Nor Cal Explorer: Leah Bernadette Garcia


It’s been a long time since I had any ink done. Thanks to a conversation I had recently, I had a chance to immerse myself in the world of Leah Garcia, a tattoo artist in San Jose, and it got me to reflect on what I love about this art form. I also happened to come across an old photo favorite of mine. Pictured above you see Pamela Anderson showing off her body as canvass, and while the ink in this case might not be permanent, I think you might agree the idea of it is quite attractive. In any case, I found it as a good lead in to my exploration of Leah.


Everyone seems to have their own opinions about tattoos and that is fine. At the very heart of it we are talking about a matter of personal taste. When I was younger, my old man was pretty adamant that I make sure whatever tattoos I got would be hidden behind a dress shirt – which had to do with some possibility of going the military officer route – but also had to do with some prevailing social attitudes at the time. I think you could say the general culture of tattoos has become more relaxed since then, and where some people might maintain your more uptight perspectives – and I can appreciate these too – I bet a lot of people that do get tats like the fact there is still some element of exclusivity and badassness to it.


On rare occasions I end up taking my shirt off, and I almost always get immediate compliments and questions upon doing so. I sometimes find myself standing there like an exhibit just so people can take their time to examine more closely and admire what I have. That’s not why I got the work done though, but I can understand where they are coming from. I like to look at work others have done too because I think you can learn a lot about the people by the choices they have made.


Talking about the permanence of these decisions, you generally find the works have some manner of deeper meaning, perhaps some stories or significant people related to their life, that they are an expression of personality that person was willing to embed in their flesh knowing they would take it with them to the grave. The only biases I have about tattoos are when people just get them arbitrarily because they are supposedly cool, that getting them somehow makes them stand out, or that the decision was just a spontaneous whim. If someone were to say, “Oh I just wanted to get a tattoo, and didn’t really care what I got”, then I would be less than impressed.


At the same time, that does kind of say something about who they are as a person, and there’s something to be said about people who can brush off what others might take too seriously. There is still something I might say we have in common with liking tattoos, because in either case it represents a person that is willing to put their skin in the game – literally. For me, I always had a three year rule, that I would give myself that kind of time from when I first got the inspiration to the point I decided to carry it through. In each case, I’ve also established some major personal goal I wanted to accomplish as a condition for earning the reward. At the moment I am well over a decade into an ambition like this, but you would know when I achieved it because that’s when I plan on getting my sleeves done.



Most of the time I don’t even think about the tattoos I have. They are such a part of me that I sometimes notice them by accident. Usually it’s more of a coincidence when I happen to be shaving, or checking a mirror to assess my haircut, that I by chance notice, and then I am hit by a vision of whatever my inspiration was. I love it when this happens.


There’s another aspect that comes across my mind from time to time that Leah kind of brought to my attention again. It’s the notion that tattoos can be “sexy”. That’s not why I got mine, but I have been told by certain women that was what I accomplished, lol! I also kind of have to admit, that for me I find tattoos on the opposite sex to be attractive, although I still see it as a combination of what they chose to go with and what I glean they are expressing of themselves. Leah has a massive gallery of imagery that she uses as the main body of her social media presence, and going through these I had a chance to meditate on the sex appeal of tattoos. Click the image above to check out her Instagram.


Not sure how to quite put my finger on it, but maybe it’s something best covered through the art itself. One of my favorite aspects of the form is when it displays people in their “full power” – when you might be talking about their highest state of mind, their most complete manifestation of identity, or their boldest expression of life – that you can see them as they see themselves and want to be seen in all their glory as living forces of nature. No doubt Leah works with clients who approach tattoos from all manner of perspective – whether you are talking just skin deep or deeper. Yet her own body of work is kind of an inspiration in itself.


Totally dig this photo of Leah getting some ink though. I think it captures that special intimacy between artist and subject. Yeah, maybe there are some things some people can do themselves, but for the most part you have to rely on the helping hand of someone else who can get the job done. There’s a key issue of trust involved here. There’s also something about the time and pain involved – I can remember getting my tattoos with absolute clarity.


The first commission took over two weeks as the artist reproduced my specifications on paper first, submitted for my review, and then finally put me through three and a half hours of beautiful agony. I remember he joked to put me at ease when he showed me his shaky hand, only to grin and point out that he used the other steady one for working the gun. We had planned for the process to take over an hour longer, but I refused to stop him despite getting some pretty painful spots on my ribs done, so he graciously wrote off a hundred bucks off my bill. Other than that I never had reason to stay in touch because I moved around so much, but it looks like Leah really likes to follow her community of patrons, and that’s a good thing when you talk about building works over a period of years and years – best if you can go to the same artist in my opinion.



Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned about Leah was how involved she was in the Nor Cal community. I read on her Facebook how she’s done some charity work. She’s got countless pics of her taking selfies with friends and going to local sports events. In fact, she seems to do far more than tattoo work – a number of activities I noticed her involvement with that perhaps are indirectly good for her primary business – but nonetheless show her engaging all kinds of people in the community in one way or another.


For example, she describes herself as the owner of MDA Inc., which looks to be at the least her own brand of clothing line. I am not completely sure, but that might also entail a line of jewelry as well. She seems to be down with all things “exotic” which fits perfectly with tattoos, but extends to body art from piercing, enhancement, to fashion, but also art, and then photography and other media. I think it’s pretty cool when you realize how dynamic she has made herself out to be as a lifestyle brand.


Needless to say, Leah has managed to build herself a good sized community of friends, fans, and followers. Most of this is attended to on Facebook, and she has profiles on all kinds of social applications from Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Tattoo related sites, and so on. However, the key thing that stands out to me is she is so active in person and out on the town. Everything is about people and awesome times. I’m glad I looked into her because you might not notice this on first impression, but all you need do is take some time to look through all her photos, and you will know what I mean straight away.


One of the things I noticed about Leah is how she does her part to promote her local culture and events. I see her in all kinds of photos with music artists at shows, in studios, and around other related activities. I wasn’t quite sure how directly involved she was, but I would not be surprised to learn that she’s also involved somehow in promoting artists and events as an extension of her business lines. You can see how it all makes sense, and there’s a lot of professional attention to what she is doing. Take this image above for an example I came across. She had a number of photos talking about a Simply Dope Tour, probably a mainly music centered event, but also a clothing line she models as a brand ambassador in this pic. Nice!


So do you realize that when you look at Leah, you are looking at an industry driver? Yeah, from tattoos to fashion to lifestyle, there is a real business ecosystem here especially in Northern California, and Leah has done a great job of carving herself out a niche in it through people and relationships. If you click the image above, I am going to point you to another event she had a bunch of pictures on called X Fest Modesto. They bill themselves to be one of Nor Cal’s biggest parties over the last 15 years and running, but I would draw your attention to what looks to be a modeling contest of local women called Miss X Fest, and a new “inked category” they have developed over the last couple years. Like I said, it’s not surprising to find Leah right there. Check it out.



Leah is interesting from a business perspective, but without question the most important thing for her is family. She has loads of photos with family and loved ones that give you terrific insight into the person and what drives her to do what she does. Click this image to connect with Leah on Facebook.


So when you look at Leah, do you see a hard working mom? That might be kind of the idea as I pointed out a conversation I was having got me to look into her, and my first exposure to her brand was as Mommiez & Daddiez Angelz. I actually came across her trademark filing for this, kind of interesting, but there’s no question she takes her business seriously. It was a real pleasure to explore Leah Garcia, and kind of fun to experience the empire she is building. Definitely someone I am going to keep in mind when it’s time to get my next ink done.


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