Category: Features

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.

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!

Interview With Tattoo Artist Hannah Flowers

We chat to 27-year-old Tasmanian tattooist Hannah Flowers about her travel plans, the beautiful women she creates and what inspires her…

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Where are you based? I’ve been on the road for most of this year, which has been amazing and inspiring, but living out of a suitcase can become tiresome. So I’ve recently decided to settle in London, for a little while at least! I also have some upcoming trips to Scotland, Ireland and America planned too.

How long have you been tattooing? Around six years, hopefully there are many more to come.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I was a broke university student studying fine art and was intrigued by the idea of receiving actual money in return for my art.
Even though I didn’t actually make money the first couple of years, I fell in love with the medium and can’t imagine myself in any other job.

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Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing is ever changing and I imagine it will always be so. Mostly because there is always something to improve on, but also my taste has changed a little over the years. I think I try to emulate what impresses me the most. Before I really started tattooing I was mainly trying to draw realism because I thought it was impressive, but then when I started tattooing and realised how god damn hard it is to make clean lines and solid colour! I became really impressed with traditional work and started doing more things along those lines, at the moment I try to mix the two styles together a bit. My style has changed but my favourite subject matter seems to remain the same – ladies and animals all day everyday!

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We love the women you create, are these inspired by real life women? Or perhaps fictional characters? Thank you! Mostly they are not so much inspired by individual women or characters, (unless a client asks them to be) but more by femininity in general. I often start by choosing what feeling/meaning/theme I want them to portray. Some of my favourites themes are the femme fatale, the sad girl, and the girl with a secret. I tend to make up little stories for them as I draw them, and try to put a little heart and soul into each one.

What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? I’m inspired by all kinds of things, quite often banal everyday things like a certain colour combination (lately peach and olive green does it for me) or the way the light is reflected off a friends face, then I may lose track of what they’re saying, because I’m an absent-minded weirdo!
But to list some more solid things that inspire my general aesthetic; Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Pre-Raphaelite art, pop surrealism, medical illustrations, film noir, gothic architecture, burlesque, the femme fatale, pulp art, natural history illustrations, cats and of course other tattooers (too many to name).

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Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? I sometimes wish I had the foresight to plan out a body suit, or at least a sleeve, but it’s too much fun to collect different styles and bits and pieces! So I’m very much an indecisive patchwork of styles. I’m lucky to have some amazing works of art, some funny jokes with friends, a couple of people’s very first tattoos and then some other unmentionable trash I might get around to lasering one day to make room for more bits and pieces!

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? My next guest spot will be will the lovely people at Semper in Edinburgh, I’m also doing the Galway Tattoo Show, the London Tattoo Convention, a guest spot at Grit and Glory in New York and possibly the Calgary Tattoo Show.

Interview with Tattooist Mike Love

26-year-old hand poke tattoo artist Mike Love works out of Black Market Tattoo Parlour in Leicester and Second City Tattoo Club in Birmingham, where he creates bold and solid blackwork tattoos. We chat to Mike about his process, how he started tattooing and his guest spot plans…

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How long have you been tattooing? I’m in my third year of tattooing. I am a self taught hand poke tattooer, before this I was body piecer for around four years, there I completed a more traditional style apprenticeship. I have pretty much spent my adult life being in a tattoo shop. 

What drew you to the tattoo world? The idea and practise of self expression. In my late teen years I became massively depressed, after seeking a lot of help I really started to find myself. The things that kept me going and made me happy were tattoos and piercing. I approached a local shop about a piercing apprenticeship and from then on my life was changed. From piercing my love eventually blossomed into tattooing. I discovered hand poke tattooing and was totally transfixed by it. The process mesmerised me. Creating a tattoo by hand from one dude to another was for me. 

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Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing has changed and still is changing. To be honest I think it changes slightly each day. I mean everyday I try to improve what I do and learn whatever I can. But that’s what I love about tattooing, it will never be perfect. It will always stay true to what it is, yet we evolve as tattooers everyday. 

When I started tattooing I did a lot more of the typical ‘hand poke’ and more ignorant styled work, but this wasn’t me. Traditional tattooing has always had my heart and that’s what I love to see and have tattooed.  I work real hard everyday to be inspired by what I love and create bold and solid pieces that will stand the test of time. For me I love to tattoo anything that’s bold and black. I am constantly creating a lot flash, which is typically inspired by classic traditional flash or pop culture. 

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Can you tell us about your set up and the process behind your tattoos? I tattoo by hand, my set up is very minimal. I like to keep it simple and disposable. No bullshit. I hand make each tool for every tattoo combining a chopstick and a tattoo needle. I only ever tattoo in black and I keep my process vegan. 

I am very much into the technical aspect of tattooing. I am all about learning and creating a solid well lined, bold, clean and nicely shaded tattoo. Tattooing by hand is typically a really calming and relaxing process, I gently push the ink into the skin by hand using the needle. There is a lot less trauma to the skin, which typically means the tattoo heals faster and for a lot of people this can be an easier process to sit for. It also doesn’t have to take a long time which some people think it can. Typically a palm size tattoo would roughly only take a couple of hours. 

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What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? Man, I am inspired everyday. Whether it’s current events, or things happening in the city that I live in. But you know what, I have so many artists that inspire and influence me, and that I look up to, I wouldn’t be able to list them all. In both shops I work in, there are incredible people and talented artists, which inspire me daily. Tattooing is my life, so most of my close friends and my partner are tattooists, so we talk tattooing a lot and try to influence and  constructively help each other. 

Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? You know, I just love tattooing. So when I was young and dumb I would have pretty much had anything and everything. Which now has left me with limited space. I don’t regret what I got though, but when I do get tattooed now I really like to get tattooed by people I really look up to and really love what they are about. So normally I chose from their flash, or get a piece they really like, as that way I feel I get a tattoo that really represents that artist. 

Trading with another tattooer is probably my favourite way to get tattooed now. I find it a great way to learn and share a cool experience with another tattooist. 

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? I normally guest in another shop every month, whether it be the UK or abroad, this is one of my absolute favourite things to do in tattooing. Traveling and meeting phenomenal artists drives me to be a technically better tattooer.  Currently for the rest of this year I do not have any conventions planned, but my next coming guest spots are at One For All Collective in Manchester late August and Seny Tatttoo in Barcelona late September. I am currently taking bookings for both of these via Instagram or email.

Collab: Convicts and Tati Compton

Tati Compton is an L.A based stick and poke tattoo artist with some serious adventure stories about her days travelling the world in a van and busking. New York based digital media brand Convicts collaborated with Tati to create a profile and original video exploring her art, outlook on life and love of cuddling…

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I really like tattooing naked ladies and kind of cultish things. But people know me for my delicate wrist work and stuff. Stick and poke is really organic feeling. You can tell that somebody has made it with their hand, it has a really personal feel to it. Once it’s on your skin it feels like it’s been there forever. So, my style is hand poked.

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Dude, I worked every job under the sun forever. I’ve painted houses. I’ve been a housekeeper. I’ve been a bartender. I’ve been like all that stuff. I was managing a vintage clothing store and I had a breakdown at lunch one day and was like ‘I can’t fucking do this anymore. I’m just going to go crazy. I have to do something else.’

When I quit, I saw that there was like a niche for tattooing small tattoos at a cheaper price. Mostly for girls who were too intimidated to go into a tattoo shop and ask for a tiny tattoo and pay a lot of money. I was like ‘I can do that.’

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Read Tati’s full interview here and watch the video below to find out more about her tattoos…

For more music, art, style and travel videos check out Convict’s Instagram and Facebook.

Careers: Tattooed Vegan Baker

We chat to 25-year-old Lizzie, a Vegan Baker from London, about running her own business Heart of Cake, her tattoos and style…

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How old were you when you got your first tattoo? I was 19. I’d always loved the idea of tattoos, but I had no idea what I wanted and ended up going for a walk-in somewhere in central London. I got half a tattoo because it was all I could afford at the time and shamefully it’s still half a tattoo to this day.

What is it about tattoos that you like so much, what influenced your decision to get tattooed? I’m a creative person and I appreciate creativity in others. Although I can draw, I don’t draw my own tattoos because I love that every artist has their own style. Just like when I work I need my creative freedom, when an artist is given a brief and they create something you couldn’t even imagine, that’s what makes tattoos and art special. Tattoos are a form of expression and I’ve always been the type to express myself physically.

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Can you tell us about your tattoo collection, is there a theme? My tattoos are all very girly and food related. There are lots of reds and pinks involved, I love anything that reminds me of chocolate boxes. There’s also a heart shaped theme running through my leg tattoos (I think there’s about 37 individual hearts on me) which I’m going to continue over my body eventually. I have a slight obsession with hearts! The majority of my tattoos are done by Julia Seizure and I luckily recently got a couple by Jody Dawber which I’m still in absolute awe of.

