Category: Guest bloggers

Thoughts on the 2016 Brighton Tattoo Convention by a Man with no Tattoos

Writer Harry Casey-Woodward has no tattoos, yet he found himself accompanying his tattoo-loving wife to the Brighton Tattoo Convention on 1st May. These are his impressions…

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Tattoos are a part of my life, but not directly. Both my sister and my wife are tattoo enthusiasts. My wife currently has eleven tattoos and she’s getting another one this summer. I’ve lost count of how many my sister has (and so has she!)

I don’t feel any burning desire to get tattoos for myself, but I can’t help sharing in the excitement my wife feels when she’s arranging a new tattoo or when we’re on our way to getting one. I have accompanied her for nearly all her tattoos and although the process looks uncomfortable and painful, the end result pleases her deeply and that’s enough for me.

Although I can’t decide on an image I’d like enough to have etched into my skin, I admire the sheer amount of images tattooists are able to imagine and illustrate on paper and skin. I especially respect the skill behind them after sitting through several sessions and watching art gradually blossom on my wife’s body.

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This year’s Brighton Tattoo Convention was a fine exhibition of such skills. Being the first big tattoo event I’ve attended, I felt a little alienated; like a bare-skinned astronaut amongst a strange multi-coloured race. Excessive similes aside, I mostly felt like I was at a living, breathing art gallery. But never did I feel the threat and suspicion that some people feel when confronted with tattoos. It certainly would have been my grandparents’ idea of hell!

On the other hand, I wonder if the event itself felt like a big inky cocoon for tattoo lovers, a haven where they could indulge in ink without being judged by outsiders. There was certainly a lack of shame in the human body, as people whipped out bare flesh to get tattooed in the cramped stalls while throngs of onlookers streamed past.

In fact, the closeness of the stalls heightened the impression of a close tattooed community within the spacious bosom of the Brighton Centre. Tattooists and tattoo lovers alike were mingling and chatting and generally appeared to be having a good time. Even a few people getting inked looked to be in some cat-like state of relaxation. The whole event oozed excited but chilled vibes.

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It was also amazing to see such a range of tattoos and yet everybody had their own style, from traditional fantasy-themed art to swearing cats. It was cool to see different methods of tattooing too, like the Ta Moko stall and one lady hand-poking an octopus on somene’s leg.

The event still hasn’t convinced me to get a tattoo, despite my wife’s nagging, and she was sad not to get one since booking lists that day had been eagerly filled. But we had a cool day out in the unbeatable joy land of Brighton. My wife also got fresh tattoo ideas and collected many cards from new tattooists she met and liked, which now make a nice collage on our notice board.

Photos by James Gilyead

Growing Pains With Tracy Kiss

28-year-old Tracy Kiss, blogger, model and mother, from Buckingham talks about how having a tattoo to cover her stretch marks helped her to reclaim and love her body once again… 

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When did you start modelling and how did you get into the industry? At the age of 18. I was talent scouted by MTV to model in a documentary about relationships, I then went on to do page 3 for The Daily Sport newspaper.

What made you want to become a model? I was bullied terribly up until the age of 17 for being shy, geeky and insecure. When I was talent scouted I never imagined in a million years that I could ever be a model but they saw something in me and I’m so glad that they did because it brought me out of my shell.

What kind of work did you do? I was a glamour model before having my two children which involves lots of lingerie, bikinis and topless as well as the occasional catwalk and fashion.

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Did this change how you saw your body? Did modelling help with your confidence? Although modelling gave me bags of confidence that I never knew existed it also changed me as a person. I spent endless minutes on sunbeds to maintain a year round tan, dyed my hair peroxide blonde, wore fake nails, false eyelashes and dressed in skin tight revealing outfits. I literally changed everything about my appearance within a year and although I loved my ‘new’ body I realised deep down that I wasn’t being true to myself.

How has pregnancy and being a mother affected how you see your body? Becoming a single parent at the age of 19 was such a wake up call, it made me realise that there’s so much more to life than the shallowness of how we view others. Beauty doesn’t come from a packet, tube or needle it’s from natural confidence, being comfortable in your own skin and feeling happy. My body shape changed dramatically, I was incredibly thin and as my pregnancy developed I started to get stretch marks which were deep red lines that seemed to slash my skin. At that time my body was my career, and I felt that becoming a mother had ended the life I knew by scarring me so badly.

