Tattoos in the workplace: A guide to your rights and discrimination awareness

Hands up if you’ve ever been advised not to get a tattoo in an overtly visible area in case it affects employment opportunities?
Chances are that’s a fair few of you.

But despite the forewarnings from our elders, tattoos are very much an integral fabric of society today, particularly amongst young people. In fact, it’s suggested that nearly a fifth of UK adults have had tattoos, with those under the age of 40 more likely to have them.

Tattoos in the workplace is not a new topic of discussion. However, it’s important that those with tattoos are familiar with their rights in the workplace and the discrimination that can arise during the recruitment process.

Here’s everything you need to know about body art at work.

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Recruitment

The UK Equality Act 2010 protects job hunters from a large range of diversity prejudice, from age and gender, to nationality and disability.

However, body art is not a characteristic that is protected by workplace equality law. As a result, prospective employers can make their hiring decisions based on tattoos if they wish.

However, job opportunities are improving for those with body art.

While once upon a time many customer-facing organisations were not open to hiring those with tattoos, many have now adopted a no-visible-inking policy. Some of these organisations include airlines, the police and even McDonalds.

This means that it’s now possible for those with easily concealed tattoos to apply for a greater range of roles, although if a no-visible-inking policy is in place, candidates are likely to be asked to provide photographs of all inkings with a visible measure for scale.

In the workplace

Businesses are within their rights to have rules in place around appearances in the workplace. This is because dress codes can help maintain professionalism, company branding, and even company atmosphere.

However, it’s important that the standards are appropriate for the business, staff and company culture and are not solely based on personal preference.

We’ve all seen the headlines about heels at work…

If your tattoos go against company policy, then your employer can dismiss you and you are not protected by the law. Therefore, make sure you are aware of the dress code in your place of work so you know where you stand.

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How to make tattoos work for you

Despite the statistics, policies and general perception of tattoos, they don’t necessarily have to be a hindrance for you at work.

Here’s what you need to bear in mind.

Show your dedication to the industry

While many employers are missing out on the top talent for jobs due to tattoo policies, body art could make you more employable in some instances. You may be more employable within the creative industries if your skin exudes your artistry and innovation.

What’s more, if your tattoo pays homage to your favourite brand or company you want to join, like these inkings, you might increase your chances of securing an interview since your dedication game is strong.

Go with your gut

If you’re looking for work and are not sure how well your tattoos will be perceived in an interview or in the company’s culture, it’s important to trust your instincts.

Try and make a fair evaluation based on the organisation’s environment and industry before you show off your tattoos.

For example, if you’re applying for a client-facing finance role in a corporate firm, revealing your creative sleeve may not go down so well. However, if you’re applying for a position in a tech startup, where suits are a rarity, your tattoos may not be an issue at all.

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Be aware of stereotypes

We’re all familiar with the stereotypes surrounding heavily tattooed people. But no matter what your opinion on tattoos is, you must try to keep an open mind and remain aware of how others may perceive you in the workplace.

Ultimately, you may want be known for your professional ability, you may not want to be known as “the one with the giant Batman tattoo”. While it’s great to be unique, try not to let your artwork define you or upstage your professionalism or it may do more harm than good.

Laura Slingo is Digital Copywriter for the UK’s leading independent job board, CV-Library. For more expert advice on job searches, careers and the workplace, visit their Career Advice pages.

Vintage Vista: Ruella-Maria

38-year-old Ruella-Maria is a part-time vintage slinger, mumma, wife and full time sick girl, who lives in The Woodlands Texas but originates from Aberdeen. We chat to her about her courage to keep going when faced with a myriad of health issues, how she started selling vintage and her stunning tattoo collection…

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Tell us a little about your Etsy shop, and how you began selling vintage? I predominantly sell antique fashion on Etsy. I have a penchant for late 1800s to 1930s women’s clothing. I’m drawn to anything feminine, light and airy or a bit manky and masculine with possibilities for longevity. I like to combine sourcing vintage for myself and my shop with exploring Texas. Texas is an antique and vintage fashion treasure trove. My hunting grounds are flea markets, antique malls, fairs and estate sales.

