NISKAYUNA – Niskayuna artist and teacher Jane Romm is carving out a niche in the local tattoo industry, using hand-poke tattooing and eschewing the intimidating atmosphere found in some shops.
Romm is a Latham resident. Romm attended Shaker High School, then studied art at Syracuse University. Romm also went on at Tufts University to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Romm worked for eleven years as an art teacher. For the last few years, she’s taught at Niskayuna High School and worked as a tattoo artist locally, first at A Vita Tattoo in Rensselaer and then at I&I Tattoo in Schenectady. Many times, she organizes charitable tattoo events and donates to non-profit organizations locally as well as further afield.
Romm will open Plain Jane Tattoos, Mechanicville this fall. She hopes to foster inclusion and help the community. The Gazette spoke with Romm recently about tattooing by hand and Plain Jane Tattoos.
Q: You want to know how you got into tattooing.
A: After a short time, I returned to New Jersey for graduate school and college. Then, after seven years of living in New Jersey, my family moved back. Being a Jersey resident and being close to Brooklyn allowed me to experience the revival of hand-poke tattoos. I am a machine-free tattoo artist, which means I don’t use a conventional tattoo machine. All of my work is done manually. It’s the same sterile process but it’s quiet. There’s no vibration to the skin and it’s much gentler on the skin.
This was the rebirthing of feminist tattooing practices; a return to a masculine, toxic industry. That’s what drew me to it because a lot of the people who work in the hand-poke industry are women or people who identify as non-binary or queer.
Q: What was the best way to learn hand-poke?
A: Unfortunately, with hand-poke, you can’t really go through a conventional apprenticeship. So I’m actually self-trained, but I took licensing classes in New York City and got my license there and really did my due diligence to make sure that I learned the craft and made sure that I knew all of the sterile procedures and took all of the coursework.
Once I finally knew how to do everything making that next jump to finally become a tattoo artist was very scary because it’s one thing to learn about it. It’s another thing to do it.
Unfortunately, at the same moment in my life my father was diagnosed as having leukemia. After a brief stay in the hospital, he died. The idea that my life was too short was part of what I believe was part of the grieving process. It was that final push that got me started tattooing.
Q: How did you get started in owning your shop?
A: I’ve loved both of my experiences at A Vita and I&I. They gave me the opportunity to start my own tattoo business and to learn from mentorship.
Now I’m at that point where I really want to create my own space. [I’m] trying to create an environment that’s modeled after what I was introduced to in Brooklyn, creating that safe space that focuses on not only inclusivity but body positivity as well. [I’m also] I take steps to get know my clients. Before I talk to them, I have this intake form where I’m able to ask people’s names, pronouns, and any boundaries that they may have before they get tattooed.
I’m really excited for this new opportunity to continue to foster that environment and grow this idea that not every tattoo shop has to be scary to walk into. You’re going to be coming into a welcome space where your voice is heard and valid. And you’re never going to be gaslit or steamrolled into doing something that you don’t want to do.
Q: How do you wish to teach your community or students about tattoos?
A: Society is changing where tattoos aren’t as stigmatized, but I still feel like we have a way to go. Many people believe they must have certain body types. . . To be eligible to have a tattoo. Everybody has the right and ability to accept their bodies and feel complete.
For updates on Romm’s shop and for more on her work, visit plainjanetattooco.com.
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