Category: Features

Apprentice Love: Tammy Bestwick

We spotted the work of 22-year-old tattoo apprentice Tammy Bestwick on Instagram and instantly loved her traditional style tattoos. We chatted to Tammy to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Rose Tattoo, Barnstaple, Devon where she works…

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How long have you been tattooing? I worked at a tattoo shop in Exeter doing my apprenticeship for two years. I got to do a few small tattoos here and there but it’s only really since working at Black Rose that I’ve been able to tattoo regularly. I started working at Black Rose back in June so it’s just going into six months of tattooing now!

What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? My first job was selling tickets at a zoo. Straight after that I started my tattoo apprenticeship for two years, I did a couple temp jobs where I made some of the most wonderful friends who still come and get tattooed by me now! I studied art at GCSE and A-level but I didn’t find it overly enjoyable, it was more about looking deep into the meaning behind why a square could’ve possibly been painted green and writing essays than actually being artistically creative. It was only since leaving college that I started to draw what I enjoyed.

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How did you get your apprenticeship? As soon as I finished college, I took some of my drawings into a tattoo shop that was just over an hour away from where I lived. I didn’t really know anything about tattooing at this point but I’d been interested since I was 13. This shop was just opening and my mind was blown by the work of the tattooists there, I’d never seen anything like it before and so I just knew I had to try my luck. I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as it was the first shop I’d attempted to try work at and I was fully aware I had a lot to still educate myself on and so much more I could try do with my portfolio. A week later and they got back to me and they were willing to give me a trial run! Nothing could compare to that feeling when I found out I was being given a chance at something I’d wished to do for so long.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I started off being fascinated by all kinds of body modifications which then developed into tattoos. Anything a little different or controversial always drew me in. Being creative was the only thing that ever kept me interested so I knew I had to do something with it. I’m quite a quiet person and I love to have my own head space and be free with what’s on my mind, no rules or anyone to answer to. That’s what drawing was for me.

I used to draw a lot with my gramps. He painted beautiful acrylic landscapes and was a signwriter, so that’s definitely where I get my artistic flare from! The tattooists that inspired me to begin with are very different to the tattooists that inspire me now. My tastes and opinion of tattooing has developed a lot.

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How would you describe your style, what do you like to tattoo? I’m never really sure how to answer this. Before I tattooed I only ever attempted realism. Currently I do different styles according to the customer’s needs and I’d love to get to the stage where I could do anything anyone asked of me and really challenge myself. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy if I could only ever tattoo traditional again. That’s what I enjoy tattooing the most, super bold and colourful or just a lot of black! I’d love to get to do more movie related tattoos too.

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What or who inspires you? Nature and books but Instagram is a god send for being able to closely follow my favourite tattooists and their daily work. Gem Carter (this is insanely cheesy because I now work with her) has inspired me from day one, before she was even tattooing herself I followed the work she was doing. Currently, I obsess over the work of Sammy Harding, Jack Peppiette and Bradley Tompkins to name a few. But I am completely fascinated about where traditional tattooing began – Ben Corday, Percy Waters, Amund Dietzel. There is just so much inspiration and so much more to be found that it’s overwhelming.

What is a typical day like for you? I very rarely will be tattooing 11-6 at this stage so I take my time with the customers I do have in and the rest is spent providing ultimate banter, replying to emails and drawing!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? None of my tattoos have any meaning. I get something from a tattooist because I love their style of work, so I’m happy for them to do whatever they’d like to do or choose something they already have drawn! If I get tattooed by someone I want it to be a piece that is distintive to their style. I currently have work done by Danielle Rose, Sammy Harding, a re-work by James Pool (I’m dying to get something of his own too), Sento and mega babe Gem Carter.

Exhibition: Their Heart on Their Sleeve

Celebrated Australian visual artist Stormie Mills has teamed up with award winning photographer Frances Andrijich to present an exhibition that celebrates tattoos and the reason why people choose to get inked.

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A collaborative exhibition by Frances Andrijich and Stormie Mills

Opens 2 – 17 November

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49 Stuart Street Northbridge WA 6003 (08) 9228 4111

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While people have been opting to get ‘inked’ since prehistoric times, this number is rapidly increasing in Australia, yet reasons remain the same. It is the need to feel unique, fit in or stand out, a silent expression of a moment in time. 1 in 5 Australians has one or more tattoos with a further 1 in 5 of those getting their first tattoo aged mid 30s or older.

The idea of creating portraits of these individuals has inspired a very special collaboration between internationally renowned visual artist Stormie Mills and award-winning photographer Frances Andrijich. Now for the first time they bring their crafts together in a series of unguarded moments.

Frances has captured the essence of each subject through her lens. Stormie has then taken these images and painted a representation of the subjects’ internal portrait to create a striking work that connects the outside with the beauty within.

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“Their Heart on Their Sleeve” is an intimate insight into humanity from the perspective of ten people who until now were nothing more than strangers to one another before a love of art and a photoshoot brought them together.

