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Life & Work with Kim Deakins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Deakins. 

Hi Kim, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I spent much of my youth hanging out at one of the local tattoo studios in my hometown of Johnson City, TN. I was underaged and deeply immersed in what we considered the underground punk and skateboarding scene but styled myself as a whimsical goth rocker: head to toe black with an occasional sprinkling of glitter for good measure. My shyness, insecurity, and angst pushed me towards artistic expression though I would have never had the self-awareness to articulate that as a teenager. From an early age creating art had always been my greatest strength and my family supported and nurtured this inclination. My natural gravitation towards other artists and emotionally deficient people sparked an interest in tattooing. That was 20 years ago. The tattoo industry has wildly evolved for the better, mostly, and there are plenty of perfectly lovely tattoo artists currently roaming the planet. 

My parents were disinterested in my ideas of becoming a tattoo artist so I enrolled in art school at the local university in my hometown. I had grown up around teachers so my plan was to become a professor of the arts which was a more palatable choice for my family. I graduated with a BFA in 2006 then immediately attended The University of Georgia the following fall. I was granted full tuition and an assistantship which required that I teach introductory level courses to freshmen. This was my break. My time to shine in the art of teaching. Turns out I was mediocre at teaching and because I was and still am introverted, teaching absolutely exhausted me. It was not for me. I realized very quickly that the bureaucracy of academia did not foster my experimental methods of teaching, required a lot of preparation, and ultimately left me in a less than desirable position to focus on my actual art, the whole reason I was in school, to begin with. 

One beautiful summer day my partner and I were driving down 441 on our way back home from a lengthy day of hiking. As I hung my bare feet out of the passenger’s side window, I expressed to my partner the urgency of my situation and the need to figure out a different career. His response was quick and nonchalant, “you should tattoo.” And thus, the tattoo flame in my mind was reignited and I immediately took action. 

At that point, I was in my second year of graduate school and had been out of the tattoo scene for quite some time. I had spoken with a handful of tattoo artists that we knew about apprenticeships and the most prevalent advice was, “get more tattoos.” My apprenticeship inquiries were met with condescension and a smattering of patronizing intrigue, presumably due to my unfortunate position as a female, but I persisted because that’s who I am. I already had several tattoos at that point but began my journey of receiving tattoos from the local artists in Athens in the hopes of receiving an apprenticeship. The tone of not taking me seriously persisted until one day a classmate mentioned that her friend that owned a new tattoo shop in town was interested in taking me on as an apprentice. So, I met with the two owners of the shop with my meager portfolio in hand terrified that my day of judgment had arrived. They were perfect gentlemen. One of them was slightly gruff and of course, that one was to be my mentor for the next year. 

I plugged away creating art for school, painting tattoo flashes for my apprenticeship, cleaning, scrubbing, and partying hard. My mentor was salty and very traditional but kind most of the time. He was a true Renaissance man. A fixer and builder of all. An artist, mechanic, carpenter, and visionary. He had an interesting past himself which explained a lot. A bi-product of his upbringing was the need to frequently move. So, after a year of teaching me, he decided too just that. My father had literally just passed away so my head was in a dark place. I was still working under my mentor’s partner but was let go shortly after my mentor left. I decided to put on my adult pants, get my portfolio together and walk into the local Athens tattoo shops and ask for a job. I went to every shop in town. No one was hiring. I finally landed a job in Statham in a tiny shop about 15 minutes outside Athens with two other artists. One was the owner and he was nice. The other artist left shortly after I arrived taking some of my machines and original artwork with him. I worked there for roughly nine months and tattooed about one person a week. Yikes. Thankfully I was contacted by the best shop in Athens at the time and began working there immediately. I was still heavily grieving over the loss of my father but threw myself into my work and kept my head down. I quickly built up a reputation and clientele. And at the end of my five years mark, I decided to open my own shop with the help and support of my friends and family. 

Pink Goblin Tattoo was born July 1, 2016. My very first appointment was a client that flew all the way from northwestern Canada! No pressure on the first day or anything. I functioned as a private studio for three years until I was joined by the lovely and talented Lydia Hunt. Together we focused on building the brand, community outreach, quality tattoo services, and client care. The studio offers a fun and relaxing environment open to all. Though COVID has put limitations on some of our offerings we are running strong and having a ball. We currently have three full-time tattoo artists, one apprentice, and a fabulous manager. Despite the burning world around us, we are happy and in love. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
At times, yes. Others, no. The usual suspects, deaths, loss, global pandemics, social inequities, and unrest, and belligerent/ mentally ill presidents. The pandemic coupled with a toxic presidency and a slew of national issues has by far been the most challenging portion of my career. The stakes are high when the livelihoods of others are involved. We survived the initial effects of the pandemic and the aforementioned so we have high hopes to survive the current and future challenges we face. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I have been a professional tattoo artist for twelve years. I specialize in botanical blackwork, nature-oriented, and full-color styles. I am most proud of my clean line execution, compositions, and client care. 

I would say my ability to listen to the client, work together to make sure they get what they are looking for and my positive vibe coupled with a professional, organized, and relaxing environment set me apart from others. I have a keen ability to read between the lines which allow me to know what the client is looking for even if they are unsure or unable to articulate it. This always exceeds the expectations of the client which is what we love. I have a long history of art education and a love of nature and the sciences. I think this attracts clients with similar interests and enhances my ability to produce nature-based art. 

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Being with my friends and family, adventures, foraging for mushrooms, being in nature, swimming, learning, making art. I feel grounded and rejuvenated when I’m with my friends and family. Being in nature helps me feel relaxed and adventurous at the same time. It helps me feel whole and connected to nature and my surroundings. I am naturally curious so reading and learning help facilitate my curiosity. Swimming helps me feel weightless especially when the reality of life is heavy. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
@dedegiddens
@ecam44

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