The world can mourn the loss of a snowboarding instructor whilst rejoicing at its gain of an awesome tattooer. We’re glad Betty found her true calling as a tattoo artist. As a tattoo collector, you might browse through artist flash looking for a style of tattoo that seems to be the given artist’s forte, but we think Betty takes pride in confusing us by subscribing to no identifiable genre. Discovering her talents in her late teens, Betty wasted none of the time she spent studying under acclaimed Mike Bellamy as a part of the famed Red Rocket Tattoo studios. We at NYBodyArt have recently had the privilege of getting to know Betty, and we see no reason why you shouldn’t, so here’s one conversation we had with her ranging from her beginnings as a tattoo artist to her current projects.
Where are you from? Where do you currently reside?
Born in Manhattan, my early childhood was spent in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and my adolescence was spent mostly in Rockland County, NY with weekend visits to NYC. I currently live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after having lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for the past few years.
How did you get started as a tattoo artist? Is this what you’ve always wanted to do? Where did you apprentice and with whom?
Before tattooing I focused most of my attention on snowboarding. After high school, I became a certified snowboard instructor. After a few years of teaching snowboarding, I realized how difficult it was to make a living doing so.
I was intrigued by the work and lifestyles of tattoo artists because to me, there were similar aspects to the work I hoped to do while teaching snowboarding: travel, doing something I enjoyed, meeting interesting people, and so on.
I began my apprenticeship under Mike Bellamy (a world-renowned tattoo artist and the owner of Red Rocket Tattoo) in 2004. I first met Mike when I was 17. Soon after I turned 18, I began getting tattooed by Mike and the rest of the crew at Red Rocket Tattoo, which at the time operated as Triple X Tattoo.
Your work is so whimsical and playful, tell us about your style
I have a fairly eclectic style. I can be compulsive, but I’m also very detail oriented. I’m fond of whimsy and nostalgic, art but I also find typography and American traditional tattoo art engaging and fascinating.
Working in midtown Manhattan, my clientele is very diverse. So in order to create a style for each individual, I try to take the time to figure out what it is they’re really searching for. After figuring out what clients want, I blend my knowledge of tattoo art with the client ideas to create designs that are unique and satisfying for clients, and works that I can be proud of as well.
What’s the piece that you’re most proud of? Tell us about how it came about.
Any tattoo that a client is willing to brag about is very gratifying to me as an artist. One of the best things I heard from a client followed my completion of a large mermaid tattoo on her thigh. She said, “Betty Rose gave me a better titty then God ever did.” That was a proud moment.
Got any big projects coming up this year? Where and when? Where can we find you?
I’m currently working on album art for a Norwegian rock band. I’m also getting set to work a guest spot in Canada with my good friend, Kim Marks. But you can always find me at Red Rocket Tattoo in on 36 Street in Manhattan on Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 8:00pm.
It seems like you’ve already lived like 8 lives. What’s next?
In this business there are always opportunities to travel, so I plan on doing lots, and I hope to make it to the Swiss Alps for some international shred time.
What artists inspire you? Who’s working in New York right now that blows you away?
I admire novice artists who work hard to grow and acquire skills. Their spirit and eagerness inspires me.
An NYC newcomer, Orrin Hurley is currently tattooing a large piece on me. We initially met when I was an apprentice, and he gave encouragement then, which he continues to do to this day. His tattoos are bright and full of life — much like his spirit.
Who did the work on you that you’d like to shout out?
I’ve collected tattoos and piercings by all the awesome artists at Red Rocket Tattoo: Mike Bellamy, Erik Siuda, Adam Hays, Vinny Romanelli, Marcus Mancini, Kyle Sajban, Alex Garcia (the piercer) and a few artists that are no longer at the studio: Steve Boltz and Needles. I’ve also collected from Orrin Hurley, Alex McWatt, Chad Koeplinger, J.R. Maloney, Chris Lombardi, and Kim Marks … to name a few.
Red Rocket Tattoo has a great crew and really great shop-girls. Thanks to Barbie, Marina and Zane for helping to keep my blood pressure at moderate to low levels. Love you all!
Photos: Rebecca Handler
We always enjoy talking to Betty and It continues to be a pleasure keeping tabs on what she’s doing. You can do so yourself by following her on twitter @BettyRoseTattoo and by visiting her official website