Body art competition series Ink Master with host Dave Navarro is back on the Paramount Network on Tuesday. Season 13 will feature twenty regional American artists who will compete for the top title.
And this season, they have structured it as a “turf war.” But truth be told, one contestant, Jordan Allred of Boise, Idaho’s Born Weird Tattoo Studio, is looped into the Midwest category. The Pacific Northwest city of Boise, Idaho is clearly not the Midwest.
Despite that stretch of a geographical categorization by the show’s producers, Jordan’s eclectic and spotless two-story studio sits on Broadway in the shadow of Boise State University. Their big blue turf field is where the Mountain West Conference champs Broncos play football.
Broadway is a major north-south city boulevard that boasts many tattoo parlors and studios in the fastest growing USA city. Boise is the subject of a lot of news ink right now, a growing city that funds public art projects and promotes the arts in every conceivable way, even in the city’s homeless shelters and the annual late March week-long Treefort Music Festival which is also heavy on food, storytelling, craft drinks, yoga, comedy and art of every stripe.
Even their stalwart cultural beacon, the Boise Philharmonic (Boise Phil) lends their musicians free of charge to enhance the city’s nonprofit events with their classical music performances. Boise is absolutely bursting with live music, public art, trees, craft cocktail lounges, killer pizza, Basque, pub and Greek food, craft distilleries and breweries, river walks, bike paths, and people sporting retro-cool ink all over.
It’s also a young town, with good looking men sporting high and tight groomed hair with long beards, and in Jordan Allred’s case, her styling reflects the city’s love for body ink combined with classic pin-up beauty, platinum blonde hair and carefully curated movie star glam.
Monsters and Critics traveled to Boise’s Born Weird Tattoo Studio to sit down with ink trendsetter Jordan and talk about her work, the competition and newsworthy things going on around the City of Trees.
Monsters and Critics: Jordan, are you a Boise native?
Jordan Allred: I am. Well, technically I was born in Washington, but I moved here when I was two. So it’s hard to say that I’m even from Washington because all I’ve known is Idaho and Boise and Meridian.
M&C: Let’s talk about your design and your art ethos. What ink you like to put on and to put on people. What’s your wheelhouse?
Jordan Allred: My style is black or gray. I typically don’t do any color tattoos, even though I did a lot in the past. But I have a love for black and gray work. And I really liked detailed, fine line, illustrative work and I really love tattooing floral and nature. I love doing animal portraits, I love doing portraits of people.
It is not completely confined. I really like the look of black and gray and delicate, even though fine line, people think that maybe it may fade quicker because it’s not so bold. But if you know how to apply it into the skin and you’re not causing any trauma or anything like that, fine line tattoos will hold up over time. I really like doing fine line, illustrative work.
M&C: How did the show producers find you?
Jordan Allred: They found me on Instagram. I didn’t apply, I didn’t contact them in any way. I was just on my Instagram and I saw a message in my direct message box, my inbox. And the casting producer had messaged me and she just said, “This would be really cool if you were interested, we’d love to do an interview with you.”
I’ve never really watched Ink Master. I’ve seen very little of it. Honestly I had never even considered doing it or thought about it or anything like that. I thought about it for a little bit and then I said, “Okay, well let’s see what happens.”
M&C: It is a testament for the power of Instagram, really, for any artist.
Jordan Allred: I love Instagram.
M&C: Did they bring you to Los Angeles for a casting meeting or did they come to you?
Jordan Allred: I did a FaceTime interview with them. And then it took a really long time. I mean, the TV industry is a lucrative and complicated thing, so they couldn’t give me any answers if I was in or not. It took a while.
But I did that interview. And then, finally, they said, “Okay, you’re in, we’re going to fly you out to New York.”
I went to New York and I’d never traveled alone before. I mean, I had flown to Seattle really quickly by myself, but I’d never done anything like that alone and not far away and that weird. I never thought I would go to New York, even just to visit. I was just floored. It’s [New York] a huge city. Huge. The show flew me out to New York, all by myself and I just said, “Why not?”
M&C: Why do you think that they put Boise, Idaho in Midwest category? That one really struck me.
Jordan Allred: A lot of people are kind of confused about that. And I consider us fairly Pacific Northwest. We are Pacific Northwest. And I mean, we’re not sitting right on the coast or anything, but I guess that’s how they can kind of divide it up.
I think that there are tons of people that are kind of confused with the way that they broke up the regions in the United States. But I’m not complaining because I like team Midwest in the show, they’re the coolest guys I’ve ever met, ever.
