Time Out: What inspired you to start tattooing? Zoey Taylor: It was almost fifteen years ago. I had an acquaintance that was a tattooer. He drove a hot rod, and at the time, I was working as an artist, doing all these paintings of hot rods for magazines. He wanted me to do a painting of his car so he said to me, "If you do the painting, I'll teach you how to tattoo." And I thought, "Oh, that sounds cool." So I bought all this tattoo equipment. But then he moved out of town. So, I thought, "What am I gonna do with all this tattoo stuff now?" I didn't have any tattoos at the time. I had never even seen somebody get one. But I ended up doing my first tattoo anyway. It was of a hot rod, on my brother-in-law.
Time Out: How did that first tattoo go? ZT: It was super complicated and ridiculous. Something you should never do for your first tattoo. I pretty much had a total breakdown. I got halfway through, and my stencils were disappearing. I knew how to draw, but this was all bloody and squishy, and I thought I was going to ruin his life. I was crying and didn't want to finish, and he had to talk me through it. It took forever, but it actually turned out pretty good!
Time Out: How did you find yourself tattooing in LA? ZT: When I first started, I was back in Oregon, where I grew up, tattooing out of my living room. All my life, I wanted to move to LA. Not to be an actor or anything. I just wanted to live here. So when I moved down here about thirteen years ago, I just started walking around Hollywood Boulevard, looking for a job. This one shop hired me, even though I had no tattoos. I had hardly any experience, but they didn't know that. I think those Hollywood Boulevard guys would hire just about anyone.
Time Out: What are your favorite types of tattoos to do? ZT: Definitely realism. Definitely portraits. Also little lettering, challenging line work.
Time Out: Walk me through the artistic process with your clients. ZT: People come in with a concept, or an idea, or an inspiration, and 90 percent of the time, we end up working on developing the whole thing from the beginning. It's not so much that I get them to show me a picture of what they want, and then I draw my version of it. To me, it's more important to find the inspiration for the design.
Time Out: What was the first tattoo you ever got? ZT: I tattooed myself, and it was a botched endeavor. It's these big roses all up my leg. I did it in stages, and had to get into these twisty pretzel yoga positions until I couldn't feel my leg. I couldn't stop until it was done. Had I known how hard it would be, I never would have done it.
Time Out: Do you have a favorite tattoo? ZT: I like all my bunnies. One of my customers sat down once and counted every single rabbit on my body. She said I had 34.
Time Out: What's something unexpected thing you've learned while tattooing over the years? ZT: I reached this period just shy of a year into tattooing when I realized the huge responsibility of connecting with the person you're tattooing, of creating this thing that they're going wear forever. You can't play with it. You really have to learn to respect the responsibility and the privilege of working with the person you're tattooing.
Time Out: What is your favorite music to tattoo to? ZT: I listen to a lot of old country. Like '30s, '40s, '50s country.
Time Out: One last thing we have to ask. Where did you get the inspiration for your personal style? Your clothes and your hair? ZT: You know, I grew up a little weird. My family and I were super poor and lived in the woods. Our clothes would come from people leaving boxes on our porch, or on special occasions, we'd go to the thrift store. I didn't own a new item of clothing until I was in my 20s. We didn't go to school and we didn't have cable, so I was really out of touch. So when I was young, I would watch old movies and think, "Oh my god, I want to look like that when I'm older." It was this image that just stuck in my head. I thought, "When I'm older, I'm gonna do whatever I want to and wear the things that make me happy." That's what I would dream about as a kid. I think it helped influence my art too. We didn't have electricity, so we would just light a bunch of candles, sit around and draw. I did a lot of drawing and reading. Who knows what I would have become if I had had a normal life?