Welcome to Meet the Tattoo Artist, a series where we aim to showcase a variety of talented Twin Cities tattoo artists who are creating spectacular art on peoples’ bodies in Minnesota. This week we’re chatting with Jordanne Le Fae of Weird Ink Society in St. Paul.
Are you from Minnesota? Where? How long have you been here?
I’m from Wisconsin originally–don’t hold that against me! I had my apprenticeship in Wisconsin, then my husband and I settled in Minnesota. We just love the Twin cities.
How did you get into tattooing?
One of my friends started tattooing right out of high school, but in 2004 and in the Midwest it wasn’t the thing for a respectable lady to be a tattooer. So I decided to go to college. During college, my friend, who went into tattooing right out of high school, offered to teach me. But I was already a junior, so I was like, I might as well finish school.
Then life took me in a series of different directions. I ended up managing a chain of spas. I did the corporate sales thing for a while and it was horrible. Then I connected with my friend again–I had my BFA in fine arts–and I quit the corporate job that society told me I was supposed to have. Seven years later, here we are. It was the best decision of my life.
Being a tattooer allows me to be an artist full time, and also make a decent living doing it. I needed to be an artist after doing corporate for so long.
I also really like connecting with people. It’s nice to be able to be creative and help people realize their true selves. No one told me early on in tattooing that there are so many powerful things–like helping people cover self-harm scars and things like that. Reclaiming bodies is one of the things I didn’t know about until I was tattooing, and I am so passionate about that.
What were some of the barriers/struggles you have faced as a tattoo artist?
My mentorship–he taught me how to do well, the training part was done well–but there was a lot of mental manipulation and just a venn diagram of PTSD. But there are a lot of people who have much more horrible apprenticeships than I did.
I know that just being a lady in this industry can hold a lot of people back depending on the environment and the shop. I was lucky that as many problems as my mentor had, that was not one of them. He was very inclusive to women in the industry; the second shop I went to was inclusive. I’ve just been loud and obnoxious enough that no one can ignore me.
One of the things most tattooers deal with is self deprecating thoughts and imposter syndrome; we’re always searching for the perfect tattoo when there’s no perfect tattoo. That is one of my struggles: not beating myself up too much. We’re human.
Do you lean towards a particular style of tattoo? How would you describe your style?
One of my friends described my styles as “bubble traditional.” which I thought was real cute. I’m definitely neo-traditional style, but with a lot more sparkle and a lot more glitter. I love full color. As long as it brings me joy it’s my style. But color is my thing, I absolutely love color.
Name three things that inspired you early on in your career:
- Pop culture for sure. I love tattooing any pop culture references. I’m not even a Pokemon fan, but I have done a ton of Pokemon tattoos, Harry Potter–any nerdy thing that brings people joy.
- Old-school cartoons and the way Barbies are put together. The pop culture from the ‘80s and ‘90s really inspires the way that I draw things now. More than I realize something. Like, I’ll be drawing a lady head and realize, “Oh, she looks like a Barbie.”
- My parents, as cheesy as that sounds. My dad is a master builder and he specializes in cabinetry. I can’t do math to save my life, but my dad is both–he’s creative and has the understanding of math to do it right. He has always worked for himself. And my mom has been a corporate ladder climber who never let being a lady hold her back.
Name some things inspiring you now:
Other tattoo artists. During my seven years, I’ve been growing, growing, growing, but like every other artist, I get to a plateau sometimes. Like Mario, when you eat a mushroom, you level up. I call it “leveling up” when you do something different–that color was better, that line was smoother. I’ve been looking at different artists whose work I’m not there yet but it’s something I’m reaching for.
If a tattooer stops learning, you might as well stop tattooing. You’re dealing with people’s skin; tattoos are literally the only thing you get to bring to the grave. You want to make sure you’re doing the best you can, and doing the best you can means constantly learning.
Is there a tattoo that you’re particularly proud of? Can you take us through why?
The last tattoo I did. The last tattoo I did is always the one I am most proud of.
More recently, I did one that was She-Ra, Xena, and Wonder Woman all comic-book style. It’s this big side piece. I had never done comic-book style quite like that. That felt like a big win for me.
What about the weirdest/most original/most random tattoo you’ve even done?
I don’t know if this is the weirdest tattoo, but this is a story:
I got to meet Steve Tefft [winner of Ink Master’s second season] and a bunch of other Ink Master people last August. We were all tattooing at a charity event together, and we decided to trade tattoos. He wanted me to tattoo him but with something scarier. And I was like, “No no no! I don’t tattoo scary. I don’t know how to draw that.” I ended up drawing this little gnarly skull, and he let me put the tiniest bit of color in it. He told me halfway through that I was tattooing my piece right next to [legendary black-and-gray tattoo artist] Paul Booth.
Do you create other kinds of art?
In 2019, I had this weird fever dream to create a tarot deck. I was inspired by the 78 Tarot Project where all the cards are designed by different artists. With Inkromancy Tarot Cards, every card is designed by a different tattoo artist around the world. We’re now working on our fourth deck, which will feature femme, nonbinary, and trans artists. It has given me a chance to get to know a lot of artists.
Anything coming up that should be on our radar?
We are participating in the nationwide My Body My Choice Tattoo Flash Event on July 31. There are already over 100+ shops participating across the country to help raise money for the National Network of Abortion Funds. We are donating 100% of our proceeds from that day, and we are expecting a huge turn out. If you are at all interested, more info can be found at @weirdinksociety and the @mbmcflashevent Instagrams.
Where can we find you?