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Kerry Burke, behind the scenes of a tattoo artist

Updated: Mar 27, 2019


I am a Tattoo Artist. I apprenticed under Tattoo Artist, Missy Rhysing while in Taos, NM. I now own a tattoo and piercing studio with my husband, Derek Ian, called Heart of Gold Body Arts.

What was it like the first time you tattooed someone on your own!

Well, I tattooed myself first. After my apprenticeship ended, my teacher moved away so it was a sort of baptism by fire! I love tattooing and was super excited to start tattooing on my own.

Have you always been an artist?

I have always been an artist but not usually on paper. I did some welding and pottery in high school and was president of the National Art Honors Society my junior year. I didn't do any art in college.

What does a typical workday look like?

I do two tattoos per day, five days a week and then spend most of my "off" time drawing for the next days clients. Right now I'm booked out six months and that feels pretty overwhelming. I'd like to book out a month at a time in the future.

What's your tattooing style?

I focus on black botanical tattooing. My tattoos are intricate and pretty detailed. I hope the people wearing them feel bad ass and beautiful. I used to try to be a traditional tattooer and keep up with all the boys in the craft. Designing each image was like wrestling my insides to make something it couldn't. Once I started to tattoo more feminine imagery I really fell in love with tattooing and feel that I now can design custom tattoos with authenticity and ease. It has taken some time for me to figure out what being a strong woman looks like. I thought being a strong woman meant being a dude. Once I let go of that everything got easier and better.

What's the longest tattoo you have ever worked on? How many hours?

I have done a one session back piece that took nine hours. It was too long for both me and the client! Most of my appointments are 3-4 hours and anything longer I like to break into multiple sessions.

What's the most painful part of the body?

Everyone is so different when it comes to pain. Some people think ribs are the worst. Feet are pretty bad. If you take care of yourself a few days before your appointment, it makes it easier. Drink water, eat healthy, and don't be hungover.

What's the most common spot people request for tattoo placement?

I go through phases of different placements. Sometimes I'll do months of upper arms, then months of thighs...

Any advice for first timers?

Relax, breath, have fun :)

What's the price range for tattoos?

I generally charge $175 an hour with a $200 project minimum.

How old is your average client?

My clients range from 20ish to 50ish. A lot of my clients are first timers or not heavily tattooed. I think art is approachable and not scary to un-tattooed people. I do a lot of botanicals and ornamental geometric. I love when I tattoo a mother and daughter together. I feel like my images are timeless and can be appreciated by anyone.

What's your personal tattoo story?

I started getting tattooed when I was 19 and fell in love with tattooing right away. I love getting tattooed by lots of different artist. Its crazy how differently everyone does it. Every shop is really different. There's a really cool shop near me that I go to a lot to get tattooed. It's kind of an old school traditional shop and the artist in there thinks it's crazy that I offer my clients tea when they come in.

How many tattoos do you have and want?

I have a lot of tattoos I guess. Ha ha. I'd like to have more. Some parts of my body are off limits to tattoos since I've had my daughter. I probably won't get my face tattooed until she's in collage. I'd like to be completely covered by 80.

How long have you been in the Carolinas? Why did you move here?

I’ve been in the Carolinas for three years. My Husband and I were living in Taos, NM and wanted to move home but were not interested in returning to Maryland. North Carolina was our version of moving home.

Where do you currently reside?

I live in Hendersonville, NC- where my husband and I are slowly renovating a fixer upper and opened our tattoo and piercing studio, Heart of Gold Body Arts.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Maryland on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. As a young adult, I bounced around between Baltimore and DC.

What was your upbringing like?

I have six sisters and a brother, so things were pretty wild. We were "free range" kids. I spent my summers outdoors stretching my imagination. I played house a lot and spent a hole summer in a hoop skirt and bonnet. There were always a few naked babies playing with a hose and bucket and my mom would spend a lot of time in the garden. My dad worked multiple jobs to support our large family and wasn't home a ton. He always nurtured me in a special way though. He found a way to get to every chorus concert and every dance recital. He would endlessly talk about getting the family band together. All my sisters sing and he was sure we could be the next Jackson 5. I was going to be the front woman and all my sisters would be my back up singers. I'm not sure how much they all liked that idea. He would bring home new microphones, reel to reel recorders, and whatever he could get his hands on. We would practice hours into the night singing Mariah Carey and Bonnie Raitt. There was always someone at the piano and someone playing guitar. I moved out pretty young and distanced myself from my family as a young adult. I married the love of my life in Portland, OR while on a cross country trip and settled in NM. I lost touch with a lot of my family while out west but now my siblings and parents are endlessly important to me, and I try to spend time with them as much as I can.



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