Born and raised in Finland, Sara Fabel started her career as an artist at Aalto University, learning art education and illustration. Today, she lives and works as a tattoo artist in LA, doing modelling gigs on the side. In 2012, Sara Fabel apprenticed to become a tattoo artist, and she’s been succeeding as one ever since. With 444k followers on Instagram, it’s safe to say that people love Sara’s art. We wanted to discover more about the person behind the exceptional designs, so we interviewed her to find out.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a tattoo artist?
I honestly think the best part of tattooing is the client. Working with a large project, I often get to meet my clients multiple times, and during these visits you get to know the person and exchange life stories. Since I do long sessions and specialize in blackwork, I have the option to refuse a lot of design ideas and thus create a very specific clientele. This wasn’t always the case though.
Q: What are challenges that you’ve encountered as a woman in the tattoo industry?
There are some serious issues with the tattooing world, especially when it comes to starting out in the industry, depending on the shop, country, and area, of course. I have heard horror stories of female apprentices having to perform sexual favors to those teaching them. There’s also the issue of general sexual harassment. Apprenticeships can be hard regardless, no matter the sex of the apprentice, and there is a lot of bullying when it comes to teaching newcomers in the hierarchy. But I do think it is especially hard for females, as the industry still is very male dominated.
Q: What are your strengths as a tattoo artist?
Patience. As a former special needs teacher and, as a teacher in general, I have noticed that patience and staying calm is a big plus. Tattooing, after all, is a service profession, and we are there to serve clients. As in all service industries, there will always be easy and difficult clients.
Q: What’s your funniest experience tattooing a client?
I wish I had funny stories. I have fun, but nothing particularly funny. There have been a few odd experiences of mentally unstable clients walking into the shop and fellow coworkers having to manage themselves through awkward situations. And note to future clients: it makes an awkward session when one wears a ball gag while being tattooed.
Though Sara is well aware of the issues women face in the tattoo industry, she has an even broader awareness of systemic issues in the industry. Regardless of the challenges, her talent has shone through, and she’s an extremely successful artist today. Check out more of her work on her Instagram, @sarafabel