarding you constantly—but just taking the time…my parents have a really nice backyard back home in Rhode Island and on a nice day, I like to go out there and just reflect on everything around me whether it be the bugs, the plants, the sun, and just really take a moment to separate myself from the negative. Or to see nice things happen like if a woman drops her groceries and see anyone stop and pick up the things and I’m like, “Oh that guy looked like a jerk and he was going to walk by and not help her, but that was very nice and I’m surprised.” That kind of scenario. That's very refreshing. I think I’ll miss that. I definitely won’t miss any of the negative stuff that’s happening, that’s for sure.
Good answer? [Laughter]
Me: They're all good answers because they’re your truth.