BY NICOLE SHEIN | PHOTOS BY JENNIFFER MERIDA
Even as a child, Mariah Rose knew that she wanted to be an artist of some kind. The daughter of an art teacher, Rose always enjoyed drawing and painting, but it wasn’t until she had a chance encounter at a tattoo shop that her artistic interest began to transform into a career choice.
“One day, I had done a couple of designs for me and a friend that we brought into a shop. They liked my designs and asked if I wanted to apprentice,” says Rose. “That was about six years ago, and I feel totally lucky because I love tattooing.”
Over the next few months, Rose hung out at the shop, watching the established artists and their interactions with the clientele, working on her own drawings, and just generally learning the ropes. She learned the art of tattooing in stages, and started out inking grapefruits.
“With grapefruits, you get the consistency of flesh, and then you can peel it open to see how deep your needle is going,” Rose explains. “Once they feel you’ve gotten good with that, you move on to friends and family—promising them that if anything happens you’ll fix it when you get better.”
Understandably, Rose was nervous when it came time to start tattooing people—especially since her first guinea pig was her father.
“I said to him, ‘You have to love me either way!’” she laughs. “But it ended up looking pretty solid. Of course, it took three hours to do the outline and three more to fill it in. Now the whole thing would probably take me about 45 minutes.”
Rochester born and bred, Rose enjoys the small-town feeling of the Flower City, as well its arts and music scene. “It’s nice because everybody knows everybody, so it’s easy for me to build a good solid clientele. All my family is here, and that’s pretty cool. I work a lot, but if I do have any free time I like to go to the MAG, or Artisan Works, or just hang out with friends. I usually try to see what kind of shows are playing, since I’m really into music. We go to the Bug Jar, Monty’s Krown, Lovin’ Cup.”
Yet Rose also relishes having the freedom to travel. In addition to attending tattoo conventions, whether as an artist or just as an aficionado, she also works out of several shops in the Midwest. “One of the things that I love about my job is that I can make the money to go somewhere and then make the money to come home, and if it takes me a little longer, that’s OK because my schedule is so flexible.”
No matter where she’s working, Mariah Rose makes it a point to get to know her clients and their desires—which goes a long way toward assuaging first-timers’ fears. “I encourage them to communicate with me, because I want people to be comfy with me before they even see a drawing,” she says. “Another thing is, well, I’m really patient with people, so if they need a break at any point, I’ll give it to them. It’s not as bad as anyone ever thinks!”
Rose specializes in portraiture and other black-and-gray work, but she’s equally comfortable doing full-color tattoos and even flash (the premade designs that are laminated and displayed in tattoo shops), although some artists disdain it. “Even if they want something totally cliché, if the person is amazing, it doesn’t bother me. I’m really lucky to be doing what I do because I love it.”