Savannah’s Colleen tattoos come from her own fervid imagination, but the designs she creates are influenced by many things “like nature, primitive art, ancient architecture, Eastern ornamentation, and the simple (yet effective) magic of flow”. Take a look at her stunning artworks: from Atlanta (Georgia), with love.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

Hi Savannah, it’s a pleasure to introduce you to Tattoo Life readers! How did your career as a tattoo artist start?
Hello, thanks for having me! My love for tattooing began at a young age — I grew up in a conservative part of the US where tattoos were pretty uncommon, and I think that’s exactly what made me feel drawn to them… I have always been a creative person and began expressing myself through making art when I was a small child, so it was only natural that my connection to self-expression began to manifest itself in the way I presented myself through my appearance as I grew older. I loved playing “dress up” throughout my childhood and teenage years, and I found something exciting about the shock factor of wearing wild clothing or presenting myself in an unconventional way…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

So the idea of collecting tattoos was alluring to me — it was mysterious and felt “unique” on a different level since that type of culture didn’t exist it in the surroundings of my small town. I was heavily influenced by music as a teenager as well (I still am to this day), and tattoos went hand-in-hand with the music and subcultures that I related to, and many of the artists that I sought to emulate were heavily tattooed…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

So I always pictured myself having tattoos when I was “grown up”. In my mid-teens, tattoos were just starting to become more commonplace in pop culture — being the focus of multiple TV shows and featured on many notable celebrities and public figures — and while those representations weren’t necessarily “accurate” lenses into tattoo culture, they still gave me a different type of exposure to it that I likely wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Before I knew it, a seed had been planted, and my interest in tattoos quickly blossomed…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

By the time I was eighteen (and old enough to be legally tattooed), learning to tattoo became my singular obsession; I had created an art portfolio centered around illustration and tattoo imagery, and I made the decision to graduate high school early in order to pursue a tattoo apprenticeship. Through a series of many fortunate and serendipitous events, I was given the opportunity to apprentice under my mentor, Russ Abbott, and I worked at his shop for six years before moving to the shop where I work now. So in short, tattooing has been a love affair for me since day one, and I expect that it will hold a huge chunk of my heart until the day I die.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

Your work is permeated by a mystical aura: where do your tattoos come from? Do you want to tell us more about the geometric patterns?
My tattoos come mainly from my own imagination, but the designs I create are heavily influenced by the many things that I find beautiful— things like nature, primitive art, ancient architecture, Eastern ornamentation, and the simple (yet effective) magic of ‘flow’. My original art background stems from illustration— for many years I wanted to illustrate graphic novels and comics— so when I began my journey in tattooing I assumed that my style would naturally develop to resemble something more along the lines of neo-traditional.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

However, as I began tattooing full time, my interests shifted towards imagery that fit the body more like jewelry; designs that complimented the human form, as opposed to concrete images that were simply ON the human form. This interest sparked a deep dive into the vast rabbit hole of ornamental tattooing, and led me to discover various artists, cultures, and styles that influenced me along the way. I loved that ornamental tattooing was more figurative than literal, and that the style at its basic form was simply meant to be beautiful with no obvious meaning…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

It appealed to me in the sense that it wasn’t something that I could fit in a box, and that the style could be interpreted and expanded upon in limitless ways. Exploring this style of tattooing helped me broaden my view of what tattoos are…

Decorations for the human spirit… And I think that’s where the magic comes from!

Do you think it is important to build a special relationship with your customers before starting to work? Does that influence the final result?
Yes, I always try to find my tattoos upon a solid artist-client relationship. However, that relationship doesn’t usually develop before the work begins… In my experience, it tends to occur more organically over time as the momentum of the project builds.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

I typically meet my clients for the first time when they come to the shop for their initial appointment, so there is no consultation process beforehand — I like to dive right in with no preconceived notions about the person I’m working with, and then communicate with them face-to-face to get an overall feel for their personality (and the energy of the moment) before starting their project. I draw all of my tattoos directly on the clients’ bodies (as opposed to stenciling them from a pre-made drawing), and this type of process has really helped me learn to let my intuition guide me in terms of what feels “right” for that person.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

The way that I work requires a very trusting individual… And I am extremely fortunate to have connected with many clients who are open to this type of spontaneous approach. So yes! The relationships I form with my clients definitely influence the overall process, in the sense that the tattoos we create together tend to transform as our bond deepens…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

The more I get to know a person, the more I can anticipate what symbols or designs will resonate with them, and we really start to feed off of each other’s energies in a symbiotic way that helps the final image take shape. Even if a tattoo lacks a literal meaning in the beginning stages of the project, it will eventually take on a life of its own, because I think we all subconsciously associate our tattoos with certain memories, moments, or seasons in our lives…

Even if the tattoo doesn’t represent those memories at face value.

