Queen Ink Isn’t Your Typical Tattoo Shop

This female-owned business makes getting inked a form of self care.
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Photograph by Sarah McCosham

When I was 21, I sold my Selmer clarinet at a pawn shop for $50 to pay for my first tattoo. If you know anything about clarinets, you know that the guy who purchased my beautiful wood instrument got a heckuva deal.

The tattoo? An elephant on my left wrist, E.E. Cummings’s “totem” that he’d draw next to his signature on love letters and art works. It was, and is, very meaningful to me, but as a newly 40-year-old adult trying to rediscover herself after a decade and a half of motherhood, I really wish I still had that Selmer, as I’d love to pick it back up.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

Nevertheless, I’ve forged ahead on my journey toward 40ness this year, getting a fun ear piercing, taking solo trips and getaways with my husband, and, as one does, getting tattoos. Lots and lots of tattoos.

People say that tattoos are addictive; once you get one, you’ll find yourself back in the chair again and again. I can certainly attest to this. After my elephant, I got Picasso’s dove on my shoulder, and planned on several other tattoos, until…I got pregnant with Julian. And then Mary. And between pregnancies and breastfeeding and a global pandemic, my tattoo aspirations were put on the back burner (hello, parenting metaphor).

I’m not complaining; I am so very grateful for my kids and wouldn’t change a thing about the last 15 years. Being mommy to four incredible, interesting, amazing humans has changed me in all the best ways; now, freshly 40 and with four kids who are all potty trained but not yet driving, I get to take some time for myself.

For me, that’s meant *finally* getting those tattoos.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

But where? There are lots of tattoo parlors in Cincinnati, and frankly, I found myself a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. So instead of going down a Google rabbit hole, I asked around: the receptionist at Mitchell’s, the server at Dewey’s…if I saw someone with the kind of tattoos I wanted (minimalist and single color), I asked.

This led me to Queen Ink, a woman-owned tattoo studio located, miraculously, right down the road from me, off Reed Hartman Highway in Blue Ash. Queen Ink specializes in fine line tattoos, which is a rarity around here, and does all its consultations online; after filling out a request with one of the artists, you’ll receive an e-mail link to book an appointment. On the day of your appointment, you’ll come in, see their mockup, and discuss any changes along with placement and sizing.

After perusing the artist bios, I immediately gravitated toward Bri. Her photo was taken at Krohn Conservatory and she has a love of nature and a fine art background that really spoke to me. For my first tattoo in nearly 20 years, I opted for a small, hand-drawn heart courtesy of Pearl. I never want to forget her 6-year-old spirit, and the heart felt like the perfect way to begin this project.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

As an older millennial and minivan-driving mom, walking into a tattoo parlor could have felt very intimidating, but I immediately felt at home at Queen Ink. The vibe is laid back and the aesthetic is beautiful—there’s a neon sign against a foliage-filled wall and instead of chairs, tattoos are done on massage tables. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac was playing when I walked in that first time, which felt like a positive sign.

And it was—after going over my sizing options and transferring a temporary tattoo on my wrist, I filled out a consent form (easy peasy with the QR code) and laid down on the table. Queen Ink uses organic, vegan, and cruelty free ink that’s great for sensitive skin like mine. All materials are sterile, pre-packaged, and single use, and the entire experience feels like a trip to the day spa.

Queen Ink is a welcome change of pace from the “no pain no glory” tattoo shops of yore. When I say that none of my tattoos have hurt, I mean it. It’s a sensation, yes, but Bri has the gentlest hand and I’ve come to view my tattoo appointments as a form of self care that I really look forward to.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

And there have been lots of appointments to look forward to. After that initial appointment (which literally took all of five minutes and honestly, I couldn’t believe she had actually tattooed anything on my body because it didn’t hurt at all), I’ve become a regular at Queen Ink, filling my forearms and calves with literary quotes and a line drawing of the state of Ohio. A bearded dragon and loaf of challah. A four-leaf clover after the lucky charm Harvey found in our backyard. All of these things are part of my 40-year-old self, and as my story continues to unfold, so will the line drawings on my body.

For the last 15 years, my body has gone through pregnancies and births, miscarriages and heartaches, incredible highs and inevitable lows. The tattoos I’m getting aren’t just beautiful works of art (and truly—they are); they’re part of my story. I’m a writer and a mother and a partner and a person. I’ve declared 2024 The Year of Many (Mini) Adventures, and my tattoos are certainly part of the journey. As is the lovely Bri at Queen Ink.

Queen Ink, 10933 Reed Hartman Highway, Blue Ash

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