I started selling vintage after my health deteriorated a few years ago. I only sell vintage on a very part time basis as my health permits. I was born three months premature in 1978, weighing 1lb and wasn’t expected to survive. I’ve been told that I’m a fighter my whole life,  I see it more as stubbornness, I don’t like being told what I can’t do. I am neuro diverse, I have a developmental disorder known as dyspraxic with overlapping disorders on the spectrum.

I’ve always known I was different. It isn’t always easy but it’s part of who I am.

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I also have Ehlers danlos syndrome a collagen disorder that affects my skin, blood, muscles, ligaments and joints, which causes major pain for me. I also have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome which causes a myriad of problems but mainly has me feeling sick, tired and dizzy on a daily basis. I’ve gone through hell over the years with both these illnesses but luckily I have an amazing husband who has helped me figure out how to weather the bad times and a daughter who gives me a reason to be strong each day. There are no cures for what ails me but I think it’s good to be honest & talk about them as they obviously impact greatly on my everyday life.

So selling vintage gives me a purpose. I don’t make it out of bed every day. I might be the slowest seller in the world but I know that I carefully choose each piece on my adventures, I put love into reviving the lost and broken pieces and I enjoy sharing what I find with others. I also set up a vintage fashion community Instagram page two years ago so folk like me had a place to tag outfits. I spread the word to use the tag #truevintageootd when listing personal vintage fashion outfits. 18k people later and I now have a group of Instagram friends helping to run the page so we can feature new people are regular users daily. It’s been an adventure building our not so wee vintage fashion community!

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Can you describe your personal style? I have been wearing vintage properly since I was 17. My own style is a mix of antique femininity almost fairytale pieces mixed with modern and masculine pieces. I love the 1920s but find the Edwardian, 1910s and 1930s styles suit my curves better. I’m a bit obsessed with Victorian prairie and whore house boudoir looks at the moment. I spend a lot of time at home which affords me the opportunity to wear impractical outfits such as underwear for outerwear and corsetry.

It’s only really been the past few years that I feel I’ve really explored all decades of fashion and found my own fashion groove. I don’t feel like I fit in a particular category anymore.

Now I’m happy to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Difference is good.

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Does your home decor emulate your style? I guess my house reflects my style a little bit. I’ve lived in Texas for four years with my hubby and 17 year old daughter plus two dogs. If I lived alone my home would would be pink and floral with mad Victorian wallpaper and dolls everywhere. But as it is I’d call our home industrial luxe – a mix of rustic wood and metal furniture with pink velvet chaise, teal velvet sofas, a taxidermy buck wearing a tiara and knick knacks everywhere.  I have several cabinets filled with my older, rarer antiques, curiosities and pretty things.

Are there any values or traditions that you have that have been influenced by your love of the past? What pieces are you drawn to and which are your favourite? I am a HUGE period drama and old classic movies fan. I always have an old movie or something running in the background whilst I work. I have eclectic music tastes ranging from Victorian era music in swing, blues and jazz to more modern but probably 70s at the latest rock artists like The Doors.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? How do these fit into your look? Do they help you to feel comfortable in your body or help your confidence? My tattoos are also an expression of who I am. They are the pain I choose. But I live life in daily pain – at least tattoo pain is something I choose for myself and I get something beautiful at the end of it. I have a lot of scarring on my body – the collagen disorder EDS makes it all worse. I’ve been through the wars, had a bubba, been thin then fat then a bit less so and I’m almost 40, it all leaves its mark. I guess my tattoos cover up some of my tell tale signs in places and I prefer to look at tattoos than scars so that’s a bonus! My tattoos are for me. I’ll be getting more for sure and eventually there will be more visible but for now I like that they are mostly for my eyes only.

