Category: News

Grace Neutral chats Needles and Pins

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of VICELAND

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Viceland

Photo courtesy of VICELAND

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

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

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

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

Grace Neutral

Photo courtesy of VICELAND

Jak Nola

By combining sacred geometry, erotica, and ethereal psychedelic visions, artist Jak Nola reveals a world as unique and capturing as her own appearance portrays. Swathed in layers of tattoo, her tongue bifurcation, tattooed eyes, and scarification render her own body an art work in progress.

While visiting Australia, she catches up with Fareed to talk about her art, tattoos, and how to go about attaining a free mind.

*this article contains a graphic image of a tongue bifurcation.

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Hey, Jak. So, tell us about your life in New Zealand.

I was born in Napier, but I’ve lived all over the south and north island.  Out of all the countries I’ve travelled to, New Zealand is by far the most beautiful; the lands here are powerful.

I’m a vegan that’s been creating art since I can remember. I have played guitar for about 16 years, so music is a huge part of my life. I only play for enjoyment though. I love building things, such as tables out of drift wood, anything out of old instruments, usually guitars. And I’ve also found a passion for creating jewellery.

So, my life is generally me doing all the above while traveling. I can never keep still, I love exploring new environments as much as I can, because I’ve found that new information stimulates my creative ideas profoundly.

What is the motivation behind your body modifications?

The motivation behind my body modifications… the human body in my eyes, in a sense, is a walking canvas, so I’d feel a fool to live this life without expressing my own in a way I find visually appealing.

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Because of your striking tattoos you’re subject to a lot of positive and negative appraisal through social media. What is that like?

It appears people who tend to write negative comments, are either just bored, dealing with their own issues, or heavily indoctrinated…it’s easy to attack people behind a screen, but most wouldn’t do it in person… so I don’t take any of it personally. As for the positive comments, I appreciate them immensely and take them gladly to heart.

Okay, so, let’s break this down, can we can safely say you’re currently in a third permutation of a body suit?

Yup roughly third one, some areas less, some more. I started with traditional Celtic/tribal, all except one a design of my own, all terrible though! But that’s all part of it, I learnt, as with everything. Then eventually I gained a body suit and modifications rather fast, still not how I wanted to express myself. So now I’m in the process of covering everything, with a full body concept of blacks, whites and scars. A process that will take a lot of time and endurance but it’s a true vision of my body, for myself.

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One thing that will stay will be my full back piece, from the top of my neck down to my ankle it says “Maybe Logic”, which is from my most influential author, Robert Anton Wilson. His words have inspired this idea of reality being perceived more in an ambiguous sense, which for me is far more fun and confusing. I think to be subjected to one ideal obviously limits the mind’s exploration of its experiences.

In saying that, I do enjoy the idea of there being a “truth” to this whole experience, but I’d imagine it to be something we couldn’t conjure up with the instrument we have for processing (human brain). Maybe. Plus, being stuck in a linguistic construct doesn’t help that exploration anyway. Many writings as such, along with psychedelics, have heavily influenced my creations.

In what way?

Pure psychedelics have widened my perceptions, given new ideas, understandings and depths to my creative expressions. I take them with respect, they are not something I would abuse. Through psychedelics I learn, love, laugh and just enjoy life as I usually do but in new ways.

And while we’re on that topic, you create art on many mediums, such as painting, jewellery and tattoos, could you tell me about each?

I’ve drawn since I was very young, along with playing music. I’m self-taught in almost everything I do. My art has transformed immensely over the years due to life experiences and psychedelics. Generally, it’s a combination of geometry and sacred symbols, or sex… as I have a passionate love/hate for it. I’m aware of the immense positive and negative aspects to it.

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I started teaching myself tattooing around the age of 15, but over the years I have learnt different techniques with different artists around the world which I am grateful for. Most of my art is done on a thick paper because its best for me to travel with. I’ve been trying to do art on a canvas over the last few years but it’s much more difficult for me, it’s always worth it once I’ve finished though.

I’ve been making jewellery for a few years now, usually when I’m traveling I’ll find precious gems or pendants and make something with them. It’s very therapeutic.

