Tattooer Trades Inks for Fabric Pens During Pandemic

June 23, 2020
Growing up, Eve Steuer always had notepads full of clothing designs and other apparel ideas.
The tattoo artist moved away from a career in fashion as she grew older, preferring to put ink to skin rather than paper. But when the coronavirus halted the tattoo industry, she picked up the fabric pen once again
"If you are a natural-born artist, you're going to need to create," she explained. "You're going to need to keep bringing products or whatever you need to bring to the world out of yourself."
Steuer, who has amassed more than 35,000 followers on her Instagram account @evedoestattoos, is known for her fine-line black-and-white style. Most of her tattoos feature designs from nature like flowers, plants, and bugs, though she's been known to dabble in whimsical drawings or strong women like Bianca Jagger, Amy Winehouse, and Cher.
Now she's taking those ideas to white shirts and pants and drawing them directly onto her canvas because screenprinters are difficult to find at this time. She has found designing clothing is a good way to create some supplementary income, but above all, it's giving her a creative outlet during times of uncertainty. 
"It's not a permanent piece of art on someone's skin, but it is something that can be worn and can be designed similar to a tattoo," Steuer said. "It was the closest thing that was reminiscent to what I do, what I've done for so many years now, and what I've grown so attached to. And it's really helped. It's given me something to be excited about at this time."
This isn't the first time Steuer has changed artistic direction. She initially studied musical theater at Syracuse University, but as she developed a more alternative aesthetic, she felt drawn back to visual mediums and eventually the tattoo industry. 
"There's really no margin for error and I think the permanence of it is really sexy and it's a huge attraction for me," she said. "It just makes you meet yourself at the best level you can possibly be at."
When the pandemic hit, Steuer mourned the loss of her regular routine, especially connecting with clients. Tattooing can be a healing process as people select which memories they want to memorialize, she said. Part of the job is helping people go through their emotional journeys.
"You get to bring out what you want from all the experiences that you've had and wear it with you," she added. "That's an incredibly healing opportunity for people to have for themselves." 
Though New York City was the last region in the state to enter Phase One of the reopening plan, coronavirus infections in the city have been decreasing at steady rates. Positive tests are hovering around 1 percent to 2 percent in the state and hospitals now have the capacity to handle additional patients. 
The city is expected to enter Phase Two of reopening on Monday, which will allow for hair salons, barbershops, and outdoor dining to resume among other activities. This will allow about 300,000 more people to return to work, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Tattooing will be permitted in Phase Three, which could start as soon as 14 days after Phase Two begins, but Steuer said health and safety concerns have kept some tattooers in other regions from resuming, even when the law allowed. With so many questions about the coronavirus, she admitted she's still unsure if she would start up again right away.
"So many different factors that are so unknown," she said. "I've kind of stopped thinking about what's going to happen. I hope [I'll return to tattooing] as soon as possible, but that's a tough one to know: when it's super safe to come back." 
Still, she's confident New York City and its tattoo scene will return again. 
"It's like the cultural mecca of the world," Steuer said. "Maybe I'm biased because I'm from here, but I truly do believe that. I've done a lot of traveling and a lot of tattooing in other cities. And I don't feel the same as I do here. I love it."
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