Tattoo Apprenticeship: Another Education

Meet Leti Mortimer, she is a tattoo apprentice under Rose Harley at at Vagabond studios in east London. This is her story of how she came to be a tattoo apprentice and the hard graft involved…  

I came to tattooing pretty late on. None of my friends or family had tattoos and as I started to acquire my own small, mostly concealable collection, they were often met with disappointment or shock. The idea of being a tattoo artist never really crossed my mind. I took the expected path of doing a degree (English with Creative Writing) and when I graduated tried out a few things that could put my new qualification to use but nothing stuck.

Leti Mortimer

Leti with her portfolio…

I have always drawn. My dad put a sketch book and pencil in my hand as soon as I could hold them. I continued to draw through school, my degree and beyond but never thought I could make a career out of something so fun. Then it dawned on me. I started to put some sketches together thinking, I like this. My CV, rather than being the usual slog of boring notes about my education was a compilation of things I had made. I got myself a nice faux leather A3 folder, did a lot of cutting and sticking and set off.

After a bit of searching I was offered a tattoo apprenticeship at a street shop in South London. It did’t last long, and I was sacked after two months. I’d done nothing wrong and the guy invented a reason to get rid of me. There are no real rights for tattoo apprentices so people can take advantage quite easily- I found that out the hard way.


I approached a few other places with more caution and after about six or so months I came across tattoo artist Rose Harley. In my interview she was very serious and professional, looking carefully through my portfolio. She told me that if I wanted to do the apprenticeship it would be hard work, like doing another degree. She offered me a three-month probation period – four days a week of cleaning, nothing to do with tattoos, for me to prove that I was serious about it, no apprenticeship guaranteed. I quit my job and found something part time, I had to work seven days a week to be able to support myself, it was going to be tough.


Leti (right) with her mentor Rose.

Two and a half months later, she accepted me as her apprentice. I was over the moon, my life was about to change completely. We had a few drinks to celebrate and she told me we would be like family – that it would be hard work but she would look out for me. And so It began. I continued with cleaning and general apprentice duties and started learning.

Rose and I would go to a local pub one night a week, a sort of evening class, with a focus on a different topic every time – machines, skin, needles, important figures in tattooing, each week building up my knowledge. Her method of teaching suited me perfectly. I would observe her tattooing, she would talk me through each process, I would frantically scribble notes trying to memorise everything she told me. She set me homework each week –drawing, finger exercises, drawing, research, more drawing.

It was a few months before I did my first tattoo. (A little cactus on Rose’s leg) It was a scary moment. When you’re sat with a buzzing machine in one hand and human paper in the other, about to permanently mark them for life, it is a trying experience. And I didn’t take it lightly. It took me a long time and I had to go over some of the lines a bit but I got there. And that was it.


The first tattoo Leti did on Rose

I continued observing, researching, drawing, cleaning, drawing, tattooing, gradually building up my skill set. I moved studios with Rose as she got a job at the beautiful Vagabond in Bethnal Green where owners Paul Hill (tattooist) and Rebecca Morris (manager and graphic designer) kindly agreed to let me join her. I’ve been lucky enough to continue my apprenticeship there since.

Vagabond sets the bar at a whole new level. Every aspect of the shop is so carefully considered. Each artist has such an extensive knowledge of tattooing and high standard of work. Every tattoo is so well thought out. They really care about tattoos and it’s so apparent in the work that each artist produces. It has proven to be a fantastic environment to be learning in and in addition to the continued support and advice from Rose, I’ve been lucky enough to have help from tattooists Paul, Harry Harvey and Andrew Hulbert. Things really couldn’t have worked out better.

It’s been a pretty mental year and I have loved every day. I am so grateful to Rose for taking me under her wing and being the best mentor. It has definitely been an education like no other. I am on my way to my dream job and I can’t wait to get started.


A recent tattoo by Leti

Ella Strickland de Souza – Political and Feminist illustrations

Introducing Ella Strickland de Souza who does wonderful political and feminist illustrations, her work is often commissioned by Vice


An illustration inspired by the shocking decision by the UK to leave the European Union.


Sassy babes from mythology and folktales.


