Brilliance Tattoo in Boston goes against the grain

The shop on Commonwealth Avenue rejects the tattoo community's "boys' club" culture.

Brilliance Tattoo in Boston does not play death metal in their shop. It’s one of the parlor’s only rules—no metal, no music with screaming, nothing off-putting. Their business at 957 Commonwealth Ave. is well-lit and welcoming. Getting tattooed is painful enough, said owner Elize Nazeli, so an unpleasant atmosphere shouldn’t add to that.

Not every parlor other than Brilliance is operated by grisly Harley riders and sailors. But there are some settings in which not all people feel comfortable being tattooed; young, female clients and first-time clients may have a difficult time acclimating to a traditional tattoo shop atmosphere, Nazeli said. Before launching her parlor three years ago, Nazeli found that her clients were often put into “boys’ club” environments and felt out of place.


Though the tattoo community is still largely male-dominated, some women have successfully made their way the forefront. Ten years ago, when Nazeli was an apprentice at a tattoo shop in Somerville, female tattoo artists were still a novelty. Nazeli said her boss at the time advertised the fact that his shop employed a woman, seeing it as a selling point.

Granted, 10 years ago, tattooing in Boston had only recently been legalized—until 2000, the state of Massachusetts considered tattoos a “crime against the person.” Female artists, who faced stigma both in and out of the tattooing community, couldn’t easily break into the field, Nazeli said.


Today, Boston embraces tattoos. The city hosts a festival each year for the tattoo community; dozens of artists from around the country convene at the Boston Tattoo Convention to meet one another, connect with vendors, and tattoo clients. The women of Brilliance will have a booth at the 2016 convention, happening April 8 through 10 at Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, which will feature prominent female artists from across America.

“More knowledge [is] getting out there,” Nazeli said, noting that conventions help to draw tattoos—and female tattoo artists—into the public eye, making people more aware of women in the industry.


“We’ve all definitely had the support of the women that came here before us,” she continued. “I can only imagine what they went through. I’ve heard other, older woman tattoo artists say, ‘I would never have imagined that women would be getting tattooed like they are now.’ It’s getting better all the time. “

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