Category: Fashion and beauty

Careers: Tattooed Make-Up Artist

We chat to 26-year-old Charlotte Amy Tompkins, Make-Up Artist at Urban Decay based in Chester, about her incredible tattoo collection and personal style…

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I was 17 when I got my first tattoo, a small red bow on the bottom of my back in Blackpool. God knows how I even managed go get it! I look so young now, think what I looked like at 17? Thankfully it’s since been covered by my on-going back piece – which I need to get finished! At the minute I’m filling my gaps pretty slowly, but I want to get started on a stomach piece soon too.

I’ve always loved tattoos, I never used to like colour tattoos for some reason, but now look at me! Having my tattoos is such a boost, I love having them on me as they are a part of me and will be forever. My tattoos are mainly of animals and roses – you can’t beat a good rose! I absolutely love animals and roses are my favourite flower.

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Tattoo by @gibb0o

I get a lot of mixed reactions from people when they see my tattoos, they either go one or two ways. I get stared at rudely, some people shake their head in disgust too. I was once on the bus back from work and behind me were two elderly ladies talking about how have I even got a job and I should be ashamed being a lady covered in tack!

But when I’m at work I get amazing compliments and most are from women aged 50 or over, who are so interested and just wowed by my look, which is amazing. Kids love them too, they’re attracted to the colours, I had a little girl who was shopping with her mum recently, who got her mum to tell me that she thought I was beautiful with my tattoos and hair. It’s the little things that make me smile, but some people really hate tattoos for no reason really. But I love my skin thanks to all the amazing tattooists out there!

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Chest and neck tattoos by Paula Castle, Ash Boss and Jody Dawber.

I landed my current position at Urban Decay out of pure tenacity, I just kept going back after handing in my CV and eventually I got through three stages of interviews. I worked in a coffee shop before, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do career wise.

I’m really lucky that as a make-up artist and working for Urban Decay my job let’s me be myself. I would have gotten my more visible tattoos done eventually regardless, as they are a part of me now, but my job does help. I love how they look and how pretty they are. For those wanting to get more visible tattoos I would think really hard about what you want in the long run and think about how it will effect work first. As I said I’m lucky!

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I’m vegan, and I love that I work for a brand that is cruelty free, I love what they stand for. My typical day depends on my customers, I always sit them down to get to know them and find out what it is they want. At Urban Decay we love showing the off products and having a play, we want everyone to feel good about themselves and raring to come back and try more!

Urban Decay love people being themselves so hell yeah I dress how I want. My style is definitely different, a little quirky maybe a bit weird. I love black but I also liked having coloured hair, big earrings and platform shoes. Of course my tattoos are usually on show as they’re hard to hide!

Grace Neutral chats Needles and Pins

From the illegal underground tattooists of South Korea to Brazilian women challenging social stereotypes, Grace Neutral’s productions with VICE offer an edifying shift away from the usual fetishizing of tattoos by using them as a conduit to highlight the often contentious social and political realms of each wearer.

Grace chats with writer Fareed about her experiences in front of the lens for VICELAND’s 2017 series, Needles and Pins, and what it’s like to be an ambassador for contemporary tattoo culture.

(This is an abridged version, the full piece will be published in INKED)

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

Hi Grace. So, you were tattooing at Good Times and then suddenly you’re a media personality at VICE media. Can you tell me how that happened? Well, I was lucky enough to be approached by i-D a few years’ back to write an alternative Christmas speech about beauty, which received a great response.

i-D then made a film about me and my outlook on tattooing which also went down really well. It was after my i-D series ‘Beyond Beauty’ that VICE asked me to work with them.

And how has that journey been for you thus far? I started making films with VICE at the start of 2016 and we wrapped up the first series of Needles and Pins by the end of the year! It has been one amazing year, that’s for sure!

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

Let’s talk about the shows. It’s so refreshing to have someone from the tattoo community represent contemporary tattoo culture in an intelligent and socially and politically charged manner, unlike other mainstream shows that often debase the art form. What are you hoping to achieve with these shows? Basically, what I wanted to achieve with these shows was super simple: I wanted to tell a true story about tattooing, and offer people a proper insight into how the art form came to be the big industry it is today.