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With my tattoos, I like to somewhat connect with the person, and I only do tattoos that I enjoy doing. In my mind, it’s an art form, not work. I love doing mandalas and geometric designs with dots. Although I’m always keen to learn new ways of tattooing, so I have no idea where that path will take me

 

Written on one of your paintings is ‘At the peak of every orgasm is a truly free mind.’ Could you elaborate on this?

I’ve written this in a lot of my art, it’s one of the truest statements in my mind. When you reach the peak of an orgasm, there’s no stress, no frantic thoughts, no worries, it’s just you and that peak of bliss. A free mind from all of life’s daily, cluttered thoughts.

instagram : jak_nola

facebook : facebook.com/jak.art.nz

online store : www.etsy.com/shop.jaknola

 

A Things&Ink wedding, our editor @morewhitequeen married her prince

Friday 14 October 2016, our editor Alice Snape got married to her love James. It was a day filled with love and fun, from getting ready with the bridesmaids and the beautiful ceremony in the Council Chamber at Islington Town Hall to the party at Wunderlust in Deptford and drunken dancing. Beautiful memories were made and captured in these stunning photos by Eclection Photography and Lisa Jane Photography.

 

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Garter compulsory

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Makeup by Keely Reichardt

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Alice through the looking glass, a present from mother of the bride

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Hair by Lou Culley, slavehair.com

Getting ready photos all by Eclection Photography

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Bridesmaids and bride, by Eclection Photography

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James and Alice, the bride and groom say “I Do” Islington Town Hall

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The perfect confetti moment outside Islington Town Hall

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The bus from Islington Town Hall to Deptford South East London

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Capturing moments on the bus Lisa Jane Photography

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Say something funny bridesmaids! 

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Take a moment with your sister…

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The newlyweds 

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Let the party commence #stittlewedding

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Location: Wunderlust at the Big Red

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Guests!

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aj-eclectionphoto733The bride with tattoo artist Emily Johnston

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The happy ending, the most perfect end to a perfect day. The bride and her groom. Love.

Megan Massacre Colouring Book

We chat to the infamous Megan Massacre, 30, tattoo artist and co-founder @GritNGlory, about her new colouring book, reality TV and her tattoo style

Megan, we love your work! How would you describe your style?
Thanks! My tattooing style is mostly known for my very bright, colourful palettes and I usually mix a few tattooing styles together such as realism, traditional, neo-traditional and new school.

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Tattoo by MeganWe loved you in America’s Worst Tattoos and NY Ink… Did you enjoy doing reality TV, what were the highlights?
Yes very much! The highlight for me was getting to share my work with such a large audience of people.

If you could tattoo anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Probably Gwen Stefani, I’ve loved her since I was a kid listening to No Doubt!

What made you decide to venture into colouring books?
I’ve always wanted to make a book of my tattoo drawings, tattoo flash is what we call it in the industry. When I realised it could double as a colouring book I thought it was such a cool, fun idea that even more people could enjoy.

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What do you hope people will get from it?
I like to think of it as a book for both tattoo artists and fans, as well as colouring fanatics. I hope that tattoo artists and fans find the book useful for tattoo ideas and flash, as well as fun and therapeutic for colouring as well.

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It is aimed at adults and children?
Yes I think it’s great for both!

Do you think colouring books are important for wellbeing?
I think colouring is a great way to relieve stress and relax your mind while also working in a creative outlet and creating something awesome you can feel proud of.

Is it important for you to be involved in lots of different creative projects?
For me personally yes. I always have a few different projects going on, I like to stay overly busy. I also like to be involved in as many different creative industries as possible, it allows me to keep learning through art.

What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to make more colouring and art books for fans to enjoy, and to continually keep breaking into new, creative industries.

When will you next be in the UK?
I don’t have any plans at the moment but I try to go once a year, I’ll definitely be posting on my social media when I’ll be heading there next!

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You can order a copy of Marked in Ink, the colouring book by Megan Massacre from Book Depository

“My own mark” – mastectomy tattoos

Diane de Jesús, 35, London, is owner of Piece O Cake Nutrition, a nutrition communications consulting and advisor for Personal Ink (P.ink) – an organisation to connect breast cancer survivors with tattoos artists. In this interview, Diane shares her own experience of breast cancer and how getting a tattoo made her feel about her mastectomy. 

