Tat Chat: Saint Louis' Cammeron Donnelly

You might have heard I have some new ink. I'm turning into one of those people that requires acquiring a new tattoo every few months, otherwise I start to get a little antsy! In January, I sought out the super talented Cammeron Donnelly to do a David Bowie tribute tattoo. Camm is patient, thoughtful, creative, and easy to work with. I love collaborating on projects with my tattoo artists so that I get something pretty unique, and also allows the artist to put their own style into the work. After the success of my Bowie piece, I knew Camm was the one to continue working with! I started my leg sleeve with him in May, and wanted to help you get to know him as well. Read on below to learn more about this awesome human!

Camm has been tattooing for about 11 years after starting his first apprenticeship around 2004. He bopped around in shops until landing in Seattle's Lucky Devil South with Ernie Gosnell, Paco Rollins and the rest of the team. He says of the shop, "It wasn't until I met them that I realized what I was looking for the whole time. Community, family, a sense of belonging. They are truly my family and never will let me forget it." I think most of us look for that in a work space! 

When I asked Camm about his inspirations, he mentioned Alphonse Mucha, which I can see reflected in Camm's renderings of beautiful women. Another inspiration is a familiar name to the public: Don Ed Hardy - famous for his tattoos on clothing and accessories. One of his other inspirations is R.K. Sloane, who is well known for his macabre and fascinating works of art. I think you can see that a little bit in Camm's personal work and original designs - I love some of his "spookier" work! Speaking of spooky, Camm houses some of his equipment in a stunning mini-coffin with gorgeous velvet interior. Maybe he's a vampire as well as a tattooer. The coins embedded in his machine caught my photographer Abby's eye, and Camm tells us that they represent his grandfather: the big coin is from his cremation and the little ones are Liberty coins from his birth year.

I asked Camm out of curiosity if there's anything he'd never tattoo on someone based on his personal preference. I was thinking he'd say something more along the lines of "knuckle tattoos" or an image he finds silly, but he responded with "Hate tattoos. Tattooing was meant to be a form of self expression. if thats something you feel expresses who you are than your money could be better spent talking to someone about your misguided priorities." Agreed, Camm. The projects he prefers to work on are larger scale, such as sleeves or back pieces. I often joke about those areas being "prime real estate," and he echoed my sentiment with "I enjoy the labor of making the tattoo look like it was supposed to be there - like it's always been there. Let's be honest, there's more room to sink your teeth into and really give it all you've got."

Speaking of great real estate, I started working on my leg sleeve in May with Camm! I'm a huge nerd (if you didn't already know), and an important part of growing up for me was ravenously devouring books. The Tolkien world of Middle Earth was one of my favorites, and I really wanted to pay homage to my love for his work. If I was going to start with a large piece, I knew it needed to be dynamic, fantastical, and fun. One of the most climatic events in Tolkien-tale is when Smaug the dragon is smoked right out of the sky, so I focused on that - I knew Camm would be down to dance with a dragon and do some incredible work. And here we are! 

The majority of this outline session was pretty easy - but I can say with certainty the back of my leg was an absolute nightmare. I am NOT looking forward to working on that again. I'll be adding color in a month or two, and I cannot wait to see how it all turns out. Stay tuned!

Camm is a dream to work with, so if you're in the market for a new piece, seek him out currently at Iron Age in the Delmar Loop. He welcomes consultations, so give him a call there and talk to him about your next idea! 

Find more of Camm here:

Photos: Abby Gillardi