Another tattoo shop. In Bushwick. Next to an esoteric record shop. OK… you might be thinking. But your attention please, because the mind of Marina Heintze, bled out of her ears and solidified in tattoo parlor form, is anything but the embodiment of that triangle tattoo you’ve seen on everyone and her sister since Miley Cyrus revealed that anyone, so long as they’ve got a sewing needle, some India ink, and a bottle of vodka, can permanently press ink into skin.
“People want triangles, that’s another trend,” Marina said.
“Triangles?” I stuttered.
But aside from the occasional “Pinterest customer,” Meattt Inc., which has been open for close to a year now, is carving out some seriously fresh tats, wrapping them up tight in plastic, and sending them on their way.
“The whole premise of this shop is to get something custom,” Marina Heintze, 28, sole owner of Meattt explained. “We’re not going to tattoo [the design] again, it’s going to be unique to that person. Why wouldn’t you want something special? Why would you wanna be a sheep?”
Heintze’s matter-of-fact, deadpan delivery is a little misleading — she’s actually very approachable once you spend a minute with her, and she’s not as carnivorous as the shop’s name implies. “I feel like I have a weird sense of humor, and meat kind of goes with the body,” she explained. Stick around long enough and you’ll probably meet the shop dog, an miniature bull terrier named Tamago.
Admittedly, there’s a greater emphasis now on custom designs and flash in tattooing than ever before. And declining to do a piece of flash twice is pretty much the rule for many artists. But the bloody switchblades, squealing hogs, smoking pigeons, and pizza-eating rats emerging from Meattt Inc., aren’t the only unique things about the parlor. “It’s an all-female shop,” Marina explained.
And she intends to keep it that way. Marina’s dedication to employing all ladies, only ladies is intuitive though. Somehow it doesn’t seem to come from a place of intentional activism, rather it stems directly from Marina’s own experiences as both a the tattooer and the tattooed.
“I used to work for a female tattoo artist, she was my boss and she was really great,” Marina recalled. “So I felt it’s like a ‘if she could do it, I could do it,’ kind of thing.”
But Marina wasn’t out to just be a female shop owner, she wanted to help out other female artists too. “I’m the type of person where if it’s broken, I’ll fix it,” she explained. “And I dunno, we get each other, there’s not a lot of us out there. We’ve all probably struggled the same.”
Though she’s only been tattooing seriously for three years, Marina’s been amassing ink for about a decade. “There were certain times when I was getting tattooed when the artist happened to be a man, and he would question me on the placement and I felt that it was more because I was female. I felt that he probably wouldn’t ask a guy that. I don’t wanna say all men suck or all men tattoo artists suck,” she explained. “But going into tattoo shops, it’s predominantly male and there’s usually like a token female tattoo artist. I never felt that comfortable. I always felt that it was a boys club.”
For now, it’s just Marina and Lauren Kolesinskas, an artist working in a similar aesthetic who Marina sourced, to her own surprise, from Craigslist. “You don’t normally find someone special through Craigslist,” she admitted. “It’s hard to advertise to find tattoo artists, especially people who have styles already or who are artistically inclined. So it’s been difficult finding a third person.”
Sourcing female tattoo artists might be difficult because many of them work outside the official constraints of the tattooing world: without licenses, in private studios, out of their homes, or all of the above. Marina herself didn’t traverse the traditional route to becoming a professional tattooer. In fact, she skipped the apprenticeship process all together.
“I’m self-taught. I did work at another shop, out of the city. I feel like that’s pretty standard, going out of state or out of the city,” she said. “I think getting a tattoo apprenticeship is hard in general, because no one really wants to take the time out, and you have to be really serious. This isn’t something you just pick up, but I think a lot of people don’t think that women are serious.”
Marina grew up in New York City and moved away to go to art school at CalArts before returning to the city to attend Parsons and obtain a degree in graphic design. “I’ve been an artist ever since I was a baby,” she explained.
Her background in both graphic design and installation art bleeds through at Meattt Inc.– there’s custom flash wallpaper for sale, vinyl furniture Marina designed herself, and a consistent, iconic aesthetic dictated by a red, black, chrome, and gold color palette throughout. “Branding,” Marina nodded.
In many ways, tattooing was a way for Marina to get away from the disconnect she felt with graphic design. “I pretty much got really fed up with graphic design and I always felt a strong connection to tattooing,” she explained. “It’s like going off the grid, no computer, all that.”
Even with a strong background in art, Marina had a tough time learning to draw as a tattooer. “It’s a really different type of drawing, like traditional is all about simplification,” she said. “I’ve had to teach myself to draw for tattooing, so that hasn’t come innately.”
Eventually, after messing around with “shitty machines” while she was younger (“really on the low,” she explained) and spending a couple of years getting really serious, Marina found her way to a shop upstate that she described as “very, very traditional.”
But she quickly grew bored. “I feel like the type of clientele that goes there, they weren’t really open to weird stuff. I love traditional work, my body of work stems from that. It’s the style I would say I gravitate to, that and Japanese,” she said. “But I just don’t think Meattt would function out in the boonies.”
Bushwick was a natural location for someone hoping to find clientele more open to experimentation. “Basically this environment seems like it’s more open to weird ideas,” she explained.
While tattoo artists have suffered greatly from the advent of Pinterest– the great design and aesthetic equalizer that has customers requesting the same or similar images in droves– Marina feels the last thing she’s doing at her shop is compromising her aesthetic.
“I guess it depends on the time of the month, not like that, but bill-wise,” she said. “But the whole premise of me making this shop was to just do my style and decline work if I need to. I’m making my own custom flash, those are our drawings and our ideas, it’s our art work. So we’re not comprising at all.”
Correction: a previous version of this article misstated the name and breed of Marina’s dog.