Miya Bailey is a pioneer visual artist, father, and business man who, alongside Tuki Carter, is responsible for the creation of Atlanta’s art scene. At the age of 19, the Ashville, North Carolina native moved down to the city to pursue his dreams and gained an apprenticeship that would sculpt him into the artist he is today. In 2012, he released his documentary, Color Outside the Lines, aiming to educate it’s viewers on the rich history of the Black tattoo culture and combat the commonly stigmatized art form. The renowned ATLien has been featured on the Oxygen network’s show “Best Ink” and CMT’s “Tattoo Titians“. I was able to chat with Bailey during his “daddy time” and gained insight on how he used his God-given talent to help create jobs for other artists and heard his advice to young artists in the game.
For the record, tell us a little about yourself.
Miya Bailey: My name is Miya Baily and I am a visual artist, business man, and father.
When did you realize art and tattooing was your calling?
Miya Bailey: My mom discovered it when I was two years old.
How would you describe Atlanta’s art scene, that being music, fashion, tattooing, etc., when you moved there when you were 19?
Miya Bailey: In ’94 there really wasn’t an art scene, so we had to come in and create it. [Atlanta] had a nice graffiti scene, but there was no art scene, so me, my friends, and other local artist got together and created what Atlanta’s art scene is today.
What kind of doors has tattooing opened for you?
Miya Bailey: Tattooing has allowed me to make a lot of connections, in order to do business with people. The T.V. shows that I’ve been on was made possible from all the people I’ve met through tattooing. I’ve also been able to tattoo all over the United States and in Europe.
I know that one of the goals of City of Ink is to teach artists how to make a living off of their God-given talents. In what ways have you made this happen?
Miya Bailey: I opened up City of Ink and tried to create as many jobs as possible, from managers to artists. I just try to link up people with business minds and bring the two together so they can use each other as stepping stones. I wanted to open up the door for younger artists and give them the opportunity to have a place to start. Otherwise, many of them wouldn’t have a place to grow, so City of Ink is their starting ground. I just wanted to get as many people of the streets and help feed as many families as I can.
Your documentary, Color Outside the Lines, chronicles the history of the Black tattoo culture told by tattoo pioneers like yourself. How would you say the importance of Black history relates to Black tattoo history?
Miya Bailey: Anytime you learn history, you respect it. If you don’t know your history then you walk around kind of slow; it’s just a zombie culture right now. If a young person knows their history, then they respect it a lot more. The film was used to educate as many people on the culture as possible. So when customers come to the shop, they don’t disrespect the artist by giving them chump change, because this is how artists take care of their families. I wanted to show that when you respect art, then you respect the culture and history, and you’ll pay the artist more. I was just trying my best to boost the economy up in the tattoo culture.
How do you feel about tattoos in the workplace?
Miya Bailey: In the workplace, tattoos should be done by a quality artist. If you work in a professional environment, get a professional tattoo done. My clientele are professionals; I tattoo doctors, lawyers, people like that, so my work doesn’t offend their bosses. If you look cheap, you’re going to attract cheap people, if you look like money, you’re going to attract people with money; period. So get work that cost money, especially if you’re working in a professional setting. Now if you’re working at McDonald’s, a little hood tattoo won’t hurt you, but if you’re a doctor, don’t come in with no hood tattoos all on your arms, cause I wouldn’t want you touching on me. *laughs*
Photo: Bessie Akuba
What advice would you give to up and coming artists who are looking to make a name for themselves?
Miya Bailey: Just be consistent and don’t let anyone dictate your prices. *laughs* This is a short-attention span culture we live in, an ADD Generation, so if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind real quick. That’s why you have so many fast food companies on TV every day; their constantly promoting, and constantly in your face, and as an artist you have to do the same thing if you want to make money. You can’t have a piece that you think is good, then not do another piece until a week later, because you they’ll forget about you if there’s another artist doing 6 pieces a week. Another thing is to only focus your energy on those people who are willing to pay your prices; don’t try to win people over. Just focus %100 on the people who support your craft and they’ll attract other people themselves. There are some people who just aren’t going to deal with you, but they’re not for you. Don’t worry about them; just let them go somewhere else. *laughs*
City of Ink has a lot of exciting debuts scheduled for later this year. Their clothing line as well as a new film will be released, so be on the look out for both. And for the tattoo artist out there, Bailey is producing his own line of custom inks. Stay connected with Miya Bailey on his Instagam (@MiyaBailey) and website (Miyabailey.com). Be sure to check City of Ink’s pages, Instagram (@CityofInk) and website (cityofink.com).
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