A rare bird.
WeMake has been hosting sketchXchange for six years, but we've never had a tattoo artist speak, until recently. It was inspiring to hear about the path and process of local artist, Alice Kendall and to have her husband, William Kendall, moderate—another first! William was a natural at asking the questions, but of course, Alice stole the show.
The process of working with clients from design to tattoo is similar to the experience of any designer. You get a creative brief from the client, you research, you share initial ideas, and then you execute. The difference? Tattoos are permanent. And with designing forever art, there's not much room for making mistakes. Finding a style and mastering the craft is what sets one tattoo artist apart from the other. Today, the art of tattooing has changed dramatically, both in style and in culture.
With the help of William, Alice arraigned her process sketches from her early career (pencil drawings) to her present day work (all done exclusively on the iPad!). A sea of birds, florals, and the occasional mouse with other tidbits flowed into each other, creating a wave effect that cascaded over two large walls. A small portion of the show hung full colored originals.
Alice considers herself to be a collage artist. Tracing portions of things found in nature to keep the drawings life-like, but taking liberties with the art to make the final pieces her own— detailed and intricate. She adds to the authenticity by taking her own photos of reference materials whenever possible.
It was a beautiful night, a great show and a nice way to end a year of sketchXchange.
Tattooing from the heart.
Sometimes it takes something tragic to start a new journey. That was the case for Alice Kendall of Wonderland Tattoo. It was a motorcycle accident that sparked her career and helped her buy her first tattoo kit. Back then you didn't go to tattoo school, you got a machine from the classifieds in the back of a industry magazine and you learned by apprenticing in a shop. It was in San Fransisco that Alice started on her path, but it wasn't until she moved to Portland that her career bloomed.
"I remember calling my friend Amanda who owned a tattoo parlor in Portland and leaving a message on her machine that I was ready to start working in the industry. Then I got a call from her the next day, she told me that I should come to Portland and start working with her. I asked if she got my message, but she had not, because they were vacationing in Mexico at the time. She just felt the urge to call me and invite me up. It was fate, or something, and then I moved to Portland."
Alice worked for Amanda and Paul for 14 years at Infinity Tattoo Parlor. At the time she often made her own needles and learned to tattoo on the fly. Infinity wasn't a flash shop, they did custom drawings, where walk-ins were always welcomed, something that doesn’t often happen today.
When Alice left Infinity, she started Wonderland Tattoo and hired Alice Carrier as her first employee. On the day she opened, the shop was overwhelmed with callers, so much so that the phone lines went down. The response to the work she had been doing coupled by the work of Carrier, and their combined experience and style of botanical art would close their books for long runs from that day forward. You can get in, but it is a process of applying and waiting, as most of the now five artists take on new clients every quarter.
This feminine style of tattoo art has changed the way tattoo parlors were once perceived. Wonderland Tattoo embodies these changes, with a welcoming vibe and tattooists who want to get personal with you. For Alice it's a way of researching and part of the process. They respect that tattoos are very personal and sometimes a way of healing.
" I think it's important to create an environment I am happy in as well as others. I want people to feel welcomed, and I want to hear their stories—it's part of being intuitive in the process. I try to create a safe space were people can trust me, I don't want people to feel intimidated with the experience."
Alice has created a rarity in Wonderland. Designing form the heart and making it a mission to give back to the community. They host pop-up fundraisers throughout the year, and make opportunities to form relationships with local non-profits. For instance working with the Audubon Society, or launching a project where they will be able to provide free cover-ups for people who have tattoos related to drug use, sex work, or violence.
Take a step down into the rabbit hole of Wonderland, a place where science meets art, and the art lasts forever.
Photos by Rowan Bradley, Yvonne Perez Emerson, and Alice Kendall