An editorial illustration for for an article about ‘The Clit List’ – an online porn resource for survivors of sexual assault. Read the full article here.


An illustration for about the possible effects of Britain leaving the EU on women. You can read the full article here.


Interview with Iris Lys

30-year-old travelling tattoo artist Iris Lys is based in Liège Belgium, where she guets at a friend’s shop every month. We chat to Iris about her love for cats, how her tattoos have progressed since she began tattooing and how she wants to create larger pieces… 


How long have you been tattooing? I started tattooing in 2005 and I made my first tattoo ever in 2003, when I was just 17. That was in a awful shop in France, so I don’t count it, I started a real apprentice ship in Helsinki Finland at the end of 2004.

How did you start? What did you do before? I have always loved body modifications and I have always drawn and somehow I just knew it was my thing. I moved to Finland (where my mum is from) a year after I finished school, with the goal of finding a place to start my tattoo apprenticeship. I remember I arrived in Helsinki and found this shop where I got tattooed and I had all of my drawings in my bag hoping I would get the balls to ask for an apprenticeship. I showed them my drawings and they took me on!

My drawings had nothing to do with tattoos when I began, I think my drawings were pretty bad, but I was young and nobody makes perfect drawings from a young age! I had a difficult apprenticeship, as I was a very shy girl who couldn’t speak Finnish very well. So sometimes the language barriers got a bit problematic! I consider myself to be self made, no one really showed me things or helped me understand things and how to get better that’s why I learnt very slowly.


Do you have a background in art? Both my parents are artists, they always took us to exhibitions and made us draw or do anything artistic. My father was an art teacher for years until he stopped to have more time for his own art, he was a sculptor and amazing painter. My mom also paints, draws and makes traditional Finnish wall tapestry, they both made me love art. I went to an art school in Helsinki for a year too but I wasn’t really into it as I wanted to learn tattooing  and I thought learning how to paint wasn’t really my thing which I now regret since I  would have learn so much.


Describe your style, has it changed? I guess I can call my style traditional with a girly/kitty touch.  I use a lot of traditional images as inspiration that I try to adapt in cat style like rock of ages “rock of kitties”, pharaoh’s horses “pharaoh’s kitties”, handshake “paw shake”, I like to add funny words to the drawings. I also like to create funny and naughty designs with asses and cats involved!

My style has changed in a way and so has my tattooing ability. I am only now after 11 years of tattooing kind of happy with what I do since I have been travelling so much, living in different countries, working in a lot of shops and learning things from others. I am so much happier and confident now, I always knew I wanted to tattoo and I want to until I am unable to keep a machine in a my hand.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? I love to draw and tattoo flowers, hands, lady faces and of course cats!  I’m always happy to have people contacting me about their cat projects, especially when they have very funny ideas! I like doing other stuff too,  I don’t want people to think I’m not able to do anything else than cats or to think I only make palm size tattoos which isn’t right! I like bigger project too and when they have cats in it I am even happier.

What is it about cats that you love so much? I come from a tiny village in south of France where we always had cats and even more cats were coming to our garden, wild ones, I remember trying to catch them very silently to pet them, I have just always loved cats! I started tattooing my first cats a few years back and while I was in Montreal. I started to draw more and more and since people seem to like it I thought this is perfect, now I can make this my thing!

What inspires you? My big inspiration is my own cat at the moment, I am completely crazy about her, she is my baby! Also sometimes I see funny cat pictures on my news feed that I use as reference.

What would you love to tattoo? I’d love to find someone who would get a full sleeve in a cat theme or a back piece, I want to make bigger pieces. I like doing palm size tattoos but sometimes I miss making bigger pieces, I feel like people think am not into that!

Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I’ll be the last week of July at Salon Serpent, few days at Jolie Rouge London in August and will come back to London in November for a week but haven’t figured it out yet.  As for conventions, I’ll be at Tox Cit Ink Liège (Belgium), Montreux tattoo convention (Switzerland) both in September, at Nantes tattoo convention in October and should be at Lisbon tattoo convention in December.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? My own tattoos are pretty much all about cats, I have many cat tattoos on myself. A few years back I said that the only thing I would get would be cat related and it has been like that since then, but as I have been running out of space this is header to do. I started getting tattooed when I was younger and some of then have been covered, blasted over and lasered, but some still remain unfortunately. The best tattoos I have are all hidden since I don’t show my legs that much anymore!

Five films that would make great holidays

With the unusual burst of subtropical temperatures in the British climate this week, movie lover Harry Casey-Woodward ponders which films would make the best vacations. Grab your sun cream, floppy hats and bikinis…

Pirates of the Caribbean 


Let’s start with an obvious one, already a popular holiday destination but let’s go back a couple hundred years. Don’t enjoy all the frills of a package holiday? Then get ready to work your passage on a wooden ship, crew consisting of the captain and you. You don’t mind working and fighting off pesky pirates, you will sail to such exotic cultural hotspots as the lively port of Tortuga (mind the fists and pistol shots). With luck, you may even discover deserted islands stocked with rum. ‘Welcome to the Caribbean, lass’.

Jurassic World 


Let’s face it, ever since you saw Jurassic Park you’ve been imagining what a working dinosaur park where nothing went wrong would be like. Maybe you even went so far as to design it on bits of paper… ANYWAY last year’s blockbuster Jurassic World finally gave us our wish. Well sort of. Things went wrong pretty quickly. But we got a chance to see the rides, the petting zoo and the fast food courts we all imagined and you’d like to think you’d do a better job at running them than the idiots always in charge.

The Hobbit 


Fancy a bit of hiking? Of course you don’t have to be whisked off by a band of hairy dwarves to go see some impressive mountain architecture… and possibly slay a dragon. Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip that involves spelunking, rapids and observing such exciting wildlife as giant spiders? No? Well you could just go as far as Rivendell or even stay at home in Hobbiton for a gentler holiday of tea and possibly elf salad. Just don’t pick up any shiny rings for the love of God. You’ll open a whole can of worms if you do.

Harry Potter 


Of course, why not go somewhere where you don’t even have to go outside for adventure? Hogwarts would surely make a killing if it let out rooms for the summer, like muggle universities do. Even if you’re not a Potter lover you’ve got to appreciate a castle with comfy four poster beds, constant feasts and a neighbouring village that supplies magical sweets and butter beer. Just don’t tell anyone about the murderous whispers in the walls, or the dodgy defence against the dark arts teacher that may be a criminal in disguise. Brings the mood down.

The Shining 


Now you may think I’m mad, hopefully not Jack Nicholson mad. But hear me out. Imagine getting an entire luxurious hotel to yourself with a fully stocked kitchen (including all the chocolate ice cream and French fries with ketchup you can eat) and all the snow outside you could ever want to play with. There’s even a maze! Well the maze is a bit creepy. So are the ghosts and the dreadful sense of isolation but let’s ignore those. Just don’t come here with psychic gifts or be Jack Nicholson.

Images from,,, and

Meet Lorena Morato

We chatted to the awesome tattoo artist Lorena Morato, 31, who is based in Cologne, Germany, about her “mystic neo-traditional” style, weirdest requests and UK guest spots…

Lorena Portrait

What first attracted you to the tattoo world?
The great and magical idea that you can record something on your skin that often symbolises something important, a certain kind of ritual using blood and ink… tattoos can be used as a magic tool too.


How would you describe your style?
My style is neo-traditional, a mix of traditional with a touch of realistism. I use elements of spiritual and mysterious things, animals with a touch of dark magic, obscure figures who are at the same time full of grace, memories of childhood books and stories I used to read and create, and the magic crystals of which my mum once told me that fairies were living in and that they would protect me. I would say I do “mystic neo-traditional” tattoos.

How do you like to work with a customer to create a tattoo?
I ask them to send me pictures of what inspires them, and if they have a story to tell, I like to hear it to feel inspired. I like to meet them in person before the appointment, if it is possible. I like to know a bit about their personality to create the design, I think that is important.