I see tattoos as personal art that I’ve collected. They are either tokens of fond memories or something that I admire. My recent, more complex pieces have all been done by the same amazing folks at Power House Ink. Jason and Amanda – both big antique & vintage fans. Both are very talented and I plan to have as many of my tattoos as I can done there and I’m far more likely to choose from their own flash as I admire their style and skill

Interview With Prof. Nicholas York

Our guest writer, digital marketing executive and traditional tattoo fan 21-year-old Poppy Ingham, talks to Nicholas York about his humble beginnings and the work he does out of Dark Age Tattoo in Denton, Texas…

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21-year-old Nicholas York is customarily cited as Professor York, in a nod to the likes of Samuel O’Reilly, the dubbed King of the Bowery tattooers, who adopted the “professor” epithet. He has been tattooing since he was 15 and although this might not be the licit way of entering the tattoo world, Nick received his first tattoo machines two months before starting high school. Coupled with a power supply purchased with his earnings from a part-time job, Nick began tattooing classmates and anyone who was willing. 

Fast forward five years, give or take, Nick is now embodying the definition of “world class electric tattooing”, producing nostalgic tattoos and paintings that ring true to the early 1900s. 

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What first inspired you to take on tattooing, especially at such a young age? I was in eighth grade at a school for kids with behavioural problems, and I started seeing some of the kids in my class get small tattoos. After I saw that you could get tattooed underage, I got my first tattoo at 14. The tattooist who did it was different from the guy who was tattooing the other kids, he approached me at the public library and asked if I wanted to get tattooed. Just a of couple days later I was in his apartment after school getting a tribal design that I had drawn.

I started tattooing a couple months after my first tattoo. In between the time of my first tattoo and the first tattoo I did, I had gotten my neck and my chest tattooed and started working on my arms. I was 15 when I got my throat tattooed. The throat tattoo was what made me start thinking about pursuing a career in tattooing. I knew I had found the job for me, when I found out that all you had to do was buy a kit online and do it out of your house. I started getting good and I was starting to feel hopeful about my choice.

My mom always knew about my tattooing and watched me do my first couple the day I got my kit. She was always supportive, because my dad was a tattooist, although I didn’t grow up with him (he went to prison when I was two). Over the years, he’d send drawings and paintings, but at the time, I was too young to realise they were tattoo designs that he had tattooed on people in prison.

My dad tattooed before he went to prison in the 1990s in downtown Dallas. He painted cars before he was a tattooist so it was a natural transition. Then he met my mom and stopped tattooing for a bit. He picked it back up when he went to prison a couple years later. I’ve seen a lot of his work and I hold onto all the paintings he sends me now. He is, in my honest opinion, one of the best black and grey tattooers out there. He does extremely smooth tattooing with a 90s twist. He really hasn’t gotten to see just how much tattooing has evolved since he has been locked away, except for the tattoos that he sees on me when I visit him.

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Have you always wanted to tattoo in the traditional style, or did you experiment with a number of styles before settling on it? When I first started tattooing, I was doing a very new school style and everything was extremely colourful and cartoony. I was hanging around with an old tattooist named Sneaker and he had a big influence on my style and technical application. Over the years, my tattooing evolved into a more neo-traditional style thanks to a guy I worked with named Rene. He did some of the best neo-traditional tattoos I had ever seen up until that point. Rene told me I needed to simplify my designs and stop using so many colours. He told me I couldn’t do traditional tattoos because I always complicated my tattoos so much, so to challenge him, I did a traditional tattoo. From that one tattoo I realised that I was missing out on what I was meant to be doing.

Thinking along the lines of Rock Of Ages, Belle Of The Plains etc, what are some iconic pieces of art that you never get tired of recreating? Easily one of my favourite iconic images is the Rose of No Man’s Land. I always love seeing renditions of it. I also really enjoy dragons; they’re always big and impressive. And, of course, the Rock of Ages is always a classic.

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Do you find that younger people (our age) are aware and appreciative of traditional tattooing, or do you feel like there is more demand for other styles? I think young people really dig the designs of classic traditional tattooing, but I don’t think they care for the history. The history posts I make [on Instagram] never get as many likes as the flash posts. I understand, though – not everyone has the attention span or appreciation for history.

