Ahead of Sunday’s BUST Craftacular in London’s East End, our editor Alice Snape interviews three vendors about their creations, why they love crafting and the ink they wear on their skin. With over 70 independent designer-makers featuring at ‘London’s coolest craft fair’ (Time Out) we knew there had to be some awesome tattooed folk in there too.
Sarah Corbett, 32, Founding Director, Craftivist Collective, London based, works worldwide.
“All of my tattoos help me on my journey to be the best version of myself. They are a mix of craft related tattoos, nature and music. I have scissors to remind me to help shape the future, thread to encourage me to thread my values through all that I do and jigsaw pieces to remind me to see where I can be part of a positive world and where it’s best to prioritise my time and energy. I also have Bjork ducks because she is such an inspiring innovator, quotes like ‘tough mind tender heart’ which is a Martin Luther King quote and reminds me to always be kind to people but always work as strategically as possible too and never get complacent. They might look fun to viewers but they all have big meanings for me and some of those meanings I keep secret.
“There are so many links between crafts and tattoos! Handicrafts are naturally a slow process and so is tattooing because you need to work carefully and often with courage. The physical results of both are permanent so people really take ownership of their tattoos or completed craft object because so much love and care has gone into them. They are both often very personal for the creators and intimate things to do.”
“I call myself a “craftivist”, which is someone who uses craft (mostly handicrafts) as a tool to deliver activism. Protesting against systems and structures of injustice using objects to help do in different ways from encouraging us to be the change we wish to see in the world, giving gifts to power holders to become critical friends rather than aggressive enemies and work together to leave small pieces of provocative street art to provoke passersby on particular injustice issues.
“I started creating my own craftivism projects with my ‘gentle protest’ approach in 2008. Within a few months people asked to join me in my projects and the Collective was born as a small group of people in the British Library cafe meeting up monthly in London. Now groups and individuals around the world take part in our projects and use our DIY kits and tools. I will be at BUST Craftacular with some of our lovely craftivists from the collective in our ‘Craftivism corner’ where you can join us anytime 11am-5pm to rest and take part in some slow, gentle, positive activism alone or with friends. Every single one of us has gifts and talents we can use to be the change we wish to see in the world and our activity area hopes to help remind us of that. We will also have our own stall with other craftivism projects and tools people can buy and be inspired and empowered by.”
Check out how you can become a Craftivist at their BUST Craftacular workshops here craftivist-collective.com
Lucian, 29, Cambridge, artist, Vapvla leatherworker and Real Wizard
“All my tattoos are artwork that I’ve drawn up myself specifically for my body and its shape. I endeavour to portray, through my tattoos, inner workings of my mind, creative process and spirituality that would otherwise be invisible. These days, I am sufficiently covered that I think I could explain my religion just by rotating, naked and silent, before an audience – but I’m not finished yet! I had my first tattoo – my favourite David Bowie lyric – when I was 22. I wanted it to encompass as much of my hidden self as possible just in case I hated the process and wouldn’t want another. It turned out to be completely fine. People have said that I must be addicted – but when I receive a tattoo, the whole process – from idea genesis, to body painting, to drawing up, to needle, to clingfilm, to healing – leaves me with such an immediate positive effect upon my self esteem that I see no real reason to stop!
“I will be at BUST Craftacular with my exciting “new” endeavour – my leather company VAPVLA, which I founded last year. I love harnesses and leather, but always found the world of harnessry disappointing in that it assumes that, if you want to wear a harness, you must be either a cis woman who wants to appear vulnerable or a cis man who wants to appear powerful. Drawing lines across the body with a hard, restrictive (but supple) material like leather (or our vegan-friendly heavy vinyl) is inherently a neutral action. Bodies are wildly variable, much like gender and power presentation. I didn’t want to be prescriptive. I like to think our harnesses will do anything, or nothing, for anyone. The name, VAPVLA, is a stylisation of the name of a Goetic demon that I came across in 2014 when I produced an illustrated edition of the Ars Goetia – a demonology grimoire from the 17th century.
“My future plans are to render my body both more explanatory of my inner self and more baffling through tattooing and surgery, and to be number one in What Wizard! magazine, should such a thing exist.”
Ella Masters, 28, Freelance illustrator
“My first tattoo was of a swallow and stars with music notes on my left wrist, I’ve also got a siren’s head on my thigh that I got at Brighton Tattoo Convention on a whim a few years ago. I have a large skull and kewpie on the back of my right arm done by Hugh Sheldon – I love his work. I recently got two that mean the world to me. I had a sentence tattooed near my heart on my side, it’s for my mum, we lost her suddenly and it’s been devastating, but we had a strong bond. I have “always be by your side” and, just last week, I got the Joy Division lyrics “love will tear us apart” in a heart. It’s by Luke Jinks, he took my illustration and did his own twist on it, which I’m in love with. I have eight hand poked tattoos on my ankles, which I did myself, and seven others dotted around my body, they all mean a little something, a moment I want to remember. I feel more me the more tattoos I get.
“I find inspiration in most places, and I love nature. I trained as a fine artist so I carry my sketchbook wherever I go. I will be doing live portraits of customers at BUST Craftacular! And I can’t wait to draw you all, so come see me!
“As far as the future goes, I’m hoping to just keep creating art, I’m currently writing and illustrating my own book about life, dating, tattoos and loss – a real mix of things. I’m working with some great companies at the moment illustrating for them and just creating great commissions for people. My blog is doing really well and collaborating with some big brands has given me a real boost, so hopefully just going with whatever feels right.”
Visit ellamasters.co.uk and for a chance to be drawn by Ella, tattoos and all, visit her stall on Sunday at BUST Craftacular