Rachel Cohen

Making Her Mark

Senior Ally Pareti pursues career as a tattoo artist

Video by David Harnett

Pascack Valley senior Ally Pareti sits on a chair with her head on a pillow as the artist peels the plastic wrap off of her thigh, revealing a girl with flowers surrounding the outline. She had wanted this tattoo since she was 13 years old. Pareti received it from Starlight Ink in Rochelle Park, but had it retouched at Scott Hill Tattoo, a parlor in Closter where she now has an apprenticeship.

Pareti lived in Vladivostok, Russia, before moving to River Vale at 11 years old when she was adopted. While growing up in Russia, she used to draw portraits. She was interested in the tattoos she saw in America, so she began to draw her own designs.

Pareti’s designs are inspired by nature and she portrays her emotions in her work.

“To come up with the design, I drew how I felt,” Pareti said. “If I was upset or wasn’t feeling well, I would draw my emotions, and if I was happy, I would draw flowers.”

Pareti’s first tattoo showcases her ongoing battle with depression, displaying a crying girl with flowers and paint brushes which are both things that she loves. She got the tattoo at 17 years old, one week before her 18th birthday. She also has a tattoo of a rose on her stomach, and recently, Pareti got a tattoo of a snake with flowers on her thigh. 

Last February, she got another tattoo of her favorite type of flower, a rose, and hopes to get two leg sleeves and a piece on her arm and back. On her left leg, Pareti wants a deer skull with a gem, and on her right leg, a tribal design dedicated to her cat. She also wants a lotus flower with beads on her back and a dagger with flowers on one of her arms.

According to Pareti, she always wanted to be a tattoo artist, and once gaining experience by being an apprentice at the tattoo parlor, Pareti has decided that she wanted to pursue the career.

To first become a tattoo artist, Pareti is required to graduate high school and undergo training this summer at Scott Hill Tattoo, the same place where she is an apprentice currently. For now, though, she cleans up the shop, sets up appointments over the phone, takes messages from customers, makes sure aftercare packages are together, organizes forms that people have to fill out, and draws designs in her free time.

“The tattoos she’s drawing are in a style that she’s starting to develop that she’ll hopefully be able to use and tattoo in the future,” Scott Hill, the owner of the tattoo parlor where Pareti interns, said.

“The tattoos she’s drawing are in a style that she’s starting to develop that she’ll hopefully be able to use and tattoo in the future.”

— Scott Hill

Hill has tattooed Pareti’s boyfriend and brother with one of Pareti’s designs. He believes she has developed a good eye from watching other tattoo artists online and has learned while interning at his shop.

Hill, before establishing his tattoo shop, had been drawing and painting murals and clothing since he was 5 years old. After getting multiple tattoos, his friend offered him an apprenticeship, similar to Pareti.

Hill and Pareti believe that tattooing is a way to express oneself and the stigma around them is beginning to lift.

“In every generation, there are different styles of tattoos,” Pareti said. “The industry expanded from the different styles and artwork of people. Everyone is getting them now.”

Culture of Tattoos

Jake Sall, a tattoo artist at Starlight Tattoo in Rochelle Park, has been tattooing at the shop since 2000. He has seen certain designs become popular over time, and that others have stayed, such as human or animal portraits. According to Sall, in recent years, feathers, infinity signs, and other small lettering has become popular.

Hill has noticed changes in gender, age, and exposure of clients and designs over the span of the 15 years that he has been working at his parlor.

“When it [the shop] first started off, there were hardly any female clients — I was mostly tattooing guys,” Hill said. “In the last 5 to 6 years, we’ve become more 50-50 or even 60-40. I think that has to do a lot about the taboo overall in society being lifted off of ‘tattoos are bad,’ ‘you’re a criminal,’ or ‘they’re dirty,’ if you have them.”

Moreover, Hill has seen that older people are coming to the parlor to be able to experience the process and feeling of having a tattoo because he believes that it was originally not socially accepted.

“We have people coming in for their first tattoo in their 60s, 70s, or even 80s,” Hill said. “They want to experience it because they were told their whole life of those stigmas.”

Hill has concluded that he internet has aided in the introduction of new techniques and the promotion of businesses.

“If what you’re doing is something that hasn’t been done, you instantly have thousands of other tattoo artists see you do a new technique and they’re all going to jump on right away,” he said. “Trends are moving incredibly fast.”

Sall believes that social media has created a platform for artists to view other work and improve on their own tattooing skills.

“Social media is great to see what other artists are doing,” Sall said. “It’s motivating for artists and it’s progressing art in a fast way. It’s definitely making people more accountable for their work to get better.”

Many of Hill’s and Sall’s clients see the works of other businesses online or social media platforms, such as Pinterest, and bring the idea to the parlor to have it tattooed onto their own body.

Tattoos bring culture to our world.”

— Ally Pareti

“All artists are mostly self employed,” Hill said. “Even if you work in a shop, you are very independent. The internet makes it so much easier to find clients.”

Hill and Pareti feel that although tattoos are becoming destigmatized and socially acceptable, many people are still closed-minded about them.

“People need to stop being judgmental to other people because of the tattoos that they get because it is not their body,” Pareti said. “Tattoos bring culture to our world.”

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