Name: Shannon “Stabby” Avery

Age: 37

Job: Tattooist

City/town: Mount Maunganui 

What does your job entail? I’m head body-piercer, lone stick’n’poker, senior apprentice in machine tattoo. Cleaning premises and equipment, man front desk, consult with tattoo clients, directing them to the appropriate tattooist which sometimes means me. I draw all day.

How long have you been doing it? Five years in total with a 12 year gap in the middle to have my three kids.

What led you to this job? Since I was a kid all I did was draw and create. I bought my first tattoo magazines at age 12, got my first tattoo and my first piercing at 15.

What attracted you to this line of work? I tried teaching, selling my paintings and prints, did my master’s degree in arts, studied arts therapy, started a successful clothing label – but tattooing is me.

What training was involved? My degree has helped, but training has mainly been as an apprentice under an established tattooist.

What do you love most about your job? Going through the ritual of body modification with another person and the relationship of it, seeing how that affects someone. The privilege of being creative.

And what are the worst bits? Pressure, stress, self-doubt.

What motivates you in your work? Seeing my own development and progress. Working alongside other artists, their support and encouragement. Never again doing mundane jobs for minimum wage is motivating.

What are your career goals? To earn a full-time living and financially supporting my family through my art. To create a solid client base who love my work, and a level of respect inside the industry.

Do you have any key mentors or people who have influenced you? The three tattooists who took a chance on me and were generous enough to spend time teaching me their trade.

Where did you grow up and what was it like? I grew up in Awanui and went to Kaitaia College. It was a small and isolated place and I never fitted in. I didn’t play sport, and was very alternative from a young age. There was art and music, but even within that my ideas didn’t fit. In some ways it fed my creativity; in others it nearly killed it completely. It was a relief when I moved to Australia to university and finally found my people, people I could relate to.


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