Groundwork Community Spotlight: Jenna Scout
I was lucky enough to work alongside Jenna at Groundwork’s Rose Ave. location in Venice. She lit up the cafe with her kindness and spunk, put beaming smiles on tired customers’ faces, and elevated the cafe pace to match her high energy.
She’s currently a full-time tattoo artist at Kink Tattoo in Highland Park, but when I met her, she was starting her apprenticeship at Classic Touch Tattoo in Venice. At that time, Jenna was opening the cafe at 5:30 a.m. and then opening Classic Touch at noon. An oat milk cortado and Groundwork’s vegan breakfast burrito got her through those long days.
“The burrito is like the size of a toddler, so a lot of bang for your buck,” she says.
For a year, her routine was to eat half of it for breakfast and half for lunch.
“I never got sick of that breakfast burrito, which speaks highly to how delicious it is.”
As a Connecticut transplant, Jenna found an immediate home away from home in Groundwork. Jenna ventured out from Brooklyn, Connecticut to Los Angeles in 2022 in pursuit of her calling as a tattoo artist, leaving her support network behind.
Knowing that community is integral to building a tattoo career in the city, she sought out a side gig that provided such a stepping stone.
She was drawn to Groundwork because it was slightly off the beaten path, yet a staple of the established Venice community. With its strong base of regulars and an occasional influx of tourists, Rose Ave. was frequented by familiar faces that Jenna came to count on.
“I love engaging with the people around me; like with regulars, developing those kinds of meaningful passing relationships has always been important to me,” Jenna says. “Not only were we the baristas really curious about and invested in the lives of our regulars, but our regulars were really invested in our lives as well.”
Those regulars formed the foundation of an invaluable community.
“I not only loved what I did, but I loved who I did it with and the people that I served,” she says. “Those relationships were and remain very meaningful.”
Art has always been Jenna’s way of simultaneously supporting and expressing herself.
From selling vintage and modified clothes to commissioning watercolor portraits for college peers, Jenna has always been an artist.
“I always knew that I wanted to build a career in a line of work that would enhance people's confidence in themselves and give me an avenue to be creative as well,” she says.
She entered into the tattoo world by designing tattoos for her peers but not tattooing them herself. She then started stick-and-poke tattoos from her dorm room to pay for textbooks. But she put tattooing on the back burner as she studied.
“I actually have a degree in political science that I now could probably just doodle on and use as a flash sheet,” she laughs. “I never really thought that tattooing was an accessible career for me. I just didn't understand how people got their foot in the door.”
However, she literally got her foot in the tattoo studio door three years ago when she visited a friend who tattooed at Classic Touch. She quickly fell in love with tattooing, and soon after moved to Los Angeles to pursue an apprenticeship at Classic Touch. For a year and a half, she learned the culture and history of American traditional tattooing, how to paint tattoo flash, and how to build a client base.
“A lot of the people that I met at Groundwork, whether they were my coworkers or regulars, ended up being some of my first clients when I first started tattooing. So it was a beautiful full circle moment for me,” she says.
She’s using her professional platform to uplift her community.
Jenna’s art is just as much for her clients as it is for her. While her personal goal is to tattoo internationally, equally important is enhancing her clients’ confidence and self-expression. Messages from her clients that say “I feel more like myself now” keeps her going.
“I can enhance people's confidence and give them an opportunity to feel that the person they walk into the world looking like is reflective of who they are on the inside,” she says.
Jenna is motivated most by her interpersonal relationships, but prioritizing them was tricky while launching such a demanding career 3,000 miles from home. Now as a full-time tattooer, she has the freedom and headspace to uplift those around her in full force.
“The absolute, utmost important quality to share with your community is reciprocity and mutual understanding of what you are able to contribute to it,” she says, reflecting on how hard it can be for individuals to focus their energy on others. “A lot of times community or friendships or work relationships fall apart when there are different expectations for what you're able to contribute.”
Jenna understands that things like jobs, passions, and mental and physical health are priorities too.
“[The important thing is] showing up for each other and contributing as much as you can, and having patience for one another when they can't show up all the time. We're all doing the best that we can.”
She has resolved to show up more for the people she loves and respects and to use her professional platform to amplify her support.
With her career on lock, Jenna has rediscovered her creative spirit and set her sights on bringing down barriers within the tattoo world.
Jenna is expanding her tattoo design style, working with different mediums, and returning to a place in which she can make art without commodifying it or herself – which she says can make art lose its luster. She’s diverging from the tight framework of traditional tattooing because, despite its utility, it felt restrictive.
“I placed a lot of restrictions, rules and regulations on myself that actually diminished my creativity rather than enhanced it. Performing and executing the perfect tattoo, especially in traditional tattooing, relies on finding a balance between algorithmic and creative application,” she says.
Additionally, American traditional tattooing has historically been heavily male-dominated, which renders it potentially inaccessible, intimidating, or triggering for some people. Jenna wants to help shift that perception.
“I always want to be an access point for women, for queer people, for anyone who may not feel comfortable in an old-school tattoo environment,” she says.
She achieves that at Kink, where Jenna says everyone is welcome to hang out at the studio and feel out getting a tattoo.
Look out on Kink’s Instagram for flash tattoo events every 13th of the month!