So to handle your clients with love and care, is also to hold space for their special memories and significant moments to manifest themselves in the form of a tattoo.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

When are you satisfied with a tattoo and why?
My greatest feelings of satisfaction occur when I can look at my clients and see that they are transformed in a deeper sense; to watch a client feel comfortable and whole in a body that now represents on the OUTSIDE who they are on the INSIDE. I’m not saying that tattoos are the secret ingredient to feeling inner wholeness (wouldn’t that be nice though?!), but I do believe that getting tattooed is often people’s way of physically representing who they really are.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

To see a client glowing with pride, or to see a special little spring in their step after their appointment, is something that I will never get tired of experiencing. I am satisfied with every tattoo I do in the sense that it is MY way of sharing my art with the world in a format that can positively impact the people around me… And yet I am also never satisfied because I know that I have endless potential to push my boundaries even further! But at the end of the day, there is something really special about watching a client look in the mirror at their new tattoo with a particular twinkle in their eye— a look that says, “Wow, I’m a brand new person now.”

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

Where are you working at the moment and what on in particular?
I have been tattooing at The Tattoo Dojo in Atlanta, Georgia for the past three and a half years! It is an incredible shop owned by my two best friends, and it’s everything I could ever hope for in a work environment— a beautiful, open space filled with hardworking and passionate people who love each other, and amazing clients who bring new life into that collective energy. I have been working on lots of large-scale ornamental projects but would love to start pursuing more large-scale tattoos centered around stronger illustrative imagery…

I love tattoos featuring big power animals like tigers, snakes, dragons, birds of prey…

But I have also been working on a few softer illustrative projects featuring more feminine elements, like nature, flowers, butterflies, etc. I mean, I kind of go with the flow in the sense that my clients will always be the ones dictating the type of work I’m doing (to some extent, at least), but thankfully for me we are usually on the same page, and my clients’ tattoo interests seem to naturally coincide with mine for the most part.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

How was this past year for you? What are your plans for the future?
Last year was one of the most challenging but rewarding periods of my recent life. The early months of 2020 really shook me into oblivion, and I was left feeling really uncertain about the future of my job, my stability, my connection to others, and the continuance of my life as I knew it. I found myself constantly grasping at emotional threads as I tried to sort out what MY true thoughts and feelings were, versus what was toxic energetic overflow from the buzzing chaos of the world…

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

So it was a stressful time in that sense, and I had a lot of internal “sorting out” to do. Another strange component, is that it wound up being the longest period of time I had ever gone without tattooing since I was eighteen… Which really made me realize how much I rely on tattooing as an emotional stabilizer or sorts. But despite it all, something inside me realized that the only real option I had was to let go of my need to control everything in order to feel “safe”…

So that’s what I did. And everything suddenly became easier. Life began to flow more.

I saw reality more clearly. I learned to create healthier emotional boundaries between myself and the world. And once the economy reopened and I was able to tattoo again, I felt a deep newfound appreciation for it, like I was falling in love all over again… So despite the stress, 2020 was ultimately a huge catalyst for growth for me. I love the phrase “2020 vision” in relation to last year, because I personally came out of it with different lenses of awareness that I didn’t have before.

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

So my plans for the future would be to expand upon that energy… To continue finding out what truly resonates with ME and my goals, and to pursue that to the highest extent. I think tattooing will always have a place in that narrative… I like to envision myself as old and grey, still tattooing and hanging out with my cats, living on a nice little chunk of beautiful land someday, with a few of my loved ones nearby. I’d like to continue to grow wiser and more true in myself, and to learn new ways to channel my abilities and talents into something beautiful and positive… That’s the ultimate dream in Savannah World!

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

Do you want to add something before saying goodbye?
I would like to extend a huge thanks to Tattoo Life for inviting me to share some of my thoughts and experiences through their platform— it is a special honor because I spent many hours reading the Tattoo Life publication as a young teenager who was just discovering tattooing!

Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA
Savannah Colleen, The Tattoo Dojo, Atlanta, GA, USA

I would also like to thank my strong, trusting, incredible clients for making this dream better for me than I ever could have imagined, and my deepest respect and gratitude to all of the incredible tattooers and mentors who have contributed to my tattoo journey along the way… And who continue to inspire and motivate me every day. Basically… I would just like to say that I really, really love tattooing. And it’s my greatest hope that something I leave behind might help inspire others to continue loving it just as much.

Follow Savannah on Instagram: @savannahcolleen





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