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Photo of Diane by Lydia Perez DeJesus @momdetresshoots

Can you tell us about your  cancer diagnosis and treatment. At 29 years old, I was diagnosed with DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ, which is the earliest stage of breast cancer. I was told that while my life was not in immediate danger, the cancerous cells would have to be removed. Thus far, the medical community is unable to determine which DCIS cells will become invasive cancer and when. This combined with my very young age meant that we couldn’t just take a “watch and wait” approach. Also, my disease was so extensive, filling nearly my entire left breast. This meant I would have to have a mastectomy to remove the entire breast.

How did you feel about your body after the mastectomyI was thrilled to have such a good prognosis and to have such great doctors who provided me with excellent mastectomy and (silicone implant) reconstruction results. After recovery, I was grateful to very quickly dive back into my normal life: working by day, going to school at night (working toward my registered dietitian certification) and exercising regularly. I thought I was adjusting just fine. It wasn’t actually until after I got my tattoo that I realised how much I had been through emotionally and how I had been avoiding looking at my chest in the mirror. I had always done everything in my power to care for my health and my body had always reflected that. Suddenly, my body had betrayed me.

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By Roxx, owner of 2 Spirit Tattoo, San Francisco, California

Did you consider other options before deciding to get tattooed? No. I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo very early on, possibly even before having my mastectomy. While I researched what to expect from my surgeries and recovery, I came across stories and photos of women who were post-mastectomy and had chosen to cover their scars with tattoos. I wasn’t so much drawn to the idea of covering my own scar but of finding some way to encapsulate and honour all that my husband and I had been through and also to put my own mark, of my own choosing, on my body.

What made you decide to get that tattoo design? In some mastectomy cases, the nipple can be preserved but in most, the nipple and areola are removed with the rest of the breast tissue. This was the case for me. While I was discussing reconstruction options with my plastic surgeon, I was offered the option of nipple reconstruction many times. The idea of having a fake nipple constructed from the skin on my chest—a nipple that would never feel anything, respond to touch or temperature, or release breastmilk—just never resonated with me. Neither did the idea of having the image of a nipple and areola (even a fancy 3D one) tattooed onto my chest. What did resonate with me was something that Geralyn Lucas did, and wrote about, in her memoir of her experience with breast cancer. Geralyn also had a mastectomy with implant reconstruction but no nipple reconstruction. Instead, Geralyn had a tattoo placed on her chest, near her scar. As soon as I read about this, I knew it was what I needed to do and as I came across images of other women who’d done the same, I was motivated to find a way to make it happen. Of course, since I’d never been tattooed before, I didn’t know the first thing about selecting an artist, studio or design. I also didn’t realise the cost of tattoos.

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Photo by Gigi Stoll, Gigi Stoll Photography, New York

Did it transform what you thought about your body? Getting my mastectomy tattoo helped me to close the door on that chapter and finally move on. I was tattooed in October of 2013, three years to the day since I was told that cancerous cells had been found in my breast. After getting the tattoo, I could look in the mirror without averting my eyes from the sight of my chest. I found myself feeling more confident. I was myself again.

How do you feel about it now? I continue to be so grateful for my tattoo and for the woman who tattooed me: Roxx, owner of 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco, California. I also love that this tattoo continues to provide me with the opportunity to discuss breast cancer and reconstruction options with other breast cancer survivors and their support networks.

What advice would you give to other women who have breast cancer? Every single breast cancer experience is unique. It is overwhelming to receive a cancer diagnosis of any kind but I think that every person diagnosed can benefit from finding a way to listen to her (or his) body and making the decisions that are best for her/him. Also, it is unfortunate, but at some point you may find you really must be your own advocate. You will work with so many different individuals and sectors of the healthcare community who may have the best intentions of providing you with the best advice but this advice may not always be the advice that is best for you. This is easier done with a good support system. Having a spouse, family member or friend to come along to appointments or help with research, paperwork, phone calls, etc. is invaluable.

Can you give us some background about P.ink day… what it is and how others can get involved. P.ink (Personal Ink) is an organisation dedicated to educating breast cancer survivors about mastectomy tattoos as an alternative healing option, and connecting survivors with experienced tattoo artists who can help. One way we do this is through P.ink Day, an annual all-volunteer effort to connect tattoo artists and survivors for a day of healing with tattoos. What started with just 10 artists and 10 survivors at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, New York, for our first P.ink Day in 2013 has grown into a true grassroots movement, with 46 artists, 48 survivors and hundreds of volunteers across 13 locations in North America, as of October 2015. In total, we’ve facilitated nearly 100 incredible mastectomy tattoos via P.ink Day. P.ink Day occurs every 10 October and 2016 will be P.ink Day’s fourth year.

