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Tales in Tattoos: Jenny Burghard’s Artistic Awakening with Lonely Angel Studio

Join us on an inspiring journey with Jenny Burghard, a Chicago native turned Tucson tattoo artist, as she shares her transformative story from a globe-trotting English teacher to the creative force behind Lonely Angel Studio. In this heartfelt episode, Jenny opens up about her adventures across continents, her unexpected dive into the world of tattoo artistry, and how each piece she inks tells a profound story.

Episode Highlights:

  • Global Classroom to Local Canvas: Explore Jenny’s vibrant path from teaching English around the world to embracing her true passion for tattooing in the heart of Tucson.
  • The Birth of Lonely Angel Studio: Discover the origins of Lonely Angel Studio’s unique name and how a road trip through Florida sparked the idea for what would become a cornerstone of downtown Tucson’s art scene.
  • Art as a Language: Delve into Jenny’s philosophy on tattooing as a form of storytelling, where each design goes beyond aesthetics to capture personal narratives and shared human experiences.
  • Community and Creativity: Learn about Jenny’s vision for Lonely Angel Studio as a space that not only showcases her artistic talent but also fosters connections and celebrates the diverse tapestry of Tucson’s community.

Explore More:

Curious about more Tucson tales? Search our site for topics that interest you and see who Tom Heath has interviewed on those subjects. Our archives are a treasure trove of Tucson’s cultural, social, and economic narratives.

Get Involved:

Have questions, comments, or someone in mind who would make a great story for Life Along The Streetcar? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Tom to share your thoughts or nominate a fascinating individual for an upcoming episode.

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTTT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored, all -volunteer powered, rock and roll radio station. This week we’re gonna speak with Jenny Burgard. She’s a Chicago native, a world traveler, and now a Tucson business owner and artist. After years of teaching, Jenny pursued a career in tattooing and now operates and owns Lonely Angel Studio in downtown Tucson. We’re gonna learn about her journey around the globe and from teacher to tattooer in just a few minutes. Today is February 18th, 2024. My My name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM,

streaming on downtownradio .org. also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own downtown radio Tucson app and then if you want to interact with us here on the show then Facebook and Instagram are the best ways to do that and if you want more information about us our book or some of the past episodes you can head over to our website lifealongthestreetcar .org and as always we remind you that the podcast is available all over the place like Spotify and iTunes and in the very near future, I hope. We’re gonna be launching our YouTube channel with some of the video versions of these interviews we’ve been doing. Not all of them, but certainly we’ve got a few ready to go. We just got to get this thing launched, so be on the lookout for that and we’d certainly love your support and sharing that. We’re gonna jump into our interview today because it’s a little bit longer than normal, but it’s just so fun and engaging. It’s Jenny Burgard. She’s the owner of Lonely Angel Tattoo in downtown

Tucson. Her story’s just really fun, I’ll let her tell it, but she’s just done quite a bit, and as a young entrepreneur, she’s had a lot of life experience as well as opening her own business. So we sat down with her inside of the Tucson Gallery Studios a couple, about a week or so ago, and kind of got the story of how she came to Tucson, how she came to tattooing, and what the future might hold for Jenny Burkhardt of Lonely Angel.

All right, so we are here with Jenny Burgard. She is the owner and proprietor of Lonely Angel Tattoo, and we have had many artists on our show before. We’ve never had a tattoo artist. Oh, great. Okay. So, and first of all, Lonely Angel. Where does that come from? That sounds so sad. Sad? I don’t know. It’s, it came from a song. I didn’t, I’m really bad at naming things, but my boyfriend and I were on a really long road trip through like the swamps of Florida. And some song came on and honestly, I can’t even tell you the name of it, but it was like a line in there, like the lonely angel, something, something, something. And he’s like, that’s a good name for a tattoo shop. And I was like, yeah. Well, they never have happy names like this. This is the unicorn show. It’s the unicorn, it’s like black rose. A little bit more like Gothic, I guess. But yeah, the more I wear it, the more it fits, I think. And how did you get into this art? Because you’ve been doing it for how long now? about three