Who, in particular from the past, do you admire and why? I’m a big fan of George Burchett. He encompasses everything I love about turn-of-the-century tattooing and has some of the best paintings I’ve ever seen! When I started tattooing in the style I do now, George Burchett was a big influence. My stuff doesn’t look like his that much, but if you know your stuff you can see small hints of it. I’m also interested in the early Bowery tattooers of New York. Samuel O’Reilly and his contemporaries have a certain mystery about them. We only understand a small fraction of their life, while we have a decent amount of George Burchett’s history.

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Where do you gather information and history on the tattooists of the past? I get all my knowledge of tattoo history from books I buy, websites like http://www.buzzworthytattoo.com and just speaking to and being friends with as many tattoo historians as I can. I am no historian myself, and I don’t add any unknown insight and I have not made any new discoveries, like some of the other historians that I look up to, I’m just a big fan of history and love to learn as much as I can about my craft. I do happen to have a good eye and have found many great bits of history in photographs that have been looked over before.

For people wanting to explore authentic traditional tattoos in 2017 and beyond, can you recommend any modern-day tattooers who you applaud? There are too many to name but those are just a few that come to my mind and I think they each are very true to the essence of traditional tattooing. I’m extremely proud I can call all of these tattooers my friends and contemporaries:

Six Snake Tattoos We Love

Our guest writer Katie Houghton shares a nest of snake tattoos…

Some may be ferocious. Some may be poisonous. Some may be the stuff of nightmares. And some may be a two-headed force of freaky nature. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that snakes look great as tattoos. I never thought I ever wanted one before, but the fluidity of the lines and the eccentric patterns have made me go full circle this year, and I’m hoping I can get a little bit of blue blood before 2017. With that in mind, I went on the hunt for six of my favourite snake tattoos, from the delicate to the deep.

Illegal Bodies, Germany

This guy might be the smallest on the list, but he’s ultimately the cutest. Brought to you by Germany’s Illegal Bodies (a handpoke and henna artist), I love how delicate and plotted the design is alongside the dainty star additions.

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Jess Brown, Salem MA

This is the most colourful addition to the list, but it’s one with the most depth. Hailing from Massachusetts, Jess Brown uses deep tones and rich shading to add an almost cutesy appeal to this sword creeper.

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Matilde Masi, Italy

Snakes are intricate animals, and not just because of their ability to trick you into biting through the apples of Eden. Brought to you by Italy’s Matilde Masi, I not only love the position of this piece, but the attention to lines and spacing are second to none.

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Martín Funcasta, Barcelona

If you didn’t know you needed a tattoo of a smoking snake before, you do now. Courtesy of Barcelona’s Martín Funcasta, the cutthroat lines, harsh edges and thick shading add a stark originality to the design.

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Mirkosata, Milan

One of the biggest names on this list, Mirkosata is no stranger to snake designs, as they’re practically all he tattoos. Clearly detailed to the extreme, his work is clean, it’s elegant, and it’s putting these blue blooded babes at the forefront of everything.

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Cheyenne Gauthier, Montreal

The final tattoo on this scaly list- Cheyenne has blackwork that will have you scrolling his Instagram for hours. With depth and almost a sad tone to the work, this snake piece is elevated by the shading and the coffee branch.

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Interview With Chris Green

We chat to 24-year-old Chris Green, who tattoos out of Redwood Tattoo Studio in Manchester about his love for anything out of the ordinary, his guest spot plans and his own impressive tattoo collection…

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When did you begin tattooing? I’ve been tattooing full time for three years since finishing my apprenticeship, so I still feel very new to everything!

What inspired you and what drew you to the tattoo world? I grew up playing in bands, drawing and writing music. I came to realise that there wasn’t much chance of  me making a living in the music industry and what little money I did have I spent on getting tattooed. I think I needed a career that was still creative, but one where I could be my own boss and work for myself. Tattooing was perfect, I just wish I had thought of it sooner.

