We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Tamez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
I would say the decision that contributed to achieving my goals most has been to surround myself with other artist of similar perspectives and focus. The decision to very consciously be around artist that are thinking outside the box but still have a respect and understanding of the history and traditions of the craft. I enjoy collaborating with other talented people.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I would say to start with , I am mostly self taught. I went to community college after high school in San Antonio ,Texas and only got an Associates Degree in Graphic Design. 40 years ago that meant they taught you how to set type and maybe design a logo, that was how you could be an artist that made an income. So most everything I learned was by trial and exploration I like to think. After working in graphic design studios for a few years I took a job as an on-air designer for an ABC news station in my home town , then left Texas and went to San Francisco not knowing anyone and got a job working for Tower Records at the Castro street store. I taught myself how to airbrush 4feet x6feet reproductions of album covers and movie covers for display, I did large Madonna images , Annie Lennox and people would buy them from me after they came down. That was when I started tattooing on the side and found that I loved it. I was able to be creative and challenged like never before and I did something special for someone, very intimate experience and meaningful for them and myself. Breaking into a profession that I had not grown up in and was shy to put myself out into made it a little slow going-but I really was in no rush .So I started tattooing when I was 30 years old. It allowed me to travel the world make money and do art -perfect. All along the way I was still painting always making something with my hands, I like being in motion. If I am tattooing, painting on canvas or wood burning furniture I must be making, it is my joy to always be in dialogue with myself and what I create. I guess what I reflect on is that I was doing my own thing at a time when men were still the bosses of the advertising agencies and men were the majority in tattooing so to find my voice and work very hard to prove that I was capable of also doing those jobs was a goal. A queer Latina artist that was identifying as butch was not the first choice for many male employers. I did manage to find a few good souls and they helped change things for me. Perseverance was key.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The first place I would bring my friend to – would be my house upstate in Cortlandt just above Sleepy Hallow and just below Peekskill. My house is like living on vacation, I have a lake only a one minute walk from my house. I am surrounded by trees and animals and a big sky with the Hudson River close by. It is so peaceful and there are great antique stores to check out close by. After a few days of that I would take them to my new studio This Time TMRW in Greenpoint, which is a thriving area right by the waterfront with an amazing view of the city and perfect sunsets. We would go eat at my new favorite restaurant down the street called Chez Ma Tante, the food is fantastic and we can sit outside and watch all the dogs and people coming and going. If we decided to go into the city I would take them to my friend’s restaurant ,which is a standard for me to go to, Jean- Marc’s Indochine. Indochine has been around for years and the food is always perfection and drinks are wonderful but the true beauty of this place is its clientele and history. I have spent so many birthday parties there and seen some of the Best Drag Shows by classics like Joey Arias and the staff are so lovely and welcoming. Some of my best times have been spent there. I would take them on a gallery walk as well, so many interesting new smaller spaces with up and coming artist to see in the lower East Side- Company Gallery by Sophie Morner is so interesting to me. She has been a friend and tattoo client of mine for years and it is fantastic to see them grow from their first gallery in Williamsburg called Capricious 88, her artist roster is to be followed. I think that would be good start to the week ,but who knows what ,where we would also go because New York is like the wind -it carries you in many directions !
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Since you already did a story on my wife- Virginia Elwood I would say- Lori Leven, she was the owner of New York Adorned where I first began my New York career. In her studio I met all the best tattooers. Books inspire me a lot – I would have to say- Unexpected Journeys-The art and life of Remedios Varo by Janet A. Kaplan
Life changing book for me. I love Latin American folk art and surrealism, it is such a part of my history.
Another book that has influenced me is Gloria Anzaldua Borderlands.When I first found her book I felt as if I found a friend.
last I would say is my oldest and dearest Texas friend- Gigi Stoll – she is an amazing photographer and fellow animal lover.
Her and I have helped inspire each other for over 35 years and her philanthropy photography work is incredible .
Website: stephanietamezart.com. @this.time.tmrw
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Photos of me by -Bryan Thomas Photographer Photo of tattoo work by Gigi Stoll Photography