Q&A With Kaia Holbrook: a Tattoo Artist at Story of My Life Tattoo Co.

Kaia Holbrook is an unmatched tattoo artist, who has made a home at the local Story of My Life Tattoo Co., located at 103 E Laurel St. She has only been tattooing for three and a half years, but demonstrates mastery in her lines, colors and designs. As a local to Fort Collins since the age of 3, Fort Collins was the best place for her to establish her name and clientele with the Story of My Life family. When she isn’t strutting her stuff at the shop, she indulges in life with her daughter, Laila, and her boyfriend, Blue.

Kaia shows herself tattooing on her Instagram page.

I had the opportunity to interview this inspiring artist via email.

Q: Why did you decide to choose the career path to tattooing as an artist?

A: Growing up I was always very creative and artistic, drawing has never felt like a hobby to me but more of a necessity for making it through my day. I was a very shy child and I am still a quiet adult. Art has been a way of speaking for me, it is how I get my thoughts or frustrations out when I have no words to describe them. It is my way to understand and connect with the world around me. I remember in high school my notebooks would be filled with more doodles than notes, everyone knew me as the short, quiet girl with her nose in her sketchbook. Art was the one thing I have always called mine and I built my identity around it.

Q: So, what drew you to the Story of my Life Tattoo shop, and considering how you said you’re a shy person, how did you get established there as an artist?

A: My boyfriend knew the guys who worked at Story. After telling him I was trying to get my foot into a shop he said “I have someone you need to meet.” I remember everything about this day. I remember the smell of the sticky summer air, the outfit I was wearing, the syrupy taste of the Shirley temple I was drinking, picking at my nails and I remember how f***ing nervous I was. I introduced myself to the artists with a firm handshake and a smile and they told me to bring my portfolio in. I did so and after that I would stop by the shop once in a while nudging at their heels reminding them that I was still around and wanting to learn more than ever. In the summer of 2013 the manager called me and told me I got the apprenticeship.

Q: What kind of tasks did your apprenticeship entail and what did it teach you about tattooing?

A: A big part of an apprenticeship is proving your worth and earning your stay. It is taking out the trash, cleaning the shop, running errands, breaking down and setting up stations, answering the phone, talking to customers, taking notes, watching your mentor tattoo and lots of drawing. You don’t get paid while being an apprentice, so at that time I was a part time nanny.

I was very anxious to get started and it felt like a big part of the time I wasn’t getting anywhere. Now that I look back on it, I realize that there was a lesson in every little chore those guys had me do. They were my Mr.Miyagis and taught me a skill no one can ever take away. I did my very first tattoo three and a half years ago. I had a lot of family and friends lend out their skin for me to practice on. It took awhile, but I slowly got the hang of it.

Q: What has your experience been like at Story of My Life Tattoo Co. as an artist?

A: I have spent the last 4 years of my life with this shop. My coworkers aren’t just coworkers, they are my second family, my big brothers. They are the ones I call when I need help, the ones I would sit with when I need advice, they make me smile when I don’t want to. They have helped me through so many rough times, they took a chance on me, taught me everything I know, raised me and help me grow into the artist and person I am today. Story of My Life is my home. I am head over heels in love with my career, I am proud of what I do and I feel so very fortunate. I still wake up many mornings in disbelief that this is my life, I could never imagine doing anything else.

One of Kaia’s pieces on a client, shown on her Instagram page.

Q: What are some of the challenges and rewards of being a tattoo artist rather than an artist that focuses primarily on another medium?

A: Just like with anything else, you are going to make mistakes but with tattoos most of the time you can’t fix those mistakes. That is something I am trying to accept. I still look back to pieces I have done three years ago and beat myself up over what went wrong or what could have been done better. Because I am so hard on myself, I can honestly say I try my very best with every single piece I put onto skin.

Another difficulty is the time and energy this job takes. I draw more than I eat and sleep. I don’t get to leave my work at work. Next to my family, my job is my entire life and I do not have time or the energy for anything else.

But all of the time, energy, stress and frustration is worth every single day because I think I am making a difference. I feel lucky that people like my artwork enough to wear it on their bodies for their entire life. It is a very humbling experience to add an image to someone that has significant and deep meaning to their life. I have met so many incredible, kind, people and I have heard many inspiring stories. I get to do my favorite thing everyday and support my family at the same time. My career is greatly rewarding and not a day goes by that it was not worth all of the hard work.