Category: Photo inspiration

Interview with China’s “First Lady of Tattoo” Zhuo Dan Ting

We chat to 34-year-old Zhuo Dan Ting, China’s “First Lady of Tattoo’ who owns Shanghai Tattoo in Shanghai, China, about what inspires her, how tattoos have changed how she sees her body and what her title means to her…

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How long have you been tattooing? I have been tattooing for 15 years now.

How long have you owned your shop? I have owned my shop for a total of 13 years, with nearly three of those years being in Harbin, China. The shop was originally called “Wenyifuxing” 纹艺复兴, but after moving to Shanghai, I remained the shop to Shanghai Tattoo 纹艺复兴.

How did you start? I have always have been doing art, It was when I got my first tattoo when I was 17 was when I fell in love with tattoos and I knew this was going to be my trade. It wasn’t easy though, back in those days in Harbin, China you couldn’t  just go and be an apprentice under someone, there were’t many shops. So I took it upon myself to travel around to different cities in China where there were more opportunities for me to learn how to tattoo.

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How does it feel being called the “First Lady of Tattoo”? I feel old! It is a great honor to have set the bar for the female tattooist here in China as well as female business owners. It’s kinda crazy that only 15 years ago it was frowned upon for a woman to be independent in my country. I’m so glad that I was able to break out of that and do my own thing and be successful at it!

What obstacles have you faced and overcome on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist? In the old times when I was getting started tattoos were looked down on and people were not very supportive. People would always ask what about your future? What do your parents think about what you’re doing? Other obstacles were simply trying to get better, learning from somebody else and improving. I had to travel and do my own research to learn the art of tattooing. Putting beautiful quality tattoos on people for life, felt like my destiny – I had no choice.

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Do you have a background in art? I’ve always been involved with art. My father was an artist too and a art teacher. He started teaching me art when I was five years old, every night I would draw on the kitchen  floor with him. This eventually evolved to paper and canvas, then art college and university.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I’ve always liked tattoos, and was drawn to them through a sort of obsession. It was when I got my first tattoo at age 17 that I knew this was it. I had to do it, and not only create tattoos but be the best tattooer What an amazing way to express your art, I absolutely love tattoos and couldn’t live without them.

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Can you tell us about the tattoo scene and culture in China? The tattoo scene is improving, especially these past five  years, as tattoos are getting more popular. For example when I started tattooing here in Shanghai, there were a handful of shops now there are hundreds – I can’t even count them! The tattoo scene and culture is really taking off, I only wish more people would take the time to investigate what a good tattoo shop is and isn’t. People are always wanting to save money and go to a scratcher. Overall though tattoos are being more and more accepted in China, it’s pretty awesome.

How do people view women with tattoos? People’s attitudes are getting better, they’re seen as cool. Before this it was pretty brutal, people would always ask how are you ever going to get married? (This being top priority in Chinese culture), how are you ever going to find man to take care of you with those tattoos? Most of the time it’s still like this but I’m married to a wonderful man, so I don’t listen to that shit anymore and we take care of each other.

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What kind of reactions do you receive? Reactions to my tattoos, green hair and clothes are pretty crazy! People stop dead in their tracks everyday and just stare! I’ve seen people almost get into serious accidents as they freak out when looking at me. I’m pretty much blowing their minds! Pretty funny the closets people live in, and how they freak out when they see someone that doesn’t appear the same as everyone else here in China. The further you go out of the cities the more people freak out too- like they seen a ghost  alien or something. They just stare at you with no shame in total disbelief!

Have tattoos changed how you see your body, and how you feel about it? Yeah I feel good,  as there’s no blank skin. My tattoos are like armour for me, without them I would feel naked, bland and not like me.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw? I like to draw creepy different styles, snakes with legs and such. With my tattooing I like to focus on black and grey realism. I would love to do more large pieces including backs – the bigger the better! I love a good challenge.

What inspires you? Anything different or creative I suppose – movies, things on the internet and randomness. Walking down the crazy streets of Shanghai can be pretty inspiring!

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Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? Yes actually I’m doing the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention this year in April, also I will be heading to Malmo, Sweden guest spotting at my friends shop Malort. Hopefully Oslo in Norway too, but I’m still working out all the details. I’ll be heading to California as well to tattoo Sacramento, Bay Area possibly Portland, Oregon later in the year around November, December. I will have more details later this year!