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How would you describe your style, has it changed? My favourite style of tattooing is traditional and that’s what I started with. I love tattoos that actually look like tattoos so I try to keep the traditional structures of tattooing in my work whilst showing my love for classical art in my designs.

What would you love to tattoo? What do you particularly love doing? I feel as though I’m quite lucky, as people ask me to do some amazing pieces already, but my favourite things to draw are probably ladies, animals and anything out of the ordinary or a bit weird. I’ve also been enjoying working on big projects like backs and fronts recently, I’d love to start more!

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What inspires your work, do any other artist influence you? I’ve always been mostly inspired by classic art – the Renaissance and baroque periods in particular. I spent some time in Italy and Greece last year and I was fascinated by the architecture and sculptures. I came back to England with tons of amazing references and spent the rest of that year trying to include stories and mythologies into my work. I’m always looking for new inspiration and often find it in the most basic everyday things. Of course, a bunch of tattoo artists also inspire me too!

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? Conventions and guest spots aren’t my strongest points (and by that I mean I don’t really do them), but I would love to start travelling more. I did my first guest spot a couple of months ago at Jayne Doe in Essex to see how much I’d freak out, and I did majorly (mouth full of ulcers, ate half a slice of toast over three days). Everybody was nice there and I became good friends with Becca who owns the shop so I think that helped. I’ll be making regular(ish) trips back there, next being in October. I’ll be at Salon Serpent in Amsterdam in September and hopefully working the next Brighton convention. Also I’m in the middle of figuring some dates out for a few spots in America next year.

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Can you tell us a little bit about your own tattoo collection? I’ve been lucky enough to get tattooed by some great artists (probably forgot a few) such as Eckel, Mitch Allenden, Dan Molloy, Cassandra Frances, Ashley Love, Alex Bage, Lars Uwe and Lauren Sutton and Dale Sarok who I work with. I’ve pretty much always given each artist complete freedom so I have all kinds of subject matter. Lars has tattooed probably the majority of my body and I imagine he’ll probably tattoo what’s left, which scarily isn’t as much space as I thought.

Charity Tattoo Convention: Nessy Forever

In loving memory of Mark Nesmith

Nessy Forever Charity Tattoo Convention

17th September 

11-8pm

FarGo Village Coventry

Entry fee – £10 on the door
Free to under 16s 

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We would love to have you with us to celebrate the life of Mark Nesmith. Together we can give Nes the send off he deserves – with loud music, great tattoos, laughs, smiles and the beautiful acomplished feeling of being a part of something amazing.
Something Mark made us feel, everyday we spent with him.

The convention will be filled with live tattooing and many artists will have walk-ups available. Live music and DJs will play throughout the day including; Charles Dexter Ward & The Imagineers and Special Brew. Also don’t miss the raffle to win artwork and many more fun surprises!

Confirmed artists:

HALES STREET STUDIOS Paddy O’RaffertyWarren PerryDan Jackson & Mitch Weaver

GRIZZLYS ART Dan Dygas

SEMPER TATTOO Joanne Baker

CIRCLE OF SWORDS Hanan Qattan

NEMESIS TATTOO STUDIO Ellis Arch

THE DRAWING ROOM Kerste Diston

REAL ART TATTOO Matt Barratt-Jones

BOLD AS BRASS TATTOO Nick Baldwin & Mark Walker

THE CHURCH TATTOO Hannah Wescott

QUEEN OF HEARTS Natalie OughtonJamie Radburn & Kate Stenner

MODERN BODY ART Ethan Jones

SACRED HEART TATTOOS Dave Carson

CREATIVE BODY ART Joanne Leslie & Holly Marie

RED TATTOO AND PIERCING Lucy O’Connell

SECOND CITY TATTOO CLUB Isobel Stevenson Morton

INFINITE INK Donna Reid, James Aston Mewett & Mike Williams

MEN’S GROOMING COMPANY Barber’s Chair

100% of all money raised will be given to Mark’s Mother and Father

Interview With Charline Bataille

25-year-old tattoo artist Charline Bataille, works at Minuit Dix in Montreal, where she creates bright, freaky, fluorescent, sometimes even ugly tattoos. We chat to Charline about her love for colour, her oversharing nature and the space she takes up in the tattoo industry…

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How long have you been tattooing, how did you start? I’ve been tattooing for less than two years! I’m a newbie! I started learning by myself and met with other queer tattooers to exchange knowledge and tattoos.