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Do you miss being pregnant? Despite all of that I loved being pregnant, it was difficult for me to adjust to the weight gain at first because I had always been so strict on myself. But once I embraced it I realised how much I love food, how happy I was to feel my daughter kick inside of me and despite knowing I had to bring her into the world alone I felt safe knowing that we were going through it together. There is nothing as precious as unconditional love and I’d happily have more children if I met the right man one day.

How has pregnancy affected your body physically? Physically pregnancy has had an horrendous affect on my body at such a young age, firstly from scarring up my stomach hips and thighs with stretch marks, weakening my stomach muscles and making my chest collapse. I had breast implants that became loose and leaked from the pressure of breast feeding, so I underwent reconstructive surgery. It has been the most joyful yet painful experience of my life but I’d do it a thousand times over for my children, they are my absolute world.

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Can you tell us about your stretch marks? Also how you tried to get rid of them? My stretch marks remained the same with my second pregnancy and didn’t get any worse, I think my skin was already so badly damaged that it couldn’t possibly stretch any further. I had fairly large babies with my daughter weighing 7lbs and my son 8lbs 8oz, but I blame my love of food for contributing to my weight gain as for once in my life I didn’t worry about what I ate!

I’ve tried everything to get rid of my stretch marks which I’ve covered in my beauty blogs from oils and creams to needling and lasering, all methods designed to stimulate the regrowth of natural collagen in the skin to help to repair it. Whilst stretch marks can be improved they can never be removed unless you cut the skin away which I didn’t want. Fortunately with my treatments I was able to lighten my stretch marks from a deep red colour to a pale white, instead of being deep they became a little more shallow and where the skin had become so loose and wrinkled it’s now firmer and flatter but still scarred, just a little less obviously.

Why did you choose to cover them with a tattoo? How did you pick the design? I chose to cover my stretchmarks with a tattoo because the pigment in my skin had disappeared from stomach, which left me with white lines.  At the age of 28 I was hiding my body, I never wanted anybody to look at or touch my stomach because I was embarrassed.

The only way left for me to try to remove my stretchmarks without surgery was to cover them with a tattoo and once my final laser treatment was complete to correct the texture of my skin I called my tattooist, James King, to talk about designs. I already have 10 tattoos including; feathers, wings and my children’s dates of birth.  I’m a nature loving vegan, I live for peace, love and happiness so we combined a lotus flower with the hamsa hand to signify strength, beauty and good fortune.

I wanted to turn a part of my body that I hated into something positive, and  my tattoo has done just that! Something that once hurt and upset me for so many years now makes me smile uncontrollably. I never thought I’d feel so happy in my skin again as I do now, it’s given me my youth back.

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What would you say to other mums feeling the same way as you did? I’d tell other mums to look into turning their scars into body art because you only have one life. To me a tattoo isn’t just a decoration, it’s a story, a reminder and inspiration for life. It’s capturing your essence as a person, expressing your individualism and in my case turning something negative into a positive. Everybody should be able to love their bodies no matter their age, size and ethnicity. For me tattoos have given me back my confidence, true confidence and shown me how I can love myself for who I am. I’m a woman reborn, my embarrassment and insecurities have vanished and I’m ecstatic to have a second chance with my body.

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What was your first tattoo? Do you still love it? Rather foolishly I got my first tattoo at the age of 14 which was a tribal swirl on my lower back that I covered over with angel wings, that mean so much more to me, as I believe feathers symbolise hope and freedom. My first tattoo was something that I rushed into simply because it was fashionable at the time, it had no meaning to me and was nothing more than a filled in stencil that I outgrew.

Can you tell us about your other tattoos? My favourite is ‘love is blind’ tattooed under my breasts, its a reminder of how life may change but true love is unconditional and that is very much what I have for my children. My babies taught me the most important lessons in life of patience, strength and natural beauty and although being a single parent is incredibly challenging at times it has made me the person I am today. Tattoos have given me back my fire, repaired my body and rebuilt my self esteem whilst capturing my heart for all to see and I will cherish them forever.

Film Review: The Revenant

Writer and hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews The Revenant, the Academy-award winning survival/revenge epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Revenant, 2016, cert 15, dir Alejandro G. Inarritu, 4/5 

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I tend to avoid Leonardo DiCaprio films. Not because I don’t think he’s a good actor, but there’s something about him that puts me off; either his golden Hollywood looks or I just wasn’t interested in the films he picked. His firery role in Django Unchained, however, as the charming but unhinged villain Monsieur Candy surprised and entertained me. So when I heard he was taking the lead in another western-style film he certainly had my attention.

