Shannon Perry — the multi-talented tattoo artist and singer with the band Gazebos — is living proof that the creative mind can simultaneously be a both a blessing and a burden. When you are skilled in multiple mediums of art life becomes a juggling act; driven by so many different passions it’s difficult to balance everything without letting the other passions suffer.
“I feel insanely busy all the time, but it's not a matter of choice,” Perry explains. “I have to make art and music in order to feel like myself. I do a lot of apologizing to my bandmates for being constantly too busy to make music as fast as we'd like to.”
Art has been a staple in Perry’s life from all the way back when she was in elementary school. Music was her first love as she learned to sing and play various instruments from a young age, but her passion for visual art, tattoos in particular, was as strong. When she was 15 this fascination led to her very first tattoo — a stick and poke she did on her own ankle. Of course, it would be another 15 years before she considered making a career with a tattoo machine.
“I loved tattoos, and bought a machine to give them to myself, but never had interest in becoming a tattoo artist until I was close to 30,” Perry says.”I was initially concerned I'd have to do work I wasn't interested in most of the time, but I've been fortunate enough to be able to steer my style all over the place with supportive clientele.”
It takes only one look at Perry’s portfolio to understand why her clients are comfortable letting her artistic vision run wild. It is almost impossible to pin Perry down to just one style, she is a bit of a chameleon who creates impressive work all over the board. On one hand, Perry is capable of some of the most jaw-dropping realism we’ve seen (check out any of her gemstone tattoos), and on the other she is equally skilled creating intriguing minimalist designs. It is when those two worlds collide, as seen below, where Perry sets herself apart from other artists. The juxtaposition between two divergent styles play off each other, each portion enhancing the skill required to create the other.
Perry didn’t set out to create a completely new style of tattoos, it just sort of happened as she tried to avoid the tattoo fashion trends that she found disdainful. “Initially, I just tried to avoid doing anything I saw in the 90's, and tried to keep styles as plain as possible in hopes that they would transcend time better that way,” Perry says. “My style has shifted and expanded over time, and now I generally specialize in single-needle work. I love miniature tattoos of fruit, realistic shiny stuff, minimalist portraiture, snakes and most things punk or funny.”
When she doesn’t have a tattoo machine in her hand, Perry likely has a microphone as she works on her musical project, Gazebos. Conceived as a collaboration between Perry and instrumentalist TV Coahran. The band is currently working on a follow up to their 2016 debut album Die Alone. If there are any similarities to be drawn between the music of Gazebos and Perry’s tattoos it is in the uncompromising artistic vision behind the art. Each song by Gazebos strives to be different than all of the others, a quality that applies to all of Perry’s artistic ventures.
“I like to avoid doing what I see other people doing, that's a driving force for me,” Perry says. “Of course there are folks out there who do things that are similar to some of my work, but I hope that my tattoos look like they're mine. It's impossible for me to see them unbiased, though. I can't see them how a stranger would, kind of like how you can't see your own handwriting or smell your own breath.”
It’s rare enough to find a person capable of creating memorable art in one medium, someone with cross-platform skills like Perry is truly remarkable. Keep your eyes on what she does next, both on the stage and in the tattoo studio, as it’s sure to be astounding.
Shannon Perry owns and tattoos out of Valentine’s Tattoo Co. in Seattle, Washington. Gazebos will be performing at Chicago’s Riot Fest in September and will jump into the studio to record their second album in the not too distant future.
This article was written by Charlie Connell with reporting/interviewing by Ross Howerton.