Friday Q&A

Reeda Martin-Rudy’s Tattoo Journey

A lifetime of travel and discovery has helped the Houston native hone her craft.

By Geneva Diaz March 31, 2023

Reeda Martin-Rudy moved to Houston when she was in the seventh grade with her parents, who were both prominent in the tattoo industry. As an early teen, her parents exposed her to art and travel, and she fell in love with tattoos and the city’s punk culture scene. As she walked by 713 Tattoo Parlour, a perennial favorite shop in Montrose that’s been open for more than 20 years, she thought “this place is so cool, tough, and sort of intimidating. I can’t go in there, not yet.” 

Eventually, Martin-Rudy’s family moved to Honolulu where her mother opened a tattoo shop in Waikiki called Skin Deep—and that’s where she began doing her own tattooing on clients. After eight years in Hawaii, Martin-Rudy moved back to the mainland and hit the road for a year, guest-spotting at different tattoo shops for two to three days at a time around the country. But she never forgot about Houston’s Montrose scene, and when an opportunity to guest-spot at 713 Tattoo Parlour arose, she took it and never left.

As the only female tattooer at 713 Tattoo Parlour, and with her own room at the front of the shop, Martin-Rudy brings a welcoming and feminine quality to what might have otherwise just been an intimidating punk-like biker’s stop. She turned her tattoo room into a beautiful oasis, decorated with plants, crystals, and whimsical artwork she’s collected from her travels. 

Today, with the help of Martin-Rudy, 713 Tattoo Parlour has shifted its scene and has created space for all types of people, particularly a growth in LGBTQ+ and female customers who Martin-Rudy says, “can feel less scared coming in and more confident in the art that you want to put on your body.”

We sat down with Martin-Rudy to hear more about her travels and her journey as an artist.

What was it like growing up in a family of tattoo artists? 

Both my parents are well-known tattoo artists and half my siblings tattoo. Being fully immersed in tattooing from the time I was born definitely affected my interests and tastes in art and culture as I grew up. I felt like my home life was really amazing and normal (within reason), but we also traveled a lot to tattoo conventions as a pack. 

My mom was really into togetherness so we went everywhere together. Both my parents are world travelers and instilled the travel bug in me, and because of tattooing it allowed us to go places together while they worked. There’s this entire network of tattooers around the world and we all just visit each other, hang out and make art, and it’s this beautiful thing to be a part of. 

Have you always wanted to get into tattooing ?

I actually didn’t want to tattoo when I was younger. I really wanted to be a lawyer and I worked at the library. I was obsessed with reading and went to the University of Houston for history. My parents were very supportive of anything I wanted to do and I felt like if I wanted to tattoo it was there but I could be anything I wanted. It wasn’t till I was in my early twenties I decided I wanted to actually tattoo. I was already well on my journey of getting heavily tattooed, but hadn’t thought of it as a possibility and then I asked my mom if I could move to Hawai’i and start working at her shop in Waikiki. I worked there for eight years and then apprenticed and started tattooing there.

You've lived around the country: Hawaii, San Diego, Houston. Do you feel like that helped guide your artistry? 

Basically each place has a completely different vibe of tattooing, what’s popular and different price points, but it all just gave me more experience and ideas of how to be more versatile and to try and be better at adapting to new shops and clientele.

What tattoo style do you gravitate towards, both for your own body and the tattoos you give others?

I personally like to tattoo in a variety of styles but mostly work within black and gray and nature themes. I’m also a fan of American traditional, tribal, and anything within the fun and happy realm. I don’t do watercolor, portraits, or realism. As for my personal taste of my own tattoos, I’m extremely covered and have a lot of American traditional and Japanese tattoos that are on the large side. Also a lot of flowers and bugs (I’m obsessed with butterflies), and black and gray fine lines.

You noted getting 40-plus IG messages a day from people interested in getting tattooed by you. Is that still the case?

I still get a lot of messages, even more than before I worked at 713 Tattoo in Montrose. I’m still really bad at responding due to the volume of messages I get but I’m so thankful and lucky that anyone wants to get tattooed by me. Houston is a massive city with so soooo much talent, and I’m truly grateful to have so much interest in my work. I think I’ve grown in popularity largely due to where I work. 

713 is an amazing shop with an excellent reputation so I think working there has helped boost my profile in the sense that if you work there, you know it’s going to be good quality and you can come in and get a good tattoo by anyone working. I'm also the only girl there tattooing so I think a lot of the female and non-binary clientele has drifted towards me because I’m very girly and friendly. 

What do you say to people who want to get their first tattoo?

I would say make sure you do your research on finding a place that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. Make sure the artist makes you comfortable and listens to you. Make sure the design is something that you think you’ll be okay with for the rest of this life and isn’t something that’s deeply rooted in sadness because our emotions change all the time. Make sure that in 10 years you can say: I still enjoy this imagery.

What and where is your next tattoo going?

I’m currently working on a huge cover-up/re-work on my thigh by one of my favorite tattooers in Texas (and in the world), Aaron King. And I’m trying to finish my left sleeve done by my dad, but he lives in California so that’s been a little hard to get work on consistently. I mostly collect small happy tattoos when I travel. I was just in San Francisco tattooing last week and I got LOVE TAT2 on my palms and a lizard on my ankle.

You’re the only female tattooer at 713. What's that like?

I’m the only female tattooer at 713 but we do have multiple female piercers and counter help, so I do think that helps balance out the masculine energy a lot. But for the most part, the guys I work with are great to me and we all get along and it was easy to fit in because they’re like my older brothers or uncles. The shop is a family and you will disagree, but at the end of the day, they help me and fix anything I need when my machines or foot switch breaks. I feel very lucky. It wasn’t always easy to be a woman in the tattoo industry or feel like you belong, so to feel safe and comfortable at my job is something I don’t take for granted.

What is the most rewarding thing about tattooing for you?

The most rewarding thing about tattooing for me is that I get to give back people this body autonomy that maybe they didn’t even realize they had because outside of aestheticians and hairdressers and cosmetic surgeons, who else gets to help you change the way you look and feel good in your own skin? I’ll cover up your scars, stretch marks, I’ll cover up all your shit.

Tattooing is a way to make yourself feel very in control and beautiful, and I especially think that’s really important for a lot of the women that I tattoo in Texas. We have so many of our rights constantly being taken away or affected, and tattooing is something that we can truly choose for ourselves that empowers us, and makes us feel really comfortable in our body. In the climate where that’s kind of under attack I think it’s really important to provide that sense of freewill. I want to make people feel great about themselves and their choices and I want to take their ideas and turn it into something they can carry with them forever.

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