To learn more, visit the Personal Ink website at p-ink.org

Tattooist Paul Hill on Sailor Jerry’s Ride

Motorbike collector, tattoo artist and owner of Vagabond Tattoo Studio Paul Hill recently joined the team at iconic American brand, Sailor Jerry for The Ride 2016, which pulled together the UK’s most legendary motorcyclists into three  motorcycling teams –Kingdom of Kicks, The Originals and FTH – for an epic ride around the UK. We wanted to find out more about Paul’s love for motorbikes and tattoos…

Watch The Ride videos on Sailor Jerry’s YouTube channel

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Do you think motorbikes and tattoos go hand in hand?
Historically certain aspects of bike culture and tattooing have been intertwined. As cliche as it sounds I think that still exists. The kind of person that is into customising bikes is likely to be into customising other things, including their body. Bike styles of the 60s and 70s bring with them an interest in the aesthetics of that era and those bold traditional tattoos are a big part of that.

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What made you first fall in love with motorbikes? And also with tattoos?
I’ve always been into customising and putting my own stamp on things, bikes are a good way to channel that energy and tattooing is the ultimate expression of that.

What was your involvement in The Ride? What was it like?
I’ve met a lot of new people and created friendships through tattooing and even more through motorcycling, often both. The community surrounding motorcycles is constantly growing, a lot of the friends I’ve met are in a similar position to me. Young(ish) person usually within the creative industry all supporting each other. For me it has a community feel that allows us all to work and creatively do exactly what we want. My friend James (team Kingdom of Kicks) is one of these people. We met through the bike scene and I tattoo a mutual friend. He got in touch saying Sailor Jerry were planning a ride this year and offered me spot – a bunch of us riding around the UK camping and partying courtesy of Sailor Jerry, hard to turn down!

image © Sandy Carson Photography and Sailor Jerry 2016. Not to

What was your favourite moment from The Ride?
SCphoto_KoK_riding_shots_final_edit-20The ride itself was awesome, there are so many beautiful roads right on our doorstep bikes being the best way to take advantage of them. Riding through North Wales and the Brecon Beacons is hard to beat. My favourite moment by far was making a BBQ using a piece of slate over a bonfire. We had just finished a great day’s riding through some of the best roads we’d ever ridden and all sat around the fire until the early hours eating and drinking. Moshing in a hay bale bunker to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes was up there too!

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What do you like to mix your Sailor Jerry with?
I mix my Sailor Jerry with Ginger beer.

We asked Sailor Jerry to sum up The Ride in a sentence: This summer Sailor Jerry hit the road once again for round two of The Ride, this year three bad-ass, bike building teams from across the UK were tasked with a series of epic challenges and compete against each other on a hell raising journey of balls-to-wall riding.

Paul was in team Kingdom of Kicks, but unfortunately it was The Originals who took the crown. Better luck next year, Paul. Sounds like he had a great time anyway. Check out Sailor Jerry’s Ride competition on their website.

Judi Dench gets inked, at 81

Once, as a joke, Judi Dench had a fake tattoo of Harvey Weinstein’s name applied to her bum. Dench unveiled the faux ink at the Four Seasons over lunch with Weinstein and Charlie Rose. But now, at the age of 81, Dench has gone ahead and got a tattoo for real.

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She got the words “carpe diem” inscribed on her wrist as a gift from her daughter, Finty Williams. In an interview with Surrey Life, Dench explained the ink: “That’s my motto: seize the day. Finty gave it to me for my 81st birthday — she’s wonderful with surprises.”

Dench had previously told Good Housekeeping that she was toying with the idea of getting an actual tattoo, but had one hesitation.

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“There’s an Indian symbol that I like which supposedly represents life and love and everything,” Dench said, explaining what she would have inked onto her arm. “One of the cameramen who worked on The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel told me what it meant, but I’m a bit nervous in case I’m being set up. It might be unbelievably rude.”

Dench has been working her way up to the tattoo, between the Weinstein prank and a bejewelled design that she wore to the 2012 premiere of Skyfall. Having played the beloved character “M” since 1995, Dench pledged her allegiance to James Bond by arriving on the red carpet with jewels spelling out “007” on her neck.

_90167894_judidench_pa The tattoo can be seen on Dame Judi’s wrist as she greeted the Earl of Wessex at the Prince’s Trust gala at Stoke House in Buckinghamshire

Is it time to say goodbye? The Final Editor’s Letter

 

Wandering around the Vogue exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery, I think of the magazines that have inspired me over the years – and still continue to do so. I have always collected magazines, devoured every page, every inspirational photo shoot and article. From More and Sugar magazine when I was a teenager, to Dazed and Frankie when I was at university, I loved them all! I never dreamt that one day I would launch my own magazine… But I did.

I launched Things&Ink more than three years ago to become a part of that inspirational world that had spoken to me so much while I was growing up. I wanted to provide a source of tattoo inspiration for women and men just like me – who adore tattoos and wanted to see them presented to them in an arts and lifestyle publication.

From the first ever cover with the tattoo artist who inspired me to want to become heavily tattooed to our latest cover for The Horror Issue, the magazine has progressed and grown immensely over the years… and I really hope we have inspired readers, young and old.

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Alice Snape with Claudia de Sabe

As we prepare for our latest exhibition called The Archive, which sees artists who have featured on our pages over the years turn our back catalogue into works of art in their own right, I realise that it’s time to say goodbye to Things&Ink as a print magazine. Our latest exhibition was created to celebrate everything we have achieved over the years since we have been in publication. And I truly believe that we have made an impact on the tattoo world and beyond by representing tattoos in a interesting and thought-provoking way.

Editor Alice Snape with the now sold-out Horror Issue Editor Alice Snape with the now sold-out Horror Issue

However, as much as it pains me to say it, print is dying. Which is heartbreaking for me, I always loved the feel of a new book or magazine! Even the smell, opening the cover and wondering what you will discover… But the magazine world is changing, and without financial support, independently run magazines just cannot survive. As much as I have loved creating every single issue of Things&Ink, I just cannot take the financial burden anymore. Although the magazine looks like it is thriving, it is actually really struggling. I work as a freelance magazine editor and writer, and almost every penny I have earned over the years has been ploughed back into the magazine.

Is it time to say goodbye?

But not to dwell… Things change, evolve, and move into something unexpected. Things&Ink has become a very recognised brand, and although we will no longer exist in print, we will exist online in the form of this blog, and our social media accounts. We will also still organise events and exhibitions and be a hub for people who are passionate about art and tattoos.

I would also like to take this time to thank everyone who has contributed to the magazine over the three years that it has been running. Especially my right-hand women Rosie and Keely, without them I would have probably had a nervous breakdown a long time ago. And also my sister/stylist Olivia and my digital genius friend Pares, who helped me right back when the magazine was purely a figment of my imagination. They have put up with my tears and dramas, and dedicated hours, days, weeks to Things&Ink. All unpaid, all voluntary, just for the love of it. And that goes for every single person who has done something, no matter how big or small, for the magazine. That includes photographers, stylists, designers, writers… So many people.

"I loved watching the magazine come off the presses... such a magical moment every time" “I loved watching the magazine come off the presses… such a magical moment every time”

 

Running a tattoo magazine means that we have had a rare glimpse into the tattoo world, tattoo artists have opened up to us and given us a unique take on what could have been a very closed world. We have met some of the most incredible artists along the way, and hope we continue to do so… I also hope that as many of our readers, contributors, artists, friends and supporters will join us at our exhibition The Archive, opening on Thursday 31 March at the Circle in London… and don’t be sad, come celebrate!

Team T&I at London Tattoo Convention over two years ago... Team T&I at London Tattoo Convention over two years ago…

 

Thanks so much for reading this, what is my final – and most difficult to write – editor’s letter… it has been a pleasure compiling every issue for you, and I hope I can continue to inspire by curating content for this blog and also artwork for future exhibitions… there’s lots of cool projects brewing.