What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever had?
I had many weird requests when I worked in a street shop. There were so many funny moments back then. No part of the body is weird for me now, since I’m working on my own body suit… but what I don’t like to tattoo are armpits and palms. I have denied many requests for armpit and palm tattoos…

What’s your favourite tattoo you’ve ever created?
I have many, many favourites, but the herbal incense I did at Brighton Tattoo Convention this year is definitely one of my favourites [below]. The peony and incense burner symbolise my new path into a more peaceful inner self, a walk seeking inner peace and calmness.


Is there anything you haven’t tattooed that would really love to?
I would love a request for a design picturing the goddess Kali, but I am still waiting, anybody out there?

Do you ever guest in the UK?
Yes, very often! I will guest at The Warren in Canterbury with the talented Amy Savage in October!


What does the future hold?
More meditation, more time for investing in new watercolour paintings, more little projects and hopefully working not five days a week anymore.

Shaded: Neil Preston

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 21-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Neil Preston is a 30-year-old Liverpool based tattoo artist working out of Manchester’s One For All Collective. Once a student of illustration, Neil naturally gravitated towards the world of tattooing and has now been producing beautifully bold work that references the timeless nature of traditional tattoo art for the past four years. Here, as part of Things and Ink’s on-going interview series ‘Shaded’, he discusses his style, influences and where he sees his work going.


How would you describe your style? I don’t like saying I have a style. I do all kinds of tattoos, I just have my preferences. I try to learn all the time and produce the best tattoos I can. I’m currently trying to make my work as simple as possible. I don’t use many colours. I don’t like blue. Lining a tattoo is my favourite part of the process, and I like thick lines.


What is currently inspiring you as an artist? At the moment I’m into the art of David Hockney and Edward Hopper. I’m currently collecting old Black Flag flyers. Raymond Pettibon did a lot of them. They’re all weird. I like interior design blogs too! I’ve recently bought a flat, so me and the wife are getting the place the way we like it. I think the environment you choose to live in is incredibly important, and how you arrange and decorate a living space really interests me. I don’t believe in any kind of God, but religious art also interests me. Wherever I travel, I always make an effort to visit a church. I especially like the windows.


Can you talk me through your journey to your current style? There was a lot of trial and error, but I just kept drawing and drawing. A lot of the journey involves not being happy with every tattoo you do. You have to constantly re-evaluate how you draw, and this naturally transfers to how you tattoo. It takes time. If I look back at what I was doing this time last year, I would change so many things, and I can only presume it will be the same next year. I’m definitely not re-inventing the wheel, I just try to produce tattoos that I would wear.

How do you see your work evolving? I don’t really know. It’s only something I can see when I look back. You can see the way you used to draw things, but I don’t really worry too much about that. I just try and do my best.


What predominantly inspires you as an artist? Predominantly, traditional tattoos. There’s a lot of artists’ work that I like, but I mainly like collecting vintage photos of old tattoos. I’ve got a few old flash books that I always looks through. It interests me to see old designs and wonder who’s they were. Old design are like ancient pieces of furniture: each piece has its own story. I did a tattoo not so long ago that was a design that was brought in by this girl. It was pretty much an exact copy of one of her Grandad’s tattoos. There’s something nice about that.

Veganism and Ink

In this post our guest blogger Amber Bryce discusses how she thinks veganism and tattoos go perfectly together and she talks to two tattoo artists who also share her point of view…  

In many ways, I think that veganism and tattoos make a perfect pair. They’re  decisions that hold a lot of weight and impact, they can change your entire outlook on life and help to narrate a new kind of future for either yourself, or the world. To discuss the subject further I spoke with two lovely women in the tattoo industry: Avalon, a tattoo artist who works at The Grand Illusion Studio in Melbourne, Australia, and Dina, who owns Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, USA.

Here’s what they had to say…

Avalon Westcott, 24, Melbourne

How long have you been tattooing for? I started apprenticing at The Grand Illusion (Melbourne) at the start of 2013 and did my first tattoo ever on myself by the end of 2013. Before tattooing I had been painting for a few years, doing custom pet portraits for people, which was so much fun.

When did you become vegan? I went vegan five years ago when my fiancé Josh and I moved to the states for a few months. A month into my veganism I realised how amazing I felt, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. At that point I knew there was no turning back and that nothing, no peer pressure, no craving, no situation would ever make me eat animals again.

