Vintage Club Stories:
Underground Movement:
Artist: Sonia

Adrenaline's Girl
By Sonia Mendez-Anderson
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Hello. My name is Sonia Maria Mendez-Anderson. I am a 36-year-old professional tattoo artist of thirteen years, wife of ten years, and mother of an eleven year old girl. I was raised by my mother and military stepfather. At sixteen, I emancipated myself and moved in with my boyfriend at the time. Once I graduated high school in Oklahoma, I decided it was time to get to know my biological father who lives in San Antonio, Texas. So in 1993, I moved to San Antonio.

My father was the owner of Alleycat Tattoos in San Antonio. He asked me to work as his front girl there while I was going to Palo Alto College for accounting. This is where I met Steve Owen, now owner of Adrenaline Tattoos. He had just moved down to San Antonio from Kansas and was working as an artist for my dad. Steve and I worked at Alleycat for about four and a half years before he opened his own shop. During that time working together, I gained a serious interest in tattooing and dropped out of college. I asked Steve to be my mentor and teacher. After some consideration, he took me under his wing. To this day, I am forever grateful. When he opened Adrenaline in the spring of 1997, I told my father I was going to work there. I have been there ever since. It's going on fourteen years now.

I met my husband, Terry Anderson (former singer of the infamous local band Lokey), a year later. We hit it off immediately and married in 2001 in Las Vegas after the birth of our only child, Sonterra. I am a very lucky woman who has a loving and caring husband, even after thirteen years of him dealing with my stubbornness. Also, I am a grateful mother, to have such a wonderful daughter who amazes me everyday. She is a straight A student who has had perfect attendance since the second grade. She is a seven year Girl Scout and is also in the orchestra and choir. Plus, she is an actress for Calliope talent agency for acting and modeling. She has done advertisements in local magazines, guest spotted a voice over on KROK radio, and is featured in a currently running City Public Service commercial. I am confident in saying, "I am a 36-year-old professional tattoo artist, wife, and mother who is happy and grateful at where she is at in her life."

I got started in this occupation when I moved to San Antonio to get to know my biological father. He owned Alleycat Tattoos. I started working there while I went to college. My dad inspired me, but his artist at the time, Steve Owen, was the one who taught me.

I have an amazing profession and from it I get a release. I am an artist. This is how I express myself and how I help people express themselves. I love my job. I wouldn't trade it for the world. There is nothing like the rush you get when someone you don't even know comes in and trusts you with their skin. I personally like to do cover-ups and reworks. I love the challenge in it. To take a piece of art that someone doesn't like and turn it into something they do like is an honor. I am lucky to have been given such a gift that I can share with people.

Of course there are safety issues, for both the artist and the client, when receiving a tattoo. The client needs to know that all of the equipment used is hospital sterilized and that the shop is licensed. They want to see a portfolio of the artist's work. In the state of Texas, the artist doesn't need to be licensed, only the shop. So you want to make sure the artist is experienced and not a "scratcher" or someone who is just learning. Each state has different regulations, so as client, don't be afraid to ask questions or ask to see the sterilization room if it makes you feel more comfortable. As artists, we take risks everyday with clients since we are dealing with blood. There is always a trust issue between artist and client when they sign the release form. You don't always know if they are HIV positive or have hepatitis. If they do, nine times out of ten, they are not going to tell you. We wear gloves for protection and wipe everything down. All needles are disposed of in a biohazard container and tubes and grips are sterilized in an autoclave or dry heat sterilizer. To prevent ink contamination, we have ink caps to put the ink into for each client and these are thrown away when the art is complete. Everything that is utilized when receiving a tattoo is properly bagged and wiped down, from the clipboards to the tattoo machines themselves. This is to avoid any cross-contamination for the client and the artist.

When I tell people what I do, I get all kinds of reactions. It actually depends on their ages too. If it is an older person, usually it's not a good reaction. They look at me like I'm "trashy". That I should be doing something "better for myself". But if they are middle aged or younger, then it's admiration and curiosity. Men especially find it to be a great conversation starter. They start off telling me that they have never been tattooed by a woman before, and it goes from there. Before you know it, I have that person's life story and a new client. But women feel more comfortable with me, and so do their boyfriends or husbands. They believe I can relate to them better and that I will have a light hand and not hurt them as much. In this day and age, it is uncommon to see a person without a tattoo, so overall, people admire and respect what I do.

How I feel after the tattoo is completed depends on actual tattoo and the client. If the client moves or tenses up a lot, then the tattoo will not flow as easily. This can cause the artist to focus more on getting the tattoo done without messing up instead of focusing on the artistic flare and personal touch that should be added. This is when it becomes a "job". Also, the tattoo has to be "worthy" in an artist's perspective. Name tattoos very common, so I don't get a feeling of great achievement when I put the name "Sally" on someone.

But if I have a great client, that stays still and gives me some leeway with their idea, then it's on! There is no feeling like it. I get all giddy inside and realize why I do what I do. Because I love it!

Desire Rush
By Cynthia Bergen
Edited by Kristie Graf

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