While many tattoo artists may claim to dedicate their entire lives to their trade, few can truly say they’ve grown up in the industry quite as much as Amalia “Loki” Mahoney. As the daughter of legendary tattooer Mark Mahoney, the 24-year-old spent most of her childhood hanging out in the drawing rooms of tattoo parlors and admiring the ink on her dad’s famous clients and friends—back when the tattoo world was a whole lot rougher around the edges than it is today.
“It was a different world back in the ‘90s when I was a little girl,” Mahoney says. “Kids weren’t allowed to hang out with me because my dad was a tattooer, and people thought all tattooers were criminals and junkies. It wasn’t as popular as it is now—it was a completely different world—and it was all fucked up and crazy. I used to think [the tattoo artists] were all like pirates, and that was so tight. It was fun to watch them all just be fucking wild.”
By the time Mahoney hit her teenage years, reality television programs like Miami Ink and* Ink Master* brought the underground scene she knew into the mainstream. Her friends’ parents were suddenly trying to meet her father rather than just assuming the worst about him, and the seediness of her childhood was rapidly replaced by sterilization and a focus on tattoos as an art form.
But Mahoney knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps long before the rush of artists looking to become tattooers in the second half of the 2000s. Despite her dad’s best attempts to steer her away from the all-consuming career path, the lifelong painter and musician knew she wanted to tattoo before she was even able to write a complete sentence. While her kindergarten classmates wanted to be astronauts and firefighters, Mahoney may have been the only one dreaming of becoming a tattooer. As she entered her teenage years, the young artist couldn’t help but feel that her dad was holding her back by not allowing her to learn to tattoo.
“I grew up with a lot of other second-generation tattooers, but they were all guys and they were always getting fucked up,” Mahoney says. “They’d start tattooing young because they’d drop out of school and be on drugs or whatever, and I just thought it was so unfair that my dad wouldn’t let me do it even though I wasn’t fucked up. He wanted me to do it the right way and work my way up, and he told me he wasn’t going to let me tattoo unless I graduated college.”
Knowing what she needed to do to begin her tattoo career, Mahoney began working at her father’s legendary Shamrock Social Club in West Hollywood as an assistant at the age of 14 before testing out of high school and attending Pasadena City College a year later. After moving to New York City to graduate from the School of Visual Arts at 21, Mahoney was finally given a single lesson from her dad before officially booking her first appointments as an artist at Daredevil Tattoo—where she’d also learn under the iconic Michelle Myles.
These days, Mahoney has returned to Los Angeles to learn from her famous father and the legendary artists he’s surrounded himself with at Shamrock. With tattooers like Freddy Negrete (as well as his son, Isaiah “Boo Boo” Negrete), Danny Romo, and Louie Perez III all around to show Mahoney the right way to go about her business, the up-and-coming artist knows she’s in a enviable position unlike any other.
It’s like getting advice from the da Vinci and Michelangelo of tattooing.
“My dad really is my dad, but Freddy [Negrete] and all the rest of the guys are pretty much my uncles,” Mahoney says. “They’ve seen me grow up, and they love me like family. It’s exciting for me because now I get to learn from all of these guys, and they get excited to teach me stuff and to see me tattooing. It’s a very different relationship than most apprenticeships, and they’re just trying to help me out—which is amazing. It’s like getting advice from the da Vinci and Michelangelo of tattooing, so I know how lucky I am to be surrounded by these guys.”
Of course, along with the blessings of being Mark Mahoney’s daughter comes the burden of high expectations. When your last name is known for tattooing the biggest actors and musicians and bedtime stories involved recounting tales or running around the New York City punk scene with Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders, the shoes being passed down are pretty tough to fill. As an artist, Mahoney knows she’s nowhere near her father’s level just yet, but the self-described “chola-biker-punk” is already excited to watch her own skills grow until she can one day leave her own mark on the family legacy.
“It feels so right because my dad and I are so similar in the things that we like and the way we act,” Mahoney says. “I like that it was kind of handed down to me from hanging out here and that he kind of rubbed off on me. When I hear myself talking sometimes or when I see myself doing rose tattoos or script tattoos, I’ll see my dad in them. I’m obviously not as good as him yet, but I can see his influence in them and that’s what makes me excited. He’s a part of me regardless of anything that could happen, and I’m honored to carry on his name.”
At the same time, it’s important to remember that Mahoney is still just barely starting her tattooing career while her peers are still figuring out what they want to do after college. Sure, she’s picked up some of the industry’s best customer service tips and tricks over the last decade, but the act of creating permanent skin art is still something that’s a very early work in progress. At least until the sound of her vintage bluesy punk rock tunes turn Mahoney into the next Patti Smith or Janis Joplin, the artistic side of tattooing is exactly what Mahoney will be studiously working on for the foreseeable future.
“Now it’s about learning tattooing,” Mahoney says of her future. “Before, I would get to see how my dad dealt with people and how he’s like a shaman who gets people to tell him things they never told their wife. I picked up on that when I was younger, so I got good at talking to people and dealing with people. Now that I’m actually tattooing, I’m dedicating my time to learn the actual form of tattooing on different skins and using different colors.”