INFILTRATOR & Artist Paula Hathaway

12 noon. Leucadia, CA. Sitting on the deck of Le Papagayo with Paula Hathaway (@igotagoldchain) of Big Fish Tattoo. The table is covered in shades, day drinks and salads, splashed with kids menu snacks cause we fancy. The best interview ever done is about to go down… we just didn’t know it then.  - words and photos by @chrisgcleary


So, who are you? What do you do? 
Hi, I’m Paula Hathaway and I’ve been tattooing for 16 years.  

What are your thoughts on face tattoos and have you ever done one?
Yes, I’ve done a star, lettering, anchor, beauty marks…

I think if you’re heavily tattooed or in a field where it doesn’t matter, do your thing but be smart about it. "Damn kids these days” with their Sound Cloud rapper vibes are killing me. 

Has anyone ever came to you and wanted something and you were like, nah I just won’t?
Yeah, like when a guy wanted a gecko on his junk.  Yeah, no. So, when I first started tattooing that was one of the first things I saw my mentor do.

A dick tattoo?
Mhmm.  He had a tongue depressor and was trying to stretch it out and push it down so he could tattoo it cause it was a frightened turtle. It was not happy. And the guy wanted flames. 

That’s actually kinda amazing
Yeah, but who wants to associate burning with your junk?

Good point…  (hahaha)
If you could design a pair of sunglasses, what would they look like?
I really dig oversized frames and anything with a primary color pop.  I would love a pair of black and white striped sunglasses with either a colored lens or colored arms.

What’s up with your bike?
It’s a 1969 Schwinn Sting-ray Pea picker.  A friend of mine restored it and I fell in love.  

What do you like about bikes like that?
I just think they are super rad. Major nostalgic vibes.  Things were a lot cooler back in the day.  I’d love to have some of the other Krate bikes from back then as well.

If money was no object; do you think you would still tattoo?
I would probably have a private studio cause I still love it but I would totally do other things. I think I would travel but still do it for fun.

Do you think you would travel and go to other shops to work?
Maybe every once in a while, but definitely to get tattooed.

How long have you been at Big Fish
Eight years.

Do you see yourself ever going out and starting your own thing?
Well, I’ve already owned a shop in the past with my ex-husband.  If I did it again, I would do a private studio with maybe one other person.

Have you gone around collecting tattoos from your favorite tattoo artists?
Yes, I have totally.

What’s the last one you got?
I got my hand done by Antonio Roque when he was here for the San Diego Invitational last year.

Have you ever tattooed yourself and what goes through your head when you know you are instilling that kind of pain on yourself?  Is it easier than getting tattooed?
The idea sounds great until you’re doing it, then you’re like, f&^^&*ck.  Cool, rad.  Yeah, so it’s not fun and I actually didn’t tattoo myself till about 4 ish years ago.  A lot of people do it when they’re learning.  They are encouraged too, I wasn’t down.

Would you ever be able to have a normal 9-5 job?  If so what do you think it would be?
I always knew I wasn’t “wired that way” for a normal 9-5 but if I had to it would have to be something in fashion.  I was supposed to go to F.I.D.M. I would have probably ended up at some clothing company but ultimately, I wanted my own line.  I’m not sure if I would have been happy doing all that though.

So, growing up you already knew you wanted to be an artist?
Well, I wanted to figure out how to make money to support myself doing it.  I think that’s the biggest thing, you know, “starving artist”.

How old do you think you were when you realized “starving artist” didn’t have to happen?
I think it took a while (laughs)… I was like, fuck it I’m gonna do it anyway regardless if I’m starving or not.  My happiness has always been more important to me than making money.  I kinda lucked out though because being an artist is my God-given talent.  I just wanted to find a way to use it.

What’s your take on social media in terms of 1.  Popularity and 2. People judging you on your following instead of your talent?
I just had this conversation with a couple of my friends.  It’s so fucked up because I catch myself doing it too.  It’s like ingrained in us to think that way now.  It really sucks.  I’ve hustled to get a following, putting stuff out all the time, hashtags, this, that, whatever. It’s like you have to whore yourself out nowadays.  And if you don’t have social media you’re kinda irrelevant, you know?  I feel like I get a lot of business from it so I have to put my time and energy into it.  It’s important.  I also think it’s important to live your life and not post everything you’re doing.  Nobody needs to see where you’re at all the time.  No one cares.  Live your life, be a little more present. 

Preeeeach... Ironically... lets go take photos to put on social media... (we out)

 Shop Paula's Favorite Styles