Much love, your editor,

Alice 

PS you can grab a back issue and a little piece of tattoo history for £1 from Newsstand

A tattoo artist’s response to the Tattoo Fixers debate…

Everyone has been talking about it… you know, those designs that “tattoo fixer” Sketch has traced and passed off as his own on the Channel 4 programme Tattoo Fixers… so we got tattoo artist Antony Flemming to give his opinion on Sketch and the Tattoo Fixers… #fucktattoofixers

Print for sale for £10

Print by Antony Flemming, for sale for £10, check Instagram for info.

 

“Now, I have to be extremely careful writing this, as Channel 4’s legal team are a tad better than mine, or anyone else in this industry for that matter. So what I am about to say is factual and backed up with evidence. I will not speculate or stray from the truth.

“Firstly I want to talk about tattoo shows in general. Normally, tattoo shows in the UK come and go – and whether we like them or not, they don’t really affect the industry. The artists on the shows are normally at an OK to good standard and the tattoos shown are of a passable quality and generally up to an average standard. With the exception of a few, who are talented, such as the guys on London Ink.

“But… Tattoo Fixers is an absolute abysmal representation of the UK t7attoo scene and I shudder to think that the public thinks these guys (as stated on the show) are “three of the best artists in the UK”. Quite simply, in my opinion they are not. Now of course, art is subjective and there will always be people who think they are, but I honestly think if you asked the guys on the show, they would agree they are not the three best artists in the UK. And if they actually believe their own hype, then really that says it all.

Ohh shit

 

“The reason I am so concerned about this show is because they are deceiving the public, innocent people that actually don’t know any better. A TV company comes to them and says: ‘Hey, do you want a free tattoo by one of the best artists in the country.’ I mean damn! Of course they are going to say yes – if they are uneducated about the tattoo industry. But as  I’m sure you’ve seen from the customers that have been publicly upset about their experience and finished tattoo, this has not been the case.

“I have been upset with certain elements in the tattoo industry before, but I have never spoken out about anything, because to be honest, who cares what I think? But Tattoo Fixers is something different, it’s exploiting people. And it’s damaging our industry to a point where people assume that the guys on that show are at the very top of UK tattooing, and it’s simply not the truth.

“I think for me, as an artist, the main thing that I have an issue with is ‘Sketch.’
Again, as I’m sure you have all seen, he has been stealing artists’ designs. Line for line tracing. I don’t mean just stealing ideas, because of course, every idea has been done and not many ideas are truly original. I’m talking about tracing a one-off custom tattoo drawn  for a customer.

“I get it, when you are just starting out, everyone copies their favourite artist to an extent. I mean we are all still inspired by people, whether it be in the tattoo industry or not.  But you very quickly learn to find your own path and everyone cringes when you think of a few tattoos or drawings you did that was a little too close to the guy or girl you wanted to be.

“But Sketch… He doesn’t cringe, he doesn’t seem fazed by the fact he is ripping off people’s original designs. He just shrugs his shoulders and seems to think its ok. After posting the comparison between my tattoo and his rip off, he messaged me.

Tattoo on right by Antony Flemming and left copied by Sketch Tattoo on right by Antony Flemming and left copied by Sketch

 

“At first it seemed like a genuine apology, and I was taken by surprise, as all I’ve seen online is him saying things along the lines of: ‘I don’t have time to draw my own designs’ and ‘I have a family to feed and a life to lead.’ But after the initial apology, he went on to justify why he had stolen my design. He said that the customer had come in with the design and he couldn’t just turn him down, and send the guy to World of Tattoos where I work, because he has a family to feed.

[12874079_1169929703064435_1641715177_oedit: since this article was first published, it has come to light that this neck tattoo is on Sketch’s old apprenctice, making his reason a lie]

“No fair enough, you don’t have to send the guy to another shop. But you can, however, redraw the design so it is an original. I think Sketch seems to think I work in a private studio and I don’t understand the average walk-in customer. What he doesn’t realise is World of Tattoos is essentially a highstreet walk-in shop, as many of my customers will vouch for.  Our team and I deal with these customers everyday. Someone will walk in with a print out of a tattoo they want, and generally this is how the conversation goes: ‘Ok cool! That’s a great idea. We will redraw that for you, so you have an original design and book you in.’ Now I know for a fact that 99 out of a 100 people won’t even bat an eyelid, and that one other person isn’t worth jeopardising your career over. It certainly isn’t worth the backlash this has caused. So to be honest, that excuse does not wash with me.

