This is one model who hasn’t lived her life worrying about what’s off-limits. Working as a travelling artist beneath the big tops of circus tents, Maegan Machine decided to embrace a truly alternative lifestyle early on. «First I felt different, deep down in my soul. Then I chose the path of tattooing – not vice-versa». This small yet fundamental difference was at the heart of our pleasant chat, in which we talked about real and imaginary animals. And we got lost in both her aesthetic and intellectual beauty. Come follow us on our voyage and read an abstract of the interview by Simone Sacco published on this issue of Tattoo Life…
Let’s start with your name: you go by Maegan, but what is ‘Machine’ all about?
Well, it sounded awesome as an alias! (laughs) After all, Machine starts with the letter ‘M’ and, as a kid, my favourite movie was ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (in which the world risked being controlled by man-made machines, Ed). So…
Let’s talk about you. I read in your biography that before the tattoos, you had already chosen a completely alternative lifestyle. That’s pretty intriguing as an existential passage, isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s what happened. Anyway, tattoos have always been a part of my life. My dad and his friends were covered in them, and as a kid I enjoyed using my imagination; I would trace them with my fingers and colour them in with magic markers.
As you were growing up, what did tattoo art teach you?
Awareness about what it is you tattoo on yourself. I’ve always enjoyed knowing about a person by the art they choose to adorn themselves with. So it was only natural that I do that for myself and I’ve became addicted, so to speak. This is why it is likely that I’ll be getting tattooed well into senility. And even as an elderly woman, I won’t be embarrassed about it – at all!
Do you remember your very first tattoo?
Well, my first tattoo was actually a “tester”. You see, I wanted to feel what the needle was like before I committed to getting a bigger piece. So when I was 17 years old I decided that a heart on my wrist would be sufficient.
Do you still have it?
No, it was covered many moons ago, as I knew it would be when it was done: it was just a ‘tester’, after all. I always kind of giggle inside when someone tells me they want their first tattoo on their ribs or sternum. “Well” I tell them, “good luck!” (giggles)
Tell me about the elephants you have tattooed all over yourself.
I have four of them, and the first one I got was the circus elephant on the left side of my neck. Elephants are some of my favourite creatures;
I got that tattoo around the time I sold my belongings and dropped out of college. I ended up running away to Europe to join a circus sideshow.
What were your jobs under the big top?
I performed as the ‘pain-proof woman’ doing such acts as suspension (piercing hooks into my skin and hanging from them while bouncing around and doing aerial moves). Then I was the ‘human pin cushion’ (skewering various parts of my body with large gauge needles), dancing on beds of nails, eating/ breathing fire, the ‘human crazy straw’ (feeding a long straw hose up my nose, pulling it out of my mouth and drinking from it) as well as other weird and unusual things. Though I never actually got to perform alongside elephants, it was still an ode to the lifestyle.
But you don’t just have pachyderms on your skin: you’ve also got a lion with a third eye on your tummy.
I love animals in general but elephants, ravens and lions are my favourites for different reasons, and I wanted them all tattooed on me. The ‘Three-Eyed Lion’ on my stomach isn’t finished yet and still needs his mane added and bees swarming from his mouth. I named him ‘Beasty’, and he’s a representation of how I see myself: not only for my glorious red mane, but also for my strength and pride.
A Maegan Machine metaphor, perhaps.
Absolutely. In my thirty-two years of life I have experienced a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve always pulled through with my head high and my shoulders back. I think of myself as being a ‘beast’ and work hard to be the best version of myself. As I get older, I get wiser and learn. By the way, that tattoo is being done by Ian Loughlin from ‘The Tattoo Lounge’ in Mesa, Arizona.
Photos by Christian Saint