Ask Me Anything with Ashley Dawn: A Slack Conversation

At DSN+DEV+OKC, our goal is to create a community for creative thinkers of all backgrounds and passions. This week’s featured AMA guest is Ashley Dawn, co-owner of No Regrets Tattoo in OKC’s Plaza District. Her creative mind can take your tattoo idea and make it 100 times better. Don’t just take our word for it, it’s an actual review on No Regret’s Facebook page.

Our questions to Ashley for this week’s #ama ranged from the Empire Slice pizza tattoo, her favorite cover-up tatt, how important good customer service is, and so much more.

The #ama or Ask Me Anything question and answer format gained popularity on Reddit and we’ve adapted it to our slack channel. This gives our slack members the opportunity to connect with different local experts which week who share with us their tricks of the trade and what makes them successful.

If you missed this week’s #ama, no worries because we have it all right here. Dig in and don’t forget to join our Slack to make sure you don’t miss the next event live.

 

 

Conversation leading up to the AMA:

 

 

 Jon Fisher:

I have a *HUGE* artist-crush on vikingashley. I’m hyped for this.

 Avery Wilson:

Gotta get some @Ashley Dawn Ink!

 

 

 Cara Bell:

@channel feel free to show off your tattoos in anticipation for today’s AMA

 Jackson Fall:

100     reacts and I’m getting my signature as my first face tat

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

None currently, but debating getting a little crazy during a girls trip to New Orleans. Although… is it still “getting crazy” if I’ve preplanned and thought about it for six months?

 Cara Bell:

@the_tiffanylea do you have a folder with schedule brochures and maps

 Tiffany Lea:

Not printed, but yea it’s all digital. The trip is still four months away.

 

 

Tien:

I got this a month ago and am planning to go back to add in true red later. The lotus is the national flower of Vietnam!

 Jackson Fall:

Got this one last NYE — I never thought I’d want one, but I drew this and got it the very next day. Got some Fall Fam crest elements on the bottom, some OKC love, can’t forget the Bitcoin Moon in the top corner.

“Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” — No one provokes me with impunity. Basically, don’t fuck wit me

 

 

 Adrian Townsend:

We get to show off tattoos? I’m in! This one was done by my brother. also this one

 

 

 Alicia Northern:

 

 

 Matt Winfield:

 

 

Intro:

 

 

 Ashley Dawn:

Hello! My name is Ashley Dawn (@vikingashley). I am co-owner of No Regrets Tattoo in the Plaza District and I paint murals and signs with Tanner Frady (@fradycatsigns). I’ve been tattooing for 10 years, since it was legalized in Oklahoma. My shop has been open in the Plaza for 9 years.

Yes, I was there when hookers and drugs were a little more prominent. Before you could get any kind of fancy ramen or beer and open parking spots were as far as the eye could see!

I grew up in Enid, Oklahoma and moved out to pursue a Graphic Design degree at UCO. I went to school way too long before I dropped out, realizing what I really wanted to do: tattoo. At the time, tattooing was still illegal in Oklahoma so I spent all of the extra money I had getting tattoos in Wichita, KS. I learned more by getting tattooed then anything else.

A few years later, it became legal in Oklahoma and through some friends that were already tattooing out of their house, I got an unofficial apprenticeship at a shop that opened up. Me and three of the guys I work with now, were there for a year before we decided to do our own thing. We’ve been together ever since, which is a rarity in the tattoo industry.

I still love tattooing and I’m lucky enough to have a build up clientele to keep me busy. Tattooing can be a hard industry to make it in. I have friends who tattoo in other states that are amazing but have to work a second job or do tattoos they don’t necessarily want to do, just to pay their bills. I think I am lucky to be one of the tattooing pioneers in Oklahoma. I’ve been able to build a name and style for myself. I focus on doing more of an American tradition style tattooing, which is a style that’s been around for centuries. Not a trend.

I’m keeping this a little more tattoo focused but would love to come back and talk murals & signs with Tanner, another time. I’m open to answer any questions but here are some bullet points:

  • Tattoo culture & lifestyle
  • How social media has effected tattooing
  • Having a creatively demanding job
  • Creative blocks
  • The downsides of being your own boss
  • Clients and customer service
  • Owning a business and competition
  • Being in the Plaza and gentrification (edited)

 

 

Q&A:

 

 

 Matt Varughese:

Hey Ashley! I’ve got a two part question I’m curious about.

I love the tattoo collaboration that you have in place with Empire (the 50% off of pizza for life if you get an Empire tattoo). I actually interviewed a local business owner a while back that has one of your tattoos, and he loves it.

My questions are:

1. Whose idea was it to do Empire tattoos? Did they come to you, or did you suggest the idea to them?

2. How often are people actually getting Empire tattoos? It seems like a really unique, long-term marketing play — but I’m interested to see how many people are open to the idea + getting a brand tattoo.

 Ashley Dawn:

Empire tattoos: I had done a few flash sheet of pizza designs and people “ate” them up! I was doing a pizza tattoo, what felt like once a week. Then, Empire came to me with the idea. Not sure if it came to them because of all the pizza tattoos I had done but because of my designs, they knew they wanted me to do the flash for them.

The Empire tattoos were VERY popular in the beginning…like one to two a day. Now we see maybe one a week or month.

 Cara Bell:

I only found the collab when I looked up your work, but Empire fans might not know so much.

 

 

 Cara Bell:

@Ashley Dawn I got a tattoo before I appreciated design & lettering much – to me it looks like pirate lettering :slightly_smiling_face: Do you do cover ups? What’s your favorite cover up you’ve done?

 Ashley Dawn:

I do coverups. One of my favorite coverups has been featured on redit and buzzfeed. It was a guy who had his wife’s name tattooed on him “Mary”. When they got a divorce it was his idea to change it to “Marge” and put Marge Simpson above it.

 Cara Bell:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/horrible-and-hilarious-tattoo-coverups-after-breakups/85407778/

 Ashley Dawn:

Out of all the popularity that tattoo has gotten…I’m lucky if I get credit! :expressionless:

 Cara Bell:

Wait, are you guys related??

 Ashley Dawn:

Little brother…

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

I think I need some background info first. I’m SO curious about this, but am having a dumb moment.

When you say do tattoos, do you mean you design them, or ink them? Or both? Do you only ink tattoos that you design? Can you give me the high level overview of what your day looks like?

 Ashley Dawn:

Both! A good tattoo artist does both. I love doing my original designs but that isn’t always what everyone wants so I try to make everyone’s idea my own or something I’m proud to say, I did. I’ve been tattooing long enough that MOST people come to me for my style and if the client is wanting something I do not feel comfortable doing or I’m not stoked about, I feel more then comfortable redirecting them to another artist that will give them the tattoo they deserve.

 

 

 Matt Winfield:

I thought it was pretty interesting when this came up one time.

I had asked you if it was “cool” for one tattoo artist to do a design and then another one actually do the tattoo; Are there any other “unspoken rules” when it comes to tattooing like that?

(long story short there is a tattoo artist in South Korea whose work I love, but I’m probably never going to be able to make it there to get one :thumbsdown: )

 Ashley Dawn:

I recommend the client get permission from the artist who originally did the design and always give credit to that person, for sure! I feel like there are ALOT of unspoken rules but more like respectful practice. If someone comes in with another local tattoo artists art on them and wants you to finish it or “fix” it, I always try to get that person to go talk to the original artist first, especially if it is someone I know and respect. If it’s utter dog shit of a tattoo and I don’t know the artist or I know the artist as to be “bad” then I will try to help where I can.

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

When I was in the market for a new tattoo, I didn’t want to go back to Atomic Lotus because of a crappy customer service experience. I did some research and found No Regrets based on all of your positive reviews. Atomic Lotus seems to do a lot of radio ads.

Do you guys have a marketing strategy or is it mostly based on referrals?

 Ashley Dawn:

This is why I get repeat customers! I know that I am in an industry that can be intimidating. Not to mention that I am altering someone permanently. I take customer service very seriously. I answer all emails to the best of my ability and like I said before, I don’t mind passing clients on to someone else if I know they will do a better job. That is really important to a lot of people and at the same time they are baffled that I didn’t just do it and take their money. We get a lot of client from the above mentioned shop. We have been around long enough that people know that we will give them a good experience that we stay as busy as we want to be. We don’t want to be a “tattoo factory” and just pump out generic, subpar tattoos just for the money. So, other then word-of-mouth in IG/FB we don’t do any additional advertising. We don’t feel like we need it.

 Jenn Clore:

I get that. I referred three other people to your business after my positive experience.

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

What is your favorite tattoo you’ve ever done, and on the flip side, one you hated?