“But if that was his excuse, then surely posting tattoos with the caption: ‘custom design’ attached would suggest the customer didn’t bring in that design at all and he is actually deceiving his customer. An Emily Rose Murray piece, which has been copied by Sketch, even won an award at a convention! Sketch went on to say that he credited Emily, but when called out on it, he lied about not having a Facebook page and the post being a fake, well actually until the post got deleted, it came from his shop’s business page on Facebook…
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“After Sketch’s ‘apology’, I gave him some advice… I told him the best thing to do, is concentrate on his tattooing rather than being a ‘celebrity’, stop going to clubs and making ‘special guest appearances’. Sit down and draw, better yourself. Come out of this with a bit of respect. If people see you are actually trying, you may rid this stigma. I also told him to publicly apologise to all the people he has stolen from. If he did that, what can we say? Other than, fair play. Well done, you’ve openly admitted you messed up and you want to do better. He can only gain some respect from the tattoo industry.

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“But guess what…? He asked me to keep the apology between us and didn’t say a thing about it publicly, then made his account private. If he had done these things, I would have left the issue and deleted my post. Alas all I saw publicly about it was Sketch almost laughing in my face, telling people on Twitter, he doesn’t know why he is getting hate about it as 90% of artists do it. And he said it was two years ago? That’s a lie. Remember Instagram lets you know when you’ve posted something, and it was less than a year ago, as were all those other rip-offs…”

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“And I think that’s it. I think that’s why people are so annoyed and disgruntled. Everyone has had their designs stolen by different people, everyone knows it, but for the most part when people are called out on it, they know they are in the wrong and admit it. But Sketch hasn’t done that, he just comes up with excuse after excuse and isn’t doing a damn thing about it. It is also infuriating to see Channel 4’s legal team and spokespeople silencing any whistle blowers (I expect a cease and desist order in my emails any moment now). Instead of confronting the real issue, I also saw a spokesperson from Channel 4 saying they had licensed the designs from artists to be used. Perhaps they did for some, but I know for a fact they didn’t ask Brian Thomas Wilson (@the_noble_mountain) or Mitch Allenden (@sneakymitch) I also found a rip off of a Crispy lennox piece this morning that won another award…

“I also wanted to briefly mention the fact Sketch is so open about buying his first machines on eBay and starting to tattoo from home. I think it sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to impressionable youngsters that perhaps want to become tattooists.  I feel that kids who don’t know any better will pick up a cheap machine and think it’s OK to tattoo from home, risking the possible spread of infections such as Hepatitis. Not to mention scarring people for life.

“It’s simply becoming a joke. I’m not sure what the answer is. Writing this is a good way to vent but realistically unless it goes viral to the masses, I’m simply preaching to the choir. I feel that the industry needs a voice in the public, something people can actually see, and something that can show the average Joe that actually tattooing can be incredible. Something that shows the real side of tattooing, the working 12 hours a day to come home and draw until 2am in the morning, the not going out with your friends for most of the year because, ‘ah sorry mate, I’ve got to do a drawing,’ the relationships we’ve lost because we have locked ourselves away in our drawing rooms. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a woe is me sort of thing, I know we have the best job in the world, but when a TV show portrays it in a way where it looks like we are rock ‘n’ roll stars not having to do any work, it bugs me, and especially when the little work they do, is actually a rip off of all the hard work real artist do, then that is a line well and truly crossed.

“I could go into many other things about the show and my opinion regarding health and safety and other issues that are cropping up every day but (editor) Alice has told me to keep this at around 700 words and I’m pretty sure I’m already well over that!”

What do you think? Have you been watching the show?

River Zain Ceballos: The Rebel With A Cause

23-year-old River Zain Ceballos is an actor, print model, TV personality, activist and tattoo enthusiast from Fresno California, who currently works at Hot Topic. We chatted to River about what drives him and what he fights for…

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I’ve been acting for about 10 years now. But despite what a lot of people think, I can be quite shy. I have my moments. I have acted in everything from movies, major music videos to independent films and everything in between. The first major role I ever auditioned for was Freddie Benson on Nickelodeon’s Icarly. I’ve done a movie called Family Of a Four which is a film that appears on Lifetime here in the U.S as well as films titled Jimmy Hansens Heaven and I recently wrapped production of a sci-fi horror film called Life Of The Flesh.