From a University Lecturer to an award-winning Mixologist, an Architect, FIFO worker and Furniture Maker, the one common thread these people share is the fact they have become a human canvas, choosing to carry a piece of Stormie’s artwork with them wherever they go.

Interview With Lauren, The Ghost With The Most

We chatted to Lauren about her love of all things Hallows Eve, her tattoo collection and her home which we are desperate to visit…

Firstly, a little bit about yourself, where are you based? I’m based in Liverpool. Born and raised here!

What do you do for a living? I have a very mundane job working in a bank, but it funds a lovely social life and many a (regular) tattoo trip!

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Where did your love of Halloween come from? I think I’ve always had an obsession with quite morbid and macabre things. One of my earliest memories is of playing different characters with friends, and I’d always want to play a girl who died, very tragically, and returned as a ghost to haunt them.

Do you have favourite Halloween horror films or book? Some of my favourite films now are ones I obsessed over as a kid. I loved Hocus Pocus and Return to Oz. I would read Goosebumps and Point Horror books at every available opportunity, and my favourite TV show was Are You Afraid of the Dark? I read Roald Dahl’s The Witches religiously (at least seven times!) as I loved his twisted humour and obsession with creepy individuals.

[Mark Cross]

Halloween seems to reflect in every part of you, tell us more about your personal style and accessories, how do your tattoos fit in with this? I don’t think I have a set style any more as I’ve never wanted to be pigeon-holed as looking a certain way, or fitting into a specific trend. I guess my tattoos are a permanent reflection of my likes, or things that I’ve always/will always love, whilst the way I look and dress changes.

I’m quite open to experimenting when it comes to clothing, but there’s usually a little nod to my love of all things spooky. I have found though, that the more tattoos I acquire, and the more patterned my skin becomes, the less patterned clothing I wear!

Does this creativity spill into your home? Your IG is full of fantastic treasures you’ve collected – do these influence you at all? It doesn’t so much these days. I studied Fine Art at uni and my final project was based on hoarding, collecting and taxidermy in art, but I rarely make anything these days. My boyfriend is an artist, though! He goes by the alias Daggers For Teeth and a lot of what he creates stems from his love of horror-punk and retro Halloween ephemera, so I feel like I live vicariously through his work!

How do people react to your tattoos Very positively, which is often a surprise! I tend to expect comments along the lines of, ‘but what will you do when you’re older?’ or ‘what about when you get married?’ – they’re things people have said to my tattooed, female friends! I’m lucky that I’ve not had anything negative said about mine, the majority of people tend to ask if they’re real, or if I’m wearing patterned tights. The nicest comments I tend to get are from tattoo artists who are happy to add to my ‘collection’, or people asking for recommendations.

Do your tattoos help you feel more confident, or help you to see your body differently? I’m not too sure. I’m quite shy, which people tend to be surprised by as they think that if you look ever so slightly outlandish, it’s for attention or that you’re an extrovert. I definitely love the idea that I’m decorating my body in pieces by artists who’s work I adore, and I’m honoured and so lucky that they agree to do it! So I’m happy with how I look with tattoos as opposed to not! But sometimes it does warrant unwanted attention which makes me feel a tad uncomfortable!

[Jemma Jones]

Do you have a favourite tattoo artist That’s a tough question! I have so many favourites! I’d love to get tattooed by Toothtaker, Daniel Octoriver, Diana Leets and Jon Larson! Also, all of the guys at Smith Street!

I consider myself so lucky to have been tattooed by a lot of my favourite artists within the UK already.

[Jemma Jones]

Do you have any favourite halloween tattoos / or can you take us through some of them? Yeah! I have a pumpkin lady by Harriet Heath where her boobs are where the ‘eye-holes’ should be! I also have an old witch and moon in some crazy-bright colours, that I got from Mark Cross whilst on holiday in New York last year. I love to find out what tattooers are working in cities I’m planning to visit.

I have a ghost with the word ‘spooky’ across it, so that the OOs make up the eyes, by Louie Rivers. Also, a little devil baby in pram with ‘Rosemary’s’ across it, by Jemma Jones, my mum’s name is Rosemary!

[Harriet Heath]

Have you got a favourite costume you’ve dressed up as for Halloweeen? I do! I dressed up as Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, in full wedding garb, the year before last. I’d planned it for a good while and made parts of the outfit. She’s one of my movie heroines! My boyfriend, Craig, and I also dressed up as the Grady twins from The Shining this year. He looked pretty hysterical with a wig, moustache and dress!

Any future tattoo plans? Always! Craig and I are off to Barcelona next week so we’re going to try and book something whilst we’re there. There are some incredible artists there! We love all of the artists at LTW and have been tattooed there twice before.

Other than that, I tend to book tattoos on a whim.

