There's a new generation of tattoo artists working right now that are pushing for a more inclusive approach to the industry. For a long time, much of the tattoo world was dominated by men, mostly white, who were a little rough around the edges, and focused on American traditional style tattooing. But the artists of today are changing the industry and looking at bodies and design in new ways.
Carrie Metz-Caporusso is one of those tattoo artists. Metz-Caporusso is a non-binary tattoo artist in Ann Arbor. Their latest project is all about celebrating fat bodies as they are with a design Metz-Caporusso calls “roll flowers.” The delicate floral pieces incorporate the crease of body rolls into the tattoo design.
“I literally sat myself down and looked at fat bodies, my own included, and I thought, what can I do to highlight these rolls? And it took days. I tried multiple different designs,” Metz-Caporusso said. “And then a light bulb just went off and I thought, oh, yeah, the crease in the body would make a perfect stem and you could only achieve that, like you said, with a fat body.”
Metz-Caporusso says it is common for their clients to base their tattoo decisions around their weight. Many people feel discouraged from getting a tattoo if they believe a part of their body isn’t thin enough for the artwork. They say, for a long time, they felt that way, too.
“And once I decided to just get tattooed and look at myself as art, then I started feeling way better about my body. I think that getting tattooed gives you some ownership and you start looking at yourself differently. So I wanted to spread that to all the people that were thinking they should wait to get tattooed,” said Metz-Caporusso.
Roll flowers are just the beginning of Metz-Caporusso’s exploration of celebrating fat bodies in tattooing. They say they’re also interested in landscape tattoos that incorporate the unique topography of fat bodies. While acceptance for a more diverse group of artists is growing in the tattoo community, Metz-Caporusso says there are still pretty big barriers to entry.
“The main way you learn how to tattoo is by getting an apprenticeship, and no matter if it's malicious or not, I think people naturally choose people that are more like them. So that's, I think, what was keeping men, picking other white men, picking up white men,” they explained.
But that has been changing. Metz-Caporusso says they’ve seen a surge of non-white and queer tattoo artists entering the scene in recent years. That’s led to people thinking about how to tattoo a broader range of bodies, too, whether that’s darker skin tones or larger bodies. It’s a trend she hopes to continue.
And to that end, Metz-Caporusso says they’d love to see other people adapting the roll flower concept for themselves.
“I want everyone to know you don't have to come to me to get a roll flower. You can use my pictures as inspiration and ask your local artists if they can do something similar. Don't steal my work. But yeah, I just want everyone to know this is available to them. You don't have to ask my permission. It's just for everyone. Anyone who wants that, you can have it.”
Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan.