FARGO - Katie Haertling has found her happy place.
The 27-year-old mother of two is the owner of The Inked Huntress Tattoo Studio at 1002 Main Ave.
“I saw the building and I honestly just fell in love with it. I knew the name I wanted and when I pulled up, I said, ‘Yep, that’s The Inked Huntress,’" Haertling said Thursday, May 6.
She opened in early March, just as she was nearing the end of her pregnancy with her son
“I just decided Jan. 31 that I wanted to open a studio, and by March 9, I had it open. I’m a really stubborn person, so when I want something, I kind of go get it,” Haertling said.
“It’s definitely what I would consider my happy place. If I go any more than a week without tattooing, I dream about tattooing. It’s all that I can think about. I think I very much have found my passion in life,” she said.
In fact, just three weeks removed from her son’s birth, she's ready to work again.
“I will actually be tattooing all day Mother’s Day,” Haertling said.
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Joining her in the three-station studio are tattoo artist Ricky Esterby and two apprentices.
Haertling’s been tattooing for seven years, though she’s been in the industry for 11.
Growing up, the “homegrown artist” filled every notebook that her parents had given her with art.
“I was 16 when I hit a real turning point. My mom was really into tattoos. And I just happened to be in the studio one day when somebody was getting a memorial tattoo done," she said.
It was a powerful moment; she had discovered what she wanted to do in life.
“This is how I can help people,” Haertling said.
She was born in California but grew up in the Midwest, bouncing between the Twin Cities and Fargo since she was 14. She moved back to Fargo about four years ago.
“I honestly fell in love with how much Fargo has changed since I last time lived here. Our arts scene has grown so much. Being a part of that was a pretty big deal to me,” Haertling said.
Despite the shop's name, Haertling isn’t much of a hunter.
“It was totally my gamer tag. I pretend to be way cooler than I am. I have actually never been hunting, but I felt it made me a little bit more … badass,” she said.
The "attention junkie" is drawn to being an important part of people’s lives.
“It’s fun to make people love their skin. At the end of the day, like, it seems like it has a very cathartic, healing way about it.," Haertling said. “I like creating great stuff. It’s the lines. I’m addicted to the line work. … I will do this until I can no longer do it anymore."
She has plenty of body art of her own
Counting up her tattoos, she got to 22.
“At least. Those that I remember.” Then she checked herself. “Oh, 24. … Decisions were made,” she said with a chuckle.
Haertling describes herself as “a little bit of a workaholic.” She does all-day tattoo sessions, averaging five to 12 tattoos a week. Her specialty is doing fine-line work and black and gray.
All of the tattoos are custom, drawn by the artist doing the work.
Tattooing is meditative, she said.
“I just honestly just love from start to finish doing tattoos. I can’t explain it. It’s my one addiction in my life. Nothing is more satisfying than pulling a perfect, crisp, clean line,” she said.
As tattoos have become increasingly acceptable, people are more fearless on where they’ll put a tattoo, she said.
But the studio has rules:
No tattooing for anyone under the age of 18.
And no tattoos that amplify hate speech or are drug or gang-affiliated. “Basically, anything that would make anyone else feel ugly or horrible about themselves,” Haertling said.
Inked Huntress is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.