Is your veganism something that has always inspired your tattoo designs? I can’t count the amount of vegan inspired tattoos that I’ve done. Animals have become my speciality! I usually tattoo a combination of animals together, cows, lambs, chickens (lots of chickens) and piggies. Meeting like-minded people, chatting food, chatting animals and sharing a mutual lifestyle really brings me closer to the clients.


How do you think tattoos can help veganism? It’s no surprise that people with tattoos are often asked about why they have particular tattoos. My clients get tattooed for themselves, often to celebrate a milestone in their veganism or to commemorate animals, however, if anyone were to ask about why they have a love heart with animals in it tattooed on them I’m sure they’re proud to explain why. I believe that having a vegan tattoo is a very courageous and inspiring thing. To welcome people to question your lifestyle or even comment on it takes strength.

Do you have any personal vegan tattoos? If so, who are they by? I do have a few animal tattoos myself! My most recent is a girl dressed up as a chicken referenced from some vintage flash painted by Earl Brown, circa 1950, on the side of my thigh by the brilliant Becca Gené-Bacon from Hand of Glory in Brooklyn, NY.

What’s your favourite vegan tattoo that you’ve done? Every vegan tattoo that I have done holds its own meaning and its own memories. Really, they’re all as special as each other for the client, and myself.

Dina DiCenso, Brooklyn

When did you become vegan? I’ve been 100% vegan for six years and the two years prior to that I was 90% vegan (I ate cheese once every four months) and then I was vegetarian for about 15 years prior to that. So when I opened my own business it seemed natural for it to be vegan.

How has veganism informed your business? I use the shop to do a lot of fundraisers for animal rescues. We work with small, local rescues that are in desperate need of funds. We tailor each fundraiser flash to fit the organisation. For example, we do wolves when we work with Wolf Conservation Center, we do farm animals when we work with Skylands or Woodstock Farm Sanctuaries and we have a TnR event coming up so we’ll design cat related flash.


How do you think tattoos can help the cause of veganism? I think tattoos can inspire veganism in a few ways. First, if people encounter enough people with vegan tattoos, they may stop and think about how many people are vegan and that it’s possible for them to change and be vegan too. And second, they may also see an image that inspires them to change their own lifestyle and habits.

Tell us about your tattoos? For me, it’s important to have my tattoos have meaning so I don’t get sick of them. Few things have more importance to me than the animals I’ve rescued, and animals in general, so I’ve tried to get a few of my favourites as tattoos.


You convinced Reprofax to make the first vegan stencil paper! Tell me more about that. I had read online about the stencil paper possibly not being vegan. Rather than take the postings at face value, I tried to contact the company directly. After several contact attempts and no response I had my geneticist friend test it. He came back with lanolin as the offending ingredient and then about the same time I got his results, the company responded confirming it was indeed lanolin — it holds the ink onto the plastic sheet.

I then began harassing them until they agreed to make a vegan stencil paper. Their chemist had retired ten years prior, which is why they were reluctant to create any new versions of the paper. We helped test their early versions and when they had a solid final version, I was the first one to buy it. Many artists are unaware products in the tattoo process are not vegan – they think it’s limited to the ink and aftercare. But it’s the ointment, the soap and even the moisture strip on razors.

5 Best Zombie Films

With the current political turmoil and the prospect of leaving the EU, it might be a good time to revisit films about escalating apocalyptic chaos and horror. Zombie films fit the bill nicely. Casual film lover Harry Casey-Woodward gives a countdown of his top five undead masterpieces.

5. Land of the Dead, 2005 


Let’s kick, or rather shuffle off with a tour-de-force from the granddaddy of the zombie genre, George A. Romero. In this film, zombies have taken over America except for a few fortified cities. This horror turns into an allegory, when the undead masses get fed up of being used for target practice, learn how to use guns and march on one of the cities, where the wealthy reside in luxurious, high security high-rises. More an action than a horror, expect plenty of anti-capitalist sentiment under all the groaning and guns.