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Can you describe your tattoo style? What sorts of things do you create? I think my style is very tender, vulnerable and emulates spontaneous drawings. I love to use colours! I love it everywhere – in my paintings, in my house, my make up, my clothes. I create weird impossible flowers, creepy cute animals and angry fat babes looking unapologetically hairy and hot! I love to tattoo a mix of cute and freaky! I like wonky lines and weird freaky colours, and I even like when my tattoos are ugly and disproportionate. I want to queer what tattoos look like. I know there isn’t only one way to tattoo and I want to break down the good/bad dichotomy! When I draw my tattoos, I always collaborate with my client. To me, their agency is very important.

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How do you feel as a queer woman working in the tattoo industry? Have you been faced with obstacles or criticism? You mention on your Instagram that you try to create a safe space for your clients, how do you do this and why is it important? It’s strange to me that I have taken this role as outspoken feminist tattooer because I don’t feel I am any good at putting my ideas into words, I much prefer to use images! I mentioned in an interview that a lot of people couldn’t have access to the tattoo industry, because of systemic oppression, and therefore, will find ways to learn and create in safe spaces. In response to this interview, I got a lot of messages, a lot of them calling me a stupid cunt but also a lot of them respectfully disagreeing and pointing out the danger of tattooing at home without proper knowledge. I don’t think I need to explain how apprenticeships and traditions are considered sacred and are needed. So I made a lot of people angry suggesting that it is possible to break tradition safely and that, in a general way, misogyny, fatphobia, cissexism and racism were too present in tattoo shops and made those spaces at best unpleasant and at worst unsafe for a lot of people.

First, there is way too little conversation about cultural appropriation in western tattooing. White tattooers still tattoo colonial imagery and sexual caricature of indigenous women on other white people. They don’t understand how important it is that tattooing didn’t originate in the western world. Consent forms in tattoo shops still force people to disclose their HIV statuses and even refuse services on that basis. It is illegal, intrusive, discriminatory and potentially dangerous to force HIV disclosure. If tattooers would take the time to reach out to their local organisation for and by people with HIV, they could offer a much fairer and safer service.

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I tattoo almost only queer and trans people and a lot of them are women. Every one of my clients has a horror story to tell; from a tattooer telling a fat woman that he didn’t understand why she would want a tattoo on her hip, to tattooers telling brown people their skin is too dark, to blatant racism or sexual harassment. I have often been horrified and heart broken hearing their experience. Being queer and tattooing mostly queer and trans people, I know that there is a really complicated relationship with the body that makes those obstacles even more meaningful. Our body is a place where it is hard to claim ownership, it’s also a place that is described as “wrong” or “bad” by science and cissexist society. It takes constant work to take back control over your body and I know tattooing is one medium to achieve that. It’s really important to respect people’s pronoun, to discuss boundaries and to respect their bodily autonomy and to be tender and present when they trust you with their body.

I think there is room for the tattoo practice and community to be tender, vulnerable and sensitive. I’ve never been in a tattoo shop where I felt comfortable until Minuit Dix! A queer owned tattoo shop that supports queer / women/ trans / poc owned companies and individuals. That is conscious of safe practices, reducing waste, uses vegan ink, gender neutral consent forms that do not force or shame HIV disclosure, in a WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE space. Working there has really made it possible for me to offer a nice and cosy space for my clients to get tattooed. It is also a space where I can be a queer femme with mental illness and have my workspace respect my limitations and honour my identity. I am working next to @katakankabin and @cammy06 and I have learned so much from @murieldemai_tattoo. I am so lucky.

