What got you into tattoos? I’ve always been really fascinated by them, as I grew up all my friends were older than me, and I remember them all rushing out to get them. Mostly regretting them after. But since I was about 16, there’s been a folder of tattoo inspiration and a growing list of artists I love on my computer. Now it’s Pinterest! I guess I really enjoy how permanent they are. I don’t believe they have to be something that means the world to you – they usually just remind me of a good time.
Where did your inspiration come from for this tattoo? I always say that this tattoo is a way of saying “haters to the left”, without actually saying it. E.E. Cummings is a beautiful poet, and I am all about words. It just seemed like he said what I needed him to, but more eloquently. I am very much in love with this tattoo – the font blows my mind and it came out better than I’d ever have expected.
Who did it and where? It was done by Victor at Self Sacrifice, London. Sadly, the shop closed down mysteriously last year. It really is a shame, they were really chilled and I felt totally comfortable with them.
How would you describe your style? I definitely like a bit of everything. I don’t think I’d want words on me again – I think there’s such a thing as too much font. A picture says a thousand words, you know. I do aim towards the more traditional style, but recently I am finding myself reaching for the more fluid styles of artists like Amanda Wachob.
Are you planning more? Definitely. Aren’t we always? I’m aiming to start my inner bicep soon I think, but I realise this’ll probably spread to cover the top of my arm. I’m okay with that, although my parents will probably have something to say.
Is there any artists you would like to get tattooed by? I’d love one of Annie Frenzel’s women one day – it would mean a trip to Berlin, too, which would be lovely. I just find her style beautiful. I also love Rachel Jamie Baldwin’s work and Guen Douglas – another nice little European trip to Amsterdam there, too (Guen is moving from Brighton to Amsterdam in September). As always, Valerie Vargas is on the list as well as the aforementioned Amanda Wachob. I guess I really like female artists.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
I had my first tattoo aged 17 and it was on my hand! It was tiny a little butterfly from Bambi, which has since been covered. I always found them fascinating and knew that I wanted at least one – it has now turned into quite a lot. I can’t say I remember seeing many on other people, and it was a good few years until they became more mainstream. I suppose it was when I started to meet friends who worked in the tattoo industry and who had a lot of tattoos that I started to collect more and more. I think this is due to feeling more comfortable in my own skin and finding good artists that I trusted. I’m pretty lucky that with my job in the hairdressing industry, I’m allowed to have them in visible places, although I think in general employers are becoming slightly more relaxed about tattoos.
My first experience with a really good artist was Wink Evans, in Norwich, who is amazing and responsible for a considerable amount of my tattoos – pretty much all of my right arm and a flamingo piece on my left calf. He works at Factotum.
I guess I prefer being tattooed by people who are local to me, as it is easier to make appointments and get work done. Norwich has some brilliant artists, so I don’t need to go further afield. I do have pieces from other artists – Eric Michalovicand Dawnii Fantana, but this was at Norwich Body Art Festival or guest spots.
I’m currently being tattooed by Brad Ward from Factotum, who did the Russian dolls on my shins and the man and lady with animals on their heads and J’adore on my lower fingers. I really like his style and have been super happy with all my work by him and plan on more.
The fact I had tattoos before I knew much about it has left me with a few that I’m not so keen on… I have had one covered up by Mike Boyd at Indigo in Norwich and it’s amazing and no one ever notices the cherries that were there before! I plan on dealing with the rest at some point in the future.
My style is colour, the brighter the better! I get inspiration from all around me, sometimes it is things I see, tattoos on other people or even things I read! I’m not one of these people who really think about what they want and research it – I just have an idea and then want it done as soon as possible.
I get asked if my tattoos have meanings quite a lot and they don’t really, I like them and that’s why I get them.
I have lots more planned for the future! The main thing being a back piece which will cover up some horrible pink tribal I had when I was 19. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, but know it is something I’m going to have to commit to, and before that I have lots of smaller projects I’d like to get finished.
My favourite tattoo is whichever one is my latest one, so right now the man with the fox on his head.
Name: Christina Owen
Location: south London
Occupation: student paramedic
My name is Christina Owen, I’m 28, I live in south London and I’m a student paramedic and photographer. I could write a book about my tattoos. I have 24 at the moment. I collect them – they are mostly very bright and very bold and I’m hoping that over time I will collect enough small pieces to be built up into bigger sleeves. I prefer getting them done bit by bit, as they tell a story of my life. I’m about to start a photography project about tattoos and the stories they tell.
I’m also training to be a Paramedic and so many of my patients want to talk about my tattoos all the time – it’s a great conversation starter and seems to take their mind off the reasons why they’re in the ambulance! Amazing how many people you wouldn’t expect find them interesting, like little old ladies and children.
Where did you get your tattoos done? All over the place! My favourite tattoo shop in the UK is Frith Street in London, but I’ve had some done in Brighton, some at other places in London, one in New York and one in Copenhagen. At Frith Street I’ve had a few tattoos by Valerie Vargas, who’s an absolutely amazing artist, and one by Frank Carter – who rendered me so starstruck that I couldn’t speak to him.
What got you into tattoos and what was your first tattoo? My first tattoo was a Chinese symbol on my stomach that means ‘fish’ (apparently!). I got it when I was 18 at my local tattoo shop because everyone else was doing it. A couple of years later I discovered SuicideGirls and couldn’t believe that tattoos could be so beautiful and so much like art. Up until then my experience was of tiny black and grey shapes that you would pick off a wall and have slapped somewhere on you, so you could say you’d done it. I thought the women on this site were wonderful and their tattoos completely captivated me.
Are you planning any more tattoos? Oh yes! I have about seven on my to-do list at the moment, but beyond a great idea for a tattoo, it’s also about finding the right artist to do it, and having the time and money to get it done. I’m impatient but I don’t want to rush – they need to be done properly, in the right place, at the right time. I’m quite picky about when the right time is to get a tattoo! I need to be in a good mood, things going well, the sun needs to be in the 5th house and the day needs to have a Y in it etc etc. It’s quite annoying…
Where did your inspiration come from? I mainly find inspiration in patterns and shapes that surround me. The stars on my chest come from part of a windchime that I got for my 20th birthday. It fell apart, and the stained glass star shape was all that was left. I stuck it on my bedroom wall in every place I lived, and fell in love with the design to the point where I wanted it on me forever! Sailors would get swallows tattooed on each side of their chest when they had travelled a certain distance away from home and I got stars, because of the star that I took with me everywhere I went.
I recently got the design from a pot that belonged to my grandmother on my arm, and I have this ancient biscuit tin that has yellow flowers on it that belonged to my Mum – I want the flowers tattooed on me somewhere.
I collect patterns from things that I have grown up with. Apart from that, I love traditional sailor flash designs and also pop art. I have a traditional arm and a contemporary arm to reflect both.
How would you describe your style? Bright! And nothing matches! But hopefully everything will somehow go together in the end. Like a living room where none of the furniture matches, but it looks good anyway.
Is there anyone you would like to get tattooed by? I’m going to Nashville next month and I’d like to get a tattoo by Amanda Leadman at Black13 Tattoo, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. There’s also a female tattoo artist who’s photographs I follow on Flickr and her tattoos and art are amazing. She works somewhere in America – it frustrates me that artists live in places you can’t just nip to on your day off! And I would love an entire sleeve by Miss Led, but she doesn’t tattoo as far as I know.
Do you have a favourite tattoo? People ask me this a lot and I don’t want to pick a favourite because it’s like picking a favourite child…but the stars on my chest are the best thing I’ve ever done. Also, the words on my feet – 2nd best thing I’ve ever done (they say Didi and Gogo which are the nicknames of the characters in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett).
Do your tattoos have meanings? Yes – they have surface meanings and some have deeper meanings too, and those meanings don’t get told when people ask. But the surface meanings do. And some of them only have surface meanings. I got a black cat tattooed on my wrist when I was 20 purely to impress a boy (it didn’t) and I had an anchor tattooed on my arm at the oldest functioning tattoo shop in the world, which is Tattoo Ole in Copenhagen, only because I wanted to be like a sailor and walk in off the docks and pick a design off the wall. The quality isn’t great, but I love it because of where it’s from.
Last weekend my sister Olivia moved to Australia. Before she left, we decided to get matching sister tattoos, so that no matter how far we are apart, we will always have something to remind us of each other.
We chose a design that represents our home – a traditional English rose – and keeping in touch – an envelope. Our appointment was booked with Cassandra Frances for 14th February, not intentionally, but it seemed like the perfect way to spend Valentine’s day…
We travelled up to End Times in Leeds from our hometown in Leicestershire – and we took our dad along for the ride, too.
We both fell in love with the design as soon as we saw it.
Getting tattooed at End Times was a lovely experience and we spent the day chatting to Cassandra – who told us some very interesting tales about how she got into tattooing.
And here is the final ink. I am so glad we both have a permanent reminder of our sisterly love.
This is a ‘get your tat out’ special, as Rachel talks about the tattoos on her own body and the tattoos she puts on other people’s…
What got you into tattoos? I think studying illustration at university really got me interested in tattoos. I’d never realised before that there was a whole artistic background to tattooing, past the crappy flash churned out from street shops back at home. A few people in my class at university had some really interesting tattoos and it made me realise that I could put my artistic talents to good use. My first tattoo was a tiny heart on my wrist which I got on a whim during an unplanned night trip to Brighton with a friend.
Where did you get your tattoos done? I get my tattoos done in lots of places, usually I find an artist I like via Facebook or from previously tattooing my friends. I’ve had two done at The Family Business in London, my rib piece and leg by Rachel Cavalier at Tattoo Shed in Apsley and also my Russian doll by Jake X there. Simon Erl from Jayne Doe did a Shakespeare piece on my arm and I’ve had a few small ones done by Oli Christensen. I recently travelled up to Sheffield to get a Wizard of Oz tattoo done by the amazingly talented apprentice, Amy Williams. A few of my tattoos have also been done by my boss at the shop I work in, which is a bonus as they are done for free!
Have you got any more planned? I’ve got lots more in the pipeline, but it’s just finding the time and money. I’d like to get lots more added to the Cinderella piece I have on my left arm, maybe a castle and the dress which she makes herself before her step sisters rip it apart. I’d like to get portraits of my parents on my back and more Victorian book illustration style pieces around my Fornasetti tattoo.
Where does your inspiration come from? Although cheesy, almost all of my tattoos have been inspired by Walt Disney films! I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so a few of my tattoos seem to be based around love and happy endings.
How would you describe your style? I really like traditional tattoo art with a modern twist, I guess neo-traditional. Victoriana seems to be pretty ‘in’ at the moment, but I’ve loved imagery and art from the Victorian period and also renaissance for as long as I can remember.
Is there anyone you would like to get tattooed by? I’d love to get tattooed by Tiny Miss Becca, but from what I’ve heard she has a super-long waiting list! It would be awesome to get tattooed by any of the artists from Spider Murphy’s, my shop recently bought their book and every page of flash is incredible.
Do your tattoos have meanings? I guess the majority of my tattoos have meanings, if I really think about why I got them. The Russian doll on my arm has ‘Mum’ written on it, because the big babushka dolls hold and protect all the smaller ones inside them. I guess my Mum is like my protector. I have a large piece of Marie Antoinette on my ribs – I am fascinated by her life story and like the fact that she went against her heritage and lived her life the way she wanted to.
What’s it like to be a tattoo apprentice? Being a tattoo apprentice is amazing! I was so lucky to get the job, I guess I was in the right place at the right time. I was in the last month of my degree and walked past a local tattoo parlour – The Grasshopper in Harrow – and they were advertising for a new apprentice. I brought my portfolio back in an hour later, and did a few initial designs for them and the boss decided to take me on the following week. It was unpaid for the first couple of months and the majority of the time I was just cleaning grips, dealing with customers, cleaning the studio and doing some design work for my boss. Now I’ve been there almost a year, I’ve started tattooing customers and I’m in my final stages before I get my licence. I guess it’s a very competitive industry, especially with social networking being such a big part of advertising yourself. There’s so many tattoo shops within a five mile radius of my shop so, with so much competition, it’s important to try and be the best you can be.
How would you describe your style of tattooing? I wouldn’t say my style was all neo-traditional, but it can be seen throughout most of my designs. I like using bright colours and lots of pretty imagery, too. I try to look at what a customer wants and add my own touch, instead of outright copying someone – I would hate for someone to do that to me. However, with neo-traditional tattooing so popular at the moment, I guess it’s hard to constantly come up with completely original ideas for pieces.
Which artists (tattoo or otherwise) are you inspired by? There’s so many artists who inspire me at the moment. I love Rachel McCarthy’s use of colour and cuteness in her designs – the same with Amy Savage from Jayne Doe. I get a lot of inspiration for my drawings from illustrators as well, such as Tara McPherson and Lucy Oldfield. And I like to go to museums and galleries to discover new ideas.
How do you learn? Who do you practice on? Initially, my boss got me to do lots of drawing and paintings to get a feel for tattoo design and technique. I’d watch him tattooing his customers and he’d explain to me what he was doing and why. Then I went on to tattooing potatoes, to try and get a feel of the machine and depth. I have to thank my friends for allowing me to practice on them too! We’d have lessons after hours – where I’d bring a friend along and my boss would shadow me and talk me through what I was doing. Gradually, over several months, I became more confident and then started doing small simple pieces on paying customers. I’m really grateful for everything my boss has taught me, he’s a really good teacher and has an eye for all sorts of art and design – as well as different medias such as egg tempera painting and mosaics, which was really interesting for me as I come from a fine art background.
And here is selection of tattoos by Rachel – I love her girly style
– she’s definitely my new tattoo crush and I think she is an amazing tattoo artist herself… Rachel I would love to get tattooed by you one day!
“Tattoos are personal in meaning, but still provide pleasure for others”
Name: Megan Smith,
Occupation: Social Worker
What got you into tattoos and what was your first tattoo? I think through college I thought a lot about my first tattoo, I was going to gigs and seeing people with sleeves and thought they looked amazing. When I moved to Sheffield, almost all of my friends had tattoos and it made me even more eager. My first tattoo was a horse shoe on my foot, it swelled up like a balloon and I couldn’t fit shoes on for days, but it was worth it.
Are you planning any more tattoos? Not at the moment, I’m still too obsessed with my Russian doll, but I would love to have a tattoo of a women with amazing hair next… will leave it a year or two to figure out just what I want though.
Where did your inspiration come from? Well for my back, it was from looking at tattoos Steve had already done and picking out aspects that I liked, for example, he had done the falling heart-shaped petals on my friend. For my others it was something significant to me that I wanted, I looked through the tattooists’ work to find parts I wanted to incorporate into the designs.
How would you describe your style? Traditional western style.
Is there anyone you would like to get tattooed by? I would like to go back to Cassie for another one.
Do you have a favourite tattoo? Definitely my arm, but I think thats just because it’s new.
Do your tattoos have meanings? Yeah definitely. For me it’s my life story and even something generic like flowers on my back is significant, as I can remember what was going on for me at the time I had it done. I like that the meaning is personal to me and nobody else has to understand what that is to enjoy them.
Feature girl: Claire Cocks Location: London Occupation: Cataloguer at an autograph auction house and retailer
Victorian Silhouette Tattoo
Where did you get your tattoos done?
I got my silhouette by Lucy at Into You and my Victorian lady “Gwendolen” by Miles at Frith Street.
What got you into tattoos and what was your first tattoo? I’ve always loved tattoos, but I was a bit dubious about whether I’d want something so permanent, until last year! I mentioned to a friend what I had in mind and he gave me a list of artists to check out and away I went. At first I wanted a simple cameo within an ornate frame, but the design evolved until I decided on a solid black silhouette portrait of my mum.
Are you planning any more tattoos? Yes definitely – although it took a few months after Gwendolen to think about having another one. I’d love to get a skull and crossbones that I saw on the floor of the Campo Santo in Pisa. The crossbones have a ribbon tying them together and I love the juxtaposition of the two. I’m also looking into getting a Victorian animal engraving, so I’m hunting around second-hand bookshops for an original drawing to work from at the moment.
Where did your inspiration come from? Victorian engravings and adverts, woodcuts, history of photography.
How would you describe your style? Vintage inspired, but without sticking to any particular period or style, although I’m always keen on Victoriana, 1920s cross-dressing (Louise Brooks in ‘Beggars of Life’) and the 80s 1940s revival.
Is there anyone you would like to get tattooed by? I’d love to get tattooed by either Volko Merschky or Simone Pfaff from Buena Vista Tattoo Club – their designs are amazing. I saw them at work at the London Tattoo Convention and it has definitely spurred me on to do some saving!
Do you have a favourite tattoo? As I only have two I think it would be unfair to have favourites!
Do your tattoos have meanings? The portrait of my mum is commemorative – I wanted something really simple in a place that I could always see. Luckily she liked it. Gwendolen on the other hand is just pure aesthetic joy – a corset advertisement I found one day and fell in love with!
For as long as I can remember I have dreamt about getting a padlock tattoo. When I was younger I was very secretive and wrote everyday in my padlocked diary about an unrequited crush or a first kiss. As in childhood, in adulthood I enjoy keeping certain things private or sharing things with only selected people.
Here is my heart-shaped padlock, it represents my secrets, now I wonder who holds the key to it?