 Ashley Dawn:

I have a lot of tattoos out there that I love, so I can’t just pick one. I wouldn’t say there’s a tattoo out there I “hate” but I get bummed when the client doesn’t listen to the artist as a professional. We DO know what’s best but sometimes the client doesn’t listen. Like getting the tattoo “upside down” or color choices that just aren’t going to look good in the long run. Sometimes, designs just don’t make for a good tattoo. Just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’ll look good on skin.

I am brutally honest with clients and I let them know that I will do what they are saying but that I AM against it.

Basically anything American Traditional and classic, I’m really going to enjoy doing!

 

 

 Cara Bell:

How did you learn how to keep your books full + not let your business overrun you at the same time?

 Ashley Dawn:

I try not to book out over a month in advance and I tend to book 2-3 tattoos a working day. I TRY to take at least one day off a week but with my side (sign & mural) hustle, that doesn’t always happen. I have a LOT of repeat clients that I am SUPER thankful for! Word-of-mouth is AMAZING when it comes to the client having a great experience!

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

What does American Traditional mean? I keep picturing images of pinup girls

 Cara Bell:

https://instagram.com/vikingashley

 Ashley Dawn:

American traditional is bold, simple lines and bold/bright colors. Basically what you’d picture to be on a sailor in the 40’s. Something you can tell what it is 40 years down the road. Sailor Jerry, Ed Hardy, Sailor Vern, Stoney SaintClair are just of few oldschool artists I look up to.

Pin up girls are definitely included!

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

Where are specific places on the body you don’t recommend getting tattoos? I always like the side-of-the-finger for subtlety but I’ve heard that wears off so fast and looks bad quickly.

 Ashley Dawn:

I will not do hands, face, neck. YOU heard right!

 

 

 Cara Bell:

Do graphic designers make good tattoo artists? What other qualities/skill does it take?

 Ashley Dawn:

Graphic designers don’t always make good tattoo artists. I was always an artists and had the skill in me. I just went to school for GD bc I didn’t know what else to do with the skills I had, at the time. The only thing I really use from my GD background is designing my business card and tshirts. Tattooing takes a different eye.

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

Would you say tattooing is more similar to an illustration skill set, or is that still very different?

 Ashley Dawn:

It’s still pretty different. Illustrations can get really detailed and complicated but with tattooing, over time lots of details get lost. With a lot of American traditional, it is a very simplistic image and that is why they last so long.

 

 

 Cara Bell:

Are tattoos your main hustle for as long as you can see, or do you see sign & mural taking over ever?

 Ashley Dawn:

Tattooing if my fulltime! I still love it! I do signs and murals more as a side hobby that I get paid for? But it helps that that is Tanner’s full time so sometimes when I’m helping him is the only time we get to “hang out”.

Tanner is my boyfriend too! FYI

Hence why I want to hang out with him…:relaxed:

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

You said you decided you wanted to do tattooing before it was legal in Oklahoma. How did you make that leap of faith that it would work out for you in the long run? Did you have a back up plan?

 Ashley Dawn:

I had a job offer in Wichita to go tattoo. I kept that in the back of my mind but didn’t want to move. I was doing professional makeup fulltime when I started to tattoo and I enjoyed that too. I kept that job until I knew that tattooing was going to keep me busy enough that I could quit and about that time, I started not enjoying the makeup life, so I saw that as a sign too.

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

Is the tattoo industry welcoming to female tattoo artists?

 Ashley Dawn:

NOW it is! Even when I started, it was VERY male dominated and I had to have some tough skin to get through the day. There are SO MANY female artists now a days! It’s great.

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

You also said you learned a lot about tattooing by getting tattoos. Can you elaborate on that?

 Ashley Dawn:

I got tattooed for 4 years before I started tattooing. While I was tattooing I would just pay attention to how the artists would set up, what they were using, what their machine sounded like, what inks they used and just what it felt like. I would also ask questions. The very first think I ever learned was “It’s called a machine not a gun”. So don’t ever use the term “gun” again.:wink:

Tattoo machine NOT tattoo gun (if anyone was confused)

 

 

 Cara Bell:

OVERHEARD: @jackson & Owner at Empire talking about pizza tattoos

Kind of a fun coincidence right now

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

How does one train to be a tattoo artist? Do they take up an apprenticeship at a shop or is there some kind of formal training?

 Ashley Dawn:

It’s different state to state. In Oklahoma you have to be in a 2 year apprenticeship program with a sponsor that has been tattooing for at least 5 years. It’s a good and bad thing. It’s much longer then a lot of states but it just means, if you wait out the two years, you get your paper saying you are a tattoo artist. Weather you are good or bad or ready or not. That’s why it is the client’s job to do their research!

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

Why do some tattoos bleed around the edges? is it the location or the technique? And can that be fixed after the fact?

 Ashley Dawn:

Your skin is a living organ. Sometimes there are factors that the artists doesn’t have control over. There are different reason why tattoos “bleed” so I really can’t give a specific unless I see it in person. All tattoo’s fade and bleed over time because your skin is constantly changing. Sometimes thing are fixable. You just need to get with an artist so they can see it in person.

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

Have you ever made a mistake when you’re tattooing, and how do you handle that with something so permanent and personal?

(sorry, I feel like I am asking ALL THE QUESTIONS but I’m so interested!)

 Ashley Dawn:

Mistakes happen and NO tattoo is perfect. Sometimes shading can mask or cover a mistake. That’s when you got to turn into Bob Ross and have a happy mistake. There isn’t anything that isn’t fixable and I can almost count on the client not seeing what you see. When it comes to words, I don’t care if it says “MOM”, I make the client confirm that everything is spelt right and grammar and punctuation are correct!

 

 

 Scott Scrivner:

Ashley – your stuff on customer service is so good. I can totally affirm that you live that out. The bulk of my tattoo work has been from you — and it was a great experience. You are doing so much great work out there! (not really a question but more of a I AM A BIG FAN!).

 Ashley Dawn:

THANKS SCOTT!!!

 Linux user:

I was thinking of getting a family tattoo with my siblings I know now where to go

Thank you

 

 

 Cara Bell:

Do you have a word for people who don’t get tattoos? Or people who are getting their first tattoo – or who carefully consider each tattoo. How do you handle people who go back and forth?

 Ashley Dawn:

There’s nothing wrong with not having a tattoo. It’s actually hard to come by that someone doesn’t so stay unique in your own way! If you want to get a tattoo, please do some research, don’t just look at IG pic bc that is where people just post the GOOD stuff they do. If you see someone in public with a tattoo that you like, ask them who did it. Try to see some work in person. Go to check the shop in advance.

Anyone that want to book appointments with me or needs advice, please reach out!

I tend to do BEST with email: vikingforhire@me.com

The shop I work at has 5 artists so there is someone there to cater to any style.

 

 

 Tiffany Lea:

@emilysmart, feeling less confident about random tattoos in NOLA now lol. Maybe we should do them in OKC if we do.

 Emily Smart:

hahaha it’s all about the research. I don’t think even a NOLA tattoo would be “random” for me. Would never do it without super stalking a place / artist first.

 Ashley Dawn:

Hey, you can still get a great tattoo anywhere, JUST DO SOME RESEARCH! I have lots of friends in NOLA so I would love to give you some recommendations! I am NOT the best tattoo artist out there…fyi 😉

I love spreading the love! There is so much talent out there!

 Tiffany Lea:

To be fair, I literally want an X that’s less than half an inch tall. Surely no one can mess that up!

Yes, would love to hear your NOLA recs!

 Ashley Dawn:

Don’t say that… Seen the simplest of tattoos messed up because people had that attitude about it. :expressionless:

shoot me an email and I will get them to you!

 

 

 Ashley Dawn:

Thanks for having me and letting me answer some questions! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions! I can hang out for another 15…20 mins if anyone has any additional thoughts or questions.

 Cara Bell:

Glad you’re here :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks @Ashley Dawn!! Where can people get in touch for a tattoo? or other ideas?

 Ashley Dawn:

I tend to do BEST with email: vikingforhire@me.com

 

 

Next time:

If you want to listen in to find out when the next AMA is scheduled, or ask your own questions, get your slack invite here: dsndevokc.com/join-our-slack

Who would you like featured in our next AMA?

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Jenn is a social media and content marketer with a deep love of pumpkin-flavored everything and weekend naps. Currently an online web design student at Francis Tuttle, Jenn plans to make her mark on the digital world with mad coding and marketing skills. With over 13 years’ experience in digital marketing, she’s been in the game since the chat room days. When Jenn is not writing content for Steed Interactive or Red River Roofing, you can find her checking out the newest local eatery or sipping on tea at Urban Teahouse.

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