Shaded: Maidstone John

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-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.

Maidstone John is a 25-year-old Cantebury-based freelance illustrator and tattoo apprentice who conjures up gnarly magic from the comfort of Three Crows Tattoo. As part of Things and Ink’s on-going interview series ‘Shaded’, his current obsession with medical journals and how he’s working hard towards producing “bigger and busier” work.


Can you talk me through your relationship with tattoos? I got my first tattoo at The Brighton Tattoo Convention when I was 18. I got a portrait of my mum on my forearm, and it’s still one of my favourite tattoos to this day. It’s always been my plan to be covered before I reach 30, and so far it’s going pretty well! I’ve been around heavily tattooed people all my life and I guess the bug really started to settle in when I was in my early teens. I was over the moon when my buddy Chris got me a full-time job as a shop boy at a tattoo studio. At the time, it was never my intention to tattoo, but I would always draw and the boss would let me display my prints and drawings in the shop.

I left the shop on good terms after two years and moved on to Canterbury, where I would draw at my friends’ tattoo shop in Herne Bay. John Slack and Scott Banks filled me with so much inspiration and encouragement, to the point where I felt like I could someday have a career in tattooing. Dan Frye pointed out that not many people are really pushing the style that I’m striving for, so if I was to start tattooing in the style that I draw, it could be a good thing. Three Crows Tattoo in Canterbury was in the process of opening when I moved. I told Adam, the owner, what I had been up to and that I planned to put a portfolio together over the next year or so to apply for an apprenticeship. There and then, he offered me an apprenticeship.  I started my apprenticeship back in January of this year.

What’s the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve gained since the start of your apprenticeship? It’s kind of hard to explain, but I would personally have to say that gaining an understanding of the tools for the job at hand has been incredibly valuable. You have to take into consideration the area of skin you are working on, what needle grouping and voltage to have set-up and, of course, the high level of hygiene for the customer and everyone else in the studio.


What attracts you to black-work and etching? I have always worked in that style from day one. Craig Scott, Dan singer and Richard Sayer got me drawing in the first place and were always such strong influences, and it wasn’t until I discovered guys like Duncan X and Liam Sparks that I ever thought it would be possible to adapt that style to tattooing. I have always loved and appreciated every style of tattooing, but I personally think that black tattoos just look so strong, and as for the etching, I just want to be able to stand out and offer something a little different.

Can you tell me about your own tattoos? I wouldn’t say any of my tattoos have any particular meanings behind them. I’ve been tattooed by a fair few people now.  My buddy Dan Frye has tattooed some of my favourite pieces of mine. He recently tattooed a solid, black spider caught in a traditional web right in the ditch of my knee. We’re planning on sticking a fly trapped in a web on the other side as well! I’ve mainly been getting tattooed by Philip Yarnell recently though.


What is currently inspiring you? I am currently very inspired by old medical journals, as well as monster toys from the 80s. I have a never-ending collection of books and curiosities. I’m pretty obsessed. Me and my pal Dan Carrington have some pretty gnarly collaborations in the works that involve murder and suicide victims, so keep your eyes peeled!

Have you tattooed anyone yet? I’m currently in the process of filling up my friend’s legs with as many small designs as we can possibly fit, including cover-up work and blast overs, which I love to do. One of the first tattoos I did on him was this tripped out Mickey Mouse, the other being this devil moon. Both tattoos took me so long to do! I was never nervous as such when tattooing, it was more excitement which was just as bad because it still made me a little shaky, but that shortly disappeared. I am now up to tattoo number seven and I am happy to say I have definitely gained a lot confidence and picked up a lot of speed in a pretty short gap. I still have such a long journey ahead of me but I am so determined to reach my goal and get to a point where I am clean and consistent enough to move onto bigger and busier designs.


Who inspires you artistically? I would have to say Dan Santoro, Daniel Higgs and Duncan X predominately – as well as everybody else at In To You. At the moment, I am so inspired by Jack Ankersen and my buddy Lice4Life when it comes to tattooing and printmaking: out of the box and out of this world. They both produce very unique and exciting stuff!