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I have a lot of tattoos, around eight that I have done myself. Most of them are now covered up but still there to remind me of my beginning days. I love all my tattoos they all tell my stories, and I’m continuing o build my own canvas.

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

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How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

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What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

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How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

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What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

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Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

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Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

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Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

The Art of Filip Hodas

24-year-old 3D artist Filip Hodas based in Prague, creates mesmerising beautiful and surreal art. Digitally crafted, Hodas transforms the earth’s landscapes with bursts of pastel colours, billowing smoke and dreamy textures, his textural collages feature enchanting crystals and animal skulls – we just can’t get enough! 

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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.

Crafters and the ink on their skin

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.

sarah“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.

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“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

lucian-profile“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.”

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VAPVLA is available at etsy.com/shop/vapvla, and Lucian’s artwork is available through misterlucian.bigcartel.com and you can buy in person at BUST Craftacular of course too!

Ella Masters, 28, Freelance illustrator

ella-masters-portrait-ink“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.”

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Visit ellamasters.co.uk and for a chance to be drawn by Ella, tattoos and all, visit her stall on Sunday at BUST Craftacular

The I’m Tired Project

We chatted to 22-year-old Paula Akpan co-founder of The I’m Tired Project, about how she and Harriet Evans started the project, how they hope to make a difference and how you can get involved… 

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“I’m tired of people saying I inherited my queerness…
Photo credit: Harriet Evans and Paula Akpan
Photo editing: Harriet Evans

The initial inspiration for the campaign was the ‘Free the Nipple’ movement, however, after asking around some groups within our university, for example our feminist society, there was not much interest in a project like this. We assumed this was because students our age are about to start their job hunt and didn’t want to have their naked breasts plastered over the internet. Yet, we both wanted to do something which ‘makes a difference’ because there are so many groups which have a large following, (not to name any names) but that do not use their following for any sort of ‘good’. For example, they don’t share petitions, protests, or take on any project, which could make a change or even simply highlight social problems currently being faced in society.

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“I’m tired of working two jobs to make the salary of one man…
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Editing credit: Robert Olsson

Harriet and I were bouncing ideas off of each other and thought that instead we could have quotations of some sort written on people’s backs. This way its anonymous if the person chooses, as you never see anyone’s face, but also synonymous with the idea that someone has been labelled by society. We kept discussing what sort of quotes we could have written on the backs, and eventually it came to things that we are tired of: tired of being ‘the angry black woman,’ tired of being told ‘I’ve never slept with a black girl’, tired of being called ‘bossy’ etc. and thus ‘I’m Tired’ was born! Finally, we got the idea for the ‘blurb’ that accompanies each picture from Humans of New York, we thought it was great to have a picture that told a story on its own, but also important for the person who’s sharing their story to be able to explain their lived experiences and why it is important to them.

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“I’m tired of being represented by loud close-minded fools…
Photo credit: Robert Olsson and Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art
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Making a difference for us, in the short term, is really about highlighting the stereotypes and micro-aggressions that are still faced by society. We’re so often told that many social problems are disappearing: homophobia, racism, sexism, victim blaming, but our subjects and both myself and Harriet are still facing problems like these on a daily basis. For us, if this project changes even one person’s mind about the preconceived notions they might be holding, or inspires someone to ask more questions, or even for someone to feel more confident in themselves and think ‘hey, there’s someone else who goes through this too, I’m not alone’, then we would be extremely happy.

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“I’m tired of being told to ‘let go’ of not knowing my birth parents…
Photo credit: Robert Olsson and Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art
Editing credit: Robert Olsson

If you’re interested in getting involved in The I’m Tired Project, then contact Paula or Harriet through Facebook, Twitter or email theimtiredproject@gmail.com. The project is ongoing and there are a series of projects coming up as well as photos relating social groups that have not yet been covered by the pictures up so far.

Interview with artist Anna Volpi

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to Italian-American artist Anna Volpi about her photographic series Skin… 

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When did the Skin project come about and what is the idea behind these shots? Skin was created for a competition that I didn’t win, but that doesn’t matter now. I met so many wonderful people through the project which is more important that any prize.  The title of the competition was simply ‘Skin’. I began to think of the various interpretations of skin, what you can do with it, the way we can see and feel it. The skin is the largest organ of our body and we can not live without it. One thing all human beings have in common is their skin and how it can cause a variety of relationships and reactions among people. Love, hate, contempt, worship and much more. ‘Skin’ is more than just aesthetics it explores how we live in it and how people really are inside their own body.