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It says on your Instagram that you are an oversharer, what do you mean by this? I describe myself as a “over sharing queer femme” on my profile because I don’t draw a line between my professional life and my personal life or my activism. I don’t draw a line between my tattoo practice and my overall art practice, to me, all of this is one! On my Instagram (my only platform to share my tattoos and art) I often talk about my mental illness, my medication, my body image, my sexual trauma, my asexuality, my love life, what makes me sad and what makes me proud.

I do it because it helps me, because I love people to be able to relate and be reminded that I am far from alone, but I also love to see that it helps people working through their own trauma and experiences and feel like the stigma is possible to overcome. I am very sensitive and I have no filter! I think this part of me also makes me a better tattooer. It’s my way of telling people that they can also be themselves and I will be real with them at any moment.

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Etienne Steffen: Bluttiefdruck

In this interview German born tattoo artist Etienne Steffen talks about his latest art project, performance and work: Bluttiefdruck

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Etienne tattooing at the exhibition

Can you tell us about your project and performance? During my project Bluttiefdruck I combined my method of dry point printing with tattooing. I tattooed eight of a series of nine dragons – each one a whole sleeve. After each sleeve was finished I replicated the image of the tattoo onto a life-sized zink plate using a tattoo machine. Afterwards the image on the plate was printed onto handmade paper.
The performance was a combination of the previous techniques and mediums. The fusion was the next logical step. The ninth and final dragon of the series was tattooed on a participant using solely water instead of ink. The outflowing blood caused by the perforation of the skin was caught on a white piece of linen. An impression of the ninth dragon appeared. I coined this technique Bluttiefdruck.

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The impression of the ninth dragon – Bluttiefdruck

How long did the performance take, how did the participant cope with the pain? The performance itself took about two hours. The participant took the pain very well. The pain was equivalent to getting a regular tattoo, due to the same process just replacing ink through water.

The Nine Dragon Scroll by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244 served as the main point of reference in this nine-part series. What was it about the dragon scroll and Japanese tattooing that fascinated you? It was always a reference when it came to dragons. I believe I have seen its influence in a lot of East Asian art whether ukiyo-e, sumi ink painting or horimono. So to me this project is also a homage to the nine dragon scroll. With regards to Japanese tattooing, I like the idea of a complete body suit concept with the back as the centre piece. Not to mention the fluidity in the background which carries the motives and connects them.

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The participant and her finished tattoo after the performance

How has the exhibition been received? Most people that come to an exhibition are there because of the event, and the exhibition itself serves as a vehicle. The project and performance was very niche, to be able to understand it fully you needed specific knowledge of Horimono (carving or engraving) and dry point printing, so not everyone understood what exactly was going on. But there were quite a few close observers that really took the time to understand what the project and the performance are about – these were astonished and appreciated what they saw. On the other hand, someone in the tattoo industry, who I respect very much, said that they ‘hate everything it (the film) stands for and it has nothing to do with the art of tattooing’ – apparently my project polarises people.

What inspired you? Japanese woodblock prints have served as reference for most of Japanese tattooing and Horimono, and there is already a connection between printing and tattooing. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of combining Japanese tattooing with dry point printing since I started “tattooing” metal plates. To me it just felt natural to connect the two. When I realised that horimono could also be translated as engraving it made even more sense. After a long process of distilling different ideas the project became clear during one of my many travels to Japan to get my backpiece.

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Four of the nine dragons in the series

What were you hoping to achieve, what message are you spreading? I want the people to see a certain subject through my eyes. To make the connections that I can see visible to others that might not see those parallels. To interpret traditional concepts and mediums (of art) in a new way. To put things into a new context. This project is about pushing boundaries. In today’s cultural landscape everything is about aesthetic -everything is superficial. In Bluttiefdruck I visualise the process. I had to disconnect the process from a more permanent motive, to span an arc between Japanese tattooing/horimono, European printing/drypoit and initiation rituals of ancient African cultures. My work is about discurs.

