The Art is in the Tattoo

Even as a child, 818 local Char Quirino was always an artist.  She drew and painted.  Growing up watching Dragon Ball Z and Sailormoon, she would trace over images and modify them to make them her own.  Her family support and validation of her artwork contributed to her pursuing art through her teenage years.

Photo Credit: Char Quirino

Becoming a mom in her 20s changed the trajectory of her journey.  Her focus became making money to raise and support her child.  She went back to school and took a course in the medical field.  Her first job was working at a medical building in Ventura and Balboa as a medical biller and coder where she worked for seven years.  Eventually, she met a friend who was an at-home piercer and tattoo artist who encouraged her to explore artistry through tattoos and that was the push that set her on her journey.

She started training and practicing after her 9 to 5.  Eventually, her friends who were tattoo artists let her work at their establishments.  Around 2013, 2014, she started taking on referrals and really got her start as a tattoo artist.  She started with friends then friends of friends.

“I started off with referrals from people I trust.  And it really worked out.  We work in such a small pocket of the neighborhood that things usually go around.  But we have a nice community here in the San Fernando Valley,” shares Char.

In December 2020, Char finally took a bold move and opened her own tattoo parlor, the Queens of Needles on Reseda Blvd—at spot that she had seen four years ago.  It was nothing short of serendipitous.  Char comments: “I saw this spot four years ago while I was driving and dreamt about having a tattoo parlor there.  Fast forward to now and this is where the shop is.”

Because of her prior experiences working at tattoo parlors with predominantly male artists, she wanted her shop to have an all-female staff of talented and phenomenal tattoo artists: “Struggles give you character. Everyone needs to go through their own struggle to grow into the person they’re meant to be.  My mom’s a bad ass bitch.  She’s a boss—someone who knows what’s going on and how to lead a pack.  And I’ve been surrounded by bad ass women who became my mentors. I want that for the women who work at the shop–to feel that their supported and can grow as artists. And to know that they are surrounded by bad ass women”

Photo Credit: Char Quirino

Having opened her shop in the middle of the pandemic, tattoos meant something more to their customers.  It became ink therapy to those who walked through their doors.

“The pandemic made a lot of women feel a certain way about themselves.  After getting tattooed, they walk out, and they feel like this new person.  It gave rise to this broken heartedness, a rise to a ‘fuck it, let’s just do it’ attitude.  As a tattoo artist, sitting with them for a prolonged period, there’s an exchange of energies, and you become a sort of sponge to those emotions.  It was important to sort of step away from that and take care of our mental health too.”

And that’s what sets Queen of Needles apart: its heart.

“We genuinely care about our clients.  It’s more than the money.  We want you to get a bomb tattoo and introduce you to the artist that’s going to make it happen.  When you walk into our establishment, it’s a different atmosphere.  We’re more nurturing and bring genuine care to the table.  We care about our clients throughout the process from choosing your tattoo to post care.  It’s important to check on them and follow up.”

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