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Jessica Brennan | Tattoo Artist

Updated: Jun 18

Giveaway Winner Announced Feb. 13th on Handlebend Stories.

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Jessica Brennan

Elkhorn, NE

Back and forth I’ve teetered with regards to the culture of tattoos. Ultimately, I’ve always bowed away from the notion - though there have most definitely been times in my life I’ve considered getting ink done. As a “grown up”, I believe I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I’m a fan of tattoos…though the compulsion to commit to one has likely passed me by in my age.

In college I laid out line art for a few buddies who were in the market for tattoos. One was a vintage padlock. The classic model number plate riveted to its blocky body sported his area code…a nod to the close brotherhood of hometown friends recently disbanded by college years. Another was a celtic knot. The intricate woven patterns of the symmetrical design held a place in its would-be wearer’s heart that spoke to his ideas of the pathways one traverses in life; fraught with ups and downs and eventually weaving a story one could make sense of.

I think the part of tattoo art that appeals to me is the sentimental nature that so often accompanies it; I’m a sap for a good story.

I recently got to speak with Jess Brennan on a new-fangled sort of video conference app that records like a podcast. She’s a tattoo artist and half an hour absolutely flew by; it was nothing short of inspiring listening to her regard for helping to bring people's stories to life.

Jess is a college psych-major-turned-artist. As we visited, it became crystal clear to me that what she’s doing with her twist on an art degree isn’t too far a cry from the psychology she bailed on half a decade ago. I understand her concerns with building a lifetime career out of dealing with people’s sadness. Jess’ happiness shone through in a very natural and effortless way; it all made perfect sense to me.

People, though. She didn’t want to leave the notion of working with people.

As I listened to her story it seemed to melt seamlessly into the thought-process I personally subscribe to. If we don’t have people to share this life with - especially among an ever evolving technological world - what do we have?

Jess has relied heavily on her confidence as she navigated her own trail through what could have easily been a generic art degree - tailoring it to her fascination with the history of tattoo culture throughout the world. Not settling for the status quo of the curriculums laid before her, she worked creatively with her professors to paint her own art degree.

Her life post-college has evolved from selling her original art, to consulting and working with folks considering the lifelong investment of a tattoo. It struck me that she’s figured out a way to do the happy half of psychology; stepping into an emotional journey of sorts with her clients to perfect the concrete and abstract details of what becomes a wearable story…one that will ride along on the rest of their journey.

The power of a story is one that has transcended time throughout the history of human beings. Our method of communication has evolved, wildly, but it can always be simmered down to the art of storytelling. Jess doesn’t take her job lightly by any means, and her passion for this medium is unmistakable. The highest honor bestowed on a piece of art, in her mind, is to give it a life and a death. Without having ever had a tattoo myself I can’t say for sure - but I imagine the significance of a meaningful piece of work stands to change drastically over time. Life’s experiences have a method of changing our perspectives in a heavy way. A tattoo that symbolizes a mindset or experience at 23 years old might provide an entirely different understanding of one’s journey 30 or 40 years later.

What a beautiful thing.

Jess’ story to this point holds definite themes of ingenuity and resourcefulness. Her existence is fueled by the people she works with and relationships emboldened by the intimate nature of her craft. She has made this world what she wants it to be with a laser focus and creativity that is inspiring, to say the least. What better traits could one hope to find in their tattoo artist?

- Michael Stepp

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