In The Revenant, he plays real life, big-bearded American frontiersman Hugh Glass. He and his half-Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) have joined a band of trappers on a pelt-gathering expedition in some remote forests. After a savage attack by the natives, the survivors hike through the woods back to base camp. On the way, however, Glass is brutally mauled by a bear.

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When the men realise they can’t haul Glass’s paralysed body back to camp, Hawk, another boy named Bridger (Will Poulter) and a man named Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) agree to stay behind and take care of him in the woods. Fitzgerald, who has already proven himself to be a bit of a cad, stabs Hawk and persuades Bridger to leave Glass for dead; just so he can get back quickly and get paid. Glass, however, refuses to die and drags his mangled body across the frozen wastes thirsting for revenge.

The film may follow a traditional revenge western formula but the way it’s shot makes it a unique experience. I haven’t seen any of the director’s films, like Birdmanso I had no expectations of his style. The gritty violence of the film and its characters is contrasted with its beautiful shots and scenery. I don’t know how they managed it but most of the action was filmed in long, smooth tracking shots, often with a fisheye lens. Such striking filming gets over-used but it never fails to portray the sweeping majesty of the epic plot and scenery.

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The film never loses sight of its brutal realism though. The hunky Tom Hardy has been transformed into a selfish hillbilly rat who isn’t afraid to lie and kill for survival or money. DiCaprio obviously deserved his Oscar for his challenging performance, although I’m not sure if performance is the right word. Does putting yourself through hell for a film count as good acting or just dedication? When he’s not eating raw bison liver, he is good at being haunted and intense. But you could argue this film is two and a half hours of DiCaprio being cold, starving and suffering in general and of course being very serious about it. As gripping as this is, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

If I’m honest, though, I can’t think of any valid faults for this film. It’s an historical epic unlike any you’ve seen, a thrilling blend of old fashioned storytelling and striking filmmaking. It offers a bleak view of humanity, but somehow I didn’t feel greatly depressed by the end. This might have been due to a combination of awe-inspiring natural scenery and DiCaprio’s sheer bloody will to survive.

Images from foxmovies.com.

Gig Review: Future of the Left

Hobbyist writer Harry Casey-Woodward recently saw Cardiff post-hardcore rockers Future of the Left, as they promoted their latest album at the Electric Ballroom in Camden…

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If you haven’t heard of Future of the Left, you should have. They are very entertaining and sometimes scary to listen to. I reviewed their latest album already on this blog, The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left, released in April this year. To celebrate, they held a gig on the 21st of that month at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, because they like it there apparently.

I still think the new songs miss some of the spark of the older stuff, but I’ve seen the band live before and it was such a thundering sweaty experience I gladly bought tickets again. As the band’s singer/guitarist Andrew Falkous said, they want their gigs to be ‘bludgeoning‘ assaults. They are certainly worth seeing for their outrageous levels of noise, attitude and energy alone.

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I wish I could say what the support bands (Right Hand Left Hand and The St. Pierre Snake Invasion) were like. Unfortunately me and my companions failed to drag ourselves away from Camden’s Black Heart in time. When we arrived at the venue for Future’s slot, my first impressions of the Electric Ballroom were very big and purple. It felt like being at an ant party inside a hollowed out grape.

Apparently it was the band’s biggest headline gig yet and they didn’t disappoint, despite being reduced to a three-man lineup recently after extra guitarist Jimmy Watkins left. I was intrigued however to see a new unknown guitarist accompanying Falco, his bass-playing wife Julia Ruzicka and drummer Jack Egglestone throughout the set. They were even joined by two other strangers for one new song ‘In a Former Life’, who provided backing chants for the chorus.

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I was delighted when the band opened with ‘Kept by Bees’ a drum-fuelled slow burning non-single off their first album Curses, which was a rarity for their current sets. They then slipped into the storming powerhouse of ‘Arming Eritrea’, the opener of their second album Travels with Myself and Another, which got the crowd pumping. It was nice to see their new songs get just as good reactions as synth-heavy favourites ‘Manchasm’ and ‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’. I was underwhelmed by the new songs on first listen, but they were thrilling and powerful live and I roared along to the lyrics with everyone else. To add further excitement, the set was peppered with songs from Falco’s last band mclusky, including the joyous non-single ‘Gareth Brown Says’ which was also a rare treat.

