Melissa Taylor tattoos a client at Sacred Tattoo in Oakland.

The artist wears black latex gloves and dips a needle into ink. She then draws blue waves around a colorless outline of the Buddha, carefully wiping excess ink off of her living canvas. The mechanical hum of the mechanized needle doesn’t interfere with the interaction between tattoo artist, Melissa Taylor of Oakland’s Sacred Tattoo, and…

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Stretched out on my oversized couch in my apartment in downtown Oakland, my friend Devin Miller—an Oakland artist, with short, choppy bleached hair, and an eclectic, thrift store wardrobe—and I watch The Daily Show on my laptop, laughing about Rush Limbaugh’s latest antics. It feels like any other night, relaxing after a long day at work with a friend at home, though she and I both know that tonight isn’t typical. I am serving ginger and honey tea when she pulls out a green, pink, and yellow vertically striped make-up bag with little handles on the top—the kind you can buy from the dollar bins at Target—and says, “Are you ready?”

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