years. Okay. And, and this was, I think you told me it was a COVID. Yeah, it was a COVID transition. So prior to COVID, I was teaching English for about six years. Like what level? Pretty much every level. So I was doing English teaching. So ESL, and I would teach everything from preschool to adults. And then just kind of travel from country to country. So it was a really, I love that. That was my first job. I thought I would do it forever. Um, so you’re teaching English and you’re, how many countries did you, um, I’ve been to over 30 countries. I’ve taught in about seven or eight, I would say. I’d have to count. Okay. So you are, you are an itinerant at heart. You like to be traveling. Yeah, definitely. A little bit of a nomad, but Tucson’s the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I was a kid. What brought you here then? Hard to say. I feel like we’re doing the story backwards, but, um, I don’t know. It was one of those places like someone was like, I think you’d like it because of COVID.

I didn’t really want to be in big cities anymore and I couldn’t teach and travel. So I was kind of looking at places in the US to stay and something about Tucson just drew me here. Where were you right before Tucson? Alaska. Okay. So yeah, it just, it seems very natural to go from Alaska to Tucson. Yeah, from the cold to the hot. That’s pretty much normal. So you moved here and were you, were you doing a tattoo work prior to coming to Tucson? No, it was really something that I mean when I was teaching I never considered myself an artist like it was always something I did on the side for fun For a hobby, you know in your free time where you’re kind of lonely in a new country You know, you know when you know yet and stuff but I never labeled myself as an artist or really thought much of my work or Never ever ever anticipated having a career in art let alone tattooing Um, so, so where you, you were doing art though, you were, you were an artist of sorts. You were, were you painting? Were you

drawing? Yeah. I was just drawing for fun. Um, I, so I studied history in college and education and art was something I hadn’t touched since like elementary school, but when you know, you start traveling and living abroad and um, you know, you have a lot of downtime, so you need hobbies and um, like I said, especially when you’re in a country and you don’t know anyone yet, you know, you’re, you’re looking for stuff to do and art was always something that was like a really nice kind of meditative thing for me. I like doing it to, you know, draw gifts for people and decorate empty tiny apartments that I’d be living. Darrell Bock What was like your inspiration? Was it where did you have something like just internally or was it external like whatever country you’re in that sort of changed and influenced what you were doing? Jessica Flynn Yeah, definitely that. I think at first it was more just like for the fun of it. And I just have sketchbooks and sketchbooks of like, oh, I was sitting in

this park and I drew this monument or something. Because you remember it a lot more clear when, you know, you could take a photo of a monument, but I’ll look through my photos and I’ll be like, I don’t even know where that was. But if you sit there for like an hour and draw it, you remember in detail. Oh, wow. So it’s always just kind of like a fun little thing for me. So when you go down memory lane, you just go through like your sketchbook. Yeah, exactly. Some people take selfies and they have it on your phone. You’re like, I’ll just sketch this. Yeah, I have dozens of little tiny sketchbooks and sometimes like the art’s not even good but it’s meaningful to me just because I was like, oh yeah, that was a place I’d lived or something like that. Fantastic. So then you’re teaching the world English, you’re traveling, clearly the world shuts down, then you decide it’s time for a change and I don’t think of myself as an artist so I’m going to do it on people’s bodies. I mean, kind of, I guess.

That’s a big jump to it. Like it happened so gradually, um, but yeah, like it took a lot of steps to get here for sure. Oh, I’m sure I I’m just teasing on that, but I, I know you, you, you, uh, you made that transition, but what, what drew you to, to that tattooing? Like what, what was that element that was different than maybe just being in drawing or painting? Well, like I love teaching so much, like I’d done it for so long and I had planned to do what I think for my career, for my life. And what I loved about it was that like personal aspect of, you know, you’re the teacher in a classroom and you have students in front of you and that’s like an automatic like conduit for amazing relationships. Like people are vulnerable with you, they open up, they’re learning a new language and you’re able to kind of, you know, get to know them and get to know their lives a little bit and their stories. And that was, I think when I thought about why do I love teaching English so much besides just like

the weird grammar and the nitty gritty of the language and all that stuff. That was the biggest reason why. And I couldn’t imagine a career that I was like, that I would love as much as that. And I didn’t want to, like, it was so hard to try to compromise, to think like when I, I mean, COVID hit and we didn’t know like what was going to happen. It was changing the whole landscape of like ESL teaching. Everyone was moving online. I tried teaching online, but I hated it. It just kind of took away that personal aspect. And I was trying to think, like, what’s next for me? So then you, I mean, you get into it, and I guess, and I hadn’t really thought of it, but when you are a tattoo artist, it’s a very personal, it’s a very communicative skill. Exactly. Whereas you’re an artist, a lot of times you’re just within yourself and you’re creating something, but now you’re executing other people’s visions sometimes and trying to interpret what they’re saying. Yeah, exactly. and that’s exactly what

appealed to me about tattooing was the fact that like you can draw a beautiful painting and they’re that’s so personal to you and that’s something that I love about art but the the side of it that’s like so much more dynamic is when you share it with somebody and they’re like I have no idea why you drew this but I connect with it from my own perspective and then they tell you why and it’s like that same kind of like conduit for you to be able to learn a little bit about somebody and very like interpersonal and tattooing that to like the hundredth degree, because someone has to sit in your chair, want your art on their body forever to change the way they look. They have to be vulnerable and in pain and really uncomfortable for a long period of time with you. And then, you know, they’re giving you something important to them. A lot of times, like this is the image that, you know, it means something to me for whatever reason. And they share that with you when they’re sitting there. And it’s

like, it’s just a really, I think, wonderful way to connect with people and do art at the same time. Do you find yourself becoming like a therapist for them while they’re talking through this, why I’m getting this change? Yeah. I’m not a licensed therapist, but we do talk about tattoo therapy. All you need is like a nice moment to just vent about whatever. Yeah. And do you have, I mean, looking, you don’t have many tattoos yourself, is that? No, when I first started learning to tattoo, when I did my apprenticeship, I had just one. It was like, nobody thought I had any. They would come to the shop and be like, can I talk to an artist, please? I’d be like, it’s me.

Is there a reason why you don’t, or is it just not your style? It’s just like I was never in the tattoo culture teaching English as well. I would go to countries like Japan and Asia and stuff where they’re a little bit more sensitive about your professional appearance. And so it wasn’t on my radar, like that I wanted to be tatted up for a while. And then my family as well, they’re super just not connected to the tattoo scene at all. So yeah, it was never something that I had like dove into before. But then once I started doing it and I’m like, of course I need to have the experience more times to know what I’m doing with my clients. So I would get some more. And so I’m working my way there, but I’m picky. There’s a lot of artists I want to travel and go see and get tattoos from. There’s that travel again. Yeah. Travel again. So now, and this is what kind of prompted this interview. I was, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was surprised to learn that it’s common for artists then to

travel and maybe work in a different city for a period of time. Yeah, it’s definitely doable. Um, I do guest spots pretty often a couple of year or I should say like, I’m getting into it. I did a couple last year. Um, but that’s I think another part of the industry that appeals to me a lot is that it doesn’t take a lot of equipment, you pack up your suitcase and you can go a lot of different cities and places. Jenny Burkhardt with Lonely Angel Tattoo is our guest today on Life Along the Streetcar. We’ll be back to the second half of that interview in just a moment, but I wanna remind you that you’re listening to us on Downtown Radio 99 .1 FM and streaming on Downtown Radio Tucson.

Support for Downtown Radio is provided by the Tucson Gallery, located in Downtown Tucson, inside of the proper shops at 300 East Congress Street. The Tucson Gallery offers original work, reproductions, and merchandise from Tucson artists like Joe Pagic, Jessica Gonzalez, Ignacio Garcia, and many more. For information about all of the artists, including when they will be live at the gallery, head to thetucsongallery .com or find them on Instagram and on Facebook as Tucson

