Palmertree. Image by Frank Farmer.

When Mallory Palmertree was a child, just eight or ten years old, her parents remodeled their Clinton home. As carpet was pulled from the hall, just before tile went down, she used sidewalk chalk to draw flowers and peace signs on the concrete floor. It’s still there, for all time, permanent now to the home’s foundation.

That’s sort of the metaphor for Palmertree’s vocation, her art — tattooing.

She tried college, a general art major at Montana State, but was always frustrated with being told what and how to do. She took graphic design at a community college, too, but knew how to run the programs she was being “taught” to use.

And then, it “just happened.” After all, Palmertree lives by the adage, “If you’re meant to do it, it will come to you.”

She discovered The Ink Spot, a tattoo studio looking for a counter person. There, Palmertree found an opportunity for an apprenticeship and the talented owner, Jason Thomas, who was willing to teach her. Palmertree’s been with him on and off for five or six years, the last year and a half at his Electric Dagger Studio in Fondren.

The first time the now 28 year-old fired up the gun to ink a permanent piece of art on someone, it was a flower with three tear drops — on her own leg. “Jason’s rule is that you do your first three on yourself,” she explains. “That way, you kind of know what you’re doing to someone else.”

Palmertree says she’s fortunate that she hasn’t been tattooing long enough to figure out “her style.” Influences come in the form of traditional tattoos — to the point, bold lines, easy to read from across the room. Wes Anderson movies, the clean lines of Art Nouveau, emotionally powerful lyrics and life experiences often come out in her work. “In a couple of my paintings that hang in the shop, you can see the things I was going through in my life at the time I painted them,” she says.

Unlike a photograph on a bed side table or paint on a canvas, Palmertree’s work is a mobile gallery, a fact that causes her to be self-conscious. “After all this time, it makes me nervous still to tattoo someone,” she laughs. “I try with every one I do to have the drawing as perfect as can be before I put it the person. I don’t want to go out to a bar and see it and think, ‘Why did I do that?’ On paper, you can make the change, but on skin, it’s there.”

Working in Fondren and living here, too, Palmertree says being among like-minded people helps her feel a sense of permanency as a creative who has stayed to contribute to the local scene. “I’ve had friends who move away, but move back, saying, ‘It’s not so bad here.’ There is an instinct to run away, but why do that when you can stay somewhere and make it better?”