We’re talking all things tattoos and motorcycles with Heather and Gabbie of Bombshell Body Art, located in Janesville, Wisconsin. The two artists told us about how they came up as artists, the essential items they bring with them on every ride and much more.
Can you introduce yourselves?
Heather: I am Heather Hess. I am co-owner of Bombshell Body Art. I’ve been tattooing for 20 years.
Gabbie: My name is Gabrielle, I am the co-owner of Bombshell Body Art and I have been tattooing for five years.
How did you get into the world of body art?
Heather: Art school was too expensive, so I had a friend teach me how to tattoo and I’m very happy that I learned.
Gabbie: I got into tattooing just from doing artwork as a kid and drawing all over myself with Sharpie all the time. And then I went to college for a few years, dropped out to do this instead and just fell in love with it.
Do you have a particular style of design you tend to follow?
Heather: The type of style I like to tattoo in is black-and-grey. I’m very good at color. Honestly, I will do anything that makes the customers happy.
Gabbie: My favorite style of tattooing is gonna be like blackwork neo traditional with some selective color. I also like to do some stylized realism as well. I love to do animals and all kinds of nature stuff.
Are there any artists in or out of the body art world that inspire you?
Heather: I think my inspiration really was my past shop that I worked at. I was very inspired by my coworker. He really, really helped me out with my art and I really like Teresa Sharp a lot. Any tattoo artist that’s good at what they do is an inspiration because they’re good at different styles and stuff like that.
Gabbie: I really like to look at Teresa Sharp’s work. She does a lot of neo traditional style. I really look up to Nikko Hurtado as well. He does a lot of photorealism. I love his color palettes and everything. He does a stunning job. I always really liked anime actually for inspiring me and getting into artwork. So I love all the manga and all that kind of stuff.
Tell us about your bike.
Heather: It’s a 2016 soft tail slim. I also have a 2005 night train, which is currently not here, but I can only ride one. I also share a motorcycle with my father. It’s a 1949 fan head, so that’s pretty cool.
Gabbie: My bike is a 2004 Sportster XL custom. Um, I got it used, but I’ve done a lot of customizations to it. I swapped out the pipes. It’s got a full lowering kit on it. I’ve got a different seat and added some swing arm bags. I got a whole custom paint job on it.
How long have you been riding?
Heather: I’ve been riding since I was 22 years old. Well, actually I’ve been riding since I was in my mother’s belly. She had a 1976 Triumph.
Gabbie: I have been riding the same amount of time I’ve been tattooing, it’s a bit of a lifestyle for me getting into tattooing and writing at the same time was kind of an initiation when I was an apprentice.
What gear do you always have with you while riding?
Heather: I normally always wear boots and pants. Obviously you have to wear pants and, I wear gloves and a jacket if it’s cold. I wear a Carhart sweatshirt and, typically I don’t wear a helmet, but I will wear one when I’m in a helmet state.
Gabbie: I wear all my gear all the time. I spent too much money and time on my tattoos to have to worry about skinning anything off. So I wear a helmet, gloves, I make sure I have pants on, I got boots on, and a full jacket. I mean, if you’re riding fast enough, it’s not too hot.
When you ride do you have a destination in mind or do you just see where the road leads?
Heather: I have an end goal, but usually where the road takes me. So we are riding to Maine in August.
Gabbie: I ride a lot to work. Obviously I ride as much as I possibly can, but I enjoy getting as much riding in as possible. So I’ll go to the grocery store on my bike. I will come to work on my bike, after work, I’ll take the long way home. I take a lot of trips up north too, we like to go up into state parks and ride around in there too.
How do the worlds of tattoos and motorcycles intersect?
Heather: I think as far as like motorcycles and tattoos, they don’t, they typically don’t, they’re not like engaged together, but they definitely do have a big role in what I do.
Gabbie: I see tattooing and riding merging all the time. I mean, it’s just part of biker culture to have tattoos. It’s part of tattoo culture to have. Um, it’s really cool to see both of those worlds kind of expanding into a lot of variety of different people from all walks of life. I mean, you see doctors, lawyers, bankers on bikes and you see ’em in the tattoo shop too.
What trends in body art have you seen and what trends do you think are coming in the next few years?
Heather: Well, gosh, I hope it’s not any more infinity symbols. I think that the whole world of tattooing is definitely having a transition. It changes from decade to decade. It definitely has a different feel. The longer I’ve been tattooing, the more I see things evolve and change.
Gabbie: So trends that I’ve seen while I’ve been tattooing have been quite a bit. I mean, we went through infinity symbols and birds and kind of more of the “just breathe” type tattoos, all the way to crosses with angel wings and everything.
It’s really transitioned to fully custom. I guess it’s been a really cool ride to see everything changing. The one thing I’m not a huge fan of right now is the dumb tattoos that are specifically made to look bad. They’re really popular with the younger generation right now. And I would be totally fine not doing those.
That’s a thing. That’s a thing. People will literally get shitty tattoos just to get shitty tattoos. I just turn ’em down now. Like go find a shittier artist to do that. It’ll be more authentic that way. Right.
What is your favorite tattoo you have created for another person?
Heather: I don’t think I have a favorite. I think that every single tattoo that I’ve ever done is special in some way.
Gabbie: I don’t really have a favorite tattoo. I find that everybody has meaning in every single tattoo. We do tattoos for people who’ve lost family members, who’ve lost children. We do tattoos for people coming out of abusive relationships to mark important parts of their lives. And we do pineapple tattoos sometimes just cuz people just wanna get stupid shit and that’s okay too. Can I swear? [Editor’s note: Swear away, Gabbie]
What is your favorite tattoo you have on your body?
Heather: My son name.
Gabbie: I have quite a few favorite tattoos. I have a portrait leg sleeve that my co-owner Heather is working on. That’s all of my family members. So I have my grandma, my mom, my great grandma. I have some portraits of some influential women and pop culture.
I also really like my neck tattoo because it’s really changed how I view myself. And I think that’s a cool part about tattooing is the way you can customize your body to yourself.
What is the best part about owning a tattoo business?
Heather: The best reason for having my own business is having the freedom and being able to do basically my designs and not having someone else overshadowing me, I guess, is the best way I can say it. And also, there’s a pride in knowing that you have your own business.
Gabbie: The best part about owning a shop and working in the industry is that I get to work with people every day.
And I get to work with wonderful artists every day. We all support each other. We all make fun of each other. We all help each other out with designs. And the fact that I get to help people through their design process and get permanent work on their body for the rest of their life is a pretty amazing thing.
Heather and Gabbie know that when they go on a ride they need to be prepared for anything that comes their way. Head on over to Z1R to find all the gear you’ll need for you’re next big ride.