Photo by Ruta Smith

Best Tattoo Artist
Ashley B. McMullen, Holy City Tattooing Collective

In the 15 years Ashley B. McMullen has worked as a tattoo artist, she has accomplished a lot, from appearing on season four of tattoo competition show Ink Masters to, most recently, securing the title of Best Tattoo Artist in Charleston. 

“When I first started, tattooing was very different,” she said. “There were not a lot of women, especially young women, doing it, but now, there is so much support for women in the tattoo industry. Some clients prefer to only get tattooed by female artists. When I first started, there wasn’t anything like that. People shied away from getting tattooed by me because I was a girl.”

McMullen was drawn to tattoo culture from a young age, beginning a two-year apprenticeship at 20 years old. She credits the popularity of tattoo magazines as one of the things that first piqued her interest in the culture. She was always drawing and interested in art, she said, but never felt that she found her medium until she started hanging out in tattoo shops. 

“When I was younger, I was trying to find a way to channel my anger and emotions into something that was productive, and I think that’s important for people to understand that if they put those feelings into something, it can become something really beautiful,” she said. 

McMullen currently works at Holy City Tattooing Collective and likes focusing on custom lettering, traditional styles and floral pieces. She said the shop owner, Jason Eisenberg, who was voted runner-up for Best Tattoo Artist, is a huge inspiration to her along with another local tattoo artist, Betsy Butler. 

“I try to stay close with a lot of the women who tattoo in Charleston,” she said. “We have to work together and keep building that support for female tattoo artists.”

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