How do you see your work evolving? I’m just forever going to strive to get my line-work, blackwork and shading to the point where it is as clean and consistent as possible. At that point, I would like to focus on bringing back some of my more detailed and complicated designs. I will always be putting out flash and illustrations for records. I enjoy that side of things so much! I equally want to keep pushing that too.

Music Review: Slaves, ‘Take Control’

Harry Casey-Woodward, hobbyist reviewer and noise lover, reviews the new album by Kent punk duo Slaves, Take Control.

Slaves, Take Control, 2016, Virgin/EMI, 4/5


Slaves are something British music has needed for a while. We’ve had plenty of cool noise-making bands over recent years, but none have been as fun or direct as Isaac Holman on drums and Laurie Vincent on strings, both gleefully roaring their sharp, hilarious lyrics on working class problems. Hot on the heels of their official debut last year Are You Satisfied?, Slaves’ second album Take Control came out at the end of this September, sporting a florescent cover painted by the guitarist.

Their previous album was a hard act to follow. Catchy, exhilarating and ballsy, it was surely the Never Mind the Bollocks of 2015. I was a little worried therefore that Slaves would fall into the pattern that ensnares a lot of noisy bands and just spend their careers replicating their first album over and over. Thankfully, while the style of the new album is still very much Slaves, it is a bit of a different creature.


For one thing, there’s more songs. Some admittedly are random skits, but Take Control also has a greater range of styles and thus feels like a bigger project. Are You Satisfied was a compact burst of shout-along joy rides, while Take Control boasts a little more sophistication, musically and lyrically.

That still doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though. Take opening track ‘Spit it Out’. It may not be a cover of Slipknot’s awesome single but it is a contender for best single of the year, mainly because it’s such a perfect punk anthem. Making brilliant use of the quiet/loud song dynamic that made bands like Nirvana sound great, repetitive jabbing guitar builds up to a roaring chorus, where the singer screams the song title over and over. The other lyrics reflect themes Slaves have raged about on several songs, namely getting lads off their arses and doing something with their lives.


Other current topics Slaves attack on Take Control include mundane media (on such rollercoaster tracks as ‘Hypnotised’) and material wealth (see the blistering ‘Rich Man’). Once again Slaves prove themselves masters of the punk rock formula: fast, simple topical bullets of humorous anger. However, there is more of the sophisticated side that peeked through the energetic blast of Are You Satisfied.

Half of the tracks are as post-punk as Public Image. Songs like ‘Lies’ sound like catchy but creepy pop hits, with slow, menacing riffs. Even the vocal mix sounds more post-punk. While Isaac was shouting in your face before, now his charismatic voice sounds like it was recorded in an empty concrete room, giving it a spooky echo while losing none of its edge.

Beastie Boy Mike D of all people even supplies rap on the thundering ‘Consume or be Consumed’. Joined by Baxter Dury, Slaves also reveal a sensitive side on the tender ‘Steer Clear’, where the singer begs someone he cares about not to go drink driving after an argument. Once again, Slaves have produced a winning combination of subtlety and savage bluntness while upping their game.

Images from, and

Handpoke Tattoos by Boo

31-year-old Boo Tattoo, is a handpoke tattoo artist who works out of  Embody Tattoo Studio in Derby UK. We chatted to Boo about how she became a tattooist, her handpoke style and her own tattoo collection… 

Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016

How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship at the end of 2009, so around seven years now.

How did you start? What did you do before? I had been asked to draw tattoo flash to sell and got a bit precious over my designs. I’ve always loved exploring different medias and decided I wanted to learn to tattoo my own designs. I couldn’t really leave it alone after that! I had one tattoo apprenticeship that fell through after a month so I then opened a fair-trade gift shop selling clothes I had revamped, jewellery I had made from vintage and broken pieces and much more. I shut it down after nearly two years to start a new apprenticeship at Tradition 180 Custom Tattoo studio.