I also wanted share some of the cultures and techniques that helped evolve the art. Just like you say, mainstream shows on tattoos seem to only fetishise and poke fun at tattooing. I got sick of this – and decided I’d have to do it myself 😉

What is the extent of your role in these stories, is it limited to presenter or are you actively searching out stories and utilising your knowledge and networks gained while tattooing? There must be so much involved! I am not a TV presenter, it has never been a goal of mine. I simply got offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn more about my craft.

Being in front of the camera and guiding the audience through my adventures was definitely something I had to learn, but because I am so passionate about tattooing it was natural for me to quickly form relationships with a lot of the people we filmed.

For me, it’s all about finding the stories. I was very involved in the development and making of the show. For example, I knew and suggested some of the contributors you see in Needles and Pins.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt, whether about yourself or anything else, over the course of the shows? I have learnt so much from every single place I have visited. But the one common theme that strikes me is that that tattooing is such an amazing way to build friendships and communities. I feel so lucky to be part of the global tattoo family.

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

Most memorable moment for you? The most memorable moment filming the series was riding around LA on quad bikes with Venice Bad Boys.

Most interesting thing you’ve discovered about tattoo culture? In one episode of Needles and Pins we go to New Zealand to learn about Maori tattooing and Maori culture – and this was the most interesting discovery for me. The Maori people are so beautiful – and its history is so intertwined with tattooing, nature and magic, it was hard not to fall in love there. It is definitely a place I will return to continue my tattoo journey and education.

Has the show received any criticisms? To be honest, I haven’t heard any bad comments about the show.

Obviously there has been the odd internet troll calling me a ‘freak’ because of the way I look, but I have heard it all before and I’m very good at shielding myself from any negativity comments.

All the feedback about the show has, so far, been really positive – and I’m over the moon about that!

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

If you could do a tattoo show about anything or anyone, what would it be? The one I just made for VICELAND!

Would you agree that the normalisation of tattoos – great for reducing stigma and allowing autonomy over one’s body – has also created a new ‘beauty’ industry / ideal? Tattoos becoming less about expressing spirit and individuality and more about acquisition: the purchase of social capital and of ‘beauty.’ Yes for sure, I think the majority of tattoo artists (well, at least the ones I know and work with) understand how sacred it is to tattoo, the energy you share with that person is so beautiful, and sometimes, even life changing.

It’s been something that I have been conscious of for a long time – and I love that more and more people (not just tattooers, but also the people who get tattooed) are realising this as well.

And lastly, what have you got planned for 2017? 2017 is all about tattooing, travel and having a fucking good time while I do it!

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

Interview with Lusy Logan

Lifestyle Fashion Trade Show, London Edge is this weekend – 12/13 Febraury 2017. This is an interview with Lusy Logan, alternative model for many of the London Edge brands, first published in The Edge Magazine.

Lusy Logan is an alternative model with a style all of her own. Known for her extensive tattoos and killer looks, Lusy has modelled for many LondonEdge brands and continues to reinvent her look each season. Lusy joined the show for the Influencer’s event – a part of the show where models, bloggers, media, press and other influential and creative people are invited to the show to connect with the brands. Here, Lusy tells London Edge a bit about herself, her career and her thoughts on the show…

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London Edge: So tell us a bit about your personal style…
Lusy Logan: I would describe my style as dark elegance, scruffy goth with a feminine twist.

LE: Have you always been quite alternative in your dress sense?
LL: I have always been alternative in my dress sense, all through school and growing up I wanted to be different.

LE: How long have you been modelling for?
LL: I have been modelling professionally for seven years. I’ve had many looks, different hairstyles and colours over the years, but it’s really helped me grow as a person and given me confidence in myself.

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LE: We’re used to seeing your modelling work at the show – namely that Hyraw campaign starring you and model Dickie Smith. Who are some of your favourite brands to work with?
LL: My favourite brand to work with is Killstar, they are my absolute favourite, and some others include Church of Sanctus, Disturbia and Hyraw.

LE: So you’re now moving into the world of tattooing. What motivated you to make this change?
LL: I started to learn to tattoo back in 2012 and it was put to one side due to personal issues going on in my life. Since then I’ve been working as a receptionist at my brother’s tattoo studio, and this year I have decided to get back into tattooing and make a name for myself because I think I could be really good at it.

