We had the good fortune of connecting with Lora Bird and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lora, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I didn’t at first! I got my degree in teaching and taught elementary school. Granted, it was music, so it was still creative in that sense, but it was definitely the most “normal” job I’ve ever had. I was so unhappy with…everything about teaching. The schedule, the red tape, the clothes, the money. Teachers that stick with it are so strong, I legitimately don’t know how they do it. They maintain an incredible sense of professionalism in the face of poverty wages, 70 hour workweeks, and now a pandemic?! They are literal super heroes, and I was just not that strong. Pursuing art ended up being deep down in my bones, something that I physically couldn’t ignore. I knew I had to get out and do something for myself and by myself. It took a long time and a ton of hard work to get here, but I wouldn’t trade my path for anything.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career has been wild. I started working in foodservice at age 15 to make “fun money” and continued to keep some sort of food service job even thr0ugh my degree and teaching career. When I quit my job and went back to full time serving to complete my apprenticeship, I was coming off of more than a decade of having two or more jobs at any given time. These have included: fast food worker, server, lyft driver, movie theater manager, catering manager, music teacher, English teacher, wedding dress salesperson, bike builder, baker, writer, and nanny. Literally any job to pay bills. Of course it hasn’t been easy. I don’t think there’s a working class human in America that’s a Millennial or younger that would say things have been easy for them. We are a generation of overcoming, adapting, and burning the candle at both ends to make things work. I literally overcame challenges by being stubborn enough not to settle. Working an 80 hour week and still barely scraping by, dreaming in the wee hours of a better and more fair life. Here’s what I learned in 14 years of working in food service and retail corporations: – A job will never care about you the way you care about it. Stay focused on the outcome of the work and YOUR goals, or else you’ll get lost in the grind. – Women, take up your space! Every time I get that nagging little imposter syndrome voice in my head, I ask myself, would they call me a bitch/bossy/too loud/ harsh/insert negative adjective here if I were a man? No! – There is someone out there who is trying to do what you want to do but without the same care and passion that you have. Believe in your own excellence as much as they believe in their mediocrity. – Never lose your childish enthusiasm. – It’s always worth it to do the hard and scary thing. More people regret the things they didn’t do than the things they did do on their death bed. I don’t want to leave this world knowing that I didn’t take my heart seriously. Tattooing has been such a lifesaver. Being my own boss has allowed me to re-evaluate my priorities and take my health and well-being seriously for the first time in my life. I have time to fill my own cup so I can give back more to my community. I recognize that my story is borne of privilege, and that am extremely lucky. All I can do now is use any platform I have to support and give back to the people in my community. Luckily, my followers and clients are all like-minded and believe that together we can make life better for everyone. In my first year as a sole proprietor, I was able to raise and donate over $6,000 to split among the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, The Center on Colfax, and directly into our community experiencing homelessness. I feel so fortunate to finally be able to give back and support marginalized people in my own community. My whole goal was to be able to lift out of spending all my time grinding for pennies, and build myself a little nest that I can make real change out of. Luckily, the day to day work of tattooing has also been so rewarding in helping people feel more at home in their own skins. I’m trying to help women, queer folks, and survivors find a place where they can also feel solid in their body and mind. Tattooing is such a major exchange of energy and an exercise of trust, and I am humbled and honored that I get to make art for real humans every day.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Of course this would all be without COVID, But I would love to take them to Red Rocks, the Sie FilmCenter, the Room of Lost Things, Casa Bonita, the Shambala Mountain Center (especially for the Stupa!), to Death and Glory skate shop and then to test them out at Roller City and Denver Skatepark, the Denver Art Museum, RitualCravt, Cactus Coven, Bishop’s Castle, boot shopping at FashioNation and the Molly Brown House. I would want to eat with them at Fire on the Mountain, Cheba Hut, the Denver Central Market, Stueben’s (we had their food truck at my wedding!!) Machete and Bastien’s. I would want to get dessert at the Doughnut Club. If there was a show I would want to take them to see Itchy-O. These are the places and shops and restaurants that hold the unique magic that comes with our wonderful community!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My partner, Whitney. He has been unconditionally supportive of me. Sometimes he literally takes my by the shoulders and is like, “When have you ever failed at anything. You CAN do this.” He is the voice of reason when I am unbearably hard on myself. I wish I could have his blind confidence in me put into an IV. There is no way I would have had the guts to get out on my own, or even start a tattooing apprenticeship without him egging me on from the sideline. Other than him, just my general community. I have so many incredible friends in my life that helped me get started, and the list just keeps growing. I adore all of my clients. I have really attracted an incredible group of humans towards my work. I am so honored that it resonates with them, and that they are willing to give me their love and time, as well as their actual, physical bodies.