4. Night of the Living Dead, 1968 


Let’s dig even deeper into the horror vaults and claw up Romero’s first film and arguably the first proper zombie film. This simple tale of some mismatched Americans trying to last a night trapped in a farmhouse with zombies at the door raised the bar for horror. Rather than being some Gothic ghost story, Living Dead reflected the paranoia and racial strife of late 60s America. Also, for a black and white film with limited special effects some scenes are still horrible to watch. It might be because everything looks awfully dark due to the lack of colour, but the fact that the zombies aren’t smothered in the gratuitous make-up of today makes them look more human and thus more scary.

3. Dawn of the Dead, 1978 


Romero’s second zombie feature came a decade after his first one and was an even bigger horror fest. Those pesky zombies are still ravaging America and a handful of survivors break away from the madness of media and carnage to take refuge inside an abandoned shopping mall, which they turn into a materialistic palace besieged by the zombies outside. While Living Dead was a savage comment on the 60s, Dawn is a bleak attack on hollow consumerism. The 2004 remake upped the  action and gore (which was a feat since the original is a rollercoaster ride of guns and guts) but left out the social commentary that made the original stand out from the undead pack.

2. 28 Days Later, 2002 


Time to bring some British class into the list. Trainspotting director Danny Boyle dipped his toe into the horror genre and made something scarier than any zombie film gone before. For one thing, his zombies weren’t shuffling grey corpses. After a university-produced virus strikes Britain, the entire population turn into zombies who, when they’re not RUNNING after you, vomit blood and bleed out of their eyes. This movie also has a gritty British bleakness (helped by the fact it’s shot entirely in grainy handheld digital) and a hundred percent serious attitude to its characters and zombies that make this a decent dystopian drama.

1. Shaun of the Dead, 2004 

And now for something completely different. I guess this film shouldn’t really count since it’s a comedy and mocks the above zombie classics while acknowledging their influence. But like in An American Werewolf in London, comedy is Shaun of the Dead‘s secret weapon. 28 Days Later may have more serious characters, but it wallows so much in misery it’s quite gruelling to sit through. Most of Shaun of the Dead‘s characters end up dead and I felt more sorrow for them because they made me laugh. It’s also easy to forget that some of the scenes in Shaun are still quite horrible, thanks to graphic prosthetics and unexpected emotion, even while it makes the point that the concept of a zombie epidemic is a bit ridiculous anyway.

Images from,,, and

Interview with Tatiana Sandberg

27-year old tattoo artist Tatiana Sandberg works out of her own little place in Montevideo, Uruguay. We chatted to Tatiana about how she started tattooing and her neotraditional style…


How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing for something like three years now. It was a bit slow at the beginning, just doing one or two small tattoos a week, so I’ve just been tattooing seriously for a bit less than that.

How did you start? What did you do before? It all started quite randomly. I always drew and someone that saw potential in me offered to teach me how to put a tattoo machine together. I didn’t trust myself that much at the beginning, so I was just doing it for fun. At that moment I was studying architecture in college and that was taking most of my time. I slowly, and without noticing, became more and more interested in tattooing than my actual career, so I gradually started changing my priorities. Until one day I found myself tattooing every day! By that time I was getting tattooed a lot by a guy I admire a lot and took a great part in my growing enthusiasm for tattooing. So I can say I got all my basics from seeing him tattoo me.


Do you have a background in art? Since I was a little girl my parents encouraged me to go to painting, drawing and ceramic classes, probably they needed a break from having two energetic kids, but it turned out pretty well for me in the end. I’ve been drawing and painting since I can remember, and always brings me a lot of joy. Also, my father is a very artistic person, I used to see his drawings from when he was young and the first thing that came to mind was “Wow, I want to be able to do this”. That’s why in a way I took architecture as a career path, I wanted to do something related to designing and being creative, but in the end it didn’t turn out as I expected and ended dropping out after many years of studying. I also studied graphic design and did some digital drawing things some time ago, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.


What drew you to the tattoo world? I guess it was my taste for tattoos and how you can let out so many things by getting tattooed. I started to realise how happy I became every time I got tattooed and that probably helped me get more involved in the tattoo world. I really love the happy faces on people when they see their tattoos done, after all the pain. All the stories behind every design and even if it sounds dumb, how they are still there when people come back to you for a new piece. It still amazes me!

