TAM presents: Mastectomy Tattoos w/artist Shane Wallin

Many of you may remember this amazing post-mastectomy tattoo image, shared across social media and blogs worldwide-


Crash: When I first saw Shane’s work I was blown away, not just by the work he does (which is exceptional) but by the stories of the women he has helped reclaim a sense of feminine dignity after the trauma of cancer, mastectomy surgeries and other reconstructive measures.

TAM is proud to introduce our new columnist, Shane Wallin, of Garnet Tattoo in southern California. When I first saw Shane’s amazing work and heard the stories of women he was helping reclaim feminine dignity, I was blown away– not just by the work (which is amazing) but by the lives he changes with his work. I reached out to him to learn more-

 Artist Shane Wallin: Fast & Furious facts:

-Shane Wallin 40 years old

-Born and raised in MN

-Always wanted to tattoo and focused on it in High School

-Used my graduation money to start a sleeve and talk my way in to an apprenticeship

-Tattooing 21 years/1994

-Opened Twilight Tattoo in 2001.

-Just opened Garnet Tattoo in Southern California last month.

To start off this series of seri-ous posts here on the TAMblog, I asked Shane to tell us all a little bit about his history and how he came to this rather unique form of specialized tattooing:

I’ve been tattooing for over twenty years now. About 15 years ago, I opened my first tattoo shop in Minneapolis, MN, Twilight Tattoo. I didn’t get my start specializing in post mastectomy tattoos or 3D nipples, but that is where I have found much fulfillment with my art. I started out like any other tattooer. Doing whatever came through the door. As I gained experience in the chair, my tattoos became larger and more complex.

Then, I was approached in 2012 to do a bra on a survivor named Shari. At first I treated it like any other tattoo- working with the design challenges, moving with body lines and complex curves. As I worked on Shari and got to know her, I began to understand the affects of breast cancer.  When finished I knew it was much more that just any other tattoo. It was special. I had no idea how much it would change her life and mine.

 My years of stenciling prepared me to be able to pattern something this difficult. It also prepared me to work with clients with emotional as well as physical scars. It takes a lot of patience to stencil and re-stencil. Find symmetry and balance where there is none left. The survivors I work on are each very unique in their scars as well as their backgrounds. What I hear the most is how afraid they are to show their bodies or even look in the mirror.

TAM mastectomy tattoos shane wallin

When I finish working on these warriors, I don’t even need to hear their words, I can always see the jubilation in their eyes, faces and body language. Being able to change a person’s life and the way the feel about themselves is powerful and rewarding. I love to tattoo and make people happy, but to change a life is immeasurable.

— [button color=”pink” size=”medium” link=”http://tattooartistmagazineblog.com/2015/09/09/p-ink-day-2015-announcing-cities-artists-for-survivors-of-breast-cancer/” target=”blank” ]P.Ink Day is Oct.10 — READ MORE HERE[/button]

When Needle and Sins blogged about me, TAM shared it on Facebook. That is when it all started. The photos of Shari’s “bra” tattoo spread like wildfire on the internet.

Check out these other articles for more!
Women who opt for tattoos after surgery

Then in 2014 I was asked to be the lead artist for P.ink Day MN, (national breast tattooing day.) We hosted 6 warriors with 6 artists. P.ink (Personal Ink) is a national organization based in Boulder Co. Founded by Noel Franus in 2012, after his sister in law was diagnosed with breast cancer. His vision was to match as many women as possible with tattooists one day a year to receive free services.

 Shortly after P.ink Day 2014 I decided to make breast work a focus in my career.

garnet tattoo shop

The more my wife and I talked about specializing in reconstructive tattooing, it became clear to me that I should open a mastectomy focused studio. I chose San Diego because of the perfect weather. A great year-round location for survivors traveling for my services. Opened in February 2015, it was designed to look a little softer with it’s sleek, surgical, mid-century design. Though it is still very much a tattoo shop, I wanted Garnet Tattoo to be a place everyone is relaxed and feels welcomed.

wallin 3-d nipple tattoo artist magazine tam

I’ve always been proud of my work, but today more than ever. The work I’ve been able to do with women who have defeated breast cancer is, for me, art with a purpose. It is the intersection of creation and transformation.

There isn’t a feeling in the world for a tattoo artist that compares to a woman leaving the shop saying, “I have beautiful breasts again,” or “I’ve finally kicked cancer’s ass!” It’s a humbling experience for me, and inspires me to keep pushing myself. If they can do it, so can I.

I can create new 3D nipples, rework nipples that already have been pigmented by a physician, but are not 3D. And I want clients to understand that I am a destination tattoo shop for breast work. I welcome groups of survivors and their families.

*Crash: Shane also does, y’know, reg-u-lar tattoos, too. 😉


In the days and months ahead, Shane will be sharing more of his work and some testimonial stories from some of the women (and men) he serves. Look for one this week!

*Please like and share these posts and blogs. TAM is proud to be a part of this. And we’re proud of the tattoo community for supporting these courageous women (and men). The P. Ink organization is doing good work, folks; we hope to get something from them on the topic soon

mastectomy postcard_final

@shanewallintattoo (this one has the bulk of his tattoo work)




For the Header image:  Janine’s photos and of P.ink day 2014 were taken by John Swanson of JPS photography

Related Articles:

NEW POST: Breast Reconstruction Process, Carrie

Patty’s story: “I didn’t want scars to be all I saw!” 

*NEW BLOG: “Why I wanted to tattoo my creasts” post-mastectomy testimonial by Juanita!

*WOW! post-Mastectomy Testimonial from Janine!

*NEW ARTICLE on Mastectomy Tattoos and the artist Shane Wallin helping women reclaim their body and their femininity! 

Beautiful Mastectomy Scar Tattoo

Mastectomy Scars Transformed on P.Ink Day

Women Finding Beauty In Tragedy

Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

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One thought on “TAM presents: Mastectomy Tattoos w/artist Shane Wallin

  1. Going to school at MD Anderson Cancer Center has really opened up my mind about people and their bodies. Lots of people are in denial about what is happening to them and refuse to take necessary measures to increase their lifespan because they are afraid of the results. If more people knew that a tattoo could make them look normal again or unique despite going through surgery I bet we would have more Cancer patient survivors.

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