Girl Talk: Boss lady Austina Obscure of Holier Than Thou tattoos and piercings talks making it in a ‘man’s world’
The past century has brought about many professional changes for women. We took ourselves out of the kitchen and into the workplace. What started out as a pool of secretaries and school teachers has evolved into a new generation of construction workers, doctors and CEOs. The Weekender sat down with a local female business owner who has stepped into a profession formally known to be a “man’s world” and has taken it by storm. Austina Obscure of Holier Than Thou tattoos and piercings has opened new doors and has never looked back.
What made you decide to get into the tattooing profession?
I started off as a body piercer and was opening Holier as a piercing studio exclusively. I decided, after some persuasion from friends to hire a tattoo artist for the spot as well and within the first year of business, I decided to get some good tattoo equipment and learn as much as possible. I decided that regardless of what artist I had at the studio I would always be able to keep the doors open on my own.
Were you an apprentice? What was your training?
No. I never had an official apprenticeship because I was the boss from day one. At times, I regret this decision and kind of wish I had someone whipping me. Instead, I truly beat myself up and still do. I dove into any information I could get online and from the various artists that came through my studio. I also started getting tattooed by badass artists and asking lots of questions.
Who are your biggest influences?
My influences have certainly changed over the years … In the beginning, my biggest influence was the entire All or Nothing Crew from Atlanta, Georgia and locally, I was infatuated with Tony Mancia.
I also have had the opportunity to get close to and become good friends with Brian Murphy from 3rd Dimension Tattoo in Stroudsburg. He definitely has helped me throughout the years and not only is an amazing tattoo artist that pioneered the bio organic, bio mech morph style, but is also an incredible oil painter. Right now, there are so many artists to admire, it would be hard to pinpoint just one for me. As far as looking up to women, in the very beginning, there weren’t really many that I could relate to. Now there are so many coming out of the woodwork it’s quite incredible.
From where do you draw your artistic inspiration?
I get inspired by so many things. I can find inspiration in just about anything I see or feel on a daily basis.
What are some of the struggles you have encountered as a woman in this industry?
It is definitely a man’s world. It has been difficult to buddy up with guys when they are more likely to choose their male peers over you. Things have definitely changed from eight years ago though.
As a business owner, have you experienced any hurdles because you’re a woman?
Well the tattoo world was and is a man’s world. Women, at this time, are definitely making a solid presence. For me, I find it difficult to employ and keep male artists at my studio. It all starts out on the right foot and it seems after a short amount of time, they can’t handle me making constructive criticisms. They get super salty if I need to reprimand them. They do not like that I have a large amount of clientele and that I am usually busier than they are. I feel if they looked at any of this with some common sense their egos would not get the best of them. Early on before I got some solid footing on the craft of tattooing and properly managing my business, keeping guys as employees was super easy because I “needed” them.
What type of tattoos do you consider to be your specialty?
I love doing horror and realism tattoos.
What is the most difficult thing about being an artist and how do you overcome it?
The constant need to improve and change is the most difficult thing. People can talk all they want but no one is as hard on me as I am.
Girl Talk began in 2012 as a telltale horror story of the city’s most epic dating disasters and has evolved into a column about love, life experiences and growing up. Melissa also has a weekly Girl Talk TV segment on PA Live, WBRE, and a radio segment every Wednesday on 98.5 KRZ.