Azha Sanders sits in front of the 10-foot-by-12-foot mural she painted at Kirksey Middle School in partnership with City Heart Church in Jackson. The mural’s theme, “royal,” is meant to inspire strength and worthiness. Photo courtesy Azha Tattoos
You have decided to add a little art to your bodily canvas. You have researched and chosen a tattoo shop and artist, and you've decided on a design, style and placement. Once the paperwork is complete, you relax in an often dentist-style chair, and the artist sanitizes the area and transfers the stencil.
Tattoo machine in hand, the focused artist traces the design and fine-tunes the linework before adding shading and maybe a splash or two of color. A protective layer of ointment is applied to the completed tattoo to avoid bacterial infection, and a transparent bandage seals the area from the open air. Once the tattoo has healed, you're ready to show off the artist's hard work.
Azha Sanders has worked as a licensed tattoo artist for 11 years and currently works at Forged True Tattoo in Brookhaven. The Kosciusko, Miss., native moved to Jackson when she was 13 years old, and she has held a passion for art her whole life.
"I've been doing art for as long as I can remember," Sanders says. "It's always been my number-one hobby. It's my safe place. Fortunately, my family encouraged creating art. I just always loved to draw and paint on things, and when I started tattooing, it was really a lightning-bolt kind of moment."
At the onset of COVID-19 in Mississippi, Forged True Tattoo had to shut down, but it has since opened its doors, maintaining health-safety guidelines.
Beyond tattooing, Sanders creates murals, portraits and paintings, and she often enjoys using watercolor and markers.
Some of Sanders' more notable works include 7-foot-tall panels of Oprah Winfrey and Elvis Presley in the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport; two portraits for the characters Grizabella and Mungo Jerrie from "Cats the Musical, which were auctioned off at Thalia Mara Hall to benefit the Mississippi Spay and Neuter Clinic; a mural at Kirksey Middle School; and a mural for the recent "#ArtofVoting" series that Eli Childers organized.
"Art is a way for me to be able to speak my truth and to speak my language. I can show what I care about and put it out in the world and inspire someone," Sanders says. "And through tattooing, I get to help another person do that. I get to collaborate with someone else and tell their story. To me, that's so incredible. Being able to establish that connection is priceless."
Sanders manages an online store where patrons can purchase prints, stickers, magnets, clothes or accessories featuring her artwork, depicting both original and existing fictional characters.
The 32-year-old artist spends the bulk of her spare time with her husband, Josh, and their two cats, although she also enjoys going outdoors and patroning her local gym.
For more information or to view her artwork, visit azhatattoos.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram at @azha.