Category: Tattoo Studios

Apprentice Love: Tammy Bestwick

We spotted the work of 22-year-old tattoo apprentice Tammy Bestwick on Instagram and instantly loved her traditional style tattoos. We chatted to Tammy to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Rose Tattoo, Barnstaple, Devon where she works…

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How long have you been tattooing? I worked at a tattoo shop in Exeter doing my apprenticeship for two years. I got to do a few small tattoos here and there but it’s only really since working at Black Rose that I’ve been able to tattoo regularly. I started working at Black Rose back in June so it’s just going into six months of tattooing now!

What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? My first job was selling tickets at a zoo. Straight after that I started my tattoo apprenticeship for two years, I did a couple temp jobs where I made some of the most wonderful friends who still come and get tattooed by me now! I studied art at GCSE and A-level but I didn’t find it overly enjoyable, it was more about looking deep into the meaning behind why a square could’ve possibly been painted green and writing essays than actually being artistically creative. It was only since leaving college that I started to draw what I enjoyed.

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How did you get your apprenticeship? As soon as I finished college, I took some of my drawings into a tattoo shop that was just over an hour away from where I lived. I didn’t really know anything about tattooing at this point but I’d been interested since I was 13. This shop was just opening and my mind was blown by the work of the tattooists there, I’d never seen anything like it before and so I just knew I had to try my luck. I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as it was the first shop I’d attempted to try work at and I was fully aware I had a lot to still educate myself on and so much more I could try do with my portfolio. A week later and they got back to me and they were willing to give me a trial run! Nothing could compare to that feeling when I found out I was being given a chance at something I’d wished to do for so long.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I started off being fascinated by all kinds of body modifications which then developed into tattoos. Anything a little different or controversial always drew me in. Being creative was the only thing that ever kept me interested so I knew I had to do something with it. I’m quite a quiet person and I love to have my own head space and be free with what’s on my mind, no rules or anyone to answer to. That’s what drawing was for me.

I used to draw a lot with my gramps. He painted beautiful acrylic landscapes and was a signwriter, so that’s definitely where I get my artistic flare from! The tattooists that inspired me to begin with are very different to the tattooists that inspire me now. My tastes and opinion of tattooing has developed a lot.

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How would you describe your style, what do you like to tattoo? I’m never really sure how to answer this. Before I tattooed I only ever attempted realism. Currently I do different styles according to the customer’s needs and I’d love to get to the stage where I could do anything anyone asked of me and really challenge myself. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy if I could only ever tattoo traditional again. That’s what I enjoy tattooing the most, super bold and colourful or just a lot of black! I’d love to get to do more movie related tattoos too.

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What or who inspires you? Nature and books but Instagram is a god send for being able to closely follow my favourite tattooists and their daily work. Gem Carter (this is insanely cheesy because I now work with her) has inspired me from day one, before she was even tattooing herself I followed the work she was doing. Currently, I obsess over the work of Sammy Harding, Jack Peppiette and Bradley Tompkins to name a few. But I am completely fascinated about where traditional tattooing began – Ben Corday, Percy Waters, Amund Dietzel. There is just so much inspiration and so much more to be found that it’s overwhelming.

What is a typical day like for you? I very rarely will be tattooing 11-6 at this stage so I take my time with the customers I do have in and the rest is spent providing ultimate banter, replying to emails and drawing!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? None of my tattoos have any meaning. I get something from a tattooist because I love their style of work, so I’m happy for them to do whatever they’d like to do or choose something they already have drawn! If I get tattooed by someone I want it to be a piece that is distintive to their style. I currently have work done by Danielle Rose, Sammy Harding, a re-work by James Pool (I’m dying to get something of his own too), Sento and mega babe Gem Carter.

Interview With Prof. Nicholas York

Our guest writer, digital marketing executive and traditional tattoo fan 21-year-old Poppy Ingham, talks to Nicholas York about his humble beginnings and the work he does out of Dark Age Tattoo in Denton, Texas…

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21-year-old Nicholas York is customarily cited as Professor York, in a nod to the likes of Samuel O’Reilly, the dubbed King of the Bowery tattooers, who adopted the “professor” epithet. He has been tattooing since he was 15 and although this might not be the licit way of entering the tattoo world, Nick received his first tattoo machines two months before starting high school. Coupled with a power supply purchased with his earnings from a part-time job, Nick began tattooing classmates and anyone who was willing. 

