We had the good fortune of connecting with Kandace Layne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kandace, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Learning how to tattoo, especially through an unpaid apprenticeship was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever had to take. I believe you have to take risks to get rewards. Pursuing your dreams requires taking a leap of faith, even though yes it is risky. I always try to evaluate the pros and cons of my risks and have a back up plan. You also have to be committed to it seeing through, since you did take the risk. When I was in elementary school, they taught us all these Values like Integrity, empathy, etc. One of the things they really stressed was Risk Taking. I think learning that from such a young age made me see it as an essential step to success.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s really hard for me to talk about myself like this. It was pretty difficult to get to where I am now, and everyday I can’t believe I’m here, living my dream. It’s better than I thought it would be. I really have to thank my clients who have been getting tattooed for years, people who trust me with their first tattoos, people who really believe in my work. It’s such an honor. I am pretty proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished so far. I got my apprenticeship at 17 years old and I’m 26 now. I used to find quarters through out the day to make it to and from the shop on MARTA because I didn’t really have any other options. Making it through my apprenticeship which lasted two years was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I fell out with my parents so I left home and a friend of my mom’s named Helena let me stay with her, for free until I saved up enough to get my first apartment. From there I worked at the place I apprenticed, City of Ink, for 5 more years (7 years total). For the first 3 years I worked almost every single day. I learned a lot from the people who worked there like Tuki Carter, Malia Sioux, Roger Parrilla, Brittany Slam,and Proph Bundy. That was my first job and it was emotionally difficult to leave. I met some really important friends there, like Debbi Snax who I did my first tattoo convention with. At City of Ink I learned how to navigate a male dominated space as a Black woman, how to tattoo every skin tone, how to interact with clients and make them feel comfortable safe, and the importance of knowing when it’s time to go…no matter how hard and scary it is. Eventually you have to “repot” yourself for growth. It was one of the most fun environments and I was pretty close with everyone there. I’m really grateful for that experience. When I left there I worked at Thunderbolt Tattoo and Queen Bee. I didn’t live near Queen Bee so my coworker Eric, and my bosses Brandon and Bethrah picked me up and took me to work. Bethrah came to my house every week and taught me how to drive. Because I was at new shops, i didn’t know how many people would still get tattooed by me. Every time you change shops, there’s a possibility you will be starting from scratch. I have been at Queen Bee for 3 years now and I feel really comfortable and have lots of room to grow. I have been pushing myself again to keep reinventing and refining my style. I’m working on ways to make my clients feel more at ease, like giving them crystals, doing breathing exercises, and exchanging books or plants. I believe tattooing is an energy exchange and in many cultures, it is a sacred practice. I like to be mindful of that and act accordingly. I want my clients and I to have fun and mutual trust. It is also really important to me to provide good quality tattooing to Black people and other melanin rich skin tones because many tattoo artists do not know how to work on nonwhite skin. That is something that will always be important to me. I want all of my clients, especially women/femmes to feel safe and enjoy the tattoo experience.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take them Papayago Reacue House to volunteer with me because I’m obsessed with parrots. I have a cockatiel named Julian and he’s one of my best friends. Volunteering there means things like making chop for the birds to eat, cleaning cages, and reading to the birds. Might not sound like fun but parrots are so funny and cute. You’ve never seen cute until you see a bird actively listening to you reading a children’s story. I would take them to Pole Waxers, where I take pole tricks classes. It is such a positive environment and I think every woman should try it at least once. We would walk the beltline and go to The Victorian at Ponce City Market to buy some plants. I love tacos, so I would take them to my favorite taco place, Siete Tacos. I would sign us up for a painting class with my teacher, Shane McDonald. 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?
I would really like to thank Bethrah Szumski, Brandon Simmons, Travis Clark, and Eric Holmes who work with me at Queen Bee Tattoo Parlour. They have shown me nothing but kindness and have been there for me no matter what. I am so grateful everyday to have such kind and trustworthy people in my life. Working at Queen Bee has been nothing but amazing, it’s better than anything I was wishing for before working there. These people have a permanent place in my heart. They taught me to drive, carpooled me to work for two years, and gifted me a car. I was financially and emotionally supported during the shut down/quarantine. This was the one of the only shops wanting to hire me as a black female tattooer. I am so blessed to have their support. Shout out to my mom, Fatima, for nurturing my artistic talents, protecting me, and brining me into this world. I will never know how many sacrifices she made for me. I would also like to thank Helena Brown for giving me a home when I was going through my apprenticeship. I would like to thank my partner of 8 years so far, Chad. Thank you for being my ride or die. Books “The Alchemist”, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”, and “The Four Agreements” really influenced me as well.
Zoa (@Z0a) and Yvette Glasco