Tattoo The World: Nick Romi

We chat to 21-year-old film director and editor, Nick Romi who is based in LA and Osaka, Japan about his vlog Tattoo the World, his tattoo collection and his love for adventure…

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What drew you to the world of tattoos? Ever since I was young I’ve always loved metal and punk music. Every singer or band I’ve ever looked up to or listened to has tattoos. It’s something that’s been planted in my mind from a young age. I identify with the punk and metal culture, and I always have. I guess part of that identification involves self expression and freedom, two things that mean a lot to me.

What inspired you to create a vlog series about tattoos? How did it come about? I’m always traveling around the world filming. I’ve done all kinds of stuff from documentaries, commercials, television mini-series, music videos, live events, etc. Whenever I travel somewhere new I try to get a tattoo as well. I want to get something done in all of the countries I visit. I’m not really the person or type that would start a YouTube vlog. At least I never thought I was the type. But a part of me felt I should document these tattoo sessions and shops I go to around the world. So I started filming my tattoo sessions and then talking about them in vlog form. Vlogs are very different from the line of work I do in film. It’s refreshing to be able to sit in front of the camera and just talk about the things I love.

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What message or values do you want to share? I want to share with people the excitement and sense of adventure in doing something different from everyone else. I think a lot of people have dreams and visions of what they really want to do but they never follow through. There is so much untapped greatness and uniqueness in everyone. We all have such an incredible story to tell. I tell my stories through my vlog and films that I make career wise. That’s my book. I want to hear other people’s stories. If my videos can inspire people to do what they love and share their adventures in life, then that’s the best reward.

What can people expect to see on the channel? What sorts of things do you film and feature? People can expect to see so many things! As I said before the vlog follows me around the world on all of my adventures. In past episodes, I’ve been to India, Japan and Taiwan. I talk in depth about my experiences and try to relate them back to tattoo artists and shops in the United States. People can always expect something unique in each episode. Not every episode is about a certain country either. There are also episodes that will cover keeping your tattoos clean, what tattoos I have, what future tattoos I plan on getting, where my favorite shops and artists are, etc. I want people to grow with me and see all of the tattoos that I will be getting as the series goes on. We also have tattoo features at the end of each episode. If a fan or tattoo artist, or shop wants to showcase their work, they can submit photos to us via email or social media and we will feature them at the end of each episode! It’s our fun way of trying to make Tattoo the World a community thing.

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Nick and his girlfriend Yu Kitamura

What have you learned since beginning filming? What has surprised you the most? Something I learned from starting this vlog was not everyone is going to like you. Obviously I am not a tattoo expert, but I try to do the best research I can and educate myself. Some people get defensive or almost offended by what I say. I speak for myself on the vlog but as it is with many things these days, there’s always someone you’re going to offend. I learned not to take it personally and just continue on with the vlog as it is. You’re going to get flack and crap from people in life regardless of what you do, so it’s important to keep your head up and stay true to yourself.

Something that constantly surprises me is the amount of positive feedback and interest I get from the series. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in watching it, but I’ve grown a few followers. It’s a great feeling when someone finds entertainment in your craft.

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What is your most meaningful tattoo? My most meaningful tattoo is my shovel tattoo. The idea of this is from the singer of Boston hardcore band Vanna, Davey Muise. His inspirational message is to “find your shovel” and dig yourself out of any problem or situation or negativity in your life. For Davey his shovel was music and being in a band. My shovel is film and being a director and editor. I carry this tattoo with me on my skin in ink, everywhere forever, as well as in my heart.

We’re official sponsors of Nick and his blogs, so head to Tattoo The World see more!

Young Saigon: Ans Pham

We chat to creative developer Nick Jones about his role at Rice, the Young Saigon film series and tattooing in Vietnam…

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Rice was founded in late 2014 by a group of filmmakers who wanted to promote other young, talented filmmakers and give them the freedom to produce films. Since then, we’ve produced over 100 videos on subjects in and around South East Asia. As creative development I get involved and guide everything to do with the creative process, like concepting, shooting, editing etc.

The above film is part of a series called Young Saigon, which is about young artists working out of Saigon (musicians, dancers and artists), though this one is the only tattoo-related film in the series. The artist in this film 29-year-old Ans Pham, who works at Saigon Ink, which is probably the most well-known tattoo studio in Vietnam.

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A tattoo by Ans

We decided to make the film after a friend of mine had a tattoo done by him. Tattooing is something quite alien to me (I’ve been mulling over my first tattoo for a while) so I really wanted to explore a couple of things. Firstly what makes a tattoo artist tick, and to try and understand what goes on in Ans’ head when he’s working, and secondly, the perception of tattooing in Vietnam. Here tattooing is often seen as a taboo by older generations, but in contrast, tattooing among the younger generation has exploded. So I wanted to ask a working artist what his feelings were about the changing tattoo culture in Vietnam and his place in the middle of this change.

Like what you see? View the rest of the films here.

Vintage Vista: Ruella-Maria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview With Prof. Nicholas York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: