The exterior of Moscow’s Swan Family Ink is painted in a traditional beige. The inside is bursting with life, color and ’90s grunge music.
Swan Family Ink owner Telisa Swan gave her first tattoo at the age of 12 — to herself. She gave her second at 14 — again to herself. In 1993, shortly after finishing her bachelor’s degree in graphic design at WSU, she began her professional tattoo career.
Her mentor was a tattoo artist at a bike club.
You will receive endless commissions at the end of your training.
“We’ve seen some s—,” Swan said. “When we first started it was a lot of bikers; [I] had some run-ins with ‘types.’ Men wouldn’t get tattooed by me sometimes at bike rallies, which was fine by me ’cause I didn’t wanna tattoo ‘em anyway. I went to their girlfriends and gave them great tattoos.”
Swan didn’t allow her early critics to stop her
work. She has been awarded with prestigious international and national tattooing awards
Starting with the Best Celtic Tattoo award at Marked for Life tattoo
Convention 1999 and, more recently, the Lifetime Achievement Award at
Coeur D’Alene 2019 All Hallows Convention.
Swan has served on numerous judging panels and will continue to do so.
be a panel guest at Puerto Rico’s 2020 International Tattoo Convention.
Swan was employed in several tattoo shops throughout the United States before eventually settling in Moscow. Alongside her work tattoo artists Cera “Foo” Swan, Telisa Swan’s daughter and Myra Bird.
“I couldn’t imagine any other life,” Cera Swan said. “I
You can start right out of high school. [Tattooing] This is my only real life; it’s all I know.
I grew in a tattoo shop. I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I was 12. I
did my seventh grade career day project on tattooing.”
Cera has been tattooing 20 years. She is mentored and taught by her
mother. She is an expert in black and gray floral design.
Myra Bird was introduced by her husband to the Swans and impressed Telisa immediately with her artwork. Bird received a rare apprenticeship from Telisa Swan and has been tattooing since then for seven years. She enjoys neo-traditionalist tattooing — a style characterized by modern versions of traditional American tattoos.
“In high school, I would definitely skip math to go hang
out in the back of art class,” Bird said. “I did my first tattoo on myself.”
In stark contrast to Telisa’s initial experience in
Tattooing is now more common among female tattooists.
“When I started, there weren’t very many women in this business and the men were of the mind to keep them out,” Telisa Swan said. “We kind of just had to stick together … People aren’t weird [now] about being tattooed by a woman.”
She has witnessed the nature of tattoos change over the years as she has been practicing her art. Tattoos have come to be considered fine art — a stark contrast to the stigma that surrounded them in the ‘90s, she said.
“I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist,” she said. “I was worried that somehow being a tattoo artist was going to, like, disqualify me? And now today, I couldn’t have ever imagined that now tattoos are considered fine art. [They’re] in galleries like Norman Rockwell.”
Telisa Swan, Cera “Foo” Swan and Myra Bird are all available for custom tattooing at Swan Family Ink in Moscow, Idaho. There are also options for piercing and cosmetic tattooing. Visit this site for more information about these artists and their work. swanfamilyink.com.