'It's a transformation': Tattoo artist uses psychology background to create unique tattoo experience

NOW: ’It’s a transformation’: Tattoo artist uses psychology background to create unique tattoo experience

OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) – For those who know Julia Ragalie, her career comes as no surprise.

"I was always the kid that had to customize everything," Ragalie said. "I had to put stickers all over my planner, I had to decorate my locker, I had to - when I was in middle school, I would draw on my arms with Sharpie."

Inside her independent tattoo studio, Julia's eccentric personality is wall to wall.

"This is a space where people can come and feel safe and not feel judged or othered," she said.

Julia owns Mostly Harmless Tattoos in Oak Creek.

The name is a nod to her favorite book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it has a double meaning.

"'Mostly Harmless' is also kind of a tongue in cheek joke about how people perceive tattoos, both in society, but also like, pain-wise," she explained. "Yeah, they might hurt, but it's mostly harmless."

Mostly Harmless doesn't feel like a typical tattoo parlor.

Julia identifies as a trauma informed tattoo artist, bringing a sense of therapy to the practice.

"I went to school originally for art therapy, because I really liked psychology and I really liked art," she said.

Her interest in psychology comes from lived experience.

"I went to a lot of random therapists when I was a kid that didn't really get it, and so I was like, well, if I can be the opposite of that for someone else and give them a constructive therapy environment, I want to do that," Ragalie explained.

Her creativity comes from her father, who was an art teacher.

"I knew that whatever I wanted to do had to involve art and people, specifically helping people in some way.," she said.

Julia graduated with a psychology degree, and tried out several different jobs, but never thought she could be a tattoo artist.

"It wasn't until I got tattooed by somebody in the industry that I felt like I could identify with - like somebody that was super feminine and had colorful hair and was super bubbly, and I was like oh, okay, maybe there is a place in the industry for somebody like me," she said.

Julia began an apprenticeship in 2019 and became an independent tattoo artist in 2021.

That's when she realized tattooing can actually be a therapeutic process.

"I very quickly learned that my response to these types of interactions was a little different than other tattoo artists that I had seen, because I had the training to respond in a way that was constructive," Ragalie said.

Julia finds her clients often use tattoos as a form of healing.

"In a lot of cases, it's a transformation," she said. "It helps people kind of customize themselves and be who they want to be."

During the process, she uses her psychology background to guide the conversation and provide comfort.

"Sometimes when people are processing a loss, or are getting a memorial piece, or something like that, sometimes talking about the person throughout the process can help give closure," she explained.

Being trauma-informed also means ensuring the space is safe and comfortable.

0"I can adjust the lights. I can turn down the music, I can turn off the music. I have this great chair that I can move around in a bunch of configurations if somebody has mobility needs," Ragalie said. "And it's like, totally private, because it's just me."

The intimacy of her studio deviates from the stereotypical bright and busy tattoo shop.

"I don't really think of tattooing as a service, I think of it more as an experience, because it should be. It should be a positive experience for the person getting the tattoo," she explained.

As her business grows, Julia hopes her art will continue to encourage healing.

"Tattoo shops don't have to be scary places. Tattoo shops don't have to be intimidating places," she said. "I have that kind of relationship with people where they can, they know that it's a judgement free zone."


Share this article: