To The Front: Lorin Devine - From Military To Tattoo Artist

Jun 20, 2018

Lorin Devine
Credit c/o Lorin Devine

For decades, women have been battling to break through the “glass ceilings” in their chosen fields. Females whose identities include an intersection of "minority" designations face increased obstacles when it comes to advancement. To the Front is an NPR Illinois series where we talk with female and nonbinary people about the way their identity intersects with their art and work. 

Lorin Devine is a renaissance woman. In 2013 NPR Illinois had her in to perform as part of a roots duo called The Old Fashioneds. She's also an avid traveler, dog-mom and nature enthusiast. She's been active in the local arts and culture scene; a musician and a visual artist. Over the past four years that talent has translated to a successful career as a tattooer. But before she began that chapter — she started one in another field overwhelmingly populated by men — the military.

Devine during graduation for Advanced Individual Training
Credit c/o Lorin Devine

Devine has been tattooing in Springfield, though recently she's traveled as a guest artist. One of those gigs, at a shop called Heart of Gold in Asheville, North Carolina, led to a permanent new job she will soon be starting, much to the dismay of her fans in the central Illinois area. (Disclaimer: I have multiple tattoos from her myself.)

Devine says she was going through a tumultuous time during her late teens and early 20s — which led to her enlisting as a part of the National Guard, and signing up for basic training. She says while she did experience sexual harassment — she's glad to have had the overall experience. 

She says being stripped of individuality and berated by higher-ups was quite an adjustment. "I felt like I needed to fit in and be one of the boys. I didn't want to stand out and draw attention to myself," says Devine. She learned to save her tears for when she was alone and cried herself to sleep many nights. She says she felt like she was taking on two very different personas. During her free civilian time, she would spend a lot of effort on appearing feminine. Says Devine, "I was playing dress up for two or three years straight." 

Devine says tattooing was something she had been interested in since getting her first one. She was the only woman working in her shop as a tattooer — and before she got started she asked some already established veterans in the field if they had any words of wisdom for her. She says she was taken aback when hearing things like: "girls draw tattoos busted." Says Devine, "I never did learn how to draw 'like a guy' and I think that I'm doing just fine."

Devine tattooing
Credit Alex Troy Bone-Galluzzi

Devine also says the "boys club" environment of some tattoo shops can lead to "toxic" environments where some clients feel uncomfortable — especially when misogynist language is used. She says many women have sought her out because they are more comfortable with a female artist. At times, she has intervened when other conversations veer into sexist territory. "If your reaction to that is, 'Oh I'm being censored, I'm being oppressed!' I think you might want to re-examine your thought process," she says. "This isn't a man's world anymore. We have a right to be here too." Devine shares her advice with others who might deal with so-called toxic masculinity in the workplace, "It's scary, but I think it's really important to speak up and insist that we do better." Listen to the above interview for more of her insights. You can follow her tattoo career here.

More about and from the To the Front series can be found here.