FROM LOS ANGELES:
I had the incredible opportunity to talk to Cody Varona, fashion designer and the owner of Forgotten Saints and Sara Lou, who is the tattooist at Preachers and Fools, both under the Congregation of the Forgotten Saints regime. Uniqueness is the absolute best description of the shop, art gallery and all it encompasses.
Cody Varona started out years ago, first with making band t’s then designing for a punk label and now head of the Congregation of Forgotten Saints. Forgotten Saints is a clothing store that is home to Cody’s original designs, an incredible fine art gallery and the tattoo studio Preachers and Fools. It is also a haven for the rock and roll upper class and gutter dwellers, and welcoming to all who live, breathe and wear glam, punk, glitter, metal and rock as a lifestyle, not just a clothing look.
I asked Cody a bit about this venture and some of her philosophies regarding how the art gallery and tattoo shop became another part of the whole of the Congregation of Forgotten Saints.
Cody, I know most people are familiar with the store and the look and feel of the rock and roll based attire that it holds -so I am wondering if you can tell me when the art gallery became a reality?
In 2008 we opened with the Metal Show and have gone from there. It is a collaborative ongoing effort, with Cam Rackam curating with me. We have some artists that are more constants here, joined by other artists literally from all states and well beyond. When we have a group show with a theme, we can get over 300 submissions. We also have the philosophy of just being a mecca, a home away from home for those who seek it.
We want to showcase art and make it available to those with similar aesthics. We are not a standard unwelcoming, unaffordable gallery nor are we a designer furniture store. We are on the edge and the art here reflects that .
This idea, store, gallery are a stand out not only with materials, clothing, but the feeling that is here.
What have you done to keep that alive?
The Internet, for worse or better, has changed art, tattooing, shopping. We want this not to be a retail space but an entire experience to inspire. Creating an atmosphere that inspires is the ultimate end point.
The aforementioned experience then leads us to the back of the space where Sara Lou, tattoo artist extraordinaire, works. The space is part of the shop, yet set back enough to lend itself to privacy if a client is getting tattooed. Sara shared some of her background and insights with us too.
Sara, I know you are not originally from L.A or for that matter, the U.S. Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up on Melrose at Preachers and Fools?
Ha, yes, I am not from here! I am from Australia and started tattooing 17 years ago in Melbourne. From about ’93 to ’98 I was at Vic Market Tattooing, then went to Tattoo Magic, then was at Dynamic Tattooing for about 5 years, until I ended up here about one year ago.
How did this grand move all come about?
I had visited the States, mainly NY a few times, did a guest spot at Paul Booth’s old shop in 2000 but mainly my visits were not really working, just vacationing. I actually had thought about working here but NY was a more familiar area. I did get to visit LA and then when the chance came to work here I made the move. NY is very condensed which makes it convenient but the LA landscape, challenges, and opportunity to grow is fantastic. I have been here now a year, building up clientele.
How is it working first in a store/gallery environment and second as a solo artist?
The atmosphere is the best of both worlds as I can experience the store and gallery clients and be there for them if they decide to inquire about my art. The solitude can be relaxing so it is a different vibe than a loud street shop. Both of course, have advantages. Tattoo clients are Internet savvy, they really do the research so I also feel if they seek me out and then come into the shop, and the environment is above and beyond their expectations. The nicest thing for me is being able to be more permanent in LA allows the time and collaboration with my clients to work on large-scale pieces and not having to worry about travel schedules to finish these tattoos.
As of now what are your main interests outside of work?
Work is my main focus at all times. I am really concentrating on building up this business. My graphic design and illustration are still on going too, as I designed the t’s for the shop and hope to go a bit more into some of that type of illustrative work. I also hope one day to have time to work on designing jewelry but again, first and foremost, is this shop.
Do you have a specific style in your tattooing currently?
I like doing a variety of styles, it keeps me inspired. I would say that realism with decorative accents is one of my trademarks. I love line work, architectural drafting to me is some of the finest work you can do.
I enjoyed my visit to this environment. I cannot say store, shop, or even gallery, as really it is all and much more. Seperate links are here.
Please explore and fall into the rabbit hole, it is well worth the adventure, enjoy the video too!