Not quite ready to commit? This one’s for you. While “temporary” is usually not the first word that comes to mind when you think of tattoos, the temporary tattoo industry has a surprisingly interesting history and is quickly becoming more well-regarded in the tattoo and art world.
The need to decorate our bodies with art is an undeniable human trait that has been innate to us for thousands of years. The history of the tattoo (which means “to mark one’s self”) dates back over 5,000 years, as a symbolic ritual that manifested in many different cultures independently. In more recent history, tattoos took on a taboo nature, the practice reserved mostly for sailors, prisoners, and those on the fringes of society. Real tattoos have a long and complicated history and have only recently become far more accepted and increasingly common: nearly 1 in 5 Americans, (and 1 in 3 Millennials!) have at least one tattoo. New styles are coming to the stage every day that push the boundaries branching from Japanese, American Traditional, and Realism.
Temporary tattoos, however, are the new kid on the block historically speaking, dating back only to around the turn of the 20th century. Appearing in early Cracker Jack and Bubblegum packages, they were squarely aimed at kids. They were often adhered with less-than-sophisticated methods of dye transfer (read: spitting on them!) and possessed ultra simple and playful designs. That is to say, up until very recently, temporary tattoos have been more reminiscent of generic clip-art for kids’ birthdays than a true artistic medium of expression for any age group. With advances in the technology used to make temporary tattoos, these novelties began to transform into a longer-lasting, more detailed, and more sophisticated art form.
This is where Tina Eisenberg comes in. Citing a need for less generic, better designed temporary tattoos, Tina was tired of putting these stale designs on her daughters arms and decided she could do much better. After rounding up a few willing artists, hiring two team members, and learning what temporary tattoos are actually made of, Tattly was officially born in 2011. Today, Tattly boasts hundreds of unique designs, with a portion of sales going back to the real artists and tattooers who designed them. Tattly strives to include a diverse range of artists in its roster, with intention to promote women and non-binary artists in a historically male-dominated industry. Each temporary tattoo is safe and non-toxic, and shipped from their small office in Brooklyn, with a mission to simply make people (of all ages!) happy with beautifully designed, wearable art.
We got a chance to speak with Cristina Gómez, the Design Director at Tattly, about this unique business and where Tattly is headed for the future. Read on below!
Shop Tattly Temporary Tattoos at our local NYC stores!
Please tell us a little about yourself and Tattly.
I’m Cristina Gómez, the design director of Tattly Temporary Tattoos. I moved to NYC in 2010 to pursue a design career after college and started working at Tattly in 2016. At Tattly we make fake tattoos by real artists (and custom temporary tattoos as well!). I work alongside our founder, Tina aka Swiss-Miss, to help curate our collection. I also work with our creative team to create all of our photography, packaging, newsletters, and promotional materials (and more!).
This is a pretty unique, niche market! What do you think helps Tattly to keep continually growing?
I think Tattly manages to stand out because of the incredible roster of artists we work with and the extremely high design standard we hold ourselves to. We don’t launch anything that we’re not 100% in love with, and we put a great attention to detail into everything we create, from small postcards to our brand new website. We’re also always looking to innovate when we can. A couple years ago, we launched Scented Tattly, and now we’re experimenting with different product lines like balloons and pins.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned working for such a small + growing business?
I’ve only ever worked on small teams, so I’m used to having my hands in a lot of different things at once, but I’m always impressed by how much people on small teams are capable of doing. At Tattly, one thing I’ve really learned is how to be resourceful and scrappy when planning shoots. Most of the photos you see on our instagram are shot in our studio space with a very small team and minimal supplies. Even with our limitations, we always manage to come up with something we’re excited about.
Tell us about your studio space!
There are so many things I love about our space! The Tattly office is located in The Invisible Dog, so we share the building with lots of incredible artists (including a few Tattly artists!). We also work alongside Creative Mornings and Friends Work Here (both ventures of Tina’s) so there’s a really great community that’s been built here. In addition to that, the studio has a ton of great natural light, which makes it a great space for photography (we shoot all of our photos in-house).
What direction do you hope Tattly goes in the next few years?
Honestly, I really just hope we get to keep working with amazing artists and sharing their work with everyone. We want to continue to add more diverse voices and styles to our artist roster, and brainstorm ways to continue to promote inclusivity and self-love through the Tattly brand.
What project and/or collaboration have you been the most excited about?
I really love that we’ve been working with more tattoo artists lately, specifically women tattooers (both stick and poke and traditional machine tattooers). Before I started working at Tattly, the tattoo community seemed like a boys club that shunned temporary tattoos, but I’ve been seeing more and more women and non-binary artists doing really beautiful, unique and meaningful work. It’s been amazing being able to work with even just a few of them, and we’ll hopefully work with more in the future.
What do you love most about your community in NYC?
Oh man, I don’t even know where to start. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t even imagine having the friends and colleagues I do now. I’m so lucky that within each of my hobbies (design, cosplay, pole dancing) there’s a community of supportive and talented people that I can count on.
Top 5 places to visit in NYC?
Caracas Arepa Bar on Rockaway Beach – My mother is from Venezuela, so I grew up eating arepas. Caracas is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and the Rockaway Beach location is my favorite one. The beach is a little less crowded than other spots I’ve been to, and you can enjoy delicious arepas and passion fruit sangria.
The Hudson River Greenway – I love running on the Greenway. My favorite spot is the stretch from 60-70th St. It’s filled with sculptures, winding wood paths, and willow trees. Plus it’s much less crowded than the High Line (which I also really, really love)!
Chinatown Fair – I love, love, love rhythm-based games, and this arcade is the only spot in NYC (that I know of) that has them. Bonus, after working up a sweat on DDR, you can grab food from any of the amazing spots in Chinatown.
Alamo Drafthouse – Not a unique NYC location, but we finally got one after a very long wait and I don’t want to see movies anywhere else now.
Photography by Lindsey Swedick.