I like tattoos. I like tattoos a lot. So when the chance came up for me to interview the owners of Other Mother Tattoo, I jumped at the opportunity. I already knew that Briana Walker and Whitney Harbin were amazing at what they did, but after our conversation, I decided to start referring to them (and all the other tattoo artists that I know) as artists—not just tattoo artists. After reading our discussion, you might choose to do the same.
What’s it like being women in charge of a tattoo shop?
Whitney: I think it’s different because it’s run by two women who understand that we are women, and we do things like women would do them.
Bri: Organized and on time. (Laughs.)
Whitney: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to run a shop as a partner with a man, and we tend to see differently on things. Men don’t understand our emotional distress.
Do you feel like you guys can bring more of a personal touch to the tattoo experience?
Bri: People tend to talk to me about a lot of stuff when I am tattooing them.
For a lack of a better way of putting it, women communicate better.
Bri: I’ll talk to somebody all day long, it doesn’t really matter.
Whitney: We talk to them about a lot of our stuff, too. It’s a two-way therapy.
Bri: It’s fun. We just have fun here.
How would you describe your style?
Bri: I don’t know. Creepy, girly, but still kind of masculine. It’s all those things combined into one.
Whitney: I do more stylized realism and photorealism.
Now for my favorite question: If you could tattoo anybody living or dead, famous or not, who would it be?
Whitney: My grandma.
Bri: I guess Lady Gaga because I just love her. Or Miley [Cyrus], something funky on her. That’s my girl.
What kind of music do you like to play when you are working?
Bri: It’s all over the place. It’s rap and emo music.
Whitney: I just play rock music. I listen to a lot of the emo/hardcore/screamo stuff, which probably drives some of my clients insane.
What’s been your favorite or most fun tattoo you have done so far?
Bri: I did a big geometric black and gray sleeve on a girl once. I really liked that piece. And there was a big torso piece; that was really dope.
Whitney: I started a Medusa back piece on a guy. He hasn’t been back to finish it. I think I ruined his day, it hurt so bad. (Laughs.)
Bri: I’ve seen her make two grown men struggle while getting their backs done.
What made you get into tattooing?
Bri: I’ve always liked art. I was trying to go to art school, and I did not like that at all. Everybody around me was covered in tattoos, so I just decided I would go that route with it. I always dug it.
Whitney: I went to college and got a fine arts degree, and in my senior year I realized I had no idea what to do with it that was going to be financially sustainable. With the style drawing that I do, I thought that tattooing might be the best way to get my art out there.
Where did you get your start?
Bri: Regicide Tattoo in Dyersburg.
Whitney: Tattoo Station in Milan.
Ten years from now, what do you hope will be different about what you are doing?
Bri: I’d love to be doing my own style of artwork on a daily basis instead of having ideas thrown at me. I’d like to say, “Hey, I’m doing this creepy girl face today,” and then go home.
Whitney: Everybody hopes when they get that far in their career, they have the volume coming in and can pick and choose what you do because you don’t have time to do it all.
You guys have your own unique styles. Is it more fun to do tattoos specifically to fit your style instead of someone coming in and saying, “I want what’s in this picture”?
Bri: You find ways to incorporate your style into the requests that people have.
Whitney: Some people let you do it; some people don’t. A lot of people haven’t really thought about it the way that we do. They see tattoos as a sticker. “They have it. I like that. I want that on me.” Or like a shirt. “I like your shirt. I want to go buy one.” But when you break it down and explain it to people, in a way that tattoo belongs to that artist and that customer. That is their tattoo; it was made for them. Why would you want to put something on you that was made for them instead of something that I’m going to make just for you? When you say it like that people usually get it, and they appreciate it.
Bri: People pay a lot of money for tattoos, so it can be annoying. They put a lot of money into the tattoo, and we put a lot of time into it, so it sucks to have someone copy your work. It’s always been funny to me that people will look on the walls and call their paintings art but not the actual tattoos themselves. I guess I myself have been guilty of the same thing.
Whitney: People get in my chair, and they’re like, “Oh, my God, you’re an artist and a painter, and you do tattoos,” and I think to myself, “It kind of goes together.”
How often do you travel to other shops?
Bri: I have been traveling every two weeks or so. . . . I’m going to Ohio in a few weeks, but we actually have some people coming here to do some collaborations, and then I will be going to Nashville to work with someone. It’s a great way to learn. When I do my collab in Nashville, I’m just going to ask him a bunch of questions. I just like to go and hang out and meet people.
Whitney: You can get in a rut if you don’t expose yourself to other people who tattoo outside of your area. I travel to get tattooed. . . . You learn something new from every person you get tattooed by.
Bri: It kind of gets the art brain going. You get so busy, and you forget to draw for fun, and then you go somewhere and have an art night, and everyone draws for fun. You come back refreshed and wanting to paint. It’s really good to just get away.
If you could get tattooed by anyone, who would it be?
Bri: Teresa Sharpe.
Whitney: Justin Hartman.
We talked aimlessly for a while about all sorts of things: what types of tattoo guns they liked, what tattoos they’ve given themselves, and even Bri’s short career on Ink Master: Angels and Whitney’s book, Of Blood and Love. In the end, I learned that one of the best parts of the job is being able to put original artwork on a person’s body forever. Creating art for a living is the dream for these two, and living out your dream is something we can all resonate with.
Other Mother Tattoo is located at 566G Carriage House Drive and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. To learn more, call them at 731.736.0817 or visit their website.
Austin Thompson is serial entrepreneur, baseball dad, founder of Thompson Industries and Random Pieces of Wood, unintentional Darius Rucker look-alike, and a lover of all things Batman. Although originally from California, he has proudly called Jackson home since 2001.
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, photographer Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She lives with her husband Jordan and daughter November in Midtown and loves her community at City Fellowship Baptist Church.