With bright pink hair and five lip piercings, Trina Mink epitomizes the “tattoo artist” look.

Recently, Mink gave The Badger Herald a look inside her life as a tattoo artist, as well as how she spends her time outside the parlor, during an interview and tour of the popular tattoo parlor, Blue Lotus.

Before entering the tattooing world, Mink got her foot in the door working at a parlor in Milwaukee, running the front counter and cleaning. She then began an apprenticeship at Gonzo’s Custom Art Parlor in Sparta, Wis., a town just outside of La Crosse. She explained the firsthand experience gained by an apprenticeship is preferred over tattoo schools, which only last a few weeks.

“It’s definitely kind of like back in the middle ages when they had a blacksmith who would [have an] apprentice who would work for them for several years,” Mink said. “Generally you’ve got to be a very good artist to begin with, and then you usually get to become friends with a particular group of tattoo artists or something like that, and that’s how you kind of get into it. An apprenticeship usually takes about a year or more, so I definitely went through a pretty long and strenuous apprenticeship, but [it was] well worth it.”

Following Mink’s apprenticeship, she started tattooing in October 2006 and began working at Blue Lotus a few months ago.

Mink designs the majority of the tattoos she applies; her passion lies in fantastical creatures — especially fairies, as evidenced by multiple fairies and a mermaid tattoo she displays on her own skin. She has plans for tattoos covering her entire body except her face, chest and stomach including pagan religious symbols, more fairies and images from “The Dark Crystal,” a cult film by Jim Henson.

“I like to do some bolder contoured lines, but I also like to do a lot of color; [I] definitely try to create a lot of depth,” Mink said, explaining the style of the tattoos she designs for herself and others. “Realism is really what I’m into. I love fairies, dragons, [anything] like that is really exciting. I love doing Celtic work as well, which is really rare because a lot of tattoo artists think it’s way too intricate and don’t want to do all that.”

Mink admitted that art had always been her forte growing up, explaining that a steady hand and meticulous attention to detail are key for a good tattoo artist.

“I was always into drawing. I already had really good line work and stuff like that, and that’s really what it takes. … I’m also very OCD, so I definitely have an eye for symmetry,” Mink said.

In the past, Mink has spent up to eight hours designing a single tattoo on paper, in an attempt to give one customer the unique look they desired. Like getting a haircut, Mink said, tattooing is a service industry, and the artists prefer being tipped aptly.

“You’re doing a lot of artwork and stuff, and your time is being used up without getting paid for it because people only want to pay for their actual finished product; they don’t want to pay for the hours that you’re drawing.”

As she donned black sterile gloves and covered her workspace in Saran Wrap in preparation for a tattooing session, the relaxing, clean atmosphere of Blue Lotus became apparent. It is a far cry from the dark and dirty chasm one might expect. A large fish tank and comfortable couches occupy the waiting room, and the tattoo rooms are well-lit and reassuring.

“It’s nice [working for] private companies, you know, it’s not like you’re working for, you know, a big corporation or something. It’s much more artistic, and they give you more freedom,” Mink explained, humming along with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” as she poured ink for a tattoo.

Although she is given free reign to design and tattoo anything a customer asks for, she has her own personal limits on inappropriate tattoos for moral reasons.

“I will not do upside-down crosses, pentagrams [or] anything super Satanic. I won’t do any racial tattoos,” she said.

Mink also added when people get names tattooed, things tend to end poorly.

“I try to steer people away from getting names of significant others because I would say 90 percent of the time they end up coming back … and getting it covered up. … It’s almost like a jinx, I think,” Mink warned.

Mink seems to have found a niche in Madison as she enjoys the city lifestyle.

“Madison has a very diverse culture. I really love it here. [There are] definitely a lot of very interesting people, a lot of cool ideas. … I do a lot of tattoos on gay people or, you know, people who are Wiccan or a lot of different types of people, which is very exciting,” she expanded.

Aside from tattooing, Mink also forays into other, far more extreme, hobbies. At local hot spot Club Inferno, Mink participated in several suspensions, which sound like something that could be seen on “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

“It’s kind of like a performance art … and also a spiritual release just like the Native Americans used to do. You pierce your skin with needles, and then you put hooks through — they’re like marlin hooks pretty much — and then you just suspend from your skin, which is really, really cool,” Mink explained.

Mink has experienced suspension four times, in varying positions. In the lotus position she was several feet off the ground in a sitting position, and in another position (with hooks in her back) she was suspended high in the air.

“[It] was actually a campout out in the woods and so we had special sterile tents set up and everything, and then that one I was like up in the trees, really high up in the trees. It was super fun. … It felt like I was just flying around in the trees,” Mink recalled with enthusiasm.

The scars left by the hook when she was suspended two months ago are still lightly visible on her legs. But because her body’s weight was distributed evenly between the hooks, Mink claimed she was not in much pain.

“It doesn’t hurt any more than getting a regular tattoo. It looks like it’s painful but it really isn’t all that painful at all, and it’s really a blast because you’re not standing and you feel this sense of weightlessness, which is really exciting,” she said.

Amid her multiple tattoos and piercings, expeditions in the treetops and job as a tattoo artist, Mink has no regrets.

“My facial piercings are the only thing that my dad really gets upset about … but I think it’s unique … and it’s my way of expressing myself.”

Trina Mink works at Blue Lotus at 461 W Gilman St. (www.tattoomadison.com).