Fast forward five years, give or take, Nick is now embodying the definition of “world class electric tattooing”, producing nostalgic tattoos and paintings that ring true to the early 1900s. 

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What first inspired you to take on tattooing, especially at such a young age? I was in eighth grade at a school for kids with behavioural problems, and I started seeing some of the kids in my class get small tattoos. After I saw that you could get tattooed underage, I got my first tattoo at 14. The tattooist who did it was different from the guy who was tattooing the other kids, he approached me at the public library and asked if I wanted to get tattooed. Just a of couple days later I was in his apartment after school getting a tribal design that I had drawn.

I started tattooing a couple months after my first tattoo. In between the time of my first tattoo and the first tattoo I did, I had gotten my neck and my chest tattooed and started working on my arms. I was 15 when I got my throat tattooed. The throat tattoo was what made me start thinking about pursuing a career in tattooing. I knew I had found the job for me, when I found out that all you had to do was buy a kit online and do it out of your house. I started getting good and I was starting to feel hopeful about my choice.

My mom always knew about my tattooing and watched me do my first couple the day I got my kit. She was always supportive, because my dad was a tattooist, although I didn’t grow up with him (he went to prison when I was two). Over the years, he’d send drawings and paintings, but at the time, I was too young to realise they were tattoo designs that he had tattooed on people in prison.

My dad tattooed before he went to prison in the 1990s in downtown Dallas. He painted cars before he was a tattooist so it was a natural transition. Then he met my mom and stopped tattooing for a bit. He picked it back up when he went to prison a couple years later. I’ve seen a lot of his work and I hold onto all the paintings he sends me now. He is, in my honest opinion, one of the best black and grey tattooers out there. He does extremely smooth tattooing with a 90s twist. He really hasn’t gotten to see just how much tattooing has evolved since he has been locked away, except for the tattoos that he sees on me when I visit him.

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Have you always wanted to tattoo in the traditional style, or did you experiment with a number of styles before settling on it? When I first started tattooing, I was doing a very new school style and everything was extremely colourful and cartoony. I was hanging around with an old tattooist named Sneaker and he had a big influence on my style and technical application. Over the years, my tattooing evolved into a more neo-traditional style thanks to a guy I worked with named Rene. He did some of the best neo-traditional tattoos I had ever seen up until that point. Rene told me I needed to simplify my designs and stop using so many colours. He told me I couldn’t do traditional tattoos because I always complicated my tattoos so much, so to challenge him, I did a traditional tattoo. From that one tattoo I realised that I was missing out on what I was meant to be doing.

Thinking along the lines of Rock Of Ages, Belle Of The Plains etc, what are some iconic pieces of art that you never get tired of recreating? Easily one of my favourite iconic images is the Rose of No Man’s Land. I always love seeing renditions of it. I also really enjoy dragons; they’re always big and impressive. And, of course, the Rock of Ages is always a classic.

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Do you find that younger people (our age) are aware and appreciative of traditional tattooing, or do you feel like there is more demand for other styles? I think young people really dig the designs of classic traditional tattooing, but I don’t think they care for the history. The history posts I make [on Instagram] never get as many likes as the flash posts. I understand, though – not everyone has the attention span or appreciation for history.

Who, in particular from the past, do you admire and why? I’m a big fan of George Burchett. He encompasses everything I love about turn-of-the-century tattooing and has some of the best paintings I’ve ever seen! When I started tattooing in the style I do now, George Burchett was a big influence. My stuff doesn’t look like his that much, but if you know your stuff you can see small hints of it. I’m also interested in the early Bowery tattooers of New York. Samuel O’Reilly and his contemporaries have a certain mystery about them. We only understand a small fraction of their life, while we have a decent amount of George Burchett’s history.

