While Evie Yapelli of Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery has no problem doing other styles of tattooing (particularly American traditional), her specialty is in a minimalistic blackwork approach. Yapelli exclusively uses only black ink in these pieces, along with perhaps one other color (typically red) as an accent. The style has proven perfect for many classic designs, such as vintage Disney illustrations.
"I started off loving old school sailor tattoos, but I also always loved the illustration side of things," Yapelli says. "I like to do things like anthropomorphic vegetables and old school children's book illustrations. It's a little more antiquey than most tattoos. I love painting and tattooing flowers, but I do a Victorian spin on old school roses. I felt like if I didn't have anything new to add to tattooing, I shouldn't get into it. I wanted to take it in a different direction."
Of course, since the common theory is that female tattooers don't use enough black, Yapelli's style is certainly breaking down that stereotype. Yapelli didn't always do blackwork though, her style was actually built from her insecurity of using black ink when she first began tattooing.
"At first, I didn't know how to use black. Then, I was scared to use too much black," Yapelli says. "Blackwork is a newer thing in tattooing. Before, there was black and gray, and there were color tattoos. I saw blackwork once and thought it was interesting because it was a different aesthetic from the others."
After seeing blackwork, she began taking a more minimalistic approach to tattooing and limited her palette to a handful of colors. Then Yapelli moved to blackwork and instantly fell in love with the style.
"I started doing Disney flash (sheets full of small tattoo designs) in all black. I didn't even tea stain the sheets. I really liked it, so I kept doing it," Yapelli says. "I'm enamored with the majority of what I do now. I think it's visually striking. You don't need any frills, each design is the essence of what it is."
For Yapelli, making a living doing Disney artwork is pretty close to a dream come true. Yapelli's a big Disney fan, and used to visit Disneyland as a kid while living in Chicago. In OC, there's obviously a lot more Disney love, which makes it the perfect area for her work.
"There's so much good material from Disney. I started with one sheet of Disney flash, and people really responded to it. It got me excited and others were excited," Yapelli says. "People think tattoos have to be deep and meaningful, but they could just be something you love. It felt like a fun California thing to do. Here, there's a whole bunch of people who are stoked about it. It's delightful and charming. People love it because it's nostalgic."
How did you first get into tattooing?
I got started later than usual. I didn't even get my first tattoo until I was 25. I was raised in an education-focused family, both of my parents have PhDs. Ever since I was little, I've always liked art, I just didn't think it was practical. In college, I knew a girl who had old school tattoos, and I thought they were awesome and beautiful. I didn't realize I was leaning toward a career in tattooing until I found myself on MySpace looking up artists, and it hit me that it was what I was most passionate and excited about. I decided at 27 it was what I wanted to do, so then I spent a long time stalling and drawing until I eventually started contacting artists to look for apprenticeships.
What was it like to move out to OC from Chicago?
I moved here in August of 2012. My husband and I drove from Chicago with our cats and our suitcases in my little yellow Beetle, may it rest in peace. It was the best thing I've ever done, and it terrified the shit out of me. I had finally got all of my clientele together in Chicago, so it was a tough decision, but it was the right decision. It terrified me to not know anyone and to be far away from everything, but my husband's job moved us out here. I already had some experience and a portfolio, so I wasn't starting from scratch, but I didn't feel like I was going to walk into shops and wow people.
How is Chicago's tattooing scene different from OC's?
Well, I have kind of a skewed view because I'd always worked in a private shop in Chicago, but it was always more collectors than people looking to get their first tattoos. It was always people who did their research and trusted the artist they were getting tattooed by. It definitely took longer to build a clientele out here, but that's because OC is so saturated with tattoo artists. Everyone has a brother or a friend who tattoos out of their kitchen or out of their own shop. I think that means there are also more people who don't know how great a tattoo can be. Now, it's more exciting for me to be out here, because I have a clientele who want special custom pieces from me.
What's it like to be a woman working in such a male-dominated field?
I worked for a short time at a male-dominated shop out here, and it just wasn't a good fit. There were times when I felt like I wasn't wanted there. I love working for and with women, and I love knowing strong badass women like Renee (Bangerter, Laguna Ink Spot's owner). Those are the types of women I want to be around. Most industries are male-dominated, so it's really not that different. For me, it's not a daily experience though.