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ISSUE #35  2015

"In 2015 I had the great honor to have my interview published in the same issue as the legendary Gifu Horihide, a Japanese Irezumi master.  Since then many things happened in my carrier.  My husband and I closed our shop North Star Tattoo in Lower East Side Manhattan, travelled the country in our self converted van, and had a beautiful baby girl!  Now we have a private studio in Woodstock, NY. Check out the full article below." Anna.



Interview by Kate Monahan.

Anna Melo is a true artist.  She is a talented painter and a progressive, prolific, phenomenal tattoo artist working in one of the most upscale and high end tattoo shops, North Star Tattoo, located in the East Village, founded by her now husband, Rodrigo Melo.  Her story of becoming the great tattoo artist she is now did not start out as a fairy tale.  She didn't just meet her husband and nail a key spot in his critically acclaimed shop.  She had to work for it.

Anna has always been an artist and began getting tattooed at 18.  Before Rodrigo opened his own shop, Anna was getting traditional Japanese work tattooed by him.  Both of her sleeves, back piece, and other work were also done by him.  During their time in sessions they had a splendid rapport.  They never dated during their sessions,  It wasn't until after Rodrigo opened his own shop that after her appointment they would go get dinner and talk.  It was a slow and natural progression - they just clicked.

They've been together now for seven years and Anna apprenticed under Rodrigo, which she sees as a great honor, being able to learn from such a great artist.  She still learns from him, even now working in the shop.  They never fight; she asks for his advice and continues to learn.  From the beginning her apprenticeship and to this day, Anna still studies the culture and art of tattooing, that has been around for ages.  It's a dedication to her, a lifestyle.  To be tattooed and immersing herself into the tattoo culture is her way of paying homage to the tattoo gods - to earn her keep.  She believes that a tattooer, a true one should be tattooed, unlike some artists that are not covered and do not see it as a lifestyle.  There are these types of shops around - the walk in places that charge $80 for a bang out flash piece where no real art is being made.

She apprenticed at North Star for a year and a half, not only learning the art of tattooing, but taking care of the shop, working the floor, cleaning tubes, learning how to put machines together, solder needles and paint flash, as well as pouring over her tattoo history books.  Anna still believes that her apprenticeship is not over, that she never stops learning more and more at becoming a better artist.

After her one and a half years as an apprentice, Anna did not earn a chair at her husband's shop.  They have been married for four years now, and in that time, Anna started working at shops from the bottom in New Jersey and Brooklyn - the walk in grungy ones, the gangster ones, the cliche ones doing simple flash and cover ups.  It was no cake walk.  Working in a male dominated industry Anna, took her fair share of crap, getting hired and dealing with the other tattooers she worked with.  This she's thankful for because it gave her the chops and backbone to not take any shit.  She is thankful for her for her bosses in those days that let her work and had faith and trust in her.

Anna spent years working abroad at these different shops before she became a full time tattooer at North Star.  She earned her experience and learned diligently in baby steps in order to perfect her craft, which she stands by the fact that with never end.  There is always learning, perfecting, and branching out in her work.  True learning to Anna is taking those baby steps, indulging oneself in the culture, perfecting how to use the machines she uses, and understanding the types of needles and equipment that she feels most comfortable with to produce the best work on the human canvas.

She is now working on larger pieces, keeping a humble attitude, yet having the self confidence needed to become the remarkable artist she is today.  She may not outwardly admit it, but seeing her work, having her work on me and having her artwork hanging on my walls, I can personally attest to it for her.  Now doing larger Japanese pieces, which are no easy tasks, people are reaching out to her for sleeves to be done and friend gave her free range to do her leg.  Anna freehands the work, grateful to her friend that gave her artistic license. It's an advanced piece for her and being able to produce beautiful work, freehand isn't no easy task, yet one after many years Anna has accomplished.  She still has guidance from her husband, a man she highly respects and honors his opinion utmost, as it only helps her hone her craft to produce the work that she does.  One of her new projects is painting on wood, which she feels is a natural, organic way to paint.

Anna and Rodrigo travel for conventions, showcasing her art and tattooing, bringing attention to the shop, meeting other artists, and putting her work out there.  Furthermore, her goal at conventions is to study and observe other talented artists.  They also travel on vacations, but even those are tattoo related.  Anna and her husband truly have dedicated their lives to the art and culture and wherever they go, they meet new artists and old friends who are artists.  The learning and the progression never stops.  And when they do run across new people in the industry during their travels, when people ask to see her husbands work, Anna is there, his walking canvas.  They have a true and diehard partnership.  But Anna alone is an independent, strong and talented woman who went through the bullshit of a male dominated industry, put her time in in the lower end shops, dealing with shit talk and criticism from other artists before being able to work at North Star.  Going from flash, cover ups, smaller pieces, and now large Japanese works of art, Anna has come a long way.

She has found that being a tattooed woman, she now only receives positivity in this culture.  She is proud to have engrossed herself in a culture in which she loves that has roots that date back to ancient artisans putting designs on the skin, going all the way back to mummies with body art on them.  Tattooing and art are Anna's passion, one she does not take lightly.

Anna told me that the more time she puts in, the more she gets out of it, she's humbled  by the experience, it's one of the greatest thing shes ever been able to do and within this, it maker her a better person.  As a true role model for women in the tattoo industry, she proves that it can be done and if you have a love and passion for it, you will succeed.  Time, sweat. and grit will get you there and Anna has proven that beyond a doubt.

Anna's work can be seen and she can be personally reached on her personal website  If nothing other than for curiosity's sake, her site and her art is worth checking out.  It tell the story of her work and progression in which I have just written.

I'm honored not only to be able to write Anna's story, but to also know her and have work done by her.  She is an amazing artist and person, one of the most dedicated souls in the tattoo industry I have met.  So, don't miss  out and giver her work a look.  You won't be disappointed.  Trust me.  Anna self-titled this article based on her own words, her personal mantra on tattooing, the culture, lifestyle, and her art.

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