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Do tattoos make you see your body differently? Do they make you feel more confident? Tattoos have been a huge part of my self acceptance. Up until about 19 I was always covered up, I never got my legs or arms out even on the hottest days because I was so incredibly insecure. Getting tattooed gave me the confidence to show some skin because I wanted people to see my super cute tattoos. Being tattooed has definitely helped me become the more body confident person I am today.  If you don’t like a part of you, then why not get cute art on it to help you love and accept it?

How do people react to your tattoos? People usually get really excited when they see my tattoos because they’re pretty different to what they must usually see. I’ve had people literally squatting around me trying to get a closer look and telling their kids to come and look.

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How did you start your own business, how did this come about? I started my business a year or so after graduating university with a degree in Film and Television, which unfortunately turned out to not be my passion in life. I’ve always had an interest in baking and since going vegan I’d noticed there wasn’t really a great selection of vegan cakes out there. My business came about mid 2016 and I pretty much winged it from the start, learning to ice layer cakes from YouTube tutorials and supplying local cafes. Now I make tiered wedding cakes and crazy birthday cakes. I sort of fell into it but it’s honestly the most rewarding and best feeling doing something you love for work. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work, unless I have a 15 hour day and sometimes there are tears, but you get used to it.

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What do you love about your job? I love that I have so much creative freedom. I get so excited about making cakes I can’t sleep sometimes and I love that people see my creativity and trust me to make them basically whatever I want. I also love that I can offer vegans or people with allergies great tasting cakes or things like macarons that they can’t usually have or find easily. Seeing customers reactions when they see my work is a very rewarding feeling and that’s what keeps me going.

What is a typical day like for you? A typical day for me is waking up early and writing out my daily schedule. I love writing a list! A cup of tea and I’m off, I’m always doing something baking related or replying to emails and admin. The joys of working for yourself! On my days off I usually go out to eat with my boyfriend, we go to the cinema a lot and sometimes binge watch TV series with our cat, Baby.

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Your job is pretty creative does this spill out into other areas of your life, like your fashion style? I’ve always been a very creative person, it runs strongly in my family. I love anything a bit different or that stands out from the norm and I guess I reflect that in the way I present myself. I’ve had pink hair for about eight years now and before then I’d always felt way too normal in my own body. I love wearing huge sparkly earrings or giant pom poms and anything that’s a bit odd, while also supporting these small creative like minded business who make them. I’m just attracted to exaggerated or over the top things and I like to show that in my work and through myself.

Keely Rutherford on dealing with depression

Tattoo artist Keely Rutherford recently lost her mum to depression and pyschosis, in this honest interview she talks about what happened to her mum and why she is holding a charity flash day in her memory…

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Keely with her mum and dad

Have you always been aware of your mum’s struggle with depression and psychosis? To be honest no. She struggled and was sectioned for nine months about 13 years ago. Mum had never shown signs before, when she was home it was something we never really spoke about. I wish I’d taken the time to understand her and how she might have been feeling.

I don’t think we ever fully recover from mental health issues, but my mum just got on with things the best way she could. She was strong, courageous and had a very happy life with my dad. Looking back over the years, Dad and I have realised Mum had an addiction with shopping. When she was worried or anxious, she’d spend money to make herself feel better. Since she passed away, we’ve found thousands of pounds worth of clothes all with the labels still on. I think mental health covers such a wide spectrum of symptoms, that it must be so hard to realise when you are dealing with a mental illness.

Do you remember this while you were growing up? The first time I remember Mum getting poorly, I was 20. She’d just retired and was at home alone all day while dad and I went to work. When we came home, we slowly started to realise that mum hadn’t changed from her pyjamas all day. She was extremely anxious and panicky and we couldn’t work out why. This went on for longer than it should have, but Dad and I were totally unaware of mental health symptoms of this nature, so we didn’t know what to do.

We finally got Mum to a doctor who referred her to a psychiatrist who was very concerned for her. She got sectioned within the week as she was showing signs of psychosis and depression. She’d lost so much weight and was severely malnourished. It took her about nine months to get back to some kind of normality. If I’m honest, I don’t think Mum was ever herself after this. She was a big worrier, but she was still bloody wonderful, caring and funny! We had a great relationship. She confided in me back in November 2016, just before she was back in the psychiatric hospital. Her worry was totally fixable and I took control to help the situation. Sadly it didn’t change how Mum felt, the damage was already done.