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How did you select the personal stories of each one of the subjects? To select the people I searched the internet and I spread the word among my acquaintances. I only chose people who had interesting experiences or felt connected to their skin in some way.  I listened to the story of each of them and the ones I chose were those that struck me the most. In each photo there is a summarising sentence, that encapsulates them as a person.

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What did you like the most about this experience, both personally and professionally? What I liked the most was meeting extraordinary people that I would like to keep in my life. From a more professional side, this is the most methodical project I’ve done so far. From the start I already had an idea of how the aesthetics would be. However when photographing people I didn’t ask for them to pose, I took every picture naturally during our long talks. But I knew that I wanted clean, balanced and strong images. I usually get dragged a little more by improvisation and variety, but here I had to work within certain limits, and it was a great experience.

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What are your thoughts about tattoo art?  I have two tattoos, but I’ve never studied the history of tattooing. I don’t like how stereotyped people with tattoo are, and I don’t like them as a fashion trend. Saying that, not every tattoo should have a deep moral significance. My tattoos act as reminders for me. The words ‘here now’ remind me not to be anxious about the future, or decay in the past. ‘Write’, instead, reminds me to finish my novel. I chose Evelyn Hays, the tattooed girl in the Skin project, because she totally believes in this form of artistic expression. And I would have chosen her even if she hadn’t had tattoos, because she believes deeply in this art form.

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Evelyn Hays

Can you see a relationship between tattoos and photography? In a photographic portrait a tattoo can be a point of interest or it can be seen as a disturbance. I really like to photograph the naked body, and for some shots I look for women without tattoos, because the tattoo is somehow distracting. Tattoos attract the eye, and can disturb the lines of the body that I want to create. Other times, they accentuate the body.

Tattoo Journeys – Portraits from London Tattoo Convention

Portraits from London Tattoo Convention 2015 byHeather Shuker Photography

A snapshot of people who attended the infamous London Tattoo Convention 2016 including artists, the general public, organisers, performers and more. As they posed, they were interviewed by Alice Snape and Keely Reichardt.

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Sonja Punktum, 38, tattoo artist, Hamburg
“I’m not an angry person, but people who aren’t tattooed see rebellion, so are sometimes scared. People often comment on my tattoos, even if I don’t ask for it. Tattoos make people react, but I think that is because they are intense, they are created through pain and last forever, there is nothing else like it.”

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Arrienette Ashman, 26, tattoo artist, Bournemouth
“I was 19 when I got my first tattoo, I went big straight away, as I always knew wanted to be heavily tattooed. My mum picked me up after the appointment and was shocked, but she has learnt to love them over the years. I love the thought of having art on me always. It is not just physical – it is a spiritual process.”

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Ashley Green, 27, sports coach, Harrow
“I was drunk when I got my first tattoo at 16, it was a Chinese symbol. All my other tattoos are now family related, including a portrait of my mum.”

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George Crew, 21, tattoo artist, Leicester
“I was 16 when I got my first tattoos, it was a rose on my stomach. I got it because everyone around me was getting tattooed. If I could go back, I would think about it more and get something of better quality. I am saving my back, though, as a backpiece is the most important tattoo you will ever get, as it is the biggest canvas.”

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Monami Frost, 21, model/blogger/social media, Liverpool
“I cannot imagine my life without tattoos. Getting tattooed, for me, is a never-ending process. They are part of who I am. I think they are beautiful and they make me feel more full.”

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Ermine Hunte, 37, buyer for an airline, Luton
“Tattoos and piercings are so empowering and can change who you are as a person. I have gained more confidence as they have covered scars from a kidney transplant. I am constantly evolving and gaining control over my body.”

Interview with GaldaLou

26-year-old GaldaLou is a retail manager and SuicideGirl  from Leicester, England. We chatted to Galda about how she began modelling, her tattoo collection and how she has learned to love her body…

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When did you first become a SuicideGirl and what inspired you to do so?  I applied in August 2008, shot a few sets that weren’t bought, until early 2009 when I had my first set make Set Of The Day, and was made an actual SuicideGirl. At 15 I came across SuicideGirls. I was all of a sudden exposed to these women who were themselves. They seemed so confident and unafraid of being who they wanted to be, and at 15 I was desperately craving to find my place in the world. I made it my aim even at that young age that I would become one.

How have people reacted to our photos, or decision to become a suicide girl? My friends and family are overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve been with my boyfriend Russ since I was 17, and since the beginning he knew of my hopes to pursue things with SG.  He shot my initial application pictures for me, and even a couple of photo sets right at the beginning. My Mum actually follows me on Instagram and Twitter, she’s that supportive. Everyone at work also knows about my online life, which makes things so easy.

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to become one? Think long and hard about it. Whilst it’s been a huge part of my life for the last eight years, not everyone has such a supportive set of people around them. If you’re on a serious career path for example, being naked on the internet may well reflect badly on you.

Have you always liked your body? Have you always felt confident in yourself? Oh hell no. And I still have days where I hate myself! But you just have to keep in mind that it’s just a day, and tomorrow you’ll feel differently, and that every single person out there feels the same way about themselves. What I have always done is project confidence. It’s a fake it til you make it sort of thing I think.

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You used to follow a shake diet plan,  what motivated you to change your body in this way? Do you think this was a drastic way to do it? It was originally my doctor who put me onto the idea of doing Lighter Life a few years ago as I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and often ladies with PCOS struggle with losing weight due to a chemical imbalance. I lost four and half stone in four months. It was hardcore, the last straw was when I started to lose my hair, because my body didn’t have the energy to grow it anymore. At the time, I lost my identity. I felt completely separate from myself. Sure, the compliments were nice from everyone, but they were complimenting the act of weight loss because it’s what society expects them to do. I’ve put a lot of that original weight back on in those three years since, but now I feel much more comfortable with myself as a whole.

When did you realise you had PCOS? Does it make you see your body differently? I had some unfortunately symptoms at first, like pain and copious amounts of bleeding after sex. I was 20 and I went and saw my doctor about it, and after some investigations was diagnosed with PCOS. It explained recent weight gain, and made me look harder at my body. At first I resented it for being another thing wrong with a body I already didn’t like, and hated the fact it most likely took away my choice to ever get pregnant naturally and easily, and it really took a while for me to get my head around it all. Now, at 26, I’ve realised I’m more than happy collecting cats instead of having a baby, so the only thing I resent is still having to have disgustingly painful periods each month.

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You’ve had breast enlargement surgery, did this influence your decision to start modelling? I started modelling at 18, and didn’t have my breast enlargement until I was 23. I was always a little blinded by my boob hatred, and I found it really hard to look past them and see the good parts of the rest of me.

Have your tattoos helped you to feel more confident? Absolutely. I can’t wait for my legs to be well and truly covered so I no longer have to worry about my thread veins being on display. It’s nice to be able to choose what people see and don’t see about me, but most people’s snap decisions of me are usually based on my tattoos and hair, and I’m fully okay with that.

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What would you say to people who aren’t supportive of the SuicideGirls group? Or who think you share too much on Instagram?  We are all different and that’s glorious and to be celebrated. SG gets a lot of stick sometimes, and some of it’s fair and people’s opinions and some of it’s unfounded gossip, but for me it has provided massive amounts of opportunity, and more importantly, gained me some friends for life.

Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? No. Whilst some of mine do, actually the vast majority of mine are simply there because I appreciate that tattooer’s artwork. I am practically a walking timeline of Jody Dawber’s work, having one from the beginning of her career, and still being tattooed by her now. I adore her artwork, and her as a person. I’ve other pieces from artists that I adore, but don’t have any deeper meaning other than I love their style.

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All photographs shot by Shannon Swift

Princessehof Ceramic Museum: Sexy Ceramics

The Princessehof Ceramic Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands presents Sexy Ceramics.

The exhibition runs from 27 August 2016 – 9 July 2017

‘The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics in Leeuwarden presents a titilating exhibition about eroticism: Sexy Ceramics. Classical Greek vases, refined Asian porcelain and contemporary ceramics by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Jessica Harrison escort the viewer into the world of sex and seduction. The exhibition follows the phases of love-play, from the first touch and gentle courtship to the act of lovemaking itself. Attention is paid to hidden symbols, evocative shapes and explicit objects, but also to the sensuality of the material, the clay itself.’

Artist Jessica Harrison has been commissioned to create a sculpture for the gallery exhibition, and she has crafted one her recognisable and beautiful enamel tattooed women, which we love so much.

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