I’ve started training with the master of portraits David Corden in Edinburgh, which I plan to continue to perfect portraits and realism. I plan to find a studio to settle into and carry on with apprentice work, hopefully Tokyo Tattoo are considering taking me on as I have applied to work there.

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LE: Sound like an exciting change. It was great to have you join us at the show as a part of our Influencers Event last season, and I know you’ve been attending the show for years.
LL: I enjoyed London Edge last year, seeing all my favourite brands, as well as gaining interest from other new brands who liked my look.

LE: Did you see any new collections at Edge in September that you’re exciting about?
LL: I saw some items from Collectif clothing that I really liked, one of them being a leather wiggle pin-up dress that I thought looked amazing! And of course seeing Killstar’s new range was very exciting.

Thanks Lusy! You can see Lusy’s work over on her Instagram @lusylogan

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Photos by Kris Askey

GRLCLB: Roobs

We chat to 24-year-old Ruth Finn Leiser (aka Roobs), writer, feminist and founder of GRLCLB about starting her own business, creating a zine and her tattoo collection…

What inspired you to start GRLCLB? How did it come about? How did it start? GRLCLB is the product of frustration, neglected creativity, and a horrible job. I was working full time, often up to 60 hours a week, running a gift shop – for a boss who wanted me to give my all for just £7 an hour and to whom nothing was ever good enough.

I spent so long looking for that one thing that would save me, the outlet that I needed, and eventually I realised that the reason I couldn’t find it was because I needed to create it. I had stitched a couple of t-shirts – the reaction from my Instagram followers was really positive and I just sort of thought ‘well what have I got to lose?’ I bought the domain name for under a tenner and set up this rookie website with no clue what I was doing, and just took it from there.

What message are you hoping to spread or share? Really, I just want to be honest. It’s so easy to shy away from speaking your mind when the internet can be such a brutally unforgiving place. But when you realise that by simply speaking your mind, you can be providing comfort for other people who are thinking the same things as you or feeling the same way as you, it becomes a) less scary and b) more important. In a world where you can create an entire existence – persona, success, lifestyle – out of square pictures on a social media app, it is, I think, genuinely necessary that people are shown what’s real from time to time.

What can people expect to see and read on your blog? Well that’s where I start to feel like ‘blog’ doesn’t really apply. To me, blogs are like really well-oiled machines that rely on organisation and planning and structure and conforming to a particular kind of aesthetic/content for a specific intended audience. The writing side of GRLCLB is, honestly, completely shambolic. I’ve never really been able to write for purpose, I’ve always just gone with the flow and refused to ever force anything.  So the Girl Talk section of the website is littered with unscheduled outpourings talking about stuff ranging from body positivity to domestic abuse to the neurochemistry of introversion to what’s happening with the business side of GRLCLB to why I’ll never promote skinny tea.

Can you tell us about your new zine, what’s inside? The zine has been a highlight for me. Even though it was a little bit rushed to get it out in time for Christmas, it provided a really nice new level to the whole GRLCLB experience I think. I loved the thought of people settling down to read it on paper rather than a screen. The first issue had poetry, tips for challenging anxiety, a self-care guide, a recipe, doodles, a list of facts that make the world seem nicer etc.

How can people get involved? That’s something that I really want to focus on in 2017! From the outset, I wanted GRLCLB to be like a community, and I’m constantly trying to find ways for people to contribute. I’m excited for the next issue of the zine because the potential for exciting collaborations is endless. I just can’t think of anything nicer than a converging of girl power from the internet into real life.

Do you have a background in art? From a recreational point of view, I was such a manically creative child, but from an academic perspective, not at all. University also killed my creativity. I studied psychology. It was only when I graduated that I realised I’d forgotten how to be anything other than analytical. I spent a lot of time pointlessly wondering whether, if I’d pursued art way back when like I’d wanted to, I’d have ended up somewhere else. But, actually, part of me thinks that art school could’ve been even more damaging. The thought of creating something, only to have a quantifiable grade assigned to it is totally soul-destroying to me.

What inspires your creations? I truly believe that we’re a product of everything we experience. Everything we create is a product of all the people we’ve known and the music we’ve heard and the stories we’re told and the sights we’ve seen. My mum introduced me to a lot of great music – Bruce Springsteen and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Led Zeppelin etc – and my dad is just totally eccentric – anything weird or unusual or surprising that I like is definitely down to him. I think I draw equally from their generation and mine.