As for music videos I’ve done a handful of high profile music videos including the band Yellowcard, Artist Jeffree Star, and most recently Disney Channel star Sofia Carson’s music video for her song “Goosebumps”. I haven’t done a ton of modeling compared to my acting career but I love it. Growing up I was really heavy and a little awkward at times so becoming a model of any sort had never once crossed my mind. But I have modeled for Hot Topic, Craze Watches which is an organization who’s funds support cancer foundations and research. It’s founded by my friend Jay G from MTV’s “The Real World”.
It is very hard to pick which one I like the most.  But I’d probably say acting because it was my first love and I find it to be very therapeutic. I fun to leave your world and your worries behind and step into another persons shoes for awhile.

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There are so many people I look up to in this industry, but currently, I’d love to work with actor and musician Jared Leto. I’ve had that pleasure of seeing him in person and his energy is contagious. I’d loved to have worked with Heath Ledger, James Dean, River Phoenix. The talent they had was immeasurable. I have a fascination with old Hollywood. I’m a very old soul and feel that’s where I would’ve fit in most.

The wheels in my head are always turning and I always have something going for me. I’ve done some reality TV as well. I have friends on MTV’s “The Real World” and keep in contact with them, attend all the after shows and reunions. Friends from “Bad Girls Club” on Oxygen and last year I had a cameo in the farewell special of professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek’s show “Fantasy Factory” on MTV. I also have a couple of personal appearances coming up. I have the annual NEDA walk in April in L.A! That’s a part of my activist work and I’m really excited to go out and support and meet people.

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In terms of activism, I speak and I write, make public appearances. I’m extremely passionate about it. I support organizations such as The Jed Foundation, NEDA, Love is Louder, My Life My Power, NAMED, Proud2BMe.
I’d like to think I stand for young men and men’s empowerment. I don’t believe we have enough of that in today’s society. Everyone has this illusion that men have to be macho, a alpha male who has to seem strong and bullet proof. I personally have struggled with an eating disorder, body image issues and self harm. A lot of these things are looked at as “girl issues” or “female problems” but men feel the same amount of pressure as everyone else. We aren’t exempt to pressure or negativity.

Growing up, I had no one to look up to when I was battling all of this which contributed to my self harm. I felt like I was the only boy dealing with these issues. I try to be a voice for the voiceless, raise awareness, break these stereotypes and stigmas. It hasn’t been easy but I believe society is starting to realize what I’m talking about. I like living life on the edge and I kinda play by my own rules. I’ve always been looked at as the rebel with a cause. I believe everyone has a voice, use it. Speak up even if your voice shakes. You never know who’s listening or who needed to hear exactly what your preaching.

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I love getting tattooed.  My skin is like my journal. Every piece on my body represents something personal whether it’s a person, a phase I went through, a trial I overcame, an idol of mine, mantras and mottos I live by, lyrics from my favorite songs and quotes from my favorite authors. I’m lucky to have worked with good artists in the past and my current one, Christian, is one of the best young artists in Fresno. As an artist I like to surround myself with people who are equally creative and there are no artists like tattoo artists, I mean they literally bring pictures, people’s idea’s and visions to life.

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My Family, faith and my supporters all equally done so much for me and been so supportive that I feel like I owe them. I have so much I want to do in my life, so many dreams and ambitions and I have no intention of stopping until I get there. My parents are amazing, they’ve believed in me from the beginning. I grew up the black sheep, I wasn’t the best looking kid and I grew up being extremely hard on myself. Letting go of all of that, being confident in my skin and liking who I am today has gotten me here.

Also, I owe a lot to my brother Adrian. He passed away three years ago. In addition to being my older brother, he was one of my best friends. Every time I’d go out of town for a gig, he’d be the first to call to see how everything went. He cared. He was very supportive of my work and he made me feel like the dream I was chasing mattered. We always looked at tattoo magazines as kids and always said “look how cool these tattoos are! One day we’ll be in a tattoo magazine to show off all the cool work we’re going to get done when we’re older”. My motivation is him. I love you brother.

I like to say that I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time. Life is short and the goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will!

River would like to dedicate this post to his brother who passed away Adrian “Boy” Ceballos

Tattoo Artist Credit: Christian De Anda from Black Inc in Fresno, Ca

Photographer Credit: Virginia Maciel