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Exploring Life & Business with Chelsea Holloway of Alchemy Tattoo Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chelsea Holloway.

Hi Chelsea, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Tattoos have always been a way for humans to express a deeper meaning about their experience of being alive. The process of creation, pain, and transformation are part of what gives tattoos their significance. From the earliest humans in 5000BCE, we’ve been transforming our bodies; to cope with loss, to honor ourselves and our story, and to pay an homage to the images that spark joy in us. For me, getting tattooed and being a tattoo artist have been healing. It has been a way for me to learn to express myself and has allowed me to deeply connect with others in a way I never had before.

Like many friends and clients I know, I went through trauma in childhood that made me a stranger in my own body. Trauma can take away our identity one boundary at a time. It can shape what we think of ourselves and others and how we measure our inherent value. Once we are traumatized or if we are continuously exposed to trauma, this becomes our “normal.” We then can unknowingly subject ourselves to the same treatment over and over again, creating lifelong cycles of self-sustaining abuse. Our reality can become lonely and isolating and we learn to try to live with diagnosis of depression, anxiety or PTSD as a part of our identities.

While I did not realize it at first, getting tattooed became a means of reclaiming ownership of my body. Tattoos started to give me some of what I had lost back. It was the only way I felt power over who I was. I could control the narrative and how I wanted to be seen in a world where I otherwise felt invisible. I wanted to get my first tattoo because I wanted to love my body and myself. It gave me something to like about myself and a way to feel special and unique, and I really needed that growing up. I wanted to be an artist and tattoos felt like an extension of that expression and desire for significance. ​

Having always been in love with art and tattoos, I started working as a tattoo artist in Jan 2008 through a questionable apprenticeship, at best. (This gave me the desire to pass on knowledge to other artists that wanted to break into the tattoo world, and why I continue to take apprentices to this day.) Sitting with people for hours at a time really allowed me to get to know people on the deepest levels. Not only were they vulnerable with their ideas and self-expression, but they also were in physical pain and discomfort, which requires us to let our guards down to move through. Through long sessions, I learned to deeply listen to others; though it started as a way to pass the hours, I became passionate in learning their stories.

Seeing how alike we are as humans despite appearances was a revelation for me. We all have stories of pain we have had to overcome, and we are all motivated by the need to be loved. Little by little, I started to feel less alone in the world. This is another way in which tattoos heal. We connect and we are vulnerable in our expression of ourselves. The client and artist both come together to express parts of who they are through one another. No other job comes to mind where this occurs on such a level. (Though I am sure many exist.) We all have a deep desire to be seen by one another, and mutual vulnerability can strengthen the depth of the bond.

After close to a decade of tattooing, opening a shop seemed like the next logical step for me. I worked in and visited many shops that did not put me at ease or leave me feeling heard or valued. I wanted a space that captured the healing energy I felt tattooing could provide and to make it easier for artists to work in the most optimal way that suited their lives and families best. I believe when people feel their best and they feel valued, they will do their best work and live their best lives. I think we are all on our own healing journeys and learning to support ourselves and the people in our lives is what life is all about.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The biggest challenge of opening a shop for me was learning to manage other artists and teaching apprentices. I am inherently a people-pleaser and always want to make everyone happy. It was very painful to learn that not everyone is going to like me, no matter how hard I tried or wanted them to. The ones who fully see your value are the ones who matter, and it’s so important to put energy into the type of people who see you. I’m so grateful for the lessons and for the amazing humans I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. It is a gift to be able to provide a place to call home with them.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Alchemy Tattoo Collective is a shop that features talented, skilled artists who are passionate about perfecting their craft. We take great pride in creating high-quality art and are devoted to the practice and advancement of tattooing. We strive to stay ahead of the curve and integrate the latest technologies, equipment and education to enhance our ability to create.

A relaxed atmosphere, welcoming staff, and tattooing by appointment only are key features in our shop. The artwork and conceptual process are not created under the limited time constraints of walk-ins. We embody self-expression and non-judgment in a space that promotes healing and transformation. Our vibe is inviting and our beautiful artwork is updated continuously online. We attract clients who have the patience to shop around and discerning eye to wait for the right artist for them. They can even book a consultation appointment through our website.

The collective nature in which we operate enhances our shop. The artists are essentially their own boss; we share resources, skills, and values and support one another. This is essential to do our best work. This is what sets our shop and artists apart from many other shops. I want to give others the best platform for becoming more of who they want to be, artists and clients alike.

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Shop group photo by Virginia Harold.

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