We had the good fortune of connecting with Francesca “Frankie” Waits and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Francesca “Frankie”, why did you pursue a creative career?
The truth is, I didn’t. I was always an artistic kid who spent more time dreaming than pursuing. I was very shy as a child, and I would often wake up in the very early hours of the morning on Saturdays to draw before the rest of my family woke up, all by myself in the quiet. I would later draw on class worksheets (and occasionally my fellow classmates), but I was always rather shy about my “doodles” as I called them. There reached a point in high school where I expressed wanting to go into an artistic career- I think at the time it was my dream to be an illustrator- but I was told by my father that I should consider something more stable, or face the possibility of needing an alternative career. After all, the phrase is starving artist for a reason, right?

So I focused my sights on everything else that interested me- I worked in jewelry, at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, I ran a few store websites, worked as a “wine tender” and an executive assistant at a 4 star casino and resort outside San Diego- and every time one of these endeavors failed or ended… I would dive back into painting and drawing for therapeutic reasons… and things would click. I got scouted for RAW Artists in 2019 and another show. I decided I should follow my life with art because it just felt right. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have ended up with my dream career: tattooing.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have a tremendously long history of working in the service industry.

When you’ve worked “minimum wage” jobs for 10 years, struggling with verbal abuse and beratement from customers at a roadhouse to a hotel and spa- you see it all. I’ve seen every type of personality there is, and as a naturally skilled talker placed in customer service positions, I’ve interacted with most of them. You learn to find a surface level personality to deal with these types of customers, as they are prevalent in the service industry.

That’s not the case with tattooing. And I still struggle with being my *own* boss for the first time, and realizing that I’m not in that environment anymore. I’ve I treat my clients like I would if I was getting a tattoo for the first time, or like I’m trying to make someone smile at Starbucks (I’ve done it all lol). I try to always be friendly and upbeat with everyone, talking candidly about the happenings of my life. I believe in connecting with people, and whatever conversation we have that day, I want it to be a bonus to the experience of getting the tattoo. And I’ve learned that people really appreciate that. I’ve had clients tell me that it was my friendly demeanor that won them over! That means so much. I want to carry that forward as much as I can in my career. I want to be known for doing good work and having a good soul. Especially when, after so many “Devil Wears Prada” awful jobs in my past, you’d think my spirits wouldn’t be as high as they are today. But nothing makes you prouder than going through awful jobs and coming out with a smile on your face and a lesson learned.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My hometown of Athens, Georgia has 2 seasons: Dawg Season, and Not Dawg Season. Luckily I’m a true artist and not very interested in sports, so you get to experience the Athens I know and love. We would have to go to the local Botanical Gardens (where my husband and I got married) and walk the trails and explore all the flora. From there we’d head back to downtown and grab a glass of wine at Lark Winespace, or perhaps a chai tea at Hendershots. There’s always cool live music or trivia nights going on, and our Target is poppin. Saturday mornings in the summer (Not Dawg Season) there’s a farmer’s market at Bishop Park, and when I can I love getting fresh veggies and flowers there!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Ohhhh wow. That’s a LONG list. First my parents, Karena and Richard La Rosa. They fostered such a wonderfully rich and loving childhood for my sister and I. Their house in the woods outside Athens is still one of my favorite places on this planet to create at and explore. They were the first ones to nurture the little artist inside me. College would have been nice, but y’all knew I was a little rebel. Thanks Mom, thanks Dad! Love you always.

A big shoutout has to go to my husband Taylor. When we met in 2013, I was just barely getting brave enough to let my freak flag fly a little more, and he encouraged me to chase all my nerdy dreams. He’s been with me every single step of the way, and without him I don’t think I would have taken the chances and risks that I have. Even through the hardships of deployments and health scares, he’s been my rock through so much. Thank you for loving me through this entire journey, Tay, and helping me bloom into who I am today. One day, all our hard work will pay off.

Last but not least, I can’t go without mentioning my mentor, Austin Chitwood. I never thought after all the lives I’ve lived in the last 29 years that I would be a tattooer. But I knew it was destiny when he offered me an apprenticeship. I did not expect to be lucky enough to be given the opportunity, and I still wake up and feel like I’m dreaming. I can’t thank him enough for taking a chance on me and then with him to open his own shop, Black Antler Tattoo Company. I get to create art everyday for people that will last a lifetime, and he gave me the chance to make my dream happen. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Austin!

Website: www.blackantlertattoocompany.com

Instagram: @frankiewaitsink

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