M&C: Who’s on your team for team Midwest?
Jordan Allred: Team Midwest is Jerrel Larkins from Greeley, Colorado. Kelly Severtson, from Chicago, Illinois. And we have Frank Ready, who’s a repeat contestant on Ink Master, and he is from Midwest City, Oklahoma. And then there’s Jake Parsons from Denver, Colorado.
M&C: Now, is the show completely done filming? Is it wrapped? So you know who wins?
Jordan Allred: Nobody knows who wins. The finale airs in April. So we got to watch the whole season to figure it out. And then the finale is live in Las Vegas and that’s when Ink Master is chosen.
M&C: So there were no eliminations?
Jordan Allred: There [are] eliminations, yes. So some people do go home earlier than others. And I mean, it’s a competition show and you do get eliminated.
M&C: What drew you to this career?
Jordan Allred: Being in the art world my entire life. I mean, my earliest memory is drawing. I can’t even remember when I first started because I was so young. I just took every art class available to me and I never stopped drawing. My family was really supportive and pushed me and said, “Keep going, you’re really good.”
M&C: Are there college classes for this or did you go to a special art school? Like there’s Otis in Los Angeles, the Art Institute. Is there one here in Boise?
Jordan Allred: We have some art courses here that you can take. I think CWI does it, but BSU [Boise State University] definitely had some really awesome art courses. But we don’t have a specific art institute.
Boise State is just like the main institute that has art courses. And we don’t have a tattoo school. So example, Portland, Oregon, they have tattoo school. Which is kind of weird because some people in the tattoo industry, they don’t agree with that.
Because they’re just pumping [out] some artists that aren’t earning their apprenticeship or they just think it’s cool to be a tattoo artist and they can just pay to go to school for it.
When, in the tattoo industry, you really have to work hard to find somebody that will mentor you. And that’s how I got my education, I found a respected tattoo artist and I paid him money to, in return, teach me his skills and art.
M&C: You’re putting ink into skin, you’re using needles, do you need a license? How does that work?
Jordan Allred: In the state of Idaho, there are no regulations for tattooing, which is crazy.
So many other states have actual regulations. I mean, it’s so weird that hair salons and cosmetologists, they have regulations and we do not, as tattoo artists in Idaho.
So it is super easy for people to just open up a tattoo shop if they want. That is why I really urge people in Idaho to pay attention to who they’re going to and to do their research.
M&C: What should they be looking for?
Jordan Allred: They should be looking for, obviously, good tattoos. They should be looking at the quality tests, they should go to the tattoo shop and meet the artist(s) in person and see for themselves and make an assessment as to if it’s a clean shop.
They should ask them questions like, “Do you sterilize? Do you use disposable equipment?” Things like that.
M&C: Do you know if there’s a state that’s more regulated or is the most regulated? Do you know where it is the hardest to be a tattoo artist in your discussions with your cast members?
Jordan Allred: Yes. Just recently I’ve kind of started learning more about like the other states and how different it is there and what regulations they have. California has strict regulations, Oregon has strict regulations. Boston, Massachusetts has really strict ones, too.
You have to go through a lot of hoops to get licensed there. And you have to take like classes.
M&C: Right. I mean, if you’re putting a needle in someone’s arm or part of their body, I would think you would have to know what you’re doing.
Jordan Allred: Absolutely. Well, we’re working with blood-borne pathogens so we’re exposed to people’s bodily fluids, we’re exposed to blood and plasma and in close quarters as well.
Here, it’s not mandatory for you to be blood-borne pathogen certified and take courses like that. But a lot of more like pristine shops will do that no matter what, or be CPR certified as well.
Because we’re inflicting pain and we’re dealing with blood and people will pass out or people will … if you cross-contaminate, if you get blood on you, if you poke your finger with a needle, you really need to understand what that means and what you need to do.
I am blood-borne pathogen certified, I’m also CPR certified as well. Even though there isn’t regulation for licensing that has to happen in Idaho, people that care will go through what they need to and be educated.
M&C: And that’s what you would urge people in Idaho to do, is to look for those things?
Jordan Allred: Absolutely. Be educated.
M&C: What was the feeling that you had the first time you ever gave someone a tattoo and it really came out great? What was that like and how old were you?
Jordan Allred: I was 17 when I got into the tattoo world…just a kid. I got my apprenticeship and I started learning. It took a long time for me to be happy with putting ink on people. You have to do a lot of practice and it’s a lot of trial and error, and you have to find some friends that don’t care if they have a bad tattoo on them because you do have to practice.