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One of the tattooed dragons created for the exhibition

What do you love about tattoos? I love so many things about tattoos! They’re simple and complex at the same time. On the one hand you have the simple exchange- I produce something someone else likes, they buy it and we’re both happy. Then there is the aspect of craft, no matter how good my design is I have to be able to tattoo it in a proper way. On the other hand some of the most beautiful and meaningful tattoos are not well crafted at all and because of that they send a stronger message than a good tattoo ever could. As a professional tattooer I also think it’s fascinating that as soon as the tattoo is finished it has no more monetary worth. It can not be sold anymore but it is still valuable for the wearer. No matter how good or bad a tattoo is, no matter if it is meaningful or just jewellery it marks a certain point in your lifetime. But what’s most appealing to me is that there is more to tattooing than meets the eye. The process of tattooing and receiving a tattoo is spiritual to me.

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A close up of one of Etienne’s dragons

What the below video to see the Etienne’s performance and the creation of Bluttiefdruck:

Spin A Yarn: Hannah Mackie

27-year-old Hannah Mackie is a yearn dying sorceress and volunteering development manager from Didoct, Oxfordshire. We chat to Hannah about her tattoo collection, running her own hand dyed yarn business HeyJay and her love for nature…

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When did you set up your own company? Two years ago.

What inspired you to do so? I am completely obsessed with knitting and collecting irresistible yarns. The ultimate dream would be to one day have my own bricks and mortar yarn shop so I can talk yarn and knitting with lovely people all day and never have to have a ‘proper’ job again, but that’s a big scary thing that requires a lot of start up funding! So I started playing around with dyeing yarns and selling them as my own little slice of living the dream outside of my 9-5 and it went from there!

How does this fit around your job? It only just does at the moment! I spend evenings dyeing or photographing skeins to list on my website and sort out any orders that might have come in. I can sell at events and festivals on weekends so it’s just about fitting it all in! I try to keep a Sunday here or there free for doing nothing for the sake of my sanity and neglected knitting projects!

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What is it about knitting that you love so much? I find it so therapeutic and satisfying to make tangible lovely things. I love making gifts for friends and family – in an age where most people I know have the stuff they already want, I can give them something special that they won’t be able to buy anywhere that has had time, thought and love put into it – that has so much more meaning than ‘I spent two minutes ordering you a thing off Amazon’.

Can you tell us about the process behind your yarns? It’s completely random! I don’t write my recipes down, I just make it up as I go along so a lot of my skeins don’t get repeated – only the ones that I can remember how to do and tend to sell! It’s quite freeing to just wing it with colour and see what comes out. So far the results have been well received!

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Where can people buy your yarn, do you do colour commissions? I sell online at www.heyjayyarn.com and in person at events/festivals – details can be found on the website. I have done commissions for subscription boxes and smaller commissions if people just can’t find what they’re looking for or want a bigger batch of one colourway.

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Can you tell us about your style and your tattoos? Go colourful or go home! Life is too short for boring colours so my hair has been an array of brightness for a few years now and my arms are covered in watercolour tattoos all done by the incredibly talented Jason Adelinia. They’re all based on nature as I wanted to have beautiful designs and where better to source inspiration?

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Your tattoos are seemingly symmetrical, is there a reason behind these? Do any of them have any special meaning to you? I’m a bit obsessive about symmetry so I always get two at a time, one on each arm so it all balances! My first pair were to cover some scarring on my forearms – I’ve struggled with mental health since I was a teenager – and I wanted to have something to look at that I could be proud of instead of being constantly reminded of some of my darker times. Since those first designs I’ve been totally hooked on completing two full sleeves piece by piece. I’m so proud of my beautiful ink and they really help me feel good about the way I look and how my skin looks which hadn’t been the case before. I don’t get too hung up on designs so some of them don’t have a great deal of meaning, I just want pretty nature things!