Falco was his usual top form as a performer, switching from mid-song stand up to screaming himself hoarse. He also enjoyed the immense positivity from the audience, thanking everyone for giving a bigger turnout than Leeds. He also declared if anyone didn’t like the new album they could f*** off, and that attitude sums up the band for me. They haven’t enjoyed the successes of other lesser bands, but they’re still stubbornly producing their exhilarating, defiantly distinctive music after nine years and thank Christ for that.

Images from pollythomas.co.uk.

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Got Sleeves

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about how getting her arms tattooed was a big deal…

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I never thought I’d get my arms tattooed. It had never been in my plan. But then again when I first started getting tattooed I never thought I’d be even close to heavily tattooed, even when I started to get large scale pieces I never foresaw the next. For me getting tattooed has been a process, my tattoos are something which evolve- a collaboration between my own ideas and those of the artists I work with. Even now I don’t have a final vision in mind, I still don’t know if I will end up with a full body suit or not. I have a very wait-and-see attitude I guess. I know I will get two half sleeves and my sides tattooed to connect my back piece into more of a traditional style Japanese half-body suit. But my legs are a random mix of different styles, do I keep them looking separate or do I sleeve them?  I’m going off the point; the point of having my arms tattooed being a big deal for me.

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I think it’s a huge deal as even though over half my body is tattooed I still don’t feel that I look that heavily tattooed, not from the front anyway. Clothed most people wouldn’t even know I was tattooed. The arms are so visible though, there is no hiding. I have over thought my arms a lot, possibly too much which is why it took me until the age of 34 to have them done. I had also decided that I wanted them to stop at the top of the arm and not go over onto the shoulder and certainly not the chest. So now I have the outline down of my first sleeve, it stops at the elbow and creeps over my shoulder onto my chest. Yeah about that, once my artist had drawn it on, we tried a few different ways of laying it out; it’s just what looked best. I didn’t give it a second thought. Now it’s done it just feels right and I’ve no idea why I was stressing out about it so much in the first place. When I first started to get large tattoos it would take me a while to get used to them, suddenly having something alien on my skin. Now with each tattoo I feel a little bit more like myself with each addition. My sleeve is only half done but it feels like it has always been there.

Film Review: The Danish Girl

Our resident film reviewer is writer Harry Casey-Woodward, who will be commenting on things he has watched.

The Danish Girl, 2016, cert 15, dir Tom Hooper, 3/5 

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Einer Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are young painters living together in early 20th century Denmark, with their terrier Hvappe. Both are living in paint-soaked marital bliss, until one day Gerda asks Einer to pose as a woman for one of her portraits. The feel of women’s clothing on Einer’s body awakens something inside, something he has been repressing his whole life.

He indulges further in women’s fashion, at first as a joke between him and Gerda. But soon they both realise that another identity is struggling to break out of Einer: Lili, the woman he was meant to be. While Einer struggles with the conflict between his two personalities, Gerda is forced to watch the gradual fading of the man she loved, although this is tempered somewhat by her portraits of Lili winning her artistic success.

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I’m not in any doubt that I’ve seen a good film. How can it not be good, based on the true story of a transgender pioneer and the fact that its director and main star have each won Academy awards? It certainly reminded me of one of the director’s previous films, The King’s Speech. Both films are sensitive dramas based on true stories, focusing on characters struggling with issues that still affect our society. In the case of The King’s Speech, it was the physical handicap of his stammer while The Danish Girl is a woman trapped in a man’s body, wishing to live her true life in the face of social prejudice.

Yet I’m surprised to find I enjoyed The King’s Speech more than The Danish Girl. This feels weird since The Danish Girl is the more groundbreaking and emotional film. However The King’s Speech had certain aspects that gave it appeal, such as the Royal family being given a human treatment and Colin Firth being so suited for the humble but heroic character of George VI.

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In The Danish Girl, our main characters are beautiful, sexy artists who all seem to live surprisingly well despite just painting. So although they go through a great amount of emotional pain I just couldn’t find them relatable or realistic.

