How I Made It

Shaughnessy Keely, Cosmetic Tattoo & Micropigmentation Artist

Shaughnessy Keely is a highly-specialized cosmetic tattoo artist who owns her own studio in Vancouver. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

shaughnessy keely sits on wall wearing jeans and white shirt with long blonde hair

Shaughnessy Keely; @shaughnessy

How do you describe your job to your family?

“I tattoo foreheads and nipples” always gets a good laugh! My family is SO supportive of my job and they are always so interested in learning more about the industry. Our studio works with clients who may have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, alopecia or trichotillomania, or those who are just looking for a more natural look after over-tweezing in the early 2000s. We also work with lots of male clients, transgender clients, clients who have undesirable scarring and those who have undergone a mastectomy or other reconstructive surgery.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I attended Emily Carr University of Art & Design for drawing, painting, digital design and printmaking. I am also fully trained and certified in cosmetic and areola restorative tattooing from multiple mentors.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I worked as a studio manager at a tattoo shop and art gallery in downtown Vancouver. It was a great experience and I gained so much knowledge of the tattoo industry as well as how to curate art shows, plan events and manage a large staff. All of this has come in handy while starting and running my own businesses.

What’s the weirdest gig you’ve ever done solely for money?

Back when I was still trying to grow my Instagram following, I would say yes to brand collaborations because they paid well, not necessarily because I loved the product. I’ve promoted teas and clothing that really didn’t mean much to me or reflect my true opinions. Unfortunately, a lot of influencers start out this way, but I feel lucky that I am now able to be very selective and only work with brands that I truly love and respect!

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

When I first started, no one was posting before-and-after transformations on the internet. As well, no one was willing to tattoo fluffy, natural brows—especially if that included adding any stray-looking hairs. The art student in me knew that this was the best way to create a realistic and undetectable result, so I went for it! I started tattooing men’s brows and freckles—features that would normally be considered flaws—and the internet loved it! Now I get clients on a daily basis asking for fluffy, stray hairs in their brows and bumps and wrinkles on their nipple tattoos.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Never stop learning! You can always do better. Keep striving to perfect your craft.

Who is your favourite person to follow on social media from your industry? What do you love about their social feeds?

I love following my fellow artists at Studio Sashiko. It’s amazing to watch them grow and see their styles and photos evolve. They are so passionate about their jobs and they put the same amount of love and respect into my business as I do.

Do you think you earn a similar wage as your male counterparts in your industry?

Yes! I think if you are a passionate and talented artist, you’ll go far, regardless of gender. It’s so awesome to see women rising up and creating their own businesses! It’s also amazing to see so many men succeeding in careers within the beauty industry.

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