Keeping the tradition alive is what American old school style tattooing is all about. The timeless charm of those designs is preserved by many tattoo artists nowadays, who faithfully chose to stick to the tradition and sometimes reinvent it. I noticed the work of Becca Genné-Bacon when she was just an apprentice, only a handful of years back. She is one of my personal favorite tattooers.
Becca does the american traditional with lots of passion and respect but also adding her personal touch to it. Since the day she started, just about five years ago, she has been putting together relentlessly a very impressive portfolio of work of the highest quality. Becca might look very young and innocent, but don’t let the looks fool you. She is very determined, with a very strong work ethic and her work speaks for itself… she knows exactly what she is doing! Becca is currently working at the most reputable Kings Avenue Tattoo in NYC, and I go see her to ask a few questions to get to know her better.
Tell us a little about your upbringing and background and when you discovered and fell in love with tattooing…
I grew up in a somewhat small town in New Jersey, not too far from NYC and I’ve done some kind of art since as long as I can remember. I lived around the corner from a shop called Immortal Ink and just idolized it. I remember thinking that it would be amazing to be able to have a job like that but not knowing anything about how to go about doing it or if I was skilled enough. I went to college at the School of Visual Arts after seeing the chair of the illustration department (Tom Woodruff) was covered in tattoos and tattoo art seemed to be accepted there. I thought going there would be a way to move to NYC and get my drawing skills up. Then I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship at Hand of Glory Tattoo very soon after graduating.
When did you realize you wanted to be a tattooer for a living? How old are you and how many years have you been tattooing?
Probably around 14 or 15. I thought it was kind of a far fetched dream though and I’d never be able to make it happen! I’m 28 now and have been tattooing full time for around five years.
How this city influences your work ? Which other city you would love to work at?
I think this city influences a strong work ethic. Seeing all the amazing competition around you keeps you feeling like you have to work harder and harder to keep up. Theres no ‘neighborhood’ shop feel here. Clients have literally hundreds of artists to choose from, so you really need to try to stand out. Right now, the only other city I’ve ever been to where I thought “I could live here” was London. It had a very similar vibe to NYC for me.
You are developing a very charming and bold traditional style in tattooing… did you choose it or you stumbled on it? What does traditional old school represents nowadays? Who inspired you?
Thank you! I guess I chose it? I redrew and painted a lot of classic flash sheets during my apprenticeship and people came back to me to get those tattooed. I think I’ve been lucky enough that people came to me for traditional! It’s a classic style that is going to look good for a long time on someone’s skin. Some older traditional tattooers that inspire me a lot are Amund Dietzel, Christian Walrich and of course Sailor Jerry.
How important is to draw/paint in growing as a tattoo artists? Or is it just copy and paste?
It’s everything! Even when you’re using old flash I think if you’re not putting your own hand into it, it’s just going to be lost in a crowd of a million other copies. It’s a balance between keeping the design looking how it’s supposed to look and putting your spin into it. Drawing and painting helps you find that.
There’s also a finite amount of classic designs out there, so it’s so important to be able to draw something completely original for yourself and your clients.
How is being a woman in this industry ?
For me, being a woman in this industry has been pretty great. There’s always going to be a few instances where it could be a disadvantage or people will assume certain things about you because you’re female, but I’ve tried to surround myself with people that are only supportive of it. I also feel like the women in this industry tend to support each other and I’ve made some really great friends through that bond. I’m sure it’s a lot different now than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
Which advice would you give to someone who is starting into the tattoo industry now?
Be humble and respectful.
Who is Becca when she is not tattooing? What’s your fav hobbies/things to do?
This question is always so hard! I’m kind of a homebody when I’m not at work. I love music and try to go to concerts when I can. I have a cat, who is pretty great. I go out with friends and all the usual things a 28 year old would do; pretty boring stuff haha. I love documentaries and podcasts too!