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Where do you gather information and history on the tattooists of the past? I get all my knowledge of tattoo history from books I buy, websites like http://www.buzzworthytattoo.com and just speaking to and being friends with as many tattoo historians as I can. I am no historian myself, and I don’t add any unknown insight and I have not made any new discoveries, like some of the other historians that I look up to, I’m just a big fan of history and love to learn as much as I can about my craft. I do happen to have a good eye and have found many great bits of history in photographs that have been looked over before.

For people wanting to explore authentic traditional tattoos in 2017 and beyond, can you recommend any modern-day tattooers who you applaud? There are too many to name but those are just a few that come to my mind and I think they each are very true to the essence of traditional tattooing. I’m extremely proud I can call all of these tattooers my friends and contemporaries:

Charity Tattoo Convention: Nessy Forever

In loving memory of Mark Nesmith

Nessy Forever Charity Tattoo Convention

17th September 

11-8pm

FarGo Village Coventry

Entry fee – £10 on the door
Free to under 16s 

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We would love to have you with us to celebrate the life of Mark Nesmith. Together we can give Nes the send off he deserves – with loud music, great tattoos, laughs, smiles and the beautiful acomplished feeling of being a part of something amazing.
Something Mark made us feel, everyday we spent with him.

The convention will be filled with live tattooing and many artists will have walk-ups available. Live music and DJs will play throughout the day including; Charles Dexter Ward & The Imagineers and Special Brew. Also don’t miss the raffle to win artwork and many more fun surprises!

Confirmed artists:

HALES STREET STUDIOS Paddy O’RaffertyWarren PerryDan Jackson & Mitch Weaver

GRIZZLYS ART Dan Dygas

SEMPER TATTOO Joanne Baker

CIRCLE OF SWORDS Hanan Qattan

NEMESIS TATTOO STUDIO Ellis Arch

THE DRAWING ROOM Kerste Diston

REAL ART TATTOO Matt Barratt-Jones

BOLD AS BRASS TATTOO Nick Baldwin & Mark Walker

THE CHURCH TATTOO Hannah Wescott

QUEEN OF HEARTS Natalie OughtonJamie Radburn & Kate Stenner

MODERN BODY ART Ethan Jones

SACRED HEART TATTOOS Dave Carson

CREATIVE BODY ART Joanne Leslie & Holly Marie

RED TATTOO AND PIERCING Lucy O’Connell

SECOND CITY TATTOO CLUB Isobel Stevenson Morton

INFINITE INK Donna Reid, James Aston Mewett & Mike Williams

MEN’S GROOMING COMPANY Barber’s Chair

100% of all money raised will be given to Mark’s Mother and Father

Interview With Charline Bataille

25-year-old tattoo artist Charline Bataille, works at Minuit Dix in Montreal, where she creates bright, freaky, fluorescent, sometimes even ugly tattoos. We chat to Charline about her love for colour, her oversharing nature and the space she takes up in the tattoo industry…

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How long have you been tattooing, how did you start? I’ve been tattooing for less than two years! I’m a newbie! I started learning by myself and met with other queer tattooers to exchange knowledge and tattoos.

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Can you describe your tattoo style? What sorts of things do you create? I think my style is very tender, vulnerable and emulates spontaneous drawings. I love to use colours! I love it everywhere – in my paintings, in my house, my make up, my clothes. I create weird impossible flowers, creepy cute animals and angry fat babes looking unapologetically hairy and hot! I love to tattoo a mix of cute and freaky! I like wonky lines and weird freaky colours, and I even like when my tattoos are ugly and disproportionate. I want to queer what tattoos look like. I know there isn’t only one way to tattoo and I want to break down the good/bad dichotomy! When I draw my tattoos, I always collaborate with my client. To me, their agency is very important.

