I recently met with tattoo artist Mira Mariah on May 29th, 2018 at Fleur Noire Studio. I have been following Mira's tattoo work for a long time and knew I wanted to interview her for this personal project I was starting. With over 40,000 followers on Instagram and clients such as Ariana Grande, Mira's tattoo work stands out in a crowd, showcasing beautiful line-work and a flair for the feminine. I got to sit down with Mira and gain some insight into this amazing tattooer's inspiration behind her unique body of work.
Allison: Tell me a little bit about your background.
Mira: My name is Mira Mariah; I am a tattoo artist in Brooklyn. I come from New York, hence "@girlknewyork" (Mira's Instagram handle), because I deeply deeply love New York. It's like my first love. I started out as a fashion student when I first moved to Manhattan at FIT.
Allison: What did you study at FIT?
Mira: I studied fashion design. During that time I worked at different fashion companies doing embellishments and illustration, a lot of fashion illustration.
Allison: How did you transition into tattooing?
Mira: I was a designer for a private label for Macy's, and the weight of fast fashion and the way clothes are being produced started to really weigh on my heart. I very much wanted to do something more personal, less on a computer, so I wrote down of a list of everything I'm good at, and the list was, "I'm good at illustrating, and I'm good at hanging out with girls," and that was like the whole list. So I needed a job where I would just hang out with girls all day and just draw, and I found one.
Allison: How did you come to work at Fleur Noire?
Mira: I've been tattooing for awhile. After I had my apprenticeship, after I had private studio, and the owner DM-ed me on Instagram, like "Hey, come work here," and I came with five books of drawings and photos and such and they didn't even open them - they were amazing - we just had this little chat and they said, "What days do you wanna work?", so then I started working here. It's only been a little more than a year, but I feel very at home here, and these are my people. I think I would do anything with and for these people.
Allison: What has been one of the most memorable tattoos you've done?
Mira: Well, the obvious answer would be very recently I tattooed Ariana Grande, and the first time I tattooed her that I'm not allowed to talk about was much more memorable and it was in New York, and they called me over in the middle of the night. That was super fun, but as far as visually memorable, quite recently I did a Botticelli's Venus as this devil standing over flames and poppies. The receiver of that tattoo is a really special person, and I thought the concept was really interesting. Any of my art that involves women and has a conversation about the duality of women is a very important piece to me.
Allison: What is the tattoo design process like and how does it usually start?
Mira: I like to start with references, so I love referencing really classic art, like Hellenistic stuff and Roman art, especially ancient sculpture that has conversations about the female body, so those are the kind of references I pull from, but also kind of like punk photography in the 80's too, and then from there I do different drawings. Obviously it's like really loopy and really consistent - I don't do a lot of shorter, briefer lines.
Allison: What is your favorite thing about tattooing?
Mira: I love meeting new people, and I love working with feminine people. I sit next to my best friends, so that's super chill.
Allison: What other artists (either from your medium or other mediums) inspire you?
Allison: Who are some of your mentors you met along the way?
Mira: Oh my gosh, so many. I assisted for a chef for awhile that completely opened up my mind as far as what tattooing could be, which is ironic, right? But she was fantastic - her name's Sally Schneider and she really taught me a lot, and she's a writer - she has a website that's really incredible, and she really taught me about what potential exists in the world. Christina Caradona of Trop Rouge - she's a blogger that's been really supportive of my career, and we've been friends since we were really young. A lot of my loopier style was developed through the artistic nurturing of her, and also the social support on the internet which really is helpful, which we're not allowed to say that we want (help), but we do, right? If you woke up tomorrow with 1,000 new followers, you would be like, "Yes, this is great! I'm happy." She's been very nurturing as far as social following and getting my work out there and helping me develop my style. And of course Laura, who I sit next to, who owns Fleur Noire, has been really helpful with understanding tattooing, and watching her work is really great.
Allison: What is your relationship between ideas of self and your art?
Mira: Okay, let's dive right in!... I don't think I even know what the difference is anymore. All your art comes from all your experiences, you know? Even commission work, it comes from your experiences and influences. I really got into the Greek art, because a lot of them were smashed by Romans when they were taken over and are missing limbs, so I felt really connected to that, so then when I do that kind of artwork on people it's kind of all very connected. It's just me and I put what I can put into it, which isn't to say that some tattoos aren't funny or like lighthearted. Not every tattoo is heavy.
Allison: How did you develop your style?
Mira: I was really caught up in trying to respect traditional tattoos and wanting to do that, but not really always feeling like the aesthetic was the right choice for what I was trying to do, so I started trying to draw as fast as I could, which meant not even lifting my pen off the paper, and in doing that I kind of developed this very fluid, loopy, abstract style that can explain an image.
Allison: How does motherhood inspire and influence your work?
Mira: All of it. I used to kind of stand at the rooftops like, "I'm more than a mom! I'm not just somebody's mother," like not everything I do has to do with motherhood, but that's inauthentic and not true, and I was afraid to say that because I didn't want people to think that all I was was a mom, but being a mom is so much a conversation in my artwork and so much aids me in patience, working with people, getting toward an idea, and so much aids me in comforting people and being able to be grounded.
Allison: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an artist in New York City?
Mira: I love being an artist in New York City. I think that the community is really amazing, specifically the community of female artists is extremely supportive. I love the city because I love diversity - I go to LA and everybody's white - I love seeing all the different kinds of people and all the different kinds of art, and the energy of New York is so magic, so I just love it. I can't think of anything I don't like about being an artist in New York City, with the exception of the obviously deeply problematic housing gentrification situation, the homeless situation, our police relationships (that are better than most places, but completely not where they should be yet), and that I know that speaking so warmly about being an artist in New York City is in itself a place of privilege.
You can follow Mira on Instagram here.