Amy Black’s passion for art began in 1st grade and her path to pursing it professionally started at the prestigious Columbus College of Art and Design when she was just 16, and eventually led to a career as an award-winning tattoo artist. Ten years into mastering her craft, Amy began working in a lesser known area of tattooing known as “nipple and areola repigmentation,” a part of breast reconstruction for post-mastectomy patients. It’s what inspired her to found the Pink Ink Fund, a non-profit organization that offers financial assistance to those who can’t afford the cost of this healing service.
Amy explains on her site, “Mastectomies are performed on both men and women, and typically require removing the natural nipple and areola to either prevent or remove existing cancer tissue(s) from expanding. The patient is left with no nipple/areola in the area and can sometimes elect to have one surgically rebuilt from other donor skin areas of the body, however the natural coloration is still missing.”
The only technique to recreate the natural coloring is through tattooing, and Amy, using her expert skill and creativity, is able to do many variations of color and create the illusion of hyper realistic nipples and areola textures and shapes and sizes with tattooing. She currently works with patients who come to her tattoo studio, and also in conjunction with plastic surgeons throughout the Virginia area and beyond to help patients receive their desired reconstructive results for their breast(s).
“Amy has been invaluable to our breast reconstruction practice. Technically her work is some of the best I’ve seen. Her interpersonal skills are excellent – our patients only have great things to say about her.” – Mark Shashikant, Chief, Plastic Surgery at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at US Army
Amy started the Pink Ink Fund in 2011 “in response to seeing friends who were concerned about their own nipple/areola tattooing costs who had no health insurance.” After learning about many of the financial hurdles interested patients could face in getting nipple/areola tattoos, the need to expand the reach of the service made sense and blossomed from there.
The fund, which is fueled by private donations and sale of Pink Ink merchandise, offers one-time micro-grants to selected female and male applicants across the country (currently one per U.S. state each year) as part of their breast reconstruction due to a breast cancer and/or BRCA diagnosis. The primary goal is to help ease the burdens that may impede a tattooing path to complete healing post-mastectomy by offsetting everything from the service fees to the cost of travel and lodging. The fund also works toward helping increase awareness of realistic nipple/areola tattooing, which includes exploring ways to educate and train technicians, as well as outreach to the medical community.
Amy’s nipple tattoo clients and those who request unique, custom designs for covering surgery scars travel from all over the United States, and she continues to get requests from outside the country. She hopes her Pink Ink Fund will continue to grow to the point where she can get to any patient, anywhere.
All images and tattoo work by Amy Black (c) 2013
Nipple Repigmentation Client
This patient had a bilateral/double mastectomy and elected to have no reconstructed nipple created after the implant surgery. The bottom photo shows her results on the day of tattooing. Illusion of nipple and areola with texturing and bumps are 100% tattoo only.
Cherry Blossom Project Client
Before: Both mastectomy incisions were well healed and ready for tattooing over. After: Gorgeous results.