Do you have a background in art? I have always drawn! It was crazy as in my second primary school I was actually taken out of art lessons to do more spelling as I am really dyslexic. I did 3D Design for Sustainability Ba Hons, it was pretty strict and so it kept me focused and well one of my life ethos is to live by the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Hence I guess why I am trying to make Embody Tattoo studio one of the first inclusive and sustainable tattoo studios in the UK. I want to minimalise our negative impact on the planet.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I very much fell in to it, I honestly thought I would be designing chairs and spoons, but I burnt through so many forms of art and so far handpoke tattooing has stuck. Every day I feel like I learn something new and I’m always looking to be better than yesterday.

How would you describe your style, has it changed? I try not to draw tattoo art and instead draw whats in my heart! I love realism but I try to make it more abstract. I love lines and I was told off a lot in art lessons for putting lines where there were none, I also love realistic forms and colour.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? At the moment I am trying to push handpoking as far as I can take it, so I’m loving colour blends and smooth grey shading. I love to draw things inspired by nature and incorporating symbolism, and relish encoding stories and thought into my pieces.

What inspires you? I’m interested in ancient cultures and their forms of art and symbolism, I get a lot of inspiration from there. Also the beauty of nature and our surroundings. I guess that why I also love the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. I often bump into things whilst looking up at either the flourishes on the tops of buildings or just the forms of the trees and skies.


What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? It’s always amazing when someone asks for a piece of my art that I’ve just drawn. I love creating custom work for my clients, but its always pretty special to have someone see what comes from deep inside. I would love to do more free form and free hand work. I try not to refuse things, but to guide in a better direction, however I refuse to do anything with a hateful intent.

Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I do! After I have got Embody Tattoo studio running smoothly I hope to be back up in Aberdeen at Sailor Max Tattoo Parlour. I also have a few more guest spots to confirm with other studios such as Electric Lady Tattoo studio (Reading) and The Crow and Quill Tattoo studio (Southampton), so I’ll be up and around the country.
The next convention I am 100% working is the Goa Tattoo Festival and you will for sure be seeing me at next years Manchester’s Tattoo Tea Party and Doncaster’s Tattoo Jam. I’m still waiting to confirm a few more, but you’ll be certain to see me down in the south of England, across in Wales and up in Scotland.


Can you tell us about your own tattoos? On my body I mostly have abstract pattern work and nature inspired pieces. My sleeve was done by the man who taught me, Adam “Starfish” Dutton and contains so much I swear seven years on I am still finding new things! My neck is by Touka Voodoo and it is based on sacred geometry and I can’t wait to get it finished! I am collecting a thigh of skulls from artists I admire and love. I have Hermes wings on my feet which I handpoked myself and I have hands with peacock feathers on my left side for Hera. I also had five of my chakra points tattooed in order of the most under active, I’m yet to have my third eye and crown chakra though as I believe I’m not at that level yet. I am also collecting Swastikas in respect of ManWoman and his work trying to bring back the original meaning of the symbol, which is actually luck and good fortune!

Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: It’s Not Always Regret

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about covering old tattoos and the idea of tattoo regret…

‘You’ll regret that when you’re older’ the charming phrase often uttered to those of us having decided to ink our skin. No longer in my reckless youth I am still choosing to cover my skin in tattoos and still being asked if I will regret that when I am older. Is there a defining age when you are considered old enough to be able to judge what your future self will and will not regret?


After laser and finished cover up by Paul Goss

Having laser removal and tattoo cover ups are often used as ammunition to back up warnings of regret, however removal and regret are not mutually exclusive. I have chosen to have both laser removal and cover ups. All of the six tattoos I gained in my teens and twenties have now been concealed underneath tattoos I have had in my thirties. When I am in my forties, fifties, sixties, hell even my nineties will I have covered up any of those I have now? Who can say, I certainly don’t claim to know what my future holds. The thing that most people presume is that I regret having the tattoos I now have covered up, this couldn’t be further from the truth. At the time I got the tattoos I could afford, I got the tattoos available to me at that time, I got the tattoos that I wanted. At seventeen I marched down to the local tattoo shop with a shaky sketch I had drawn and had it tattooed around my wrist. The drawing was crap and the tattoo was worse, but none of that mattered I had finally gotten the tattoo I had wanted for as long I could remember.