The fact that this film just used stock techniques and scenes I’ve seen in many serious dramas before also stunted its emotional impact. I think it’s important when analysing such an issue-driven film to step back from its subject and judge whether it’s good cinematically. Although this is an important film for depicting transgenderism, I wouldn’t say it offered anything revolutionary cinematically. It just felt like another over-dramatised, over-romanced true story film, or maybe I’m just biased against such films, not being a huge fan.

That aside, it’s the performances that make this film worth watching and its depiction of transgenderism so powerful and gut-wrenching. Vikander won an Academy award for her supporting role as Gerda, and she certainly gets our sympathies. However good she is at acting hurt and confused, Redmayne surely should have won something for fully throwing himself into the psychological torment of his character, so much so I worry if he doubts his own identity afterwards.

Images from the Telegraph.

Alana Macleod

22-year-old Alana Macleod, who creates beautifully coloured and patterned clothing is currently studying textiles in Bournemouth. We chatted to Alana about the process behind her designs, her tattoos and how, by sharing her own story, she hopes to help others struggling with eating disorders… 

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How would you describe your style, both how you dress and what you create? My style is very colour focussed, and is an exploration of variety of textures and shapes. In terms of my dress sense, I like to wear structural, interesting shapes, and with my textiles work I like to create these shapes with a combination of materials and embellishments. I feel as though my work and my style can often be very connected, as for me it is important that both express an element of fun, with the outcome never being too serious. I think fashion should be fun.
What influences your work and who inspires you? It sounds cliché but I really am inspired by things that I see around me, whether that’s an interesting place or a person. I think when you have been around textiles for so long, you automatically take inspiration from things and it’s hard to escape, so my influences can come from anything. I think Instagram is also such an amazing, inspiring platform; we can use it to discover people who interest us and are doing really cool things, and I think it’s so great to have that at our fingertips.

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Can you tell us about the process behind your designs? All my outcomes start with mass amounts of drawings and paintings, then there is a lot of cutting, sticking, photocopying, until I start to develop some ideas for prints or surfaces. I use a combination of screen print, digital print, embroidery, and hand embellishment; there isn’t really an order to doing this within my practice, things just kind of develop naturally and I just follow what I feel is working at the time. I always start with a plan when I am designing, but the creative process always changes.

Do you sell any of your designs? I’m currently not selling my work anywhere online, however I’m in the process of starting up an online store! I also take commissions if anybody is interested.

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When did you get your first tattoo? What was it and do you still love it? Well technically my first tattoo was a horrific hand poked diamond on my  which I had done at the age of 13! And I absolutely do not love it, neither did my mother at the time, ha. I waited to get my first professional tattoo at the age of 18, which were some bows on the back of my legs. I was going through quite a rockabilly phase at the time; looking back, they are definitely something I would not get now, but they also remind me of a certain time, and that’s why I will always like all of my tattoos regardless of whether my style has changed since.

What inspired you to start getting tattooed? Throughout school I had always experimented with a lot of styles and subcultures, all of which were quite alternative. I always wanted to stand out with my appearance as a teenager, and was always getting in trouble at school for it. I think my love of tattooing definitely developed from my urge to be different. I listened to a lot of punk music from a young age, and I always admired the musicians and the whole aesthetic. I also think that my creativity has had a big part in my interest within tattoos- art class was the only that I engaged in fully within school and college, and when I grew up and realised that I could display this creativity on my own body, it just made sense to me.

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Do tattoos influence or alter how you feel about your body? Have they helped you with feelings of self confidence? Yes definitely- when I have experienced difficult times with my body and my confidence, having my tattoos makes me still feel comfortable within my skin regardless. I’m much happier to show my body, or even look at my body, knowing that I have this collection of beautiful art, whereas previously I may have struggled to see any positives about myself.

On Instagram you’re quite open about your struggles with an eating disorder, why do you think it’s important to share your own experience? I think it’s really important because of how alone you can feel when you are caught up in an eating disorder, and I really want to remind people that they’re not alone. I remember when I was at a really awful point in my life, and I felt that nobody would understand and that my behaviour was so alien. I was seeking help from eating disorder ‘help’ forums, as I had nowhere to turn, but these websites are bad news and an awful trap that is even more difficult to get out of. I hope that speaking about my issues openly on Instagram will not only keep people away from these sites to seek reassurance, but will also let them know that the people that they follow and admire also have their own struggles and that it is a lot more common that they may have realised. I think the word bulimia has such a stigma and a misunderstanding around it, and there are a lot of misconceptions. I didn’t actually realise that I was bulimic for quite some time, I’d convinced myself that my over-exercise, restrictive diet and purging ‘bad’ foods was just me being healthy and normal. I’d love to help people realise that obsessive behaviours aren’t actually normal, and to help them become aware before they’re in too deep.

