American Made Series: Meet Tattly, Get (Temporarily) Inked


Perfect for party flair, easy gift add-ons, and sleepover shenanigans with my little sister, Tattly has turned me into a tattoo convert. (Don’t worry, Dad; they’re temporary!) Creative icon Tina Roth Eisenberg, of swissmiss fame, founded the artsy, tattoo-design collaborative. Tattly now features tattoos designed by a wide network of artists. Here, meet a few of my favorites – Julia Rothman, Alyssa Nassner and Lisa Congdon – whose other projects range from publication illustration to product design to fine art. (Lisa and her mid-century enamelware collection were featured in our February 2011 issue.) Read on to learn about their creative processes and the wonderful world of Tattly!

**GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment below with your favorite Tattly design or idea to win a set of temp tattoos designed by Julia, Alyssa and Lisa. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, March 15.

 How did you get involved with Tattly?

JR: Tina casually mentioned a new venture she was going to try – well-designed temporary tattoos. I told her I wanted to contribute to the project and never imagined it would turn into such a long-standing collaboration. She selected a few of my drawings, and I sent a new idea, too: a digital watch reading “LATE” that quickly became our favorite.

AN: My friend Jen Mussari sent me an email telling me to expect to hear from someone special. The next thing I knew, Tina invited me to submit some of my artwork to be part of the Tattly family.

LC: In 2011, I got an email from Tina (whose blog I read and whom I’d admired from afar for a long time) asking if I’d be interested in designing some Tattlys. I was completely thrilled and excited; Tattly had just gotten off the ground a few months earlier, and I was a fan. I had a Skype call with Tina the next day, and the rest is history!

What’s the process for developing a design idea into a fun temporary tattoo?

JR: Coming up with a good idea is the most challenging part of the process. I like the tattoos best if they have a hint of nostalgia or a small hidden joke that could make someone smile, so my ideas usually spark out of seeing something that I liked as a kid. For example, someone wearing a friendship bracelet and a best friend necklace both inspired tattoos.

LC: Here’s an example: Tina emails and says “We’d love a design for Easter.” Then I go to my studio and brainstorm a list of ideas (eggs, bunnies, etc.) and think about how I might make an Easter design that is unique or funny – and that an adult or kid would like to put on their forearm. I draw the design in black ink, then I take the design home and scan it, clean it up in Adobe Photoshop, convert it to vector in Adobe Illustrator, and color it. Tina sends it off to the tattoo maker, and a month later it’s in the Tattly shop.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

JR: Living in New York City has been the biggest inspiration to my work. There’s so much to see, so many people, great architecture and lots of style. Just spending a day walking around the city can rouse some motivation to go home and design a pattern or make a drawing. A lot of my work directly references things I see around me (brownstone buildings, shoes lined up in a window, people dancing), but also, more generally, I think my work has a lot of clutter, detail and activity because that’s what I’m surrounded by.

LC: As Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” I’m constantly seeking ideas out in the world — from internet archives, magazines, film, walks in my neighborhood, travel. Most artists are constantly scanning their environments for ideas, consciously or unconsciously.

AN: Getting out of the house is pretty important to my creative process. I love to travel, take up new hobbies, and engage in my illustration community, especially when I’m stuck in a rut or looking for that extra boost of inspiration. I also have an affinity for vintage and retro illustration, so I’m constantly on the prowl for amazing prints, books, and home goods.

What are your favorite Tattly designs to date? Any exciting ideas in the works?

JR: My Money tattoo – I think it’s hilarious. At a quick glance, it almost looks real. I love the idea of having $100 bills peeking out from under your socks, sleeves, cleavage and waistband. Lately, I’ve been trying to think of tattoos that show off your personality or how you’re feeling. Remember mood rings or that kid book series Mr. Men and Little Miss? Something like that, I’m just not sure what it would be yet.

AN: I’m currently coveting Julia’s friendship bracelets and Jen’s “Forever” design. I think it would be fun to do a set of constellation and zodiac Tattlys. I would totally rock those!

What are you up to when not illustrating Tattly?

JR: I work on a range of projects from illustrating for newspapers and magazines to making patterns for bedding or wallpaper. It’s a thrill to see your designs on real products people use in their homes. I also work on long-term book projects – books I illustrate and write myself like Farm Anatomy and collaborative titles like The Where, the Why and the How. Most recently I made some silk scarves, produced a line of quilting fabric, and I am currently working on an illustrated book about New York City!

LC: While I have a fine art practice where I sometimes show work in galleries and take fine art commissions, I spend most of my time as a book illustrator. I also design fabric and wallpaper and do other types of surface design. My work ranges in medium from gouache paint to graphite to ink to mixed media. I’m so glad to paint one day and then cut paper the next; I never get bored.

AN: By day, I’m a textile designer at Target, where I work on a wide range of newborn designs for products under the Circo and Cherokee brands. It’s really fun and challenging to have both creative and strategic input as I design. I’ve also had amazing opportunities with freelance clients like American Greetings, Galison and Papyrus, among others. I run a collaborative blog, Ten Paces and Draw, with my good friend Rachel Dougherty. It’s a great way to stay connected to the art community, get inspired and advocate for collaborative projects between illustrators. I love the push and pull of collaboration and the healthy competition and mutual support that grow with a creative relationship.

Remember to leave a comment below with your favorite Tattly design or idea to win a set of temp tattoos designed by Julia, Alyssa and Lisa! A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, March 15.


Kelsey Mirando is an Editorial Assistant in Books and Special Projects at Martha Stewart. She’s endlessly inspired by art, travel, and life in the Big Apple. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kmirando.

Comments (2)

  • Reading swissmiss I’m always hearing about Tattly; never visited the site til this article though. Those are absolutely adorable/hilarious/whimsical! I like the Rolleiflex camera tattoo; that one is great. I’m just now learning to use my grandfather’s old Rollei!

  • I love all of them! Lisa Congdon is such a talented artist! I’m known for cooking and eating around these parts so the kitchen utensils are my fave!

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