Being an artist has always been a part of who Kat Zupan is. Whether it was interior design, photography or being a tattoo artist, Merced native Zupan has always expressed her creative side through her work. In her current industry — as a tattoo artist — her gender makes her unique. “I stay with something with artistic freedom and I stay true to my artistic side,” Zupan said. But with her artistic side, she has landed in a male-dominated industry making her a rare find in the tattoo world. Her rarity brings along some daily challenges, but she also has some advantages up her sleeve. About 85 percent of her clientele are women. According to Zupan, female bonding plays a big role in her repeat business. And, of course, because she is really good at what she does. “I prefer going to a female artist,” said Tiffany Codrington, a Modesto resident who was receiving her third tattoo from Zupan at Ink Nation, a brand new tattoo parlor on E. Main Street in Turlock. “It is easier because she knows what I want because she is female.” Codrington’s female artist preference is something Zupan hears over and over again.“My compassion sets me apart,” Zupan said. “It provides a different element.” Part of her compassion also comes from her motherly instinct as she has six little ones at home. Her responsibility as a mother also has its challenges in the male-dominated industry. “I have a lot more on my plate than most people,” she said. “I take care of my husband, my six kids and work on my profession. I have to worry about being a mom, a homemaker and a tattoo artist. I have to multi-task.” Even with the extra scrutiny from being a woman, Zupan keeps her focus on her work and her clients. “Everything will come in time,” she said. “I just have to stay focused and keep moving forward. If I have time to focus or scrutinize on what other people are doing, I am not focusing on my work. I need to worry about being the best I can be to set myself apart from other artists.” To be the best she can be, Zupan attends conventions and sits in on sessions with other artists to learn new techniques and styles. She has recently taken on more realism pieces to challenge herself and to provide a better variety of art work for her clients, she said. Her favorite types of pieces involve a slew of colors and even the occasional zombie. Zupan is relatively new to the tattoo field — Ink Nation is the second business she has worked at in the two years she’s been a tattoo artist. Her tattoo career started two years ago with her practicing on grape fruits until the perfect opportunity came along. She was determined to become a professional and carries that passion with her every day. One of her favorite parts about being a tattoo artist is being a part of a positive experience that will remain with her clients for the rest of their lives. “I don’t want my clients with a tattoo they will regret,” Zupan said. “I want to be a part of a positive experience for them.” To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.