Gallery. And speaking of Tucson Gallery, we’re actually playing back our interview with Jenny Burgard of Lonely Angel Tattoos. We recorded that in the studio at the gallery that’s set up for the Meet the Artist series, which you can find out on their website, thetucsongallery .com. But let’s get back into this story we’re sharing with Jenny Burgard. She is a Chicago native. She came to Tucson through many different cities around the globe, opened her own business, and is now running a successful tattoo shop and and studio in downtown called Lonely Angel. We got a little bit about her backstory and we’re gonna hear more about her travels and what the future might hold for Jenny Burgard. And then from a business standpoint, and again, this is me, I don’t have tattoos, I’m not in that culture, so I’m learning quite a bit just about how that sort of works through a community, but you don’t work for a shop. I mean, you have your own place. that’s that seems to me like you mean that that’s tough

to build a clientele it’s tough to get this audience and you just you just decided hey i’m gonna do this and and it seems to be successful yeah i mean i’m amazed at it too i think that’s like the power of art and doing something with i guess good intention you know i’m shocked especially ever since i moved here to proper shops um the clientele that’s coming to me and the you know ways i’m able to connect with them and, you know, hear their stories and stuff. And the projects they give me are stuff that they give me because they’re like, I want it in your style because it speaks to me for whatever reason, which is like, I’m so honored when people say stuff like that to me. So they come to you with a vision, but they don’t want you to copy what they’ve given you. They want you to make it you. Yeah. Okay. So that’s why they have the artist. I guess the artist makes a different sentence to your style and interpreting their vision. Definitely, that’s what’s exciting for me, like creatively.

And did you open up Lonely Angel right away or did you work for other another shop here? Yeah, I moved to Arizona after Alaska I was oyster farming in Alaska and just like figuring things out and then when I decided I wanted to pursue tattooing I came here and Shop apprenticed me in town and I worked for them for a year. Okay. Is that a requirement? That you I assume is requirement that you apprentice. I mean you’re doing some pretty significant connections with the body. So, I’m sure you have to have some. Yeah, I mean, well tattooing is kind of crazy because there’s no rules. Oh, that’s good to know. Yeah, so there’s people that you’ll meet that are like, I’m self -taught. There’s people that do years of apprenticeship time in a shop, but it’s not like, you know, you go to beauty school and then you have a license, like, you know, like there’s no rules. Wow. But for me, I really, I love, I’m a former teacher, so I love having kind of like being in a classroom, so to speak, or having kind

of a formal way of learning. So I wanted to actually work in a shop for a little bit and learn that way. So you built a following here in Tucson. How does that translate when you maybe go to Chicago or New York? Do you just start all over or do people know you there or how does that work? Yeah, pretty much. Big cities are nice because it’s easy to find people and social media. I have such a love -hate relationship with it, but it’s super useful when you travel and you kind of put out little notices, like, hey, I’m at this convention or this guest spot, and then the shop that invites you or hosts you is also just like super key in kind of getting the word out and being like, we have a cool guest artist, maybe you’d like them, and then you usually get enough clientele for a week. And do you see in your travels, is it more of a, you’re gravitated towards a bigger community or is there, like if you’re in New York, Do you say, oh, I want to go check out Tucson for a while, or is it everybody

kind of wanting to go to the bigger cities? Um, I think for tattooing prices vary a lot based on the city. Okay. So it’s more useful for me to go from a small city to a big city. Cause like, you know, the hourly rate’s a little bit better versus if I say to friends in Chicago, like, Hey, you want to come guest spot at my shop in Tucson? It’s fun, but they’re not going to be able to make the same. They’re going to take a pay cut, but they’ll have a paid vacation. They’ll have a somewhat paid vacation, so that’s not bad. Plus they get to hang out in Tucson in the middle of the winter when they’re knee -deep in snow, so that’s not a bad trade -off. Have you had people come and guest with you? Not yet, but I’m hoping to kind of get into that in the next year or so. Tough questions, but what are some of your favorite places? Are they in the United States? Are they overseas? What are some places that when you think back, you’re like, man, I gotta go?

