Jonathan Reed, co-owner of Lady Octopus Tattoos, is a proud third-generation Arlingtonian. In 2016, he was looking for a female tattoo artist to create a homage to South Ivy Street where he grew up.
The first hit on his Google search “female, tattoo artist, D.C.” generated a picture of Gilda Acosta standing in front of a shark mural blowing it a kiss. I guess you could say it was love at first bite. This was the start of a professional and personal relationship that would weather the turbulent ocean of tattooing.
Gilda Acosta graduated from art school in 2003 and went right into tattooing.
“Jonathan was looking for new creative outlets and an ivy sleeve tattoo, and I was looking for a partner to help establish a presence in Arlington, Virginia. An easy friendship ensued and we became life and business partners over fish tacos and tattoo sessions.”
Gilda is well-known for her delicate, precise line work and colorful, illustrative natural themes.
“I love doing botanical designs, birds and creatures of all types. A love of biology and art marry perfectly in tattooing.”
Originally from Panama, she is a rarity as a Latina who co-owns a business in an industry dominated by men.
Lady Octopus Tattoos’ intentional inclusivity draws customers in.
“Being a woman in the tattoo industry and seeing how some shops operate and treat vulnerable clients impacted our original vision and commitment to providing safe, inclusive spaces for all.”
Body positivity and professionalism, combined with treating clients like family, are other things that make Lady Octopus so special.
“I learned early on that an open, friendly approach goes a long way in tattooing,” Acosta says. “I sincerely enjoy getting to know all my clients and cherish their trust. We can’t help but forge lifelong friendships and the shop becomes a place where friends catch up, crack jokes and vent.”
Despite the fact the artists at Lady Octopus often book more than six months in advance, they respond to customers with great care.
“We put care and expense into our shop’s safety — from controlled bio disposables, tattoo before and aftercare education and overall follow-up on our work,” Reed says. “It’s extremely important for us to produce the utmost highest quality of tattoos.”
Lady Octopus Tattoos recently moved to a location in Clarendon Crossing, right across the street from the very famous/infamous (for dudes with brown flip-flops) Whole Foods in Arlington.
James Haun, who has been tattooing since 1996, is another part of the family. James is so beloved he often books not months but a year in advance. His son, Lance Haun, is currently also an apprentice. Gia Catauro, a resident guest artist from Rhode Island, is also part of the Lady Octopus Tattoos family.
Tattooing isn’t Reed’s only creative outlet: He is also a filmmaker whose documentary “Bound By Leather” won the New Jersey QFest LGBT Film Festival award in 2017 as Most Original New Subject.
In the coming months, he will film and post video vignettes with the theme of “my tattoo, my story.” The vignettes will offer a unique look at the special friendships that form between tattoo artists and their supporters — and the meaning-making behind the process.
Lady Octopus Tattoos is a hidden gem in the ocean of tattoo shops in its professionalism, experience and genuinely positive approach. Their new location in the heart of Clarendon is sure to further their reach.