The more political side of GRLCLB is, I guess, just inspired by what’s going on in the world around me. The only difference between other people and me is that where someone else vents through Twitter or their friends, I’m like ‘this is going on a t-shirt’.

When did you get your first tattoo? What was it? Do you still love it? My first tattoo was a couple of years ago. I was late to the game because I’m so indecisive that I was convinced I’d get something on a whim and then end up hating it. So, obviously, I got an ode to Shakespeare. It’s based on a couple of lines from The Merry Wives of Windsor: ‘Why then, the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open’. The first bit has obviously filtered into general usage, but it’s the second bit that always appealed to me – the world might be mine for the taking but I actually have to do something about it. Darryl from Irezumi tattoo studio in Glasgow drew me up a hand with a dagger and an open oyster shell, and I’m as obsessed with it today as I was the day I got it.

Can you tell us about your other tattoos? Some have meaning, some don’t. I have a thistle and a cornflower (the flowers of Scotland and Germany respectively) and a banner saying ‘Give Em Hell’ in tribute to my ancestors and the struggles they faced – also by Darryl at Irezumi. Mel at Black Dot gave me some of my favourites: a badass woman’s torso, a pair of hands sewing out the words ‘Girl Boss’ to remind me to keep at it, and the simplest GRL PWR across my Achilles.

Do tattoos have to tell a story or have a meaning behind them? Not at all. I think that, for me anyway, it’s nice to be able to recount the stories behind them, but of course, sometimes the stories behind them are just the people you were with or the shop you were sat in or the laughs you had while getting it done. I don’t think that the art itself has to have a meaning – tattoos are a way to remember people and places and context, and I reckon that’s more important than trying to make them visually significant. 

What plans do you have for GRLCLB in the future? I’m trying to make it less labour intensive for me on my own. Whether that means getting other people involved – or not – I’m not sure yet. I just feel like so much of my time is taken up with sewing that I can’t let the brand grow into something that can reach more people. I want to start engaging more with ‘real life’ people – the goal of it was to create a safe place for people, so how wonderful would it be if that could be translated into a physical one? I want to concentrate less on the actual physical act of stitching, and more on the ways that GRLCLB can really make a difference. This year will see the introduction of more printed products, still with the signature GRLCLB style/sass, but that will hopefully just mean the start of bigger and better things to come!

The Tiger Style: Tiggen

We chat to Tiggen, 19-year-old retail assistant manager and blogger, from London about her blog, fashion style and collection of blackwork tattoos…

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I first started blogging last March, however I’d been building up the confidence to start for about a year by that point. After following and admiring many other bloggers online, I wanted to try it out for myself. It was something I’d always thought about pursuing but initially I had to push myself into writing my first post.

What kind of things do you blog about? Typically, I enjoy blogging about personal style, as it’s something that is unique to everyone and so closely linked to self image. I find issues around body image, and how we view ourselves and others, to be very interesting and I plan on writing more about that in the future. Other topics I blog about are lifestyle, beauty and London.

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How would you describe your style? My style is very minimalist. I only wear black and white, with one exception of a brown jacket. As my colour plate is so simplistic I tend to focus on the quality of the material over anything else. I would say I dress quite casually on a day to day basis, I’m nearly always wearing my leather jacket.

What inspires you? I take inspiration from people watching, seeing the variation of street style and how people present themselves. London is such a diverse city and full of so many interesting people that I can’t help but feel inspired.

Do you have a favourite, artist, designer or musician, or someone else that you admire? I wouldn’t say there was just one person in particular that I admire, there are so many people that I look up to. Social media plays a part as it allows you to glimpse into people’s lives, to respect what they’re feeling and going through. To name a couple that I follow on Instagram:  @jayrosetattoo @acornandauger

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When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo the day after I turned 18, it was only small but I was extremely happy to finally have one. Sometimes I forget it’s even there now that I have many more, but I still like it.

Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see you body differently, do they inspire confidence? Each time I get a tattoo it instills more confidence in me and makes me feel at home in my own skin. They don’t feel like an addition, more as though they were there all along just under the surface and now they’re revealed. To me getting a new one is not only a physical change but a mental one, they help me to see my body differently and to boost my self image. I find them empowering. Much like my personal style I only have blackwork pieces, they range from illustrative style to more mehndi buddhist pieces.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I have a habit of planning very far ahead in regard to tattoos. I’ve carefully thought about what I’m going to get and where, most of my body is already planned out. Next on my list is to get my other hand done.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Without a doubt. I enjoy collecting tattoos and meeting new tattoo artists. I’m hoping to travel to get a lot of them done, it’s all part of the experience. The beautiful thing about collecting tattoos is having artwork on your own skin that you can admire everyday and carry with you.

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What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Luckily most of the reactions I receive are positive, whether from friends and family or strangers. However, there are occasions when people  make derogatory remarks or invade my personal space to try and touch my tattoos. In the end though they’re on my body, so the only thing that truly matters is how they make me feel.

Interview with China’s “First Lady of Tattoo” Zhuo Dan Ting

We chat to 34-year-old Zhuo Dan Ting, China’s “First Lady of Tattoo” who owns Shanghai Tattoo in Shanghai, China, about what inspires her, how tattoos have changed how she sees her body and what her title means to her…

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How long have you been tattooing? I have been tattooing for 15 years now.

How long have you owned your shop? I have owned my shop for a total of 13 years, with nearly three of those years being in Harbin, China. The shop was originally called “Wenyifuxing” 纹艺复兴, but after moving to Shanghai, I remained the shop to Shanghai Tattoo 纹艺复兴.

How did you start? I have always have been doing art. It was when I got my first tattoo when I was 17 was that I fell in love with tattoos and I knew this was going to be my trade. It wasn’t easy though, back in those days in Harbin, China, you couldn’t  just go and be an apprentice under someone, there were’t many shops. So I took it upon myself to travel around to different cities in China where there were more opportunities for me to learn how to tattoo.

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How does it feel being called the “First Lady of Tattoo”? I feel old! It is a great honour to have set the bar for the female tattooists here in China as well as female business owners. It’s kinda crazy that only 15 years ago it was frowned upon for a woman to be independent in my country. I’m so glad that I was able to break out of that and do my own thing and be successful at it!

What obstacles have you faced and overcome on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist? In the old times, when I was getting started, tattoos were looked down on and people were not very supportive. People would always ask what about your future? What do your parents think about what you’re doing? Other obstacles were simply trying to get better, learning from somebody else and improving. I had to travel and do my own research to learn the art of tattooing. Putting beautiful quality tattoos on people for life, felt like my destiny – I had no choice.

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Do you have a background in art? I’ve always been involved with art. My father was an artist too, and a art teacher. He started teaching me art when I was five years old, every night I would draw on the kitchen floor with him. This eventually evolved to paper and canvas, then art college and university.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I’ve always liked tattoos, and was drawn to them through a sort of obsession. It was when I got my first tattoo at age 17 that I knew this was it. I had to do it, and not only create tattoos but be the best tattooer What an amazing way to express your art, I absolutely love tattoos and couldn’t live without them.

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Can you tell us about the tattoo scene and culture in China? The tattoo scene is improving, especially these past five  years, as tattoos are getting more popular. For example when I started tattooing here in Shanghai, there were a handful of shops now there are hundreds – I can’t even count them! The tattoo scene and culture is really taking off, I only wish more people would take the time to investigate what a good tattoo shop is and isn’t. People are always wanting to save money and go to a scratcher. Overall though tattoos are being more and more accepted in China, it’s pretty awesome.

How do people view women with tattoos? People’s attitudes are getting better, they’re seen as cool. Before this it was pretty brutal, people would always ask how are you ever going to get married? (This being top priority in Chinese culture) How are you ever going to find man to take care of you with those tattoos? Most of the time it’s still like this but I’m married to a wonderful man, so I don’t listen to that shit anymore and we take care of each other.

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What kind of reactions do you receive? Reactions to my tattoos, green hair and clothes are pretty crazy! People stop dead in their tracks everyday and just stare! I’ve seen people almost get into serious accidents as they freak out when looking at me. I’m pretty much blowing their minds! Pretty funny, the closets people live in, and how they freak out when they see someone that doesn’t appear the same as everyone else here in China. The further you go out of the cities the more people freak out too – like they seen a ghost, alien or something. They just stare at you with no shame in total disbelief!

