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City People

Pierced the boys' club

Published March 2, 2007


Jill Trilling makes her living getting under people's skin.

She is not given to introspection, so when asked about her background, she tends to shade the truth a smidge.

Okay, fine. She lies.

How did you get into tattooing?

"Prison," she says, straight-faced.

How old were you when you got your first tattoo?


No, really, how old?

"Seven," she insists. "Honestly, I don't remember."

Okay then. Seven it is. And what was the tattoo of?

"Something sacrilegious," she says, fumbling for an image, "a cross with a circle around it."

How many do you have now?

"Just one that keeps expanding."

That much appears to be true. Her arms, legs and chest - even her ears - are marked with permanent ink.

Trilling, 26, has been a tattoo artist at 1603 Tattoo & Body Piercing Co. in Ybor City for nearly three years. Thin and green-eyed, she has been perfectly content for the last five-plus years working in what is, for the most part, "a boy's world." She knows of only one female colleague in Tampa.

Trilling works 12-hour days, four days a week and can be found in the second work station to the left, wearing pink latex gloves and drinking a tall Cafe Americano from the Starbucks across the street.

No, she has never been to prison. She got her first tattoo in high school. Now, they range from small red stars and skulls to nearly nude women and other shapes and forms so bold in color yet so blended together that you can't really tell what's what.

Her quick wit and deliberately tall tales may throw you off at first, but give her a tattoo machine and a blank stretch of skin and she'll show you what she's really about.

Trilling graduated from Tampa Preparatory School and got her associate's degree from Hillsborough Community College. Her first job at a tattoo studio was at a place in Bradenton, answering phones and helping customers.

Then she got a job at Concrete Ink, now known as Atomic Tattoos, on N Dale Mabry Highway. That's where she learned her art.

A few years later she ended up in Ybor, at 1603 Tattoo & Body Piercing Co.

"Jill's the best," said Roger Vadocz, one of her regular clients. He has a thing for pinup girls. Several illustrate his arms, all courtesy of Trilling.

Vadocz spent a lot of time looking for the perfect tattoo artist, talking to people and doing research online. Trilling's portfolio caught his eye.

He came in for the latest addition to his busty entourage a week ago: a "fembot" - a female robot - on his upper left arm.

Before Trilling began, the artist and her living canvas discussed the design. It looked pretty good, he told her, except he really wanted lasers. More specifically, he really wanted lasers firing from the fembot's chest.

Trilling shook her head. Might be a little too much: "She's already holding a gun."

They reached an agreement metallic colors, no lasers, and Trilling stretched on her pink gloves. She washed Vadocz's skin with soapy water, shaved it with a disposable blue razor and transferred the design by pressing thermal paper onto his skin.

Trilling slipped on a thin royal blue headband, and Vadocz took a seat in the exam chair, resting his head on a glittering pink plastic pillow.

Here's when Trilling gets down to business. A look of concentration falls over her, eyes barely blinking as she takes needle to skin.

The drilling sound the machine makes is strangely, well, piercing, but Trilling barely notices it anymore - in fact, she kind of likes it.

A few hours later, another of her designs takes its first steps into the world.

This kind of art doesn't sit around collecting dust.

It walks around and gets noticed.

Some people might not like it.

But that's just fine with her.

Erika Vidal can be reached at or (813) 226-3339.


Fast facts

Jill Trilling

Lives: In Ybor Heights

Number of tattoos: "Just one that keeps expanding."

Children: Two chihuahuas, Montey and Gulliver.

Hobbies: Traveling, drawing, painting and "not eating animals."

Dislikes: Football, because "it's a tool to control the masses."

Alias: Bipolar Bear


[Last modified March 1, 2007, 07:41:39]

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