Director’s Statement: Beverly Yuen Thompson (website)
I got my first tattoo at seventeen; it was nothing special, regrettable even, immortalizing an unfortunate relationship. But it was my first introduction to the world of tattooing; and more specifically, the world of women’s tattooing. I had accidentally ended up in one of the top all-female tattoo artists’ shops in the nation—Madame Vyvyn Lazonga in Seattle, Washington. My second tattoo was much more appropriately thought about and unique to my personality. From then on, I was hooked. At nineteen, my good friend was a tattoo artist, Charissa Vaunderbroad, and I spent my days studying in the tattoo studio, observing the customers. As I became more heavily tattooed, social reactions to my visible tattoos began to impact my life. I was interested in finding out about the experience of other heavily tattooed women and the ways in which they managed these social sanctions. Thus, the idea for Covered was born.
Tattoo culture has now entered the mainstream with its exponential growth in popularity, reality television shows, and nationwide tattoo conventions. While Kat Von D might have made it to television stardom as a female tattooist, other women’s voices from the tattoo community have been notably absent. When women are present, such as in tattoo magazines, they are often sexually objectified. Covered sets out to remedy these oversights by shedding light on the history of women in the tattoo industry and to share the voices and perspectives of heavily tattooed women in the United States.
Covered advocates for freedom of personal expression, be it tattooing or other forms of adornment. For women who have been thinking of their desired tattoo for years, or for those who would love to become tattoo artists, Covered encourages them to follow their bliss.
“Filming for Covered”
Filming for Covered began at the annual, all-female tattoo convention Marked for Life in Orlando, Florida in 2006, the only tattoo convention exclusively for female artists. The convention attendees, both “old timers” and new artists, provided a welcoming atmosphere in which to enter the world of female tattooing. Their stories recounted the hardship of entering the profession in the 1970s, contrasted against the comparative ease of those coming of age in the industry today. I met Sofia Estrella, a 25-year veteran, with a love of global spirituality and fine art. At last, I had found the perfect tattooist for my desired Hindu goddess Saraswati backpiece. Commissioning Sofia Estrella for the large scale tattoo was one way in which to guarantee that she would be a significant part of this documentary.
I returned to my hometown Spokane, Washington, and included my good friend Charissa Vaunderbroad, along with her mother, Constance Eller, from Constant Creations Tattoo Studio. Charissa was able to arrange for twenty of her favorite customers to come to the shop during a week of filming. While Charissa tattooed in the front room; we created a makeshift filming studio in the back. I collected stories from these women about their love of art, self-expression, and the often painful experience of dealing with social rejection.
The filming for Covered spanned three and a half-years and took me across the United States where I interviewed seventy women who were tattooists and/or tattoo collectors. This movie is based upon their stories.