There’s other ways you can practice as well. You can tattoo fruit and I tattooed fruit, oranges and watermelon, even. Yes, you can practice with that. And it’s not a flat surface either, and people aren’t just flat canvases, they have curves and everything. And so working with more rounded surfaces but practicing, I did that and it helps.
But you can also buy fake skin. It’s silicone skin and it gives you the feel of tattooing and everything, but people’s skin is different than anything else I’ve ever done.
When I started tattooing and designing tattoos for people, it was the most incredible feeling in the world that somebody wanted my art on their body. And I was giving them a little piece of me as well. It wasn’t just all about my art, it was about the experience of giving that piece of art to somebody and falling in love with it just as much as they did as they’d walk out the door. And that art piece just lives in this world with us.
But it took a long time for me. It’s hard work and it was very scary starting at first. It took a very long time to be comfortable. It was a leap of faith, for sure.
And there was a lot of moments where [me] being a really young female and just trying so hard…there were a lot of times where I was just like, “I really hope that I can figure this out and produce really great work. And find my style and what I’m happy with and what other people are happy with.”
M&C: There’s a popular show called Black Ink Crew, where there’s a lot of antagonism between different crews in Chicago and between tattoo crews. Does that exist in Boise?
Jordan Allred: I think that we don’t really have like “beef” with anybody. As like being good tattoo shops in Idaho, there’s quite a few of them and we are on Broadway Avenue and we’re close together.
But there isn’t a lot of antagonizing anybody. We genuinely respect each other and respect each other. Like the client base, we aren’t mad when maybe my client decides to go across the street for a piece. The art community and tattoo community here is, I say, it’s really friendly. We respect each other, we’re all in the same thing together. And we all love art and we all respect tattooing. And so for the most part, I think everybody’s friends in the community.
There’s not really any high drama. At least not that I’m aware of, I try to stay away from that.
M&C: How do you deal with someone who comes in who maybe wants a tattoo that you personally find offensive or is overtly offensive? Is racist or sexist. What’s the protocol?
Jordan Allred: I absolutely can look anybody in the eye and tell them, “No, I’m not comfortable doing that.” Which I feel very lucky for, that I’m in an occupation where I can turn people away if I’m uncomfortable doing that.
And I completely would be offended if somebody asked me to do a racist tattoo or a supremacist tattoo or a sexist tattoo or gang-related tattoo. I want no part of that. And I would never tattoo it, so I would turn them away.
It is probably those shops that don’t care about getting educated and will just tattoo anybody that walks to the door because they’re not respecting the craft of tattooing or the art of it. And they just want to tattoo people.
M&C: Any last words or feelings about the show and your experience thus far? What’s it like when you’re being filmed in these competitions? Talk about that.
Jordan Allred: Like I said, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’ve never done anything TV-related or anything like that, but I wanted to see what it was like. And it was scary and it was really hard. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of cameras in your face and took a minute to act cool. Try to just do the art and do what is asked of you.
But even though it was scary and it was hard, it was the coolest experience of my life, ever.
And with the show airing, I’m nervous just because I don’t know what’s going to be aired. There was so much going on all the time on the show that I don’t remember all the things I’m going to say in the first episode. It will be new for me, too.
I’m really excited for people in Boise to see me on there, too. I’m repping Boise, Idaho, and Idaho in general. Because we don’t really have a whole lot of people that go on TV from what I know.
M&C: Short of Aaron Paul.
Jordan Allred: Short of Aaron Paul, yeah, Breaking Bad. Who is super awesome. But I mean, it’s reality TV, too. I tried my damnedest and it was so much fun. And I’m really excited for it to air. I’m having an airing party, too. And anybody that wants to come. It’ll be at Suds Tavern on Broadway Avenue. It’s just like right across from the university.
And the party starts at 6:00 and the show airs at 8:00 p.m., Mountain time, our time. It’s 10/9c though on Paramount Network. And White Claw is going to be there and they’re going to be doing tons of raffles and giveaways and Suds Tavern is going to be doing drink specials and giveaways.
And then all of us here at Born Weird Tattoo Studio are going to be there and we’ll be doing giveaways as well. It’s going to be a huge party and they will have a ton of TVs in there and a lot of seating area. And everybody’s invited.
Ink Masters airs Tuesday, January 7th at 10/9c on Paramount Network.