Describe your style, has it changed? I guess my style has changed a bit over time. It became more complex in lines and colours. I used to draw really basic figures when I started so I could do them properly, without taking much time because I used to be really slow at tattooing. Also, my drawing has evolved a lot but I try to keep it simple and clean, so it can be understood at a glance. I guess I would categorise my stuff as neotraditional, but with a quite caricaturist twist, a bit more playful, less serious. I get a lot of inspiration from anime and comics, like how I use colours and really thick lines.


What do you like to tattoo and draw? I like drawing and tattooing mostly everything I can find a way to fit into my drawing style, it is hard to explain, but I really try to make all my tattoos have something in common, so they can be easily recognisable. I do have a strong preference for drawing and tattooing girls, birds and cats, but I enjoy almost everything.

What inspires you? I would say mostly music and observing. I’ve done a bunch of drawings based on songs, taking the name, the lyrics, or just the music to create something out to if. Looking at other artists work is also very inspiring to me, I admire a lot of people and it’s incredible to be able to see their progress as artists and encourage myself to work harder. Also vintage magazines and drawings, where I take most of my ideas from when I’m drawing.

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What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I’d love to tattoo more girls actually. I’ve been drawing a lot of that lately and I really enjoy it. And there’s never enough cats !
I would refuse to tattoo anything that defers from my style of drawing. But it’s not a definite no to those who ask, I like to offer an alternative to those things as long as the other person likes my stuff and is willing to take a suggestion.

Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? For now I only know that I’ll be tattooing in Buenos Aires, at the begging of August, Stockholm in September and October, and Panama city during January.


Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Well, my own tattoos are a mix of really different things, as I really like a lot of tattooers and styles. I have anime characters, really girly designs, blackwork, churches on fire and a lot of cats! I’m actually quite near to finishing my cat sleeve, that’s my right arm. I really want to have at least one piece of all my favourite tattooers, so, as long as I still have space left, I’m planning to get new things.

Apprentice Love: Jay Rose

We spotted the work of 21-year-old apprentice Jay Rose on Instagram and instantly loved her dark dotwork and floral tattoos. We chatted to Little Jay to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Dot Tattoo Studio in Glasgow where she works… 


Photo by Nik Antonio

How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been an apprentice for just over a year, I did my first tattoo on May 18th 2015.

How did you start? What did you do before?  I’ve always had an interest in tattooing, I was exposed to tattoos my entire childhood. My granddad has some really old traditional style tattoos, I grew up looking at pop eye tattooed across his hand, with old school lettering in a heart for his mum and dad. I think being exposed to tattoos so frequently they drew my attention more towards them. I knew I was going to be heavily tattooed; I just didn’t think I’d be the one doing it!

When I started to properly get tattooed one of the people who tattooed me was Raph Cemo, when I went to get tattooed by him I was a little lost, things weren’t going to plan and I’d lost my vision of what I wanted to be doing. I came out of that tattoo session so empowered (and a little physically drained), knowing what I wanted to do and feeling silly for not realising how obvious it was that I should start tattooing. It wasn’t until a year later, when I had set up a clear path and done a lot of self-development that I met Tom and somehow convinced him to let me be his apprentice.


Do you have a background in art? My parents brought me up drawing and letting me make creative messes in the house, my mum’s a wonderful artist but she’ll never admit that to anyone. My nan used to paint water colours and I’d draw the flowers in her garden when I was a little girl, I guess that’s where my love for flowers comes from as well. I’ve always been artistic due to the way I was brought up, I studied fine art and photography before starting my degree in painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I get tattooed for lots of different reasons, but long story short tattooing is allowing me to create a vessel I feel comfortable in and am proud of. My journey with my body is a continuous one that I work on loving everyday but tattooing has allowed me to externalise the vision I hold for my body, watching that come to life and loving myself a little bit more each time is an emotional path. I have never been more myself than I am now due to tattooing, and that’s a really comforting feeling. This vessel is the only thing I will ever truly own, the only thing that will ever truly be mine and I am working on improving it and worshipping it every day.