Have tattoos changed how you see your body, and how you feel about it? Yeah I feel good,  as there’s no blank skin. My tattoos are like armour for me, without them I would feel naked, bland and not like me.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw? I like to draw creepy different styles, snakes with legs and such. With my tattooing I like to focus on black and grey realism. I would love to do more large pieces including backs – the bigger the better! I love a good challenge.

What inspires you? Anything different or creative I suppose – movies, things on the internet and randomness. Walking down the crazy streets of Shanghai can be pretty inspiring!

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Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? Yes actually I’m doing the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention this year in April, also I will be heading to Malmo, Sweden, guest spotting at my friend’s shop Malort. Hopefully Oslo in Norway too, but I’m still working out all the details. I’ll be heading to California as well to Sacramento, Bay Area possibly Portland, Oregon later in the year, around November, December. I will have more details later this year!

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I have a lot of tattoos, around eight that I have done myself. Most of them are now covered up but still there to remind me of my beginning days. I love all my tattoos they all tell my stories, and I’m continuing to build my own canvas.

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

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How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

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What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

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How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

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What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

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Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

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Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

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Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

Interview with Mermaid Moon Child

19-year-old Hayley Sunter is a business student and blogger from Bradford. We chatted to Hayley about how she started her blog www.mermaidmoonchild.wordpress.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I started blogging September of this year, what got me into blogging was just a passion for writing, I also wanted to share and talk about things I love.

What kind of things do you blog about? I don’t like to see myself as a typical beauty blogger not that there is anything wrong with that, I just wanted my blog to be more. I blog about things such as mental health, my tattoos, life updates and if I do talk about beauty products I am always promoting cruelty free ones. I like to see my blog as a somewhat visual and online diary,  I am a very open about my life online as I hope some of my life struggles and achievements will either help or inspire people who come across my blog.

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How would you describe your style? Honestly I have people try to label my style as many things but for me personally I get fashion inspiration from alternative women, typically on Instagram so I would label myself as alternative.

What inspires you? I get inspiration from a lot of different things from compassion and kindness I see online, to people loving themselves and being truly happy the way they are in their body. I feel like the world wants us to dislike at least one thing about ourselves and seeing people overcome that inspires me to love myself and others.

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Do you have a favourite artist, designer or musician? Or someone you admire? The person I admire the most is a tattoo artist called Hannah Pixie Snowdon, I first came across her on Instagram when I saw some of her tattoos and that is one of the first times I fell in love with heavily tattooed women. I then went on to get more inspired by her outlook on life, she has so much compassion, she is so mindful and she has overcome some dark demons in her life. I plan on getting her portrait tattooed one day, because she has inspired me so much and pretty much changed how I see life.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo August 2015 just after my 18th birthday, its a little traditional style black cat sat on a moon on my ankle and honestly it was a painful little thing. I do still love it but where it is in terms of placement, it didn’t heal the best and the lines blew out a bit.

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Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see your body differently, do they inspire confidence? I am not the most heavily tattooed person but I plan on being, I currently have four tattoos including my second tattoo – my thigh piece done by Lucy O’Connell at Red Tattoo Leeds. It’s a portrait of my beloved pet ferret Ed who sadly passed last year, he was literally like my fur child so I booked in with Lucy the month he died. My third tattoo is done by Danny at Cobra Club Leeds, it’s of Gizmo from the film Gremlins I just love everything about it!

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My last but not least was done by Tom Flanagan at Odd Fellows in Leeds. This tattoo has a lot of meaning behind it, as it features a love heart with a hand holding a panther paw its a little twist on the traditional style two people holding hands tattoos. I wanted it to represent that animals are here with us not for us. I recently turned vegetarian when I got this tattoo and never looked back.

In terms of do my tattoos make me see myself differently? Absolutely they do, about three years ago I never got my legs out without some fake tan, as I didn’t really like my legs. Now with my legs featuring some beautiful art I love it, I can’t wait for summer so I can get them out again! Each time I get a tattoo I feel more and more like myself.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I actually have a tattoo booked just after Christmas which I am looking forward to. As for future plans I plan on adding more and more to my legs first then I will work my way up my body. For years I have wanted my stomach tattooed so I might make plans for that sometime next year.

