We spotted the work of 21-year-old apprentice Jay Rose on Instagram and instantly loved her dark dotwork and floral tattoos. We chatted to Little Jay to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Dot Tattoo Studio in Glasgow where she works…
Photo by Nik Antonio
How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been an apprentice for just over a year, I did my first tattoo on May 18th 2015.
How did you start? What did you do before? I’ve always had an interest in tattooing, I was exposed to tattoos my entire childhood. My granddad has some really old traditional style tattoos, I grew up looking at pop eye tattooed across his hand, with old school lettering in a heart for his mum and dad. I think being exposed to tattoos so frequently they drew my attention more towards them. I knew I was going to be heavily tattooed; I just didn’t think I’d be the one doing it!
When I started to properly get tattooed one of the people who tattooed me was Raph Cemo, when I went to get tattooed by him I was a little lost, things weren’t going to plan and I’d lost my vision of what I wanted to be doing. I came out of that tattoo session so empowered (and a little physically drained), knowing what I wanted to do and feeling silly for not realising how obvious it was that I should start tattooing. It wasn’t until a year later, when I had set up a clear path and done a lot of self-development that I met Tom and somehow convinced him to let me be his apprentice.
Do you have a background in art? My parents brought me up drawing and letting me make creative messes in the house, my mum’s a wonderful artist but she’ll never admit that to anyone. My nan used to paint water colours and I’d draw the flowers in her garden when I was a little girl, I guess that’s where my love for flowers comes from as well. I’ve always been artistic due to the way I was brought up, I studied fine art and photography before starting my degree in painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I get tattooed for lots of different reasons, but long story short tattooing is allowing me to create a vessel I feel comfortable in and am proud of. My journey with my body is a continuous one that I work on loving everyday but tattooing has allowed me to externalise the vision I hold for my body, watching that come to life and loving myself a little bit more each time is an emotional path. I have never been more myself than I am now due to tattooing, and that’s a really comforting feeling. This vessel is the only thing I will ever truly own, the only thing that will ever truly be mine and I am working on improving it and worshipping it every day.
I am so thankful for all of the artists that have allowed me to sit in their chair and help me with my journey, if I can even help someone half as much as these incredible beings have helped me I’d be overjoyed. Seeing how much of an impact you have had in someone’s life, be that from helping with self-improvement or to be a part of a creation of a memory is magical to see, that’s why I love tattooing.
Describe your style, how has it changed? I guess the style I tattoo in would technically fall under dot work, my style itself however is constantly changing and developing as I meet new people and discover new things. Tibetan art has been a major influence throughout my life and was a really heavy part of my style and what I was tattooing at the beginning. The impact it has on me hasn’t changed however I’ve naturally moved towards more botanical tattoos as of late. I wish to never become ignorant of the origins and meanings of what I tattoo on others as well as what I put onto myself.
What inspires you? It sounds cliché but for me I gain inspiration from the little things, a lot of my inspiration comes from flowers, I find myself happiest when sitting in botanical gardens surrounded by life continuously blossoming around me.
I didn’t have the most stereotypical upbringing, my mum taught me about Buddhism and took me to galleries so that I was exposed to different cultures and their art. I take a lot from Tibetan Buddhist art and symbolism, their art is not only aesthetically beautiful but the meanings behind everything comes from love and understanding.
People and places are the most vital inspirations you can get as that’s what is continuously surrounding you, if you make a point of living a positive life, surrounded by the most inspiring people, in the most beautiful places you’re going to have such a love filled creative outlet and there’s something really blissful about that.
What would you love to tattoo? At the moment I’m really enjoying more botanical pieces, I’ve recently grown a love for drawing plants with the bulbs attached. I’ve started to get really into anatomical drawings as well, so I’d really like to do a large botanical/anatomical thigh piece, I think that would be really stunning.
What is a typical day like for you? It normally involves a lot of reading, I get a lot of inspiration from books so am often reading a few things at once and often drawing from them as well. My work outside of tattooing is text based so a lot of that involves writing pieces and hammering them into large metal plates for hours on end. That’s also where I end up drawing up a lot of my tattoo designs, as it’s my creative space and outlet.
I work in a private studio, so it’s by appointment only which means I get to control the amount of tattoos I’m doing a day and I don’t have set hours. Tattooing is where I find my mind the most clear, when I’m tattooing, drawing or reading my mind is simply taking in what is in front of me. When I’m tattooing I am so engrossed in the experience, in what I’m tattooing, in why the person is getting it and who they are, that I often forget this is a job.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? A lot of the work I hold upon my own body is that of Tibetan and Buddhist symbolism along with some personal links with friends and family. Everything I hold on my person means something, which can be taken in the form of Buddhist myths to my own personal connections to the objects or imagery my vessel now features.
One of my favourite tattoos is an outlined heart with ‘JuSt’ written inside; ‘JuSt’ stands for Julie and Stephen which are both of my parents names, the font is from my typewriter and the non symmetrical heart is hand drawn by me and was kept imperfect to represent me along side them as a continuous link to one another when I’m far from home.
I also now posses The Three Graces upon my arm which is taken from Botticelli’s painting the ‘La Primavera’, after studying this painting for a year whilst studying history of art at the age of 18 I flew to Florence to view this painting in the flesh. I sobbed staring at it for hours mesmerised by the impact it had not only on my body but on me as a person. I decided to get the Three Graces tattooed on me due to what they represented as goddesses of such things as charm, beauty, and creativity.
Photo by Nik Antonio
I made a start of my full back piece earlier this year with Hannah Sykes which is not only the largest piece on me to date but arguably the most physically and mentally draining also. The whole process through the amount of time, continuous alterations, and adjustments to fit the vision that both Hannah and myself hold for my body is a long and exciting journey we hope to finish at the end of this year. The piece itself is an array of Tibetan flowers spread over my full back and wrapping around my bum. Getting my back tattooed was a huge decision for me, not only for the amount of space it spanned on my body but also to make sure it fitted and worked with my petite frame rather than over powering it. However any worry swiftly disappeared when I saw the vision Hannah had come up with and altered to fit my body perfectly, and I couldn’t be happier with the way in which this continuation is turning out.