In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Beaver Tattoo put together a portfolio of Sandy Relief Tattoos and all proceeds - nearly $1,000 - went to the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association who, in turn, used it to help the residents impacted by that deadly storm.
“The response was enormous,” says Natalia Borgia-Kogut, owner of Beaver Tattoo on 94th Street, just south of Jamaica Avenue. “We had clients driving all the way from Staten Island and upstate New York to participate.
“We were very pleased to see New Yorkers standing strong and helping each other,” she added. “Some days we had to stay after closing hours just to accommodate all the walk-ins. The response was so great that we did another relief action, this time for an animal shelter in the Rockaways that was destroyed by the storm.”
Borgia-Kogut comes to Woodhaven from Poland, where she was born and raised while the country was still under Communist rule. She showed exceptional artistic talent at a very young age but had limited opportunities to hone that talent at school.
Then, Borgia-Kogut’s life changed forever when her parents won the green card lottery and the entire family moved to the United States in 1997. Suddenly, she found herself at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
“I absolutely loved the teachers and all the different classes I was able to take, from printmaking to advanced painting to ceramics,” she says.
She was particularly taken by an act of kindness by one teacher, Mrs. Dell.
“Everyone in class was supposed to buy an art bin for their supplies,” Borgia-Kogut recalls. “Since I was freshly new in the country, I ended up with a shoe box. All my classmates had shiny brand new art bins and she must have noticed my embarrassment. She stopped me after class and gave me an art bin of my own.”
Borgia-Kogut has never forgotten this gesture. In fact, it has inspired her to help others, and she has a new shiny art box that she will be dropping off at her old school for another unfortunate student on a tight budget.
Now in its fifth year, Beaver Tattoo is unique as it is completely staffed by female artists.
“We welcome all clients, male and female, however a lot of ladies feel more at ease with girl artists, especially when they are getting work on intimate areas like hips or ribs where they have to be quite undressed,” Borgia-Kogut explains. “Their boyfriends are happy about that as well.”
A few years ago, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association held an art show and the staff from Beaver Tattoo all participated, showing a wide range of skills and specialties, something that’s crucial when choosing an artist to work on your tattoo.
“Do your research, look at artists' portfolios,” Borgia-Kogut advises. “If they don't have one, that means they have no work they're proud of showing to others.”
As for other tips, Borgia-Kogut advises against getting someone’s name,
“Unless it's a family member,” she says. “We've covered up way too many ex-girlfriend’s and boyfriend’s names!”
Borgia-Kogut feels strongly that there are some bad misconceptions out there about people with tattoos.
“Some people think that the men are criminals and the women are promiscuous and we’re all drug addicts,” she said. “That obviously is not true. I've tattooed police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, even a school principal. You would be amazed knowing who has ink in this day and age.”
Borgia-Kogut also notes that you're never too old to get a tattoo.
“I had the pleasure of working on Miss Judith Graves,” she says, referring to the beloved Woodhaven resident who passed away last November. “She was a lovely woman and when I grow up I want to be just like her.”
Hearing that, one thing you know you can expect is an artistic environment where your interests and boundaries are respected.
“I see the body as an empty canvas,” Borgia-Kogut says. “One that needs to be decorated to one's personal needs and wishes.”
You can view the portfolios of the entire staff online at beavertattoo.com or call (718) 441-1328 for more information.