Back in 2016, Out & About Nashville readers chose a new tattoo shop, Alchemy Nashville, as the best place to get a tattoo. Alchemy was then brand new, having been founded in the year prior, and was (to our knowledge) the first tattoo shop in Nashville owned and operated by a out lesbian. At the time, it was also a solo venture, with owner Tai Orten as its solo tattooer.

Full disclosure—after interviewing Tai, I was so impressed that I have asked her to do all my major tattoos since. And I’m not the only one. Back then, she was booked months in advance, and then moved to a system where she opened, and filled, her appointment book once a month. Now it’s once a quarter. But that’s not the only thing that’s changed since 2016!

Tai has moved alchemy from East Nashville to a house in Antioch, where Tai now has multiple associates working with her, and she has opened an Alchemy shop in Murfreesboro. Tai is also expanding her Antioch shop soon. So, if you can’t wait ‘til next quarter for that perfect tattoo, you have Alchemy options!

“We have pretty good range of tattooers,” Tai said. “There's a few of us that do a broad range, to where we can cover most everything, and then we have a couple artists that definitely specialize in a couple of key areas. So we just make sure that the person is getting paired up with the right fit, that way everybody's walking out with a good tattoo.”

Tai built her business initially on the quality of her work and its reputation, so how does she continue to ensure that the alchemy brand is strong as she adds new artists?

“I look for just a certain quality in somebody, as in, they're enthusiastic and positive. They enjoy tattooing. They're talented, they have the potential to grow, and it seems like they're they would be willing to do that and like having the camaraderie of other people at the shop,” she explained.

She has a certain environment at the shop that she wants to maintain, and that’s built on it being a comfortable, safe space. “The big criteria would be people that can play nice in the sandbox. There's enough variety and diversity amongst the crew here that, if we bring somebody in that has real strong opposition to lots of different types of people, they're probably not going to get on with us, which also means they probably won't get on with our clientele...”

“Quite frankly I've been really shocked that people get on as well as they do and people are really nice and are supportive of one another. You get stoked seeing really good work come out and people being able to get along and go out and do things together. That's been nice, because I've been in shops where that is not the case, and that can really suck the joy out of a job that's really cool.”

Tai also continues to keep her own busy schedule. What projects get her attention? “Anything that's space-oriented, anime, brightly colored things... On the opposite end, I like, really creepy, weird, spooky shit—textures, textured black and gray. I think subject matter wise, there's just a whole heap of things that I enjoy... It's mostly just seeing something and thinking like 'Yeah, that sounds like something that I would be able to do well!' I've always been able to do realism, so that's just something in my back pocket that I like to merge with other styles.”

Want to learn more? Check out our print edition, and visit On Instagram, you can find Tai’s work at @taiotattoos, and the Alchemy shops at @alchemynashville & @alchemymurfreesboro.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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