Instagram has always felt like the perfect tool for tattooers to connect with each other, new clients and serves as the de facto portfolio and news delivery platform for tattooing, but in late 2017, something as trivial as a little circle caused a huge stir. That something was Everence.
Some of the most well-respected tattooers around changed their display pictures in unison to a mysterious logo and teased that big thing were coming. The reaction to which, was big, in fairness. But speculation raged and insults were thrown around in the lead up to the reveal of what this all meant. What was this reveal that caused so much controversy? Everence, a company that had patented a method of microencapsulating DNA of a loved one into a substance that could be added during the tattoo process for sentimentality or the feeling of being that bit closer to somebody.
Ordinarily, we doubt this would have been the kind of announcement to draw much attention from tattooing at large, people have certainly put ashes and the like in tattoos for a long time already, but the reveal campaign for Everence was perhaps a little too successful. Did the makers anticipate a debate to rage between thousands of tattooers, with many turning super-sleuth to try and trace back company owners and patent holders to piece everything together? It’s doubtful. But the people that caught the live grenade during everything were the tattooers who agreed to help promote Everence.
So given the chance, we were happy to chat to Valerie Vargas, undoubtedly one of the most well respected and talented tattoo artists around, but one who had helped in the promotion process of Everence.
Hi, Valerie! It’s good to finally have a chance to chat. Firstly, how’s everything going at Modern Classic? It’s a bold move leaving a studio with as much history as Frith Street, but Modern Classic seems to have a killer line up of artists. Was it just time to move on?
The 7 years I spent at frith street will always be the best in my life tattooing, Dante took my husband and I in and there we were allowed the freedom to work on our styles and build our clientele from nothing to what it is today. We are eternally grateful to count Dante as a great friend as sad as he was to see us go, he blessed us with nothing but support.
The reason we decided to move on and open up our own studio was mainly that we wanted to focus on our long-term career, and how to handle parenthood on our own terms without having to let anyone down when wanting time off in the future.
Central London can be a very hectic place and we wanted to step down the busyness a notch, hence Fulham was the right place for us, easy to travel to and there’s a nice easy going feel about the area.
So, when and how did you first hear about Everence?
A couple of years ago our friend Virginia Elwood reached out with the idea, we talked on the phone about it for a bit and agreed to talk about it more in person next time we saw each other in the States. Meanwhile, I had time to think about the product and what it meant for me personally, I didn’t want to be involved in something if I couldn’t connect with it. Most tattooers involved have been offered a lot of opportunities to be part of other things and we usually are the ones that shy away from putting our names alongside pretty much anything, but this felt different.
Was it something you really believed in, or was it a case of helping out some tattooer friends? Sharing some social media posts of a friends project is something we do all the time and it usually doesn’t blow up so much. I just don’t think anybody had seen such a campaign en masse with the level of artists involved before.
Because it was Virginia reaching out, I already made my mind to listen and take it seriously, she and Stephanie have never lead me to believe they like to throw their good judgement out the window. Every tattooer I know has an opinion on whether they will allow a customer to bring ashes for their tattoo. I have never been a fan of it due to the fact that it’s messy. Ashes can get messy and blow around the set up when trying to pour them into the ink, the ash itself is sometimes up to 10% other contents such as the coffin, the embalming chemicals and sometimes when not thorough, remains from the previous cremations. So it never really sat all that well with me, Everence is clean, easy to use, comes in a neat little vial and it’s 100% of the memory you want it to be.
My mum has had Alzheimer’s for a long time and even though I already have a couple of ‘mum’ tattoos, I would want to have the one I see every day on my wrist to have her DNA. Everyone has had their opinions on Everence but you don’t know why people might use it till you hear their story, mine is seeing her life and mind ebb away slowly while I care for her, and seeing your parents mortality staring you in the face changes you, your perspective and for me it was about carrying her with me forever, in a literal sense.
With names like Virgina Elwood, Mike Rubendall, Tim Hendricks, Rose Hardy, Thomas Hooper, Scott Sylvia and many more involved, one could be forgiven for imagining this project was just about anything other than what it ended up being. These are legitimately some of the best tattooers, period. Did the other names associated help with your decision to be a part of it?
I was brought in early on so I joined based on what Everence was and my trust for Virg and Steph alone, as the team expanded I couldn’t be happier to be part of a such a stellar bunch, not just of great tattooers, some personal heroes, but because they are all stand up people who are always true to their word and have an impeccable work ethic.
