Karen Glass is a tattoo artist that runs her own successful tattoo business. She's also a musician (singer, guitarist and songwriter), illustrator-painter and, most importantly, mother to *adorable* Bianca who is almost 8 months old.
Karen grew up in a large family, one of seven children, in Pennsylvania, and was thirteen when her youngest sister was born. She vividly remembers her mother's all-natural and nurturing childhood philosophies on parenting, which she has since adopted with her daughter: She practices co-sleeping, is an avid fan and advocate of cloth diapering (she loves her experiences with DiaperKind), and she herself had a home birth in her Greenpoint apartment.
Karen is also a *total badass*. In the last year, she and her family have been through major changes. She opened a private tattoo studio at the same time that her husband opened a new Bushwick bar, Our Wicked Lady, which is a multi-purpose space for both happy-hour seekers (it has an awesome rooftop serving delicious cocktails and food) as well as rehearsal spaces for musicians and artist studios for rent. However, when the bar’s opening was delayed due to city paperwork and red tape, Karen took on the opening of her own business and having a baby girl all while being the sole financial provider for the family.
Karen takes appointments at her studio for custom designs that can be described as illustrative traditional Americana with a feminine twist, and her tattoo sessions often last 3-4 hours (something that I can only imagine was exhausting in her third trimester). She’s built up an impressive clientele list through word of mouth, touring tattoo conventions, and through her prior experience working in Park Slope. When the dust settles she hopes that her band, Bugs in the Dark, can play again more regularly and maybe even start to tour again (for now they are enjoying brewing up new material).
Here is my Q&A with Karen:
You started the process to become a tattoo artist in 2008. What are the stages to getting to your level of expertise?
During my apprenticeship, I learned the technical side of tattooing, which includes building machines, practicing on grapefruits and doing simple tattoos on friends. I also learned a lot about running a small business as I managed the shop during my apprenticeship. Additionally, I spent all of my free time improving my drawing skills and developing my own style. All the while, I was building my own clientele that allowed me to eventually work out of my own private studio.
You launched your own studio with your business partner, Sophie, after touring many tattoo conventions together. What kind of work goes into conventions and how were they beneficial for you?
The year before I got pregnant, I worked conventions in Austin, Philly and Long Beach, CA. Conventions are a great way to network with artists and shops in other cities, which can help establish a way to work while traveling. Conventions are also great for expanding your clientele for traveling. My private studio partner Sophie and I were convention buddies. I did my last convention the day after I found out I was pregnant and I've had to take a break from traveling since.
You've been through an enormous amount of change in the last few years: you launched a business, had a baby girl, and your husband and band mate opened his own bar, Our Wicked Lady, at the same time. How did it all work?
The timing wasn't ideal, but we figured out how to get through it. I worked full time into my 9th month of pregnancy; paying our bills while my husband worked to open his bar. Bianca was born in February and Our Wicked Lady opened in July. The months between were tight, but we made it through by knowing we were working towards something great. The key for us is always remembering that we're on the same team.
Being an artist and a musician, you naturally have a very cool look and style that's unique to you. How did you handle the world of maternity clothing?
I got two pairs of maternity jeans at H&M (one black, one blue). I also got a pair of leggings and a few maternity tops. I was still able to layer with a lot of non-maternity jackets and cardigans and adding a cool pair of comfy boots to the mix made me feel great. I loved the way my pregnant body looked - my bump was such a fun accessory!
How did having a baby effect your work schedule?
Tattooing with morning sickness wasn't easy and luckily that only lasted a week or so for me. Now that Bianca is born, I'm only working part time. When I confirm appointments, I tell my clients that we'll have to take a break during the session so I can pump and have a snack. My clients are totally understanding and always ask to see photos of Bianca. It's a tough adjustment going from being a very career-driven person to working part-time. I couldn't be happier with the choice I made to become a mother, and at the same time, there is still a deeply ingrained drive in me to produce results and further my career. I am still settling in to my new balance with it all.
Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?
- Ask for help if you need it. We had serious breastfeeding challenges and I wish I had hired a lactation consultant right away. Also, ask for the help of friends and family to clean or do the dishes for you (instead of them holding the baby while you do dishes!!).
- Sleep is more important than a clean bathroom. Nap with your baby whenever you can.
- Follow your instincts! They are powerful and usually right on. Feed your babies on demand and comfort them when they need it. There's no better way to bond and enjoy your child.
To learn more about Karen, visit her website at http://www.karenglasstattoo.com/, or follow her on Instagram at @karenglasstattoo