“Shanghai Kate” Hellenbrand is in a unique situation of having begun tattooing in 1971 when women in the field were largely unknown. Her career is the longest of any American female tattoo artist, earning her the title “America’s Tattoo Godmother.” Kate worked with the master’s of modern American Tattooing – from Sailor Jerry Collins of Hawaii, Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy, Michael Malone, Paul Rogers and Huck Spaulding — and penetrated the membrane between the four-color, military payday tattoo climate of the early 1970s to present time with all of tattooing’s current technological and artistic innovations. She has been called one of the “101 Most Influential Persons in Tattoo History.” She is also known as “The Stencil Queen” … after resurrecting common acetate tattoo stencils from the trash piles of the past to wall-hanging artifacts and collectibles of today.Through Kate’s colorful stories and anecdotes, we will be highlighting the female role in the art of tattooing from the beginning of time.


Inkstyle Magazine Cover

Key Messages:

A brief historical overview of how the modern tattoo industry evolved globally from prehistory Ice Age through the industrial age mechanization of electric tattooing to the “Old School” days of military paydays to the current trendy embracement of modern tattooing. With this project, we will document the internationally traveling career of “Shanghai Kate” — documenting her interactions with the general public and fellow artists. We’ll also be interviewing the industry’s top artists to supplement information and knowledge about Kate and tattooing in general.
This footage will be used to form a feature length documentary that captures the progress and evolution of this woman’s involvement and growth in the now predominately male dominated field of tattooing.
Ultimately, we want the audience to understand feel the emotional, physical, and psychological difficulties/ triumphs associated with being a female in an extreme industry.