I don’t know, I’ve loved every place I’ve been, but for different reasons. I know, it’s a hard question. Yeah, there’s definitely cities in the States that I love. Definitely COVID, if it did anything, it taught me how much in the States we actually have to appreciate, because I spent so much time abroad that I was kind of like, ah, whatever, the United States is boring. But no, it’s not. And even Tucson, like such a small underrated city, but I think it’s really magical here. I love it here. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, if you are missing any of those hidden gems along the urban core, listen to Life Along the Streetcar on downtown radio. Absolutely. Find out about all of that stuff. And when you’re traveling, I’m assuming, but again, I don’t know that out of country, you can’t tattoo necessarily, but I mean, I would think there’s some restrictions on that or does it matter? Same deal. I’m looking into that now cause I’m hoping to guest spot internationally this year. But yeah, different

countries have their own regulations. It’s definitely doable. It just requires a little bit of research. And then, you know, tattooing is not quite like teaching English. I could pick any country and find work in a couple weeks, but with tattooing, I’m like, I got to research the market, like who’s coming for tattoos and what’s the style, how much money are they making? Like I was in South America two years ago and I was checking out everybody’s ink and I was like, where’d, you know, like, where’d you get that done? How much did you pay for it? And, um, you were that person in the bar. I was just doing my research, you know, just in case. But what they charge there is like way lower than what you could make here. So it’s always like a trade -off of all those different factors. And then language barrier, which was never a problem with me teaching, is a little bit more of an


Yeah, I guess, yeah, I would imagine if you’re trying to put something very specific on someone’s body that’s gonna be there forever, the translation of each word probably means a lot. Yeah, and booking and all that stuff. But I mean, that’s what like visual language is for too. So maybe it’s doable. And I’ve seen it at the shop that you have, your shop within The Proper Shops, you’ve got, you’re selling some of your art as well. Is that common for a tattoo artist?

I think so. It depends definitely on what your goal is as a tattoo artist. There’s some people that are like, skin is my canvas and I don’t even draw on paper. And then there’s other people that, you know, they’re more like me where they started on paper and then they moved to skin. and so they’re just so completely different mediums. It’s like acrylic paint versus pastel crayons or something, you know, tattooing on skin versus drawing on a piece of paper. So I like doing both. And that’s, again, that just not knowing seems a little bit unique to me that, because it is like a completely different style and process. And how have you found the community in general? Is it welcoming to people that enter into this industry? Are they starting to close off your competition? I would say, and again, I’m not an authority on this because I’ve only really been in the community for about three years, but there’s this really interesting kind of American tattoo culture that is coming out of eras of being

a very underground subculture where they’re kind of criticized for their tattoos and they’re tough as a result. And nowadays it’s so common and popular and the technology as well is so much easier to work with and learn, I think, that it’s super widespread. And so it’s not just kind of like, you know, big tough guys getting tattoos, it’s everybody. And there’s a little bit of pushback and, you know, intermingling of these different kind of spheres of art and especially like as the technology advances and you can do even crazier things and like old school traditional art, which is like an incredible art in and of itself as well. Like it’s, it’s a super dynamic kind of art world right now. Even like going to conventions and seeing like all these different styles and, and, and then the artists behind them. It’s really fascinating. Technology and tattoos, it’s again, it makes perfect sense when you lay it out, but not something that I would have thought about. I can see that, I’m wondering

if it’s getting even easier to do or less painful to do, or is that, you’re like, no, it’s still working. We’re still digging in. That’s why I’m like, I really kind of wish I had gotten one of those old school tattoos by like the crazy heavy machines, because most of mine are just like very fine line as well. But yeah, technology is interesting in the way I feel like it’s coming into the field of tattooing, because there’s so many things that we still do like the old school way that I’m like, why do we do this? This is like a waste. But, and then there’s other things that, like people are talking about, oh, AI is gonna tattoo you and you’re gonna stick your hand in the machine and it’s just gonna like, bzzz, there you go. And just, I have no idea what the future of it’s gonna