I am so thankful for all of the artists that have allowed me to sit in their chair and help me with my journey, if I can even help someone half as much as these incredible beings have helped me I’d be overjoyed. Seeing how much of an impact you have had in someone’s life, be that from helping with self-improvement or to be a part of a creation of a memory is magical to see, that’s why I love tattooing.


Describe your style, how has it changed? I guess the style I tattoo in would technically fall under dot work, my style itself however is constantly changing and developing as I meet new people and discover new things. Tibetan art has been a major influence throughout my life and was a really heavy part of my style and what I was tattooing at the beginning. The impact it has on me hasn’t changed however I’ve naturally moved towards more botanical tattoos as of late. I wish to never become ignorant of the origins and meanings of what I tattoo on others as well as what I put onto myself.

What inspires you? It sounds cliché but for me I gain inspiration from the little things, a lot of my inspiration comes from flowers, I find myself happiest when sitting in botanical gardens surrounded by life continuously blossoming around me.

I didn’t have the most stereotypical upbringing, my mum taught me about Buddhism and took me to galleries so that I was exposed to different cultures and their art. I take a lot from Tibetan Buddhist art and symbolism, their art is not only aesthetically beautiful but the meanings behind everything comes from love and understanding.

People and places are the most vital inspirations you can get as that’s what is continuously surrounding you, if you make a point of living a positive life, surrounded by the most inspiring people, in the most beautiful places you’re going to have such a love filled creative outlet and there’s something really blissful about that.


What would you love to tattoo? At the moment I’m really enjoying more botanical pieces, I’ve recently grown a love for drawing plants with the bulbs attached. I’ve started to get really into anatomical drawings as well, so I’d really like to do a large botanical/anatomical thigh piece, I think that would be really stunning.

What is a typical day like for you? It normally involves a lot of reading, I get a lot of inspiration from books so am often reading a few things at once and often drawing from them as well. My work outside of tattooing is text based so a lot of that involves writing pieces and hammering them into large metal plates for hours on end. That’s also where I end up drawing up a lot of my tattoo designs, as it’s my creative space and outlet.

I work in a private studio, so it’s by appointment only which means I get to control the amount of tattoos I’m doing a day and I don’t have set hours. Tattooing is where I find my mind the most clear, when I’m tattooing, drawing or reading my mind is simply taking in what is in front of me. When I’m tattooing I am so engrossed in the experience, in what I’m tattooing, in why the person is getting it and who they are, that I often forget this is a job.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? A lot of the work I hold upon my own body is that of Tibetan and Buddhist symbolism along with some personal links with friends and family. Everything I hold on my person means something, which can be taken in the form of Buddhist myths to my own personal connections to the objects or imagery my vessel now features.
One of my favourite tattoos is an outlined heart with ‘JuSt’ written inside; ‘JuSt’ stands for Julie and Stephen which are both of my parents names, the font is from my typewriter and the non symmetrical heart is hand drawn by me and was kept imperfect to represent me along side them as a continuous link to one another when I’m far from home.

I also now posses The Three Graces upon my arm which is taken from Botticelli’s painting the ‘La Primavera’, after studying this painting for a year whilst studying history of art at the age of 18 I flew to Florence to view this painting in the flesh.  I sobbed staring at it for hours mesmerised by the impact it had not only on my body but on me as a person. I decided to get the Three Graces tattooed on me due to what they represented as goddesses of such things as charm, beauty, and creativity.


Photo by Nik Antonio

I made a start of my full back piece earlier this year with Hannah Sykes which is not only the largest piece on me to date but arguably the most physically and mentally draining also. The whole process through the amount of time, continuous alterations, and adjustments to fit the vision that both Hannah and myself hold for my body is a long and exciting journey we hope to finish at the end of this year. The piece itself is an array of Tibetan flowers spread over my full back and wrapping around my bum. Getting my back tattooed was a huge decision for me, not only for the amount of space it spanned on my body but also to make sure it fitted and worked with my petite frame rather than over powering it. However any worry swiftly disappeared when I saw the vision Hannah had come up with and altered to fit my body perfectly, and I couldn’t be happier with the way in which this continuation is turning out.