Progress Edition 2022: Folklore Tattoo looks to provide a unique experience

Folklore Tattoo is a singly owned and operated shop recently moved from Pequot Lakes to Brainerd and showcases a service called intuitive tattoos.

A woman getting a tattoo.
Noelle Bastian creates an intricate tattoo on her friend Emily Theisen's arm at Folklore Tattoo in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Even though Folklore Tattoo’s location in Pequot Lakes was not permanent, the artwork and experience that is provided there is.

Noelle Bastian is a local tattoo artist who just moved her shop from Pequot Lakes to Brainerd. Bastian has been tattooing for over seven years and has really found her calling with this artform.

Bastian lived in Pequot Lakes for most of her life before eventually moving to Pine River. Now, Bastian is moving to Brainerd along with her shop.

Folklore Tattoo is found right on Washington Street, but not many people would know it’s there. Bastian moved into the new shop in February of this year and business has been the same. Her dedicated clients followed her from one location to another.

Bastian is the sole employee of Folklore Tattoo and does not plan on bringing anyone on in the future. She likes the simplicity of running things herself and not having the extra hassle of bringing on more artists.


Noelle Bastian talks about Folklore Tatoo at her studio Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The one person she would consider mentoring in the future would be her 18-year-old daughter who will be attending art school on scholarship in Oregon. Other than her, Bastian does not see herself taking on an apprentice.

Apprenticing is a requirement for all tattoo artists and the length of an apprenticeship can vary greatly. Bastian did her apprenticeship under Clint Lasher of Pain Inkorporated Tattoo, a shop that is no longer in existence. Bastian started tattooing there a few months into her apprenticeship, which is pretty standard.

When beginning, most apprentices are not paid since they are still learning. It’s mostly work done on themselves, friends and family. However, the apprentice slowly gains experience and can begin charging small amounts for their work.

“Most mentors will apprentice you with the knowledge that you will be staying at their shop, because they're teaching your craft and putting time and energy into that,” said Bastian. “And so the nice thing to do is to stay with them to make them money. But you can go to a different shop. You will see a lot of tattoo artists and they're just jumping around shop to shop. Some bosses are not great bosses, and some work environments are not great work environments. So it's just finding a place that feels good for each individual artist.”

After working at Pain Inkorporated Tattoo for a while, Bastian was invited by two of her coworkers to work at a shop they were opening. Bastian worked at Red at Night for a while, but became pregnant with her third child in May of 2018. When talking about maternity leave, Bastian told her coworkers that she didn’t know when she would be returning to work.

“I want to give enough time to my babies, like I don't want to feel like I have to go back to work in six weeks,” Bastian said. “So I just kind of left it open-ended and I was like, ‘I don't really know when I'll be back.’”

Performing intricate details on Emily Theisen's arm Wednesday, July 27, 2022, Noelle Bastian creates a unique personal tatoo for her friend at her studio in Brainerd.

After further discussion with her husband, Bastian decided opening her own shop, where she could set her own hours, seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, she could work closer to home since she was living in Pine River at the time.

From that conversation, Bastian decided to open a shop in Pequot Lakes.


One of the things that sets Folklore Tattoo apart from other tattoo shops in the area is a service that Bastian offers called “Intuitive Tattoos.” It’s a blind trust between the client and Bastian and it isn’t for everyone.

“So intuitive tattoos are kind of a whole different type of thing,” said Bastian. “I would explain it more as a full experience versus a regular tattoo session.”

Bastian will ask a client to come up with an intention for the tattoo prior to the appointment. For example, someone could come in wanting a tattoo to represent healing or strength. Bastian will note that and also have the client fill out a form with information about themselves.

Emily Theisen listens as her friend Noelle Bastian describes her tatoo at Folklore Tatoo in Brainerd Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

From this information, Bastian gets to work sketching a design that she thinks will accurately represent the client and their intentions.

That isn’t the only unique thing about the session though. Upon arrival, Bastian will sit down with the client and guide them through some breathing exercises and guided meditations. She also allows the client time to share with her whatever is on their minds at the moment and lends a listening ear.

“We talk about whatever they want to talk about,” said Bastian. “Really, I'm just kind of here to hold space for them at that time, which is just being there to support them in whatever they're wanting to talk about. I think a lot of people don't really have that in their life where they just have somebody there to listen and not to, like judge them or give them advice.”

Emily Theisen waits while friend Noelle Bastian creates a tatoo on her arm Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Brained.

After the client has had the opportunity to talk about whatever it is that they want to share, Bastian shows them the tattoo design that she has drawn up. Bastian also provides a written explanation of the symbolism within the tattoo. If the client is OK with the design, they go ahead with the tattoo.

“I always drive home the fact that if they don't like the tattoo that I do or if they're not feeling it's right for them to let me know because I definitely do not want to put something on somebody that they're not 100%,” said Bastian.


These sessions require a lot of trust and Bastian noted it’s often hard for people to let go of control. It’s a big exercise of faith to allow someone to tattoo a permanent piece of art about the size of a hand onto their body.

In addition to the intuitive tattoos, Bastian also does regular appointments. However, she only opens up her schedule four times a year and she is usually booked up in a matter of days.

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She books three months in advance and if there happens to be a cancellation, she likes to post on her social media a piece that she designed and see if anyone wants to come in spontaneously for that piece.
Out of all the work Bastian does, her favorite tattoos to do are flowers.

“I love flowers,” said Bastian. “I love really anything nature inspired like insects or animals, birds. I just am really drawn to tattooing that kind of thing because I think all organic forms just really fit nicely with the body in my opinion, and they're enjoyable for me to tattoo.”

Almost all of Bastian’s clientele have heard of Folklore Tattoo through word of mouth or social media. COVID-19 also increased her clientele as tattoo appointments around the nation increased. According to the Minnesota Brow Lash and Medspa Academy, in order to become a licensed tattoo artist in Minnesota, the State requires 200 hours of actual pigment implementation into skin (tattooing), under a licensed supervisor. Her clients are not shy when it comes to telling their friends about Bastian’s business. Plus, her clients are willing to travel across the state for an appointment.

Emily Theisen and Isaiah Helmin are two of those clients. They heard about Bastian from a mutual friend and have been going to her ever since. They are even willing to make the drive from Duluth to make their appointment.

Theisen, who has had multiple tattoos done by Bastian recently stopped in for an appointment. Theisen and Helmin drove the two-hour drive in order for each of them to get new pieces done despite the travel time and Helmin’s job that requires him to work nights.

Emily Theisen listens as Noelle Bastian explains the tatoo before starting work on her arm Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Fooklore Tatoo in Brainerd.

“We’ve been going to Noelle for two or three years now,” said Helmin. “We’ve gotten tattoos all over Minnesota, but she’s been the one we’ve been going to for a long time now. She’s super good at what she does.”


Bastian’s new location in Brainerd is still fairly new, but the work done within the walls of the shop is the same.

For your informationBusiness: Folklore Tattoo.

City: Brainerd.

Number of employees: One.

Interesting Fact: Folklore Tattoo offers a service many people may not have heard of: intuitive tattoos. Noelle Bastian will draw up a design personalized to the client, who will not see the design until the day of the session.

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SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or

Sara Guymon is a Post Bulletin business reporter. Guymon grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota. She graduated from New Ulm Public High School and went on to attend college at the University of Minnesota Duluth. While at UMD, Guymon pursued a major in journalism and a double minor in photography and international studies. Prior to coming to the Post Bulletin, she worked as a staff writer for the Brainerd Dispatch. There she covered the City of Baxter and business.
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