A black t-shirt with a scorpion skull mug design created by a tattoo artist.

The Tattoo Series: Meet Emily Kay

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What Is the Tattoo Series? 

This highly caffeinated collaboration shows our undying love of tattoos and the culture that surrounds them. Nine supremely talented tattoo artists from across the country share their flashes of genius—all inspired by coffee. The Tattoo Series merch directly supported the local artists who designed them.  

A tattoo artist wearing one of her own scorpion skull designs on a black t-shirt and also holding a coffee mug.

Meet the Artist: Emily Kay

Hailing from Alhambra, California, Emily shares her flashes of genius with us—always fueled by strong coffee. Her Death Wish Coffee tattoo design features a spooky skull with a scorpion. Talk about style that stings.  

Unfiltered Q&A With Emily Kay 

1. What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? Did you always know it was your calling?

I have always been a visual artist, even at a very young age. Drawing and making art is second nature. When I found tattooing, it really piqued my interest to learn a new medium and art form that had such a deep-rooted history.  

2. What was your initial exposure to the tattoo world, and when did you first add your own piece of ink to your skin? 

When I was 15, I tattooed myself and my friends. When I was 16, I managed to get my first tattoo at a shop.  

3. When did you know that you wanted to be a tattoo artist? How did you get started in the industry?

I was in college studying product design in New York when I realized that the commercial industry wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. I was craving a more creative way to express myself, and I ended up dropping out of school and moving back to Los Angeles. I found my mentor, D’mon (@dmontattoo), at a shop called California Gold Tattoo at the time. My journey began as he was kind enough to take me on as a personal assistant and apprentice.  

4. How long have you been tattooing?

I have been tattooing for 5 years. 

5. How would you describe your tattoo style and how you got to it?

I don’t necessarily have words to define my style, but I am very much influenced by American traditional tattooing, scientific and botanical illustrations, fashion, western and Asian imagery. It’s a natural progression of constant learning and experimenting.  

6. Has your style changed over the years?

Definitely—it still is.  

7. Can you tell us about your own tattoos?

My tattoos are a collection from people I admire and respect. There’s a lot of traditional tattoo imagery, as well as Japanese/Chinese-inspired.  

Tattoo Series mug designed by Emily Leung, tattoo artist.

8. What does the process behind your tattoos entail?

Usually, the process begins in the booking process. I will ask clients for as much detail as possible on what they're looking to get. From there I will draw in my own time and have a design ready for my appointment. Some tattoos are also drawn on skin the day of, depending on what it is and where it’s going.  

9. What do you like to tattoo most and what would you like to do more of?

I love to tattoo different things all the time! Changing it up, challenging myself and experimenting is most enjoyable.  

10. What does a typical day at the shop look like for you?

A typical day in the shop begins with greeting all my lovely co-workers and getting settled to take on the first client. Generally, I will have 1-2 appointments a day, depending on their tattoos and how long each session will be. Somewhere in between, I’ll have lunch and some laughs. I’m grateful to work in a very fun environment with a lot of inspiring and talented artists.  

11. What do you like to do outside of the shop?

Outside of the shop I am a mother to a toddler, a wife and a horse owner.  

12. What’s the strangest tattoo you’ve ever done?

 All of my designs are usually drawn custom for each client, so I don’t think there’s one that really stands out as being the strangest. When I think about it too much, they all can be a little strange. I appreciate the uniqueness of every client and their ideas.  

13. What is your favorite thing about being a tattoo artist?

Being able to create art and tattoos for people on a daily basis and work on my own schedule are my favorite things!  

14. What is the tattoo scene like in your area?

There are so many amazing tattoo shops and tattooers out here of different styles and backgrounds.  

15. What moment in your career are you the most proud of?

I honestly am proud every day that I am able to balance motherhood and working full-time.  

Grab a cup of coffee (and maybe a tattoo) with Emily Kay: