You need to develop your own individual style. The industry is extremely over saturated so in order to do well, you need to have your own style for clients to seek you out for specifically.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Rodriguez
Amanda Rodriguez is the Co-Founder and Head Artist of Three Kings Tattoo London, the newest studio from the award-winning New York-born business Three Kings Tattoo. Known for attracting high-profile names like Lana Del Rey and Lena Headey to its four locations across the USA, as well as brand collaborations with Calvin Klein, Nike, VICE and The Premier League — the Three Kings name is one of the world’s most respected.With over 12 years of experience, Amanda is renowned for her brilliantly executed floral artwork, wildlife designs and is the woman behind the brand’s transatlantic expansion.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been an artist since I was a kid. As a teenager I focused on Art in High School and was constantly drawing portraits of musicians and actors I admired. When it was time to go to University, I chose Rhode Island School of Design and decided to study Furniture Design. It was really fun and I made some cool pieces but I couldn’t get a job in the field as I didn’t know AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design), so I started to explore other options out of sheer desperation. It was then that I started pursuing web design and tattooing at the same time. I was able to find a tattoo artist to apprentice under and juggled a career in web design and development until I was able to financially support myself solely with tattooing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me in my career so far definitely has to be moving across the world from New York to London to open Three Kings London. England is a country I’ve always adored. I’ve since met my partner here and I now run an amazing workplace that I’ve curated and a team coworkers who I really enjoy spending time with.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
When I got my job at Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn people started taking me seriously as a tattoo artist (even friends) and I was able to stop doing any side-work completely and focus purely on my craft. The rise of Instagram has also played a large role. I’m not a huge fan of the platform but it’s undeniable that most of my appointments come from it. Apart from hard work and perseverance, I would say that consistently showcasing quality work and content on your Instagram will definitely help raise your profile and help potential clients find you.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As a tattoo artist starting out mistakes are unfortunately anything but funny! Before you have the confidence in what you are doing and the knowledge of how to properly tattoo and to ‘fix’ potential mistakes, any that you make are extremely stressful. The only thing I can say is that this is why I think people should undertake an apprenticeship as tattoo artist and the person teaching them should control what they do in the beginning to minimise mistakes.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have a lot of projects I would love to do but Covid has really gotten in the way! We have recently launched our first line of Three Kings London merchandise featuring artwork designed by muself. One project I am looking to do eventually is to work with a mental health organization to help people cover self-harm scars. That was just one thought, but I would love it to be a regular thing and it could be extended to other issues such as body dysmorphia. Tattoos definitely have a way of changing your relationship with your body and I love helping people get to a better place with their self-image.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a tattoo artist”? Please share a story or example for each.
This is hard for me to answer because there was very little time that I had considered tattooing before I was able to find an apprenticeship so I had absolutely no expectations. I have always had a good work ethic and knew I’d have to bust my butt to get anywhere. However, here are some examples of things that people who want to be tattoo artists may not know beforehand.
- You need to develop your own individual style. The industry is extremely over saturated so in order to do well, you need to have your own style for clients to seek you out for specifically.
- The industry can be very cliquey, territorial and hierarchical.
- You don’t get paid for being at work unless you earn it by tattooing. If you’re sitting in the shop all day and no one comes in, you make nothing.
- It’s not glamorous. I think because of Instagram people think being a tattoo artist is really glamorous but it’s anything but. It’s hard work, taxing on your body and you’re exposing yourself daily to customer’s bodily fluids. On top of that you get no vacation or sick pay or company paid pension.
- If you’re busy you rarely get days off and have to plan your life out a few months ahead of time. A busy schedule means any days off or time off is spent drawing for appointments.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Learn to say no. A lot of people in the industry have a hard time saying no to clients. Since work is not guaranteed and you don’t get paid unless you are actively tattooing, we tend to say yes to everyone because you never know when the work will stop. This leads lots of people to working overtime and seven days a week. I always tell friends if someone likes your work they will wait for when you are free. I also don’t overbook my days as I know my limits and my quality of life is much better for it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, Alex McWatt. Alex is the co-founder of Three Kings Tattoo and without him I wouldn’t have been able to move here. His being a UK citizen enabled me to go through with my visa application. He also helped me massively throughout the application process (including flying here from NY twice for less than 24 hours!) and I am forever grateful to him for that. We have a matching smiley face tattoo that we gave each other on my last day in NY.
If you were a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Tattoos have the power to change people’s lives for the better, they can help you grieve, celebrate, and change your relationship with your body. So if I was a person of great influence, money would not be important and I’d likely do more charity based tattoos, akin to the previously mentioned iniative about helping people with artwork, such as helping to cover scars or improve body image.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Amanda Rodriguez instagram @amandatattoos
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.