Cover up in progress by Kelly Smith

I’ve always known I would become tattooed from early on and it was just a case of waiting until I could pass for old enough. Whilst that was the tattoo for me then, it wasn’t the tattoo for me now. I’m not especially sentimental, the memories will always be with me, and so I didn’t think too much about having that tattoo covered over with a bold, black snake. My tattoos have changed as I have changed. I am no longer the teenage version of myself, I have grown and changed as a person. My clothes, hair style and body shape have all changed so why not my tattoos?


Given the choice I’d still rather have all my old tattoos than have no tattoos at all. Tattoos are so much more than pretty pictures on our skin, they are the experience, memories and emotions attached.

Interview with Nicole Draeger

30-year-old Nicole Draeger tattoos at Lygon St Tattoo Co in Melbourne Australia, and creates wonderfully bright neo-traditional tattoos. We chatted to Nicole about her style and what inspires her work…


How did you start tattooing and what did you do before? I’ve been tattooing for eight years now. I was studying graphic design and working part time as a receptionist. I had been designing tattoos for my friends and they were all going to the same shop to get them tattooed. Then one day I went with my friend to watch her get tattooed and they offered me an apprenticeship because they had seen so much of artwork already.

Do you have a background in art? I have always been into art and drawing, all I wanted to do when I was a kid was to become a cartoonist so I could draw my favourite cartoon characters all day. But as I got older I got more into graphic design and illustration and then eventually tattooing.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I always liked tattoos but I was put off getting one for a long time because of my parents. I had never really thought of becoming a tattooist until I was offered an apprenticeship and then I just dived right in and never looked back.

How would you describe your style, has it changed? It’s always hard to describe your style but, the best way to describe it would be neo-traditional. My style is always changing, I don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing all the time. Some days I enjoy doing simpler cute designs and other days I love doing more detailed pieces.


What do you like to tattoo and draw?  Mostly animals and flowers. I draw a lot of cats, insects and mammals.

What inspires you? I love watching David Attenborough documentaries, I also watch a lot of anime and cartoons. I also find a lot of inspiration from some of my favourite tattoo artists.

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love tattooing animals and stylised pet portraits but I also really enjoy the occasional pop culture related tattoo so movies, cartoons and anime.  I refuse to tattoo anything racist or ignorant.


Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned?  This year I have been pretty quiet with the guest spots, but I’m looking forward to the New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival in November this year.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos?  Most of the tattoos I have are from my friends or artists I look up to. They are all colour and pretty much all of them are some kind of animal or flower. Some of my favourite pieces include a winged rabbit on my forearm from Rachi Brains, a big blue peony on my shoulder from Jamie August and a portrait on my dog from Clare Clarity on my leg.


Film Review: Julieta

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward has taken a dip in the ocean of grief and guilt that is Pedro Almodovar’s latest melodramatic epic Julieta.

Julieta, 2016, cert 15, dir Pedro Almodovar, 4/5


To say that Pedro Almodovar is an interesting director is a bit of an understatement. Each one of his films boast extraordinarily complex plots that manage to pick at the dark drama and desires seething under the surface of everyday life.

The director’s latest movie Julieta sees him returning to the themes of his revered 1999 classic All About My Mother. Subjects such as motherhood, grief and guilt are once again dissected, making for a compelling and gripping drama. I will try to give a small summary of the plot without giving away too much, since this film’s greatest power is its mystery. Almodovar captivates you from the start with a character who we know nothing about but is immediately fascinating.


The film opens in Madrid, where a woman named Julieta is packing up her belongings, ready to move away to Portugal with her partner. She goes out shopping and bumps into an old family friend. This chance meeting brings a drastic change over Julieta’s priorities. She decides to stay in Madrid and moves back into her old apartment. Something is clearly troubling her and it’s when she starts writing a letter to her absent daughter that her whole sorry story comes out: a story where tragedy, secrets and the inability to talk about such matters have torn Julieta’s old family apart.

