In a private studio decorated with taxidermy, Jasmine Wright lays down some of the best tattoos in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. With a tattoo shop on every corner, hundreds of artists crank out old school American traditional work while dozens more do newer illustrative designs, but none of them combine the two.
Wright believes her style is still evolving, but it clearly fuses the blocky sailor tattoos she grew up loving with a more highly rendered artistic look that many of those old-school guys would forsake. But while it takes many tattooers decades to establish a style of their own, Wright was answering phones and cleaning the bathroom in a shop not all that long ago.
“My first job that I ever had was drawing caricatures at Legoland when I was like 15 or 16,” Wright says. “I had a boyfriend who was getting tattooed all the time, so I started going into tattoo shops. It just seemed like a really sweet environment, so I got a job as the receptionist when I was 16. I’ve never had another job really.”
For the San Diego native, tattooing was just the career and art form that made sense. When most of her peers were still trying to pass finals and decide on college, Wright had already made up her mind about going into tattooing full-time.
These days, Wright’s amassed over 20,000 followers on Instagram – which is where many of her clients learn of her work since she doesn’t work out of a public shop – and travels the world spreading her art. From Paris to London, Montreal to Philadelphia, Wright always makes her rounds at some of the world’s biggest tattoo conventions. Of course, Wright also enjoys her trips around the globe to see other parts of the world and eat interesting food to make up for all of the local cookouts and get-togethers she misses because of her job.
“Sometimes you have to work on holidays and weekends when your friends are at barbecues and stuff,” Wright says. “You have to give up a lot, but I get to do what I love. I don’t think a lot of people are honest with themselves when they’re first starting out about how much they’re going to have to sacrifice to tattoo and how much goes into it.”
But for all that Wright’s put into tattooing, she’s gotten just as much out of it. After all, what other job requires the interpersonal communication skills to physically dish out pain to someone – often for several hours at a time – and still make it an enjoyable experience?
While most parents would dread the thought of their daughter starting to hang out in tattoo shops at the age of 16 and continuing on to a career in the field, Wright has learned plenty of tips for both life and tattooing while growing up in the San Diego tattoo scene.
And if you’re going to study in a tattooing scene, you may as well study in one of the biggest in the world. To this day, Wright still believes that a good portion of her success comes from being a local artist and knowing her territory. While other shops and artists come and go every week in San Diego, Wright will always represent the city to its core, and most of the reputable tattooers in the area know that.
“It just keeps you on your toes to stay busier and try to rise above the rest,” Wright says. “I’m lucky. I’m from here, so I’m lucky with the referrals because my clients will tell all of their friends. It’s heavy competition, so you have to stay on it to stay relevant.”
For all inquiries, contact Jasmine Wright at @imbusy666