Did you anticipate the backlash that ended up coming the way of the tattooers involved?
Not at all! We might have foreseen some ripples, cos people will always have opinions, which is totally fine, but it felt unfair that we weren’t allowed to even explain what Everence was before people made up their minds based on erroneous information and then proceeded to question our very integrity in this business. All we have is through tattooing, even these very friendships we speak of, the last thing any of us would want is to throw tattooing under the bus.I tried not to take the backlash personally but I couldn’t help it somewhat. I’ve listened to people’s reasons as to why they don’t like Everence, or maybe just weren’t comfortable with the launch and I get it, it’s fine, it’s not for everyone.
The few days after the teases were put up, I’m assuming there were agreements in place to not give anything away until the company wanted to reveal what it was they had. People were thirsty for more information and clarification, but what was that limbo period like for yourself?
Well it started off as fun, kinda waiting, checking for comments about people being excited to find out in a few days etc. but within a day I guess, that’s when things went a bit weird and then it was like torture! I wanted to speak up and explain but we’d already given our time frame so couldn’t really take it back.
A lot of assumptions were made surrounding Everence, namely that the tattooers involved were paid to promote a product they don’t believe in, they might have been taking a cut of the profits, that this was big corporate companies muscling in on tattooing and that it was almost an exclusive club for so-say ‘successful’ tattooers. Could you respond to how you feel about these oft-seen statements?
Everence was started by 2 guys who wanted to find a way to help people connect on a deeper level. Maybe the brand or the sound of the name sounds corporate, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Patrick and Boyd really sought our advice and insights as to whether the ideas were viable with tattooers. We were brought in to basically tell them what would work for tattoos and what wouldn’t, to see things from our perspective as tattooers but also customers.
If I was doing this for the money I would have said yes to a whole bunch of projects before this and stopped tattooing, but I am not and neither is anyone involved. It might seem like a broken record for the haters but we wouldn’t be involved in Everence if we didn’t believe in it!
As somebody who has given so much to tattooing, and the same can be said about the other great tattooers involved, do you feel like you should have been given the benefit of the doubt whilst people waited for the facts?
I think that’s easy to answer with a big fat yes hehe. There were some specific individuals that have clearly stirred the pot and got everyone foaming at the mouth, then when the big reveal happened a LOT of people were like, was that it?’ I got mad about this? But currently, we live in a time where no one wants to wait for nothing, they want it now, myself included so asking people to wait 3 days clearly backfired, especially on the slowest month of the year haha.
Given the chance, would you have still agreed to be part of the project? Would you have done anything differently?
I’m still very much on board, and so are the rest of the guys. We had discussed amongst ourselves that yes, we should have launched a different way on IG, but it’s all done and we can only go forward.
Have you, outside of maybe the testing phase, tattooed using Everence? Is it something you’d be open to?
I tattooed Jason Fox, former UK special forces. We did a cool warrior tattoo on his arm and used Everence in the shield, it was easy to put in and a great experience! I’ll gladly tattoo with it, one of the reasons I like Everence is because the fine powder doesn’t change the consistency of your ink, it heals just as it would without it and because the reason behind your tattoo is in it already, the design aspect doesn’t need to be compromised. Every tattooer has had to do a memorial tattoo at some point where there are very specific details that the customer doesn’t want to change that could, from a design point of view, turn a potentially awesome tattoo into an ok tattoo. With Everence there shouldn’t be a compromise in order to get a stunning memorial piece.
Is there anything else you’d like to say regarding everything that blew up? Outside of the storm-in-a-teacup drama, things seem like they’re back to normal. You continue to post mind-blowing tattoos on a daily basis and the same can be said about everybody else that was involved. So maybe the sky wasn’t falling.
Nothing that I can think of, other than to go listen to the podcast No Lies Just Bullshit episode 67 (No lies just bullshit podcast ) Where Scott Sylvia, MikeRubendalll and Tim Hendricks alongside host Nick Swartz talk about Everence and the launch, it’s a bit long but hilarious, Nick does regular podcasts well worth listening to!
So there you have it. Everence and the whole situation from Valerie herself. If you want to check out more of Valerie’s work, or that of Modern Classic Tattoo, head over to:
Valerie Vargas’ website:
Valerie Vargas’ Instagram:
Modern Classic Website:
Modern Classic Instagram:
You can find more from Everence here.