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Keely being tattooed by her mum

Do you struggle with mental health yourself? Who doesn’t? I don’t think as humans we were designed to put ourselves under the amount of stress that we do, with work and our lifestyles. We push ourselves so much to be these amazing humans that we all are, but I do think that can affect us mentally.

I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental health issues, but then again I’ve never been to see any one. I know I get anxious but never enough for it to affect my life too much. Losing Mum made me have emotions I’d never faced before. It’s only been a few months since Mum died and I’ve had a couple of days I just didn’t want to get out of bed – which is very unlike me and made me understand depression. I’m so lucky to have my boyfriend Andrew, he has been a rock, not only to me but to my dad too. I know the days could have been a lot darker without his presence.

What advice would you give to others who are worried about relatives? It’s so hard as everyone has a different story. Definitely talk to them, try and help them open up. The second time around my mum’s GP wasn’t very helpful. He wouldn’t look at her history or refer her to a psychiatrist as we suggested. So I called Mind and they said go to A&E and ask to see the duty psychiatrist, so we did on December 2nd 2016. They took us to a private room, asked Mum lots of questions – and Dad and I. They assessed her situation. They organised a team from Crisis to visit mum at home twice a day. By the 5th of December, Mum was back on a psychiatric ward. I never knew about going to A&E for this kind of help, so it’s something I want to share.

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“My parents both tattooed me in August last year. Which I’m so grateful for.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to let your mum go? Oh man this is a hard one. On February 17th I was working the London Tattoo Collective. At 10.30am, my phone rings and it’s Mum’s ward. She was on her way to hospital as they couldn’t wake her up, she was unconscious from going into a diabetic hypo. She stayed in hospital for two weeks where they got her eating, they then sent her back to the psychiatric ward where within days she was rushed back into hospital as she was unconscious again.

Since about January, Mum had stopped walking and being able to feed herself through the meds not working and lack of support in the ward. So by this time she had been bed bound for a month. The hospital where mum now was ran test after test and found nothing, she was a little more conscious but she wasn’t talking or opening her eyes. We celebrated her birthday on March 10th, she was 73. She was now being fed through a tube and had been on a drip for several weeks and still semi-conscious. All her tests came back clear, so over the next week Dad and I met with numerous specialists, who all said they couldn’t find anything wrong other than Mum’s brain didn’t want to fight any more, it was shutting down.

So on March the 17th we had our final meeting, and this was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. To let Mum go peacefully. The doctors had no other options and poor Mum couldn’t fight for herself and I know she would have hated us all seeing her lay there day in day out. They said the chances of Mum ever walking again was near on impossible as her tendons were so dehydrated. So for my darling Mum’s dignity, the specialist, Dad and I made the decision to stop all the meds and let her go. Mum started palliative care (end of life treatment) on the 18th of March. So we sat with her every day and night for two weeks until she passed away on April 1st, this was torture watching her slowly die, but it also seemed so unfair to prolong her suffering. I held her hand until the bitter end

We will never know if Mum knew what was happening the last few months of her life. All I know is that I hope she knew that Dad and I were with her when her heart stopped beating.

Why is it so important to open up a dialogue about mental health issues? It’s the unspoken illness, yet it affects so many people’s lives. When I told people my mum was seriously ill people assumed she had a physical illness. I’ve had such an amazingly overwhelming response already from sharing my story and making a charity day [details at the end of this interview] to raise money and awareness. As you can image it was a very hard decision to go public, but as soon as I did it was like a weight had lifted. I hope by sharing others will be encouraged to confide in the people around them.

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Some of Keely’s flash available at the charity day on August 12th

What do you hope to achieve from the flash day? Awareness for people like my mum who suffered and felt too scared to ask for help. 100% of what we make will be going to the mental health charity Mind – they helped us so much. We have already had so many donations, I’m so grateful.

You mention on your JustGiving page that your mum loved cats and passed this down to you (and that is why it is a cat flash day) did she pass anything else down to you? So much! I’m very like my mum, she also asked daft questions all the time! Which I’m very aware of doing! I’m amazing at shopping so I think that’s down to her! She was a great mum and devoted her life to me, she taught me so much. To be caring, kind and to love. I’ll always miss our chats about life and love.

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Cat & MIND Charity Day

10am, Saturday 12th August
Jolie Rouge
364 Caledonia Road

London, N1 1DU
Pre-drawn flash available on the day
First come first served basis

Tattooers taking part:
Keely Rutherford
Clara Sinclair
Manni K
Lord Montana Blue
Mark Ford
Antonio Gabriele
Matt Difa