be. I

can’t even get my key made properly at home. I’m not gonna stick my arm in there for a tattoo. Not for a while. Not for a while, but. I know it’s a love -hate relationship, but how do people find you? Is it social media? Yeah, for the most part, social media, and then word of mouth. That’s why I love Tucson as well, because it’s a small enough community that I would say at least 50 % of my clients come to me because somebody else told them about it. And on the social media, is it Lonely Angel Tattoo? Is it, what is the handle? Lonely Angel Tattoos. Tattoos, okay. And Instagram and Facebook, or? Just Instagram, and I have a website as well. Okay, all right. And you are still taking new clients, I assume, while you’re still in Tucson? on? Yeah, absolutely. Any plans to leave town anytime soon? I’ve got a guest spot planned for Miami in April. Oh, nice. And then, like I said, I’m looking to do something in the UK and maybe like Europe sort of later in the year. Well, if you’re interested in

a lonely angel tattoo, it sounds like you might want to react a little bit more quickly before she’s off into the world. Jenny, I really appreciate your time today. I learned quite a bit. I’m excited for all of the success that I see in front of you. Yeah, great. Thank you so much. That was Jenny Burgard. She is the owner of Lonely Angel Studio in downtown Tucson. I got to hear her story of how she made it to Tucson and got her career from teaching to a tattoo artist and a studio entrepreneur. Really a bright future ahead for her in my humble opinion. My name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to Lifelong Streetcar and Downtown Radio 99 .1 FM and available for streaming You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona, 99 .1 FM Downtown Radio. I’m Brother Mark, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 3 p .m. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson and we give you a tasty taste of their music. If you want to check out what’s happening around Tucson,

check out Radio Club Crawl. Tuesdays 3 p .m. Right here on KT DT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio. Thank you very much Enjoy your evening. Bye. Bye All right, we’re approaching the end here of episode number 284 Getting closer and closer to that magic 300 perfect bowling score I’m not sure that reference came from anyway appreciate you hanging with us throughout the day and throughout the years I’ve been doing this since 2017 now in our eighth year I guess it is well seventh year yeah seventh year so it’ll be our seven year anniversary this October and this show happens because of you you know we we put the call out for stories and you give us people to talk to or features to showcase hidden gems to highlight, and we thank you for that. In a very near upcoming episode, it may be next week, if not, it’ll be soon after, we’re going to talk through how to get more involved if you are interested, not just with sharing stories, but I’ve been approached by a couple of individuals that

wanted to maybe start a podcast or do a tour, or they just had some thoughts on things that I’ve been doing and wanted to know if I had some advice for them. And my advice was just do it. I had no plan when this started. This was just a labor of love. And it’s been fun, been very successful for me in a lot of ways. But honestly, it’s just been fun. And for me, it wasn’t treated as a business. It was treated as a passion. And that’s really how I’ve operated it for all of these years. But there might be a way for you to get more involved. So if you’re looking to maybe start your own show or do something along those lines, We’re going to have some opportunities with Life Along the Streetcar, if you want. It might not be for everyone and it might be for no one, I don’t know. But we’ll talk about that in an upcoming episode and getting more involved. But for today, it’s Sunday, so stay tuned for Words and Work. Ted Przelski, he follows us in just a few minutes with interviews from writers and

members of the labor movement. And then later on in the day at the top of the hour, we’ve got Ty Logan, Back to Music. and then you know tomorrow morning paleo Dave back on the airwaves at 7 a .m. to get your your morning your morning going there and I gotta tell you I think I listen to Dave every day just just about if not every day it’s at least four days a week and it’s a really good eclectic mix there that he has on the scrambled sunrise if you have any questions for us don’t hesitate to reach out on our Facebook or Instagram we have an email which is contact at life along streetcar .org. Our website’s got all kinds of information about the past shows and even the book. And just a reminder to also head over to downtownradio .org to check out the full lineup of DJs and show hosts throughout the week. And while you’re there, hit the donate button, because we are volunteer powered and those dollars go a long way with us. James Portis is our production specialist. My name is Tom Heath.

I’m your host and producer. As always, our opening music is Dillinger Days, courtesy of Ryan Hood, and we’re gonna leave you today with the music from 1st of October with Rob Scallon, Andrew Wong, and from a 2022 album called Chaos. In honor of our guest today, we’re gonna be listening to Lonely Angel. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more Life Along the streetcar.