By Brigid Morrissey

Izzi had no doubts about pursuing a career as a tattoo artist. Photos by Melissa Donald

Izzi Echo gravitated toward tattoos from a young age. Her dad was a biker and a hippie, and he is covered with them. “I would trace the lines on his arm and wonder how it worked,” she says.

Some kids dream of being an astronaut or a professional athlete when they grow up, but not Izzi Echo.

She now is a tattoo artist at her own studio, Blackout Studios, close to UofL. “I love what I do,” she says. “I feel like I was put on this earth to do this.” And with a name like hers, how could you expect conformity?

A foot cover-up for a client. “She wanted fancy gemstones and really loves henna designs, so I thought I would incorporate both.”

Of course, Izzi Echo isn’t her real name. A bully at church camp once commented, “You don’t look like a Hallii (which, by the way, means “The Patient One.”), you look like an Izzi.” And The Patient One embraced her new name. Several years later, her best friend solidified Izzi’s persona with a single comment: “As much as people talk about you, you should change your last name to Echo.”

Izzi created more than just a new image growing up. She practiced all kinds of art: drawing, painting, sculpting, playing piano and flute, gymnastics, belly dancing, ballet, and tap dancing. Even with her hectic schedule, Izzi graduated high school early at age 16 and was on track for pre-law.

“I love doing tattoos of eyes, because for me, close attention to detail is what makes it fun. I love photo realism and trying to make something as tangible as possible.”

Call it divine intervention, call it personal choice. Call it as Izzi deciding to be “The Patient One” about her career decision, but she decided to forego that path and carve a new one.

She got her start in tattooing at Uncle Bob’s Tattoos in Clarksville through a friend who worked there at the time. Izzi earned an apprenticeship when she was 17. “I am eternally grateful for my mentor,” Izzi says. “He saw potential in me in spite of being in a male-dominated industry.”

Perfectionism is at the center of Izzi’s work which can go through 7-12 revisions. 

Eyes and skulls are her favorite images to ink. Covering up tattoos is also one of her specialties. “Tattooing is a form of therapy,” she says. “Fixing mistakes — it’s a metaphor for life.”

Izzi’s work eventually caught the attention of the casting crew of the reality TV show Best Ink. She was hesitant but decided to join the cast of season three. “I thought, ‘I can either go do this, or I can stay in my box and be mediocre,” she says.

A cloth gallery style canvas. “The whole idea behind this was that we are all bound to specific people in our lives by this framework of invisible interlocking strings…we find one another again and again in different lives.”

Izzi didn’t earn the top spot, but says the show was great for self-promotion. She will be showcasing her work through more events this year, including the Cleveland Tattoo Arts Convention last month in Ohio. This will also be her third year of participating in the Louisville Tattoo Arts Convention that will take place April 1-3, where tattoo enthusiasts can meet TV personalities and artists travel from all over the world to tattoo in their booths and sell artwork.

“I describe my work as a transient evanescence,” Izzi says. “My tattoos will decay over time, and they will die with you. They tell your life story. It’s a timeless art.”

Izzi looks forward to displaying her work at various venues.