Remembering Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand – Tattoo Ideas, Artists and Models+2023

Photos by Ellen Van Doorn 

Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand, one of the true trailblazers for women in the tattoo industry, passed away today at the age of 79. Hillenbrand was a true original. Anybody who ever met her fondly recalls the stories she told and the warmth of her smile. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing her about a decade ago for an issue of Inked. Our conversation will always stick with me for two reasons: it was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever done and the act of editing it down was an absolute nightmare. In just over an hour we somehow covered the entire history of tattooing in the twentieth century and how she had brushed elbows with seemingly every major player involved, but magazines have word counts and I had to cut so much. 

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