Do you consider yourself as a tattoo collector? I do, I plan on travelling around the country to different tattoo artists I have admired on Instagram. Luckily some really talented people are based right on my door step in Leeds. I’ll only really stick to one artist if we are working on a stomach or back piece, other than that I want to collect as many different tattoos from different artists that I really admire.

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What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Honestly I think I have only had one bad reaction to my tattoos and that has been online, where they were a bit old fashioned and thought that females don’t suit tattoos. Other than that I have had some lovely reactions in person and online. I remember in the Summer I was shopping and the shop assistant asked to look at my legs I was so confused for a second until she commented on how beautiful my tattoos are. Sometimes I forgot they are there I am so used to them now.

All for Love

Our guest blogger Dr Natalie McCreesh a fashion lecturer and freelance writer needs your stories for a academic research project discussing the relationship we have with fashion and the body, find out more below…

Do you have a tattoo that you have gotten for the sake of love? A partner’s name, a heart shape tattoo, matching tattoos with your sibling, a tattoo in honour of a lost relative, something silly with your best friend, perhaps something more abstract representing your emotions? We are collecting stories and photos of tattoos for love and we want to hear your stories. What is the story behind your tattoo? Why was this memory so important to have permanently inked on your skin? Did you get the tattoo for yourself or to represent something to others? How did you choose the design? Was the process of having the tattoo important or just the outcome? You can tell us as much or as little as you like.

Intrigued? Ok I’ll go first, fair is fair…

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This my heart and dog tattoo – the design is a play on a nick name I have for my partner. I got the tattoo not because I felt I needed to have a declaration of love for him emblazoned on my skin. But to remind myself of how precious love is. It serves as a daily reminder and for that reason (as well as its gorgeous design) it is my favourite tattoo.

To get involved you can email Natalie at fashionpearlsofwisdom@googlemail.com subject line ‘tattoo story’ or DM or tag us on Instagram @shoes_and_tattoos – all stories will remain anonymous unless permission given otherwise. Your stories and photos will contribute to a collaborative research project at the University of Huddersfield accumulating in a public exhibition and zine journal. For more information feel free to drop us a line using the contact details above.

43T Clothing

The love child of a culture crazed couple, London based fashion brand 43T Clothing was created by Oli and Steph who pride themselves on their quirky and unconventional hand-printed apparel. We chatted to the pair to find out more about their eco-friendly fashion line, cool product illustrations and what inspired their collections

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What inspired you to set up the brand? The main reason we wanted to start our brand is because we both love fashion and always have growing up! We also like to think of ourselves as green people so we thought why not try and combine two of our passions?
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What inspires your designs? They tend to come from things that we love or just ideas that sprout out of our head. The characters are all based on friends of ours and now they feel immortalised by the sketches.

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We love your interesting sketch style product shots, what motivated you to create these? Right at the start we decided to combine our love of tattoos and art, that’s what inspired us to draw the doodles of our ’43T Characters’. We’ve chosen to use them instead of conventional models, as we both feel this aesthetically looks great and stands us out fro  the crowd! We will eventually plan to use real human models but for the moment we like what the ’43T Characters’ give us and how we can keep adding more to the site.

What are your plans for the future, any new products in the pipeline? We have lots of new products coming out over the next three months and we have already started our new range. We feel it’s important to give people more variety so every Friday we release a new item onto the website and have done this for the past four weeks. This is going to be continued right up until Christmas so there is plenty to get excited about if you’re a 43T Customer! Finally our aim moving forward is to grow and grow, but not in terms of owning a million shops but grow our idea that eco and fashion can mix! Also that we should all support small businesses, creativity, individuality, music and the arts.

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Why is being eco-friendly so important to you? Well being eco-friendly is important to us for a few reasons, the obvious being is we kinda frickin love this planet! Also we don’t see that many ecological brands out there so we wanted to show that it can still be fashionable to wear eco-friendly garments. Another big  reason we wanted to go eco was because we feel there is no reason, in this day and age, that everyone shouldn’t produce eco or fair-trade clothing. Everyone that has tried on one of our famous Bamboo T-shirts can’t believe how super soft they are and what amazing quality they are!

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Check out the website at 43tclothing.com