We had the good fortune of connecting with Tierney Chesser and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tierney, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work-life balance has always been something I’ve struggled with. Generally I’m someone who loves to work, create, and have several hobbies in addition to my day job(s). I am formally educated with a BS in Dental Hygiene and a minor in biology. Currently I work three days a week as a registered Dental Hygienist. In addition to that, I started my own business as a tattooer after I completed a traditional apprenticeship which included how to build machines! I not only tattoo, I also up-cycle glassware with American Traditional tattoo folk art. I would also like to expand that into shirts and totes in the near future. Tattooing as a second career has been wonderful. It has given me back the creative part of my life that I had to put on hold during my college years. I was also very involved with roller derby where I was a skater and captain of the Coffin Draggers with the Arizona Derby Dames (shoutout!) until my recent retirement during Covid.

Being able to find work life balance is something that I still struggle with as there is just not enough hours in the day, however this is something I starting working on seriously this year, and has been a large part of my 2022 journey so far. Taking the time to focus on myself first has been a scary road, but so far I am very grateful that I made it priority. Mental health is not something to put on the back burner, which is exactly what Ive done my entire adult life. So I would suggest kindly to anyone with a suspicion that they seek out professional help. It took me a year or two to find exactly what I was looking for, but it’s finally been exactly what Ive needed. Prioritizing yourself, whatever that means to you personally, is a worthy goal, of which may take several attempts, and honestly we all can always be better and try harder towards any goal, even if simply to floss more! I would also like to express my love and gratitude to my faithful partner always giving me the space and time when I need it, as well as my friends who call me out when I need it.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My business name is Rhea Riot Artistries, which currently is mostly a focus on tattooing. Rhea (pronounced ‘Ray’) is my middle name and I choose this as my business name to separate it from all other endeavors in my life. Tattooing quickly became a deep passion for me creatively. It has breathed new life into a part of me that I thought wasn’t able to be recovered, and had deep anxiety about not being able to generate my own designs initially. That part never dies, however much like a muscles needs time to flex and grow. Originally my goal was to be a traditional tattooer focusing mostly on American traditional. Although, I’ve quickly found myself expanding into detailed black work and Neo traditional. I absolutely love building texture into black work tattoos but also find myself drawn to the wonderful variations of color blending in to more modern American traditional as well as neo-traditional.

 

The biggest challenge in regard to becoming a tattooer is finding someone willing to apprentice you. Tattooer‘s who have been in the business for a long time, tend not to allow people to enter the industry easily. With that said, it is definitely worth the time and effort to find a mentor willing to work with you. Even though I knew my mentor personally prior to starting, he still made me earn the opportunity. Once you have an “in” then the real work begins. Developing your skills and style is one thing, but learning how to do things safely and cleanly in my opinion is the most important part. It’s also important that you have strong customer service skills and the general ability to work with people whether they are clients or other artists in your shop. Some people think that tattooing is just tattooing, but having a business that is successful requires you to be so much more and wear many hats. Luckily for me, I was able to bring many skills from being a dental professional. My goal is to be a tattooer that my mentor can be proud to have me as apart of his lineage.

I am proud of my growth so far and hope in another five years that I’ll be so much farther along in my art as well as in my business. I never want to stagnate in my abilities. The most difficult challenge of being an artist is not allowing yourself to become complacent. Even in art and tattooing, there is always something new to learn and different ways to provide our services to our wonderful clients past, present and future.

I think what sets me apart from others in my field, is my ability to provide a positive and safe environment along with a goal of self-expression and creativity for myself and my clients. I, along with the other artists in the shop that I work with, strive to be an ally for the LBGT+ community. We would never tolerate hate speech or the oppression of any humans. I work very hard to be approachable, to nurture an environment that allows my clients to ask questions freely and never feel like a burden. The best tattoos come from the collaboration of client and artist.

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?
My absolute favorite place in AZ is a lesser known town of Arcosanti. My grandmother was obsessed with that place and I have been many times. For those who have never heard, it is a small community near Cordes Junction that was built from a design by Italian- American architect Paolo Soleri in the 1970’s. The goal was and still is to create a place to showcase his concept of ecology sound human habitats. This is something I could talk about all day. If you are interested the town offers guided tours, and also host many artists and concerts. In my opinion you are not a true Arizonan until you have your very own Solari wind chime!

 

Other great places in AZ worth your time is of course Jerome and Bisbee, both of which I make sure to visit every year when we need a weekend to escape reality.

Right next door to my shop, is Pachamama. They are a vegan Mexican food shop, and even if you are not vegan, they serve wonderful fresh food and the owners are so lovely! Hi Maria and Kevin!

More locally in Phoenix my favorite thing to do is hike, especially Piestewa Peak and North Mountain. My partner has been sober for around 15 years, so most of our time is spent outdoors exploring, or thrifting and vintage shopping. We love the vintage shops in Melrose, as well as up north on Cave Creek after Hatcher. Our favorite one currently is Retro Bungalow as well as The Vintage Arizona. The building that houses the Vintage Arizona has an interesting history of its own and worth a listen too if the shopkeepers mom is around!

My neighborhood of Sunnyslope has a long and interesting history. Learning about my community’s history is something I enjoy. I encourage everyone to shop local and support any small business in their area.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Well the number one person responsible for my true grit and tenacity, as well as my strong work ethic, would be my father, Dirk. He is a wonderful human who raised two daughters to be first generation college graduates, despite all the challenges we faced. My dad is truly the definition of a best friend to me, and is always there to encourage me however I need him too.

 

I’ve had several great dental mentors along the way, from when I started as a sterile tech at my uncle’s practice while starting my college career, to university teachers, and great dentists and hygienists I’ve worked with. I think one of my greatest strengths has always been the ability to observe others and then self critique. I found that by doing this I could pick things up more quickly. You can always learn something from the people around you if you are open to it. Thank you to all my colleagues past and present.

As far as my tattoo career I would love to shout out my mentor Uncle Josh at the Lost Dutchman Tattoo. I met Josh through roller derby because his wife was on my team for several years. Uncle Josh has always been a supporter of local roller derby. He not only sponsored my league for several years, but he also sponsors several leagues in AZ. After asking, then bothering, then pestering Josh for several months he finally agreed to apprentice me. He said it was mostly because he knew I was a hard worker and could handle it! I am so grateful to him for helping me get my foot into the community. I am also grateful to have gone through a traditional apprenticeship, which is something that has been slowing fading from the tattoo community. I am proud of the education I have received through him, as it connects me with the history of tattooing in a way that some of my peers did not get the opportunity to know.

Website: Lostdutchmantattoo.com

Instagram: @rhea_riot

Facebook: Rhea riot tattooer

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