This article originally appeared on VICE Brazil.
Located on Rua Augusta, São Paulo's legendary party street, Sampa Tattoo is an all-girl tattoo parlor run by a woman named Samantha Sam. The idea behind the shop was to create a solid workplace for promising female artists because, according to Samantha, there's "a lot of struggling girls in the business."
Sampa Tattoo has barely been open a month but already has customers flooding in. So much so that Samantha is hatching plans to expand and employ even more ladies. We met up with the shop's five artists for a quick chat about how they got started, jealousy from male peers, and their love of permanently marking people's bodies.
Juliana Chislu, 22
"I've always liked tattoos. I started tattooing my classmates with Indian ink when I was 13. One day, I just thought, Fuck, this is what I want to do with my life. Right before I turned 18, I made an appointment to get my first real one. My dad was angry because he hated tattoos and told me, 'Juliana, this is the first and last one you'll get.' Which is funny because I'm actually tattooing his arm at the moment. My grandparents basically disowned me after I got my face and hands done.
One time, I went to a shop to show them my portfolio. The guy laughed, saying it wasn't my work and that chicks don't have the balls to do tattoos. I told him to hop onto the bed and I'd tattoo him right there. He kicked me out."
Julia Bicudo, 26
"It all started when my husband and I bought a machine to tattoo each other at home. Back then, I thought it'd be really difficult. I thought tattooing was something that only super-humans could do, something out of this world.
Anyway, I liked it so much that I decided it was something I wanted to take seriously. I fell in love with Sampa as soon as I heard about it. What's cooler than tattooing with a bunch of awesome chicks?"
Ingryd Guimarães, 18
"My first tattoo was this hideous rose that I had done when I was 15 years old. Thankfully, I found a guy who could cover it up. I accidentally dropped my sketchbook in front of him while paying. He said, 'Wow, you can draw' and encouraged me to start tattooing till I got really into it.
I remember not being able to sleep after doing my first one. I could feel that machine buzzing around in my head. I was trying to study psychology at the time. I'd still like to try that one day, even though I can't imagine myself ever being a psychologist. After doing my first tattoo, I quit my office job, dropped out of college, and went for it."
Samantha Sam, 23
"I moved to Sorocaba to learn how to tattoo. I spent six months as an apprentice there, doing everything in the shop: the drawing, the cleaning, the tidying. I was all by myself and living in a city where I didn't know anyone. I had all the odds against me, but I'm stubborn and really love what I do.
One time, a male colleague took my drawings and threw them out. I guess it was some sort of sabotage. I think some male tattoo artists kind of feel like, 'Man, how can some new chick be doing the same thing as me?' They feel as if we're getting in their way."
Jéssica Coqueiro, 23
"I started tattooing after I dropped out of Plastic Arts college. I took the last of my savings and bought a starter kit. I'd go to people's homes or have them come over to mine. Tattooing was a way for me to be independent and to live off my art.
I love doing lines and black work. I get a lot of my inspiration from books about biology, anatomy, and technical drawing. Working at this shop was the first time I ever really felt like I was part of a sorority. We talk a lot about how women can empower themselves at work. We all get along really well and try to appreciate each other's strengths."
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