Despite the Pandora’s box of emotions this move is, it’s also beguiling to watch. Every setting has its own character and looks stunning, from the bustling streets of Madrid to the gorgeous shots of the ocean near which Julieta’s family used to live. There’s one important flashback scene set on a night train, where the intimate drama playing in the well-lit, comfortable carriages is contrasted with the wild, snow-bound night outside, where a stag fearlessly runs in slow motion beside the train.


The events and themes of the plot are all connected. Overall, this film focuses on the shared experiences of each female character. Although they feel they are isolated, all are affected by similar tragic circumstances of death, disease and depression that ultimately bring them together.

As heavy as the film sounds, there’s plenty of typical Almodovar playfulness for contrast, whether it’s in some of the more charming and romantic scenes of the film or the playful way he directs. For example, there are two separate actresses playing the character of Julieta, one for a younger version (Adriana Ugarte) and one of an older version (Emma Suarez). In one striking scene, he seamlessly switches between the two.

It is incredible that over the past forty years Almodovar has been directing, his films remain so daring and deep. In fact, I would even go so far as to say Julieta is a powerful summary of everything great about Almodovar’s films and may well be his best, a masterful combination of beautiful filmmaking and incredible performances.

The I’m Tired Project

We chatted to 22-year-old Paula Akpan co-founder of The I’m Tired Project, about how she and Harriet Evans started the project, how they hope to make a difference and how you can get involved… 


“I’m tired of people saying I inherited my queerness…
Photo credit: Harriet Evans and Paula Akpan
Photo editing: Harriet Evans

The initial inspiration for the campaign was the ‘Free the Nipple’ movement, however, after asking around some groups within our university, for example our feminist society, there was not much interest in a project like this. We assumed this was because students our age are about to start their job hunt and didn’t want to have their naked breasts plastered over the internet. Yet, we both wanted to do something which ‘makes a difference’ because there are so many groups which have a large following, (not to name any names) but that do not use their following for any sort of ‘good’. For example, they don’t share petitions, protests, or take on any project, which could make a change or even simply highlight social problems currently being faced in society.


“I’m tired of working two jobs to make the salary of one man…
Photo credit:
Robert Olsson and Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art
Editing credit: Robert Olsson

Harriet and I were bouncing ideas off of each other and thought that instead we could have quotations of some sort written on people’s backs. This way its anonymous if the person chooses, as you never see anyone’s face, but also synonymous with the idea that someone has been labelled by society. We kept discussing what sort of quotes we could have written on the backs, and eventually it came to things that we are tired of: tired of being ‘the angry black woman,’ tired of being told ‘I’ve never slept with a black girl’, tired of being called ‘bossy’ etc. and thus ‘I’m Tired’ was born! Finally, we got the idea for the ‘blurb’ that accompanies each picture from Humans of New York, we thought it was great to have a picture that told a story on its own, but also important for the person who’s sharing their story to be able to explain their lived experiences and why it is important to them.


“I’m tired of being represented by loud close-minded fools…
Photo credit: Robert Olsson and Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art
Photo editing: Robert Olsson

Making a difference for us, in the short term, is really about highlighting the stereotypes and micro-aggressions that are still faced by society. We’re so often told that many social problems are disappearing: homophobia, racism, sexism, victim blaming, but our subjects and both myself and Harriet are still facing problems like these on a daily basis. For us, if this project changes even one person’s mind about the preconceived notions they might be holding, or inspires someone to ask more questions, or even for someone to feel more confident in themselves and think ‘hey, there’s someone else who goes through this too, I’m not alone’, then we would be extremely happy.


“I’m tired of being told to ‘let go’ of not knowing my birth parents…
Photo credit: Robert Olsson and Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art
Editing credit: Robert Olsson

If you’re interested in getting involved in The I’m Tired Project, then contact Paula or Harriet through Facebook, Twitter or email The project is ongoing and there are a series of projects coming up as well as photos relating social groups that have not yet been covered by the pictures up so far.

Interview with artist Anna Volpi

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to Italian-American artist Anna Volpi about her photographic series Skin… 

When did the Skin project come about and what is the idea behind these shots? Skin was created for a competition that I didn’t win, but that doesn’t matter now. I met so many wonderful people through the project which is more important that any prize.  The title of the competition was simply ‘Skin’. I began to think of the various interpretations of skin, what you can do with it, the way we can see and feel it. The skin is the largest organ of our body and we can not live without it. One thing all human beings have in common is their skin and how it can cause a variety of relationships and reactions among people. Love, hate, contempt, worship and much more. ‘Skin’ is more than just aesthetics it explores how we live in it and how people really are inside their own body.


How did you select the personal stories of each one of the subjects? To select the people I searched the internet and I spread the word among my acquaintances. I only chose people who had interesting experiences or felt connected to their skin in some way.  I listened to the story of each of them and the ones I chose were those that struck me the most. In each photo there is a summarising sentence, that encapsulates them as a person.


What did you like the most about this experience, both personally and professionally? What I liked the most was meeting extraordinary people that I would like to keep in my life. From a more professional side, this is the most methodical project I’ve done so far. From the start I already had an idea of how the aesthetics would be. However when photographing people I didn’t ask for them to pose, I took every picture naturally during our long talks. But I knew that I wanted clean, balanced and strong images. I usually get dragged a little more by improvisation and variety, but here I had to work within certain limits, and it was a great experience.


What are your thoughts about tattoo art?  I have two tattoos, but I’ve never studied the history of tattooing. I don’t like how stereotyped people with tattoo are, and I don’t like them as a fashion trend. Saying that, not every tattoo should have a deep moral significance. My tattoos act as reminders for me. The words ‘here now’ remind me not to be anxious about the future, or decay in the past. ‘Write’, instead, reminds me to finish my novel. I chose Evelyn Hays, the tattooed girl in the Skin project, because she totally believes in this form of artistic expression. And I would have chosen her even if she hadn’t had tattoos, because she believes deeply in this art form.


Evelyn Hays

Can you see a relationship between tattoos and photography? In a photographic portrait a tattoo can be a point of interest or it can be seen as a disturbance. I really like to photograph the naked body, and for some shots I look for women without tattoos, because the tattoo is somehow distracting. Tattoos attract the eye, and can disturb the lines of the body that I want to create. Other times, they accentuate the body.

Interview with Aimee Lou

31-year-old Aimee Lou is a tattoo artist at Bespoke Tattoo Company in Guildford Surrey who creates wonderfully bright tattoos. We chatted to Aimee about what inspires her work and how she started in the industry… 

How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship in 2005, so 11 years.

How did you start? What did you do before? I started getting tattooed at Bespoke Tattoo in 2003 when I was 18, by Ade Stacey (now at Axios, Hove). I was taking in my own designs which I had been working on for a few years. I was a regular customer and I was eventually offered a Saturday job answering the phone and making stencils, which soon turned into an apprenticeship. I had quit university and was working in retail. I had spent some time writing to other local studios in the hopes of getting my foot in the door, but never imagined I would be given a shot at Bespoke Tattoo with Jon Nott. I was very, very lucky!

Do you have a background in art? I have always been artistic, from a very early age as my dad was an artist. I won awards at school and had paintings featured in magazines. I studied art and photography at college, and began a fine art degree at university. University wasn’t for me though, so I didn’t complete my degree. By that point tattooing was the only thing I wanted to do so I preferred to spend my time getting tattooed and drawing tattoo art, rather than studying.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I first became interested in tattoos when I was about 15, idolising tattooed female musicians such as Tairrie B of My Ruin and Brody Dalle of The Distillers. I knew then that I wanted to have tattoos, and started putting my love of art and tattoos together by doodling my own designs based on traditional tattoos that I was drawn to. It soon occurred to me that I could do this for a living!