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Do you think social media has helped you or hindered you in your progress and self love journey? I have mixed feelings about social media and it’s impact on my eating disorder. In the early days, I think Instagram was definitely a contributor towards my obsession with my weight- I was feeling a lot of pressure to keep up my ‘healthy lifestyle’, which essentially was making me much more ill. However, when I eventually publicly opened up about my disorder, the amount of positive feedback and genuine kindness I received from everybody was so warming and lovely, and I think it’s amazing to have that kind of support network. I’ve been open about my struggles online for just under a year now, and it definitely has helped with my self-love since I started therapy. Some days I will be having a bad day with my body image, but to receive such lovely praise from people who have known my struggles is really special.

Have tattoos played a part in your recovery? I  say they have helped my recovery, but they have definitely made me still feel like ‘me’, when I’ve had low times where I’ve been unsure of who I am. During recovery I have gained some weight again, and my tattoos have helped me with loving myself still too. I can’t imagine to have not had them throughout this journey, they’re the one thing that have always given me another layer of confidence, and I’ve always been able to express myself through my tattoos.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I’m continuing with working on my legs next, I have some exciting plans to try and make them feel much more completed, ankle cuffs, some blacking out and some ornamental work within the things that I have already!

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Viewing Pleasure

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about how she feels she is always fully dressed because of her tattoos… 

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I’ve been continuing to think about viewing and how we control others seeing our tattoos. When I think about my tattoos I see them on my body as whole. When I’m thinking about new tattoos it’s how they will look and fit onto my body in its entirety, not what will look good peeping out from my clothes. Thinking more about this I realised that even though I share a lot of photos of my tattoos the only people who have actually seen them all in their entirety are my partner and my artist. What anyone else sees is fragmentary, tiny snippets of a fuller story. Bodysuits and large area tattoos are designed to work in harmony with the body and to be viewed as a whole akin to the naked body. In this sense, tattoos whilst a visible medium can remain highly private. As a lecturer and researcher in fashion and identity this is something I have become fascinated by, how we dress and how having tattoos may affect this.

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Before I had tattoos I would never have worn short dresses, I now crop off the bottom of my jeans so that my ankle tattoos can be seen and I am always on the hunt for yet another backless dress. I used to dress quite outlandishly, obsessed with Vivienne Westwood my clothes were always a talking point and I certainly stood out in a crowd. I’d walk for miles in skyscraper heels and think nothing of it. These days I’m more often found in ripped jeans and dirty old Converse. I wear more of my boyfriend’s clothes than my own, over size t-shirts and plaid shirts. Perhaps getting older has had some impact on this; I will always opt for comfort over fashion now. I save my money for tattoos rather than designer shoes.

How would I dress now though if I woke up tomorrow without any tattoos? I look at photos of myself without the tattoos and I feel like I look naked. I feel like a part of me is missing. Now my skin is dressed I don’t have the need for fancy trappings. I feel I can dress simply- because I am always dressed by my ink.

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Public Property

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about the stir visible tattoos can cause…

Us Brits are a predictable bunch, first sign of a little sun and we are stripped down to our shorts and vests before you can say ‘ice cream van’. Every year the warmer weather seems to jump on us out of nowhere- no warning until one day you are walking home from work in your faux fur coat as everyone else passes you in flip-flops. Lament as I did in my last column about winter clothes hiding our tattoos; I had forgotten what a stir tattoos can cause. In true Brit fashion I jumped at the chance to go to work today without my woolly tights on, legs bare and if I’ll admit a bit cold! I was walking around enjoying the vitamin D when I heard it ‘look at those tattoos’! The girl actually gave me a sheepish smile as she realised she hadn’t been as discreet as she might have though and I couldn’t help but laugh. But it did bring back to me the reminders of how other people find our tattoos to be something of their business. Suddenly my skin that had been protected by jeans and thick jumpers was exposed and public property.

