Inspiring Women: This Badass Tattoo Artist Got Her Start Drawing in the Dark
Zoey Taylor shares how she became a celebrity tattoo artist after her unusual upbringing in the Oregon woods.
Zoey Taylor is the kind of person we could all learn a thing or two from. Not only is she a female tattoo artist in the male-dominated profession, she owns her own highly successful shop in Los Angeles. And she earned her spot in the industry after a quite unusual upbringing in the Oregon woods, where she lived in a cabin without electricity and any connection to the outside world. It was during this time of isolation that she cultivated her art and at 18 she tattooed for the first time — in her living room.
After that, Zoey moved to Hollywood and worked her way up in the tattoo world. She bought her first shop in 2013 and purchased Prix (now called The Warren Tattoo) in West Hollywood in 2016. Now, the shop is a bustling Sunset Blvd. staple that's "one of the best tattoo parlors in LA."
While Zoey prefers to keep the sensitive details of her childhood private, her resilience and determination are very apparent in her career and outlook on her tattooing journey. Here she tells us about the challenges she's faced, how she got where she is now, and what livingly beautifully means to her.
Livingly: You had a pretty unusual upbringing. How did your early experiences mold your current passions? Do you think you'd have ended up owning a tattoo parlor if you had a "normal" upbringing?
Zoey Taylor: Great question, actually. My love of drawing was well in place before the age of five when things started to get really strange in my life, but it may not have been developed the way it was, had it not been for all the solitary "quiet time" by lantern light. I spent hours and years honoring my drawing and painting skills, without any social distractions. So when someone said "you should try tattooing", I dove in. And when I moved to LA shortly after, I didn't qualify for any other job as I had zero education or work history. I definitely wound up where I am as a result of a very weird twist of fate, a little bit of luck, and a lot of determination.
How did your love of art transform into a love for tattooing?
Even though I drew hundreds of sharpie tattoos on my brother, it never occurred to me that it could be a career option. I was dead set on being an advertising painter like Haddon Sundblom. But once I started tattooing, it took over. Now I'll paint for fun, but tattooing is my passion.
What challenges have you faced as a female tattoo artist?
I get asked this question a lot, and I always have difficulty answering it. I faced what felt like insurmountable challenges, in my journey to becoming a good tattooist, and it's hard to say which of them were because of my gender. I faced more challenges due to my upbringing more than anything else. But some were because I was the youngest in the shop, some were because I didn't have any tattoos yet, some because I didn't know who Madonna was, or what a junkie was, and I'm sure some were because of my gender. It's been a rough road, but I'm proud to be where I am now.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned in your career?
I guess it would have to be how much this industry has evolved, even in the short time that I've been a part of it. The art keeps evolving, the younger generation of tattooists are tattooing better after two years, than we did after ten. And the acceptance and prevalence of tattoos is night and day from where it was when I started.
Why was it important for you to own your own shop?
I've always been an extremely hard worker. Some people say I work too hard. My mom says it's just that no one can keep up with me. I learned a lot from the amazing people that I've worked for, but eventually I'd learned all I could and I didn't need them anymore. I knew what to do and I knew how I wanted to do it better. You can see it and feel it when you walk into The Warren. But I'm always looking ahead at what's next, how to make it better, how to be better. I don't think I'll ever sit back and feel finished.
Who are your favorite other female tattoo artists and how do they inspire you?
There are so many amazing artists out there who inspire me, but I think the people, the women, who inspire me the most, are the ladies in the 30's, 40's, and 50's who were getting tattooed before it was acceptable. Those ladies were bad asses and pioneers.
What's your favorite part about your job?
There's so many good things about my job! The people I get to meet, the constant creativity, the challenges, the family that I work with... I guess I would have to say that best thing about my job is that it never gets boring.
What is your favorite tattoo (on you)?
That's a tough one. I love all of my tattoos, and they're all extremely meaningful. If I had to narrow it down, I'd choose the words on my hands. Those are pretty self-explanatory! And they were done by Clarens Monroy (as was most of the rest of my body). Clarens is also the newest addition to our Warren family!
Would you share with us your favorite tattoo shop story?
Today I got to help a seven-year-old tattoo her own drawing onto her mom for Mother's Day. That's my current favorite!
At Livingly, our motto is "Live life beautifully." What does that mean to you?
I love that! I always say that I'm in the constant, active pursuit of happiness. I think if I'm happy, and I live my life with integrity and I live it intentionally (two more powerful words that I wear on my hands), then I will be living life beautifully.