How would you describe your style, has it changed? I suppose my work would fall under ‘neo-traditional’. I have always loved traditional tattoos; the bold lines, the bright colours. I don’t know if my style has changed much over the years, more that it has developed and refined, and continues to do so. I still like to experiment with colours and detail.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? I have a love of lady faces, which goes back to when I was a kid and all I drew were faces and people. I particularly remember my dad sketching lady faces to show me how to draw lips and eyes etc. I also love to draw flowers and animals, and ideas based on my favourite music and movies, such as Prince and Harry Potter.

What inspires you? Other artists inspire me a lot, some of my favourites are Rose Hardy, Amanda Toy, Angelique Houtkamp, Cassandra Frances, Ashley Love, Clare Hampshire, Tiny Miss Becca… to name just a handful! I am greatly inspired by music, whether it’s a mood or a lyric. Nature inspires me, particularly flowers and cute animals. Also, beautiful faces and photography, vintage advertising and greetings cards and botanical illustrations, fantasy movies and post apocalyptic visions.

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love to tattoo anything that suits my style, with bold lines, lots of colour and little bits of details. I am very fortunate that most of my customers just give me an idea and let me go wild! And I’m also lucky that people love the ideas that pop into my head which I post on social media. It really is cool that I can draw these visions and people want me to put them permanently on their bodies. I love my job! There isn’t much that I’ll refuse, so long as I am confident I can do a good job. I don’t really do realism or portraits, so I will steer people in the direction of colleagues and friends.


Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? I am working with Amy Savage at her private studio The Warren, Canterbury in November. We are tattooing for charity on Monday 7th November, all proceeds going to Hunt Sabs and F.R.I.E.N.D Farm Sanctuary. And I am guesting with her for the following two days. I haven’t got any conventions lined up, I haven’t worked a convention since 2013, but I would like to start working them again, maybe just one or two a year. I get pretty nervous about conventions as I can be very shy!

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? My own tattoos are all in colour and are mostly of a neo-traditional style, with a few Japanese pieces here and there. My favourite tattoos are probably my peonies on my chest by my boss Jon Nott. I also have some awesome pieces by Tiny Miss Becca, Nick Horn, Jody Dawber, Andrew May and Diego Azaldegui. The spaces I have left are thighs, knees, ribs and neck- all the best spots!

Tattoo Journeys – Portraits from London Tattoo Convention

Portraits from London Tattoo Convention 2015 byHeather Shuker Photography

A snapshot of people who attended the infamous London Tattoo Convention 2016 including artists, the general public, organisers, performers and more. As they posed, they were interviewed by Alice Snape and Keely Reichardt.


Sonja Punktum, 38, tattoo artist, Hamburg
“I’m not an angry person, but people who aren’t tattooed see rebellion, so are sometimes scared. People often comment on my tattoos, even if I don’t ask for it. Tattoos make people react, but I think that is because they are intense, they are created through pain and last forever, there is nothing else like it.”


Arrienette Ashman, 26, tattoo artist, Bournemouth
“I was 19 when I got my first tattoo, I went big straight away, as I always knew wanted to be heavily tattooed. My mum picked me up after the appointment and was shocked, but she has learnt to love them over the years. I love the thought of having art on me always. It is not just physical – it is a spiritual process.”


Ashley Green, 27, sports coach, Harrow
“I was drunk when I got my first tattoo at 16, it was a Chinese symbol. All my other tattoos are now family related, including a portrait of my mum.”


George Crew, 21, tattoo artist, Leicester
“I was 16 when I got my first tattoos, it was a rose on my stomach. I got it because everyone around me was getting tattooed. If I could go back, I would think about it more and get something of better quality. I am saving my back, though, as a backpiece is the most important tattoo you will ever get, as it is the biggest canvas.”


Monami Frost, 21, model/blogger/social media, Liverpool
“I cannot imagine my life without tattoos. Getting tattooed, for me, is a never-ending process. They are part of who I am. I think they are beautiful and they make me feel more full.”


Ermine Hunte, 37, buyer for an airline, Luton
“Tattoos and piercings are so empowering and can change who you are as a person. I have gained more confidence as they have covered scars from a kidney transplant. I am constantly evolving and gaining control over my body.”