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This got me thinking about who we get tattoos for and how we control who sees them. Back, torso, bum these are all quite private areas which we generally conceal on a daily basis. For me anything above the knee is generally hidden away from sight unless I consciously choose to wear something like shorts or a backless dress. I am fully aware that if I chose not to cover my tattoos I will draw attention, wanted or not. As I’m sat writing this in the park a guy comes over and asks if he can look closer at my arm/ back tattoos – I’m wearing a vest top. I say sure and we have a quick chat about whether they hurt and where I got them done. He says I’m a ‘tattooed wonder woman’ and bids me farewell. The more visible tattoos I get the more I have to consider how I control my body. I’m not sure I’m ready to be in position where I can’t choose to hide my tattoos, not yet anyway. I salute those who do.

Rock n Roll Soul: Emma Inks

Emma Copland is a 28-year-old Scottish charity support manager and blogger living in London. We chatted to Emma about how she started her blog emmainks.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I had a secret blog that was a scrapbook of my life but it was October 2014 when I officially started Emma Inks. The combination of living in London and my passion for travel meant friends were always asking for recommendations so I started promoting my posts, hoping that other people might find my ramblings useful too.

What kinds of things do you blog about? My blog is a reflection of me so it is a bit all over the place with posts on: London life, travel, vegetarian food, style, beauty and any other random thoughts I have.

How would you describe your style? I am not one to follow trends; I just wear what makes me feel comfortable, which often includes lots of leather, ripped denim, vintage rock t-shirts, black, and leopard print. I often end up looking like I have just been thrown out of an American dive bar. My style is mainly influenced by rock music, movies, Cher and people I see on the street.

Adam Cornish tattoo

What inspires you? I am inspired by many things, but mainly travel and people who are not afraid to be themselves. I love people who make their own path instead of following the crowd or doing what is expected of them.

Do you have a favourite designer or artist? There are so many talented artists; a few of my current favourite tattoo artists include Kirk Jones, Kelly Violence, Dani Queipo, Henbo, Rebecca Vincent, Cally-Jo, Hannah Pixie Sykes, and my gorgeous friend Nikki Nairns. They are all high on my list of people I would love to be tattooed by.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo just after turning 18. It was bought by my two best friends before I went on my first solo backpacking trip and was a meant to be a heart/thistle representing our friendship and my Scottish roots.

These days it looks more like a club stamp I have not washed off and has a scar right through the middle of it after I broke my wrist snowboarding. It is definitely not a piece of art, but it reminds me of an amazing time in my life, being young and reckless so I don’t think I will ever get it covered.

FirstTattoo

Tell us about your tattoos? I started getting tattoos at 18 and went with the tribal style which was common at the time. I had my aforementioned club stamp on my wrist and a hand drawn sun on my back within the same year. The back tattoo was meant to represent my backpacking trip around South-east Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, though I still like it I am thinking about getting the Buddha in the centre covered up as I don’t want any religious symbolism in my tattoos.

When I was a poor student I couldn’t afford new tattoos but I did plenty of research and started to get into more traditional, colourful pieces. I got my anchor by Frank Paradiso in Tattoo Peter, Amsterdam’s oldest tattoo shop. I loved the style and vibrancy so much I got my second traditional tattoo by his colleague, Bill Loika, at Brighton Tattoo Convention. You could tell Bill has been a tattoo artist for years as my swallow inking was super speedy, yet beautifully executed.

Anchor

A year later I promised myself that I was just going to look at the artwork at the same convention but after seeing Adam Cornish’s flash I couldn’t resist and got the rose on my shoulder.

The most recent piece was done by Harry Harvey at Vagabond in East London, the arrow was my idea but Harry took it to the next level and I was so pleased with the final design.

Bird Tattoo

Do you have any future tattoo plans? I definitely want many more tattoos, I know that I want to continue with a few more traditional pieces on my right arm but I also want to start on some more detailed blackwork on my left leg. I would have more right now but unfortunately money is in the way of my grand plans.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Yes, I would say so. I love having a range of art by different people on my body.

What reactions do your tattoos get?  I have had a mixture of positive and negative reactions to my tattoos. I think mainly people are just inquisitive so I really don’t mind answering their questions, even though they often get repetitive. The one which I get asked all the time that does get on my nerves is “What does your boyfriend  [who has no tattoos] think?”. It kind of implies that my body is not mine to do what I want with and also that tattoos make me unattractive. It is never meant with malice but usually has an undertone of disapproval. People’s reactions don’t really bother me as I love my tattoos, and that’s all that really matters.