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How do you feel as a queer woman working in the tattoo industry? Have you been faced with obstacles or criticism? You mention on your Instagram that you try to create a safe space for your clients, how do you do this and why is it important? It’s strange to me that I have taken this role as outspoken feminist tattooer because I don’t feel I am any good at putting my ideas into words, I much prefer to use images! I mentioned in an interview that a lot of people couldn’t have access to the tattoo industry, because of systemic oppression, and therefore, will find ways to learn and create in safe spaces. In response to this interview, I got a lot of messages, a lot of them calling me a stupid cunt but also a lot of them respectfully disagreeing and pointing out the danger of tattooing at home without proper knowledge. I don’t think I need to explain how apprenticeships and traditions are considered sacred and are needed. So I made a lot of people angry suggesting that it is possible to break tradition safely and that, in a general way, misogyny, fatphobia, cissexism and racism were too present in tattoo shops and made those spaces at best unpleasant and at worst unsafe for a lot of people.

First, there is way too little conversation about cultural appropriation in western tattooing. White tattooers still tattoo colonial imagery and sexual caricature of indigenous women on other white people. They don’t understand how important it is that tattooing didn’t originate in the western world. Consent forms in tattoo shops still force people to disclose their HIV statuses and even refuse services on that basis. It is illegal, intrusive, discriminatory and potentially dangerous to force HIV disclosure. If tattooers would take the time to reach out to their local organisation for and by people with HIV, they could offer a much fairer and safer service.

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I tattoo almost only queer and trans people and a lot of them are women. Every one of my clients has a horror story to tell; from a tattooer telling a fat woman that he didn’t understand why she would want a tattoo on her hip, to tattooers telling brown people their skin is too dark, to blatant racism or sexual harassment. I have often been horrified and heart broken hearing their experience. Being queer and tattooing mostly queer and trans people, I know that there is a really complicated relationship with the body that makes those obstacles even more meaningful. Our body is a place where it is hard to claim ownership, it’s also a place that is described as “wrong” or “bad” by science and cissexist society. It takes constant work to take back control over your body and I know tattooing is one medium to achieve that. It’s really important to respect people’s pronoun, to discuss boundaries and to respect their bodily autonomy and to be tender and present when they trust you with their body.

I think there is room for the tattoo practice and community to be tender, vulnerable and sensitive. I’ve never been in a tattoo shop where I felt comfortable until Minuit Dix! A queer owned tattoo shop that supports queer / women/ trans / poc owned companies and individuals. That is conscious of safe practices, reducing waste, uses vegan ink, gender neutral consent forms that do not force or shame HIV disclosure, in a WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE space. Working there has really made it possible for me to offer a nice and cosy space for my clients to get tattooed. It is also a space where I can be a queer femme with mental illness and have my workspace respect my limitations and honour my identity. I am working next to @katakankabin and @cammy06 and I have learned so much from @murieldemai_tattoo. I am so lucky.

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It says on your Instagram that you are an oversharer, what do you mean by this? I describe myself as a “over sharing queer femme” on my profile because I don’t draw a line between my professional life and my personal life or my activism. I don’t draw a line between my tattoo practice and my overall art practice, to me, all of this is one! On my Instagram (my only platform to share my tattoos and art) I often talk about my mental illness, my medication, my body image, my sexual trauma, my asexuality, my love life, what makes me sad and what makes me proud.

I do it because it helps me, because I love people to be able to relate and be reminded that I am far from alone, but I also love to see that it helps people working through their own trauma and experiences and feel like the stigma is possible to overcome. I am very sensitive and I have no filter! I think this part of me also makes me a better tattooer. It’s my way of telling people that they can also be themselves and I will be real with them at any moment.

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Interview with Tattooist Mike Love

26-year-old hand poke tattoo artist Mike Love works out of Black Market Tattoo Parlour in Leicester and Second City Tattoo Club in Birmingham, where he creates bold and solid blackwork tattoos. We chat to Mike about his process, how he started tattooing and his guest spot plans…

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How long have you been tattooing? I’m in my third year of tattooing. I am a self taught hand poke tattooer, before this I was body piecer for around four years, there I completed a more traditional style apprenticeship. I have pretty much spent my adult life being in a tattoo shop. 

What drew you to the tattoo world? The idea and practise of self expression. In my late teen years I became massively depressed, after seeking a lot of help I really started to find myself. The things that kept me going and made me happy were tattoos and piercing. I approached a local shop about a piercing apprenticeship and from then on my life was changed. From piercing my love eventually blossomed into tattooing. I discovered hand poke tattooing and was totally transfixed by it. The process mesmerised me. Creating a tattoo by hand from one dude to another was for me. 

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Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing has changed and still is changing. To be honest I think it changes slightly each day. I mean everyday I try to improve what I do and learn whatever I can. But that’s what I love about tattooing, it will never be perfect. It will always stay true to what it is, yet we evolve as tattooers everyday. 

When I started tattooing I did a lot more of the typical ‘hand poke’ and more ignorant styled work, but this wasn’t me. Traditional tattooing has always had my heart and that’s what I love to see and have tattooed.  I work real hard everyday to be inspired by what I love and create bold and solid pieces that will stand the test of time. For me I love to tattoo anything that’s bold and black. I am constantly creating a lot flash, which is typically inspired by classic traditional flash or pop culture. 

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Can you tell us about your set up and the process behind your tattoos? I tattoo by hand, my set up is very minimal. I like to keep it simple and disposable. No bullshit. I hand make each tool for every tattoo combining a chopstick and a tattoo needle. I only ever tattoo in black and I keep my process vegan. 

I am very much into the technical aspect of tattooing. I am all about learning and creating a solid well lined, bold, clean and nicely shaded tattoo. Tattooing by hand is typically a really calming and relaxing process, I gently push the ink into the skin by hand using the needle. There is a lot less trauma to the skin, which typically means the tattoo heals faster and for a lot of people this can be an easier process to sit for. It also doesn’t have to take a long time which some people think it can. Typically a palm size tattoo would roughly only take a couple of hours. 

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What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? Man, I am inspired everyday. Whether it’s current events, or things happening in the city that I live in. But you know what, I have so many artists that inspire and influence me, and that I look up to, I wouldn’t be able to list them all. In both shops I work in, there are incredible people and talented artists, which inspire me daily. Tattooing is my life, so most of my close friends and my partner are tattooists, so we talk tattooing a lot and try to influence and  constructively help each other. 

Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? You know, I just love tattooing. So when I was young and dumb I would have pretty much had anything and everything. Which now has left me with limited space. I don’t regret what I got though, but when I do get tattooed now I really like to get tattooed by people I really look up to and really love what they are about. So normally I chose from their flash, or get a piece they really like, as that way I feel I get a tattoo that really represents that artist. 

Trading with another tattooer is probably my favourite way to get tattooed now. I find it a great way to learn and share a cool experience with another tattooist. 

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? I normally guest in another shop every month, whether it be the UK or abroad, this is one of my absolute favourite things to do in tattooing. Traveling and meeting phenomenal artists drives me to be a technically better tattooer.  Currently for the rest of this year I do not have any conventions planned, but my next coming guest spots are at One For All Collective in Manchester late August and Seny Tatttoo in Barcelona late September. I am currently taking bookings for both of these via Instagram or email.

Briar Rose Tattoo, south London

We couldn’t resist a trip to south London’s Hither Green, when tattoo artist Tiggy Tuppence invited us down to her brand new (and Disney inspired) tattoo studio Briar Rose. It’s the most perfect place to get tattooed and she’s thought of every last detail, including an antler chandelier that reminded of her Beauty and the Beast‘s Gaston… 

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What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? I worked in the games industry, but I hated being in an office environment, it felt static and uncreative. I’d been thinking about tattooing as a career as I felt that it would give me the creative freedom I needed, and the opportunity to be around people I might fit in with more. I had a tattoo artist friend, who told me that it would be too hard, that I’d have to quit my job and work for nothing for years, which was a bit disheartening, so I never felt like I would be good enough  to become a tattoo artist. However, I was offered an apprenticeship by Kamil in north London because he had seen my work and  liked it! That was a huge confidence boost! I quit my main job to pursue tattooing, and  took on a part-time job in GAME to support me. It was the best thing I ever did, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up. 


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Where does your inspiration come from? I’ve had many different creative backgrounds, I grew up sewing with my mother, watching Disney as well as every other cartoon going, and drawing every day for fun. I left school at 16 to do a National Diploma in Fashion Design,  then I went to university to do a degree in computer games design. I’d always wanted to go into concept art for films and games, as this was the sort of art I loved. My drawing style reflects that, my work isn’t typically ‘tattoo-ish’. I’ve always worked digitally, working with a Wacom tablet and Photoshop for the last 14 years, and I love to incorporate all different colours into my work – I love colour! My inspiration comes from this rich background, and my love of cartoons, games, films, digital artists, and traditional artists. 

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What are your favourite subjects to tattoo? I love tattooing cats, animals, nature, flowers, birds, wildlife. Yeah, I really love tattooing cute animals. I grew up in rural west-country so I’ve always been into nature and local wildlife, living in London I miss this aspect of my home so tattooing animals is my happy place. I also love tattooing any sort of pop-culture stuff – Pokemon, Disney, Studio Ghibli, stuff from games like Okami, Portal, and Final Fantasy, and many others too.

Your new studio is “unapologetically Disney inspired”, why did you decide to do this?  I didn’t decide to make my studio Disney inspired, it just happened.  After I came up with the name Briar Rose it just all fell into place. I loved that I was able to come up with an original shop name, and I figured there probably aren’t too many tattoo shops like this. I just buy things as and when I see them, and before you know it I have an entire shop (and home) full of Disney!

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Even down to the antler chandelier, that reminded me of Gaston, the rug in the hallway was inspired by the magic carpet from Aladdin, and the wallpaper in the main studio area made me think of The Jungle Book. It’s not officially Disney but each little element has been inspired by it as that’s just how I am! I really did put my heart and soul into making this place. I’ve got a lot of compliments on it, many of my customers have said they’ve never been in a tattoo shop like it before. I like to think I have something magical here.

Favourite Disney film? Man that is the hardest question and it comes up all the time. I ask most people what theirs is (apparently I attract other Disnerds here too) and then of course I am always asked this question back. Can I give a top 5 in no particular order? Aristocats, Robin Hood, Moana, Sleeping Beauty, and Tarzan! It feels horrible having to choose. I love them all.

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Describe your studio in just three words… Whimsical, Warm, Welcoming

How did you pick the location? What kind of clients do you hope to attract? And what can they expect from their experience? I wanted a shop that was in a safe, friendly area, as I know that many of my customers who are female would have to carry cash with them. I don’t want people to feel like they have to look over their shoulder when finding my shop. I’m in the process of getting a card machine as well, which I hope will help that. Also for first-time customers, who are already feeling nervous, I think it’s just nicer to show up to a place that’s easy to find, and where you feel comfortable. This was really important to me, I want people to have a lovely experience, and then go home and feel like they’re always welcome back, even if it’s just for a chat or a coffee.

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In the studio, I’ve tried to provide all sorts of things to help people feel welcome and looked after, I like to take care of people. I’ve bought all different coffees and teas for my fancy coffee machine, I’ve got phone charging ports in the waiting area, complete with Android/iPhone and USBC cables, there is wifi, customers can choose their own music if they like by playing it through our fancy Sonos speaker. Whatever makes their experience comfortable, as they’re often sitting with me for many hours at a time.

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What has been your most favourite tattoo you have ever created, why? I think the one that takes the top spot will have to be a cat portrait I did. Her cat was called Diamond who had the most impressive resting bitch face, which we managed to capture in the tattoo. As an extra bonus, this girl emailed me after her appointment asking if I’d like to meet up some time, it was the most awesome thing ever and she is now one of my best friends, we talk literally every day. Love you Kerri! 

Tiggy11How do you like to work with your clients? The shop is by appointment only so clients will email me with their ideas and organise a consultation, I think it’s important to get to know your client before drawing something for them, to get those extra personal touches into the design, but I know this isn’t always possible. 

I’ll always draw up my client’s designs before they come in so they can see and make changes, I feel like the work is a collaboration where I’m the art director! But it’s important for people to be able to have some amount of say on what lives on them permanently. I’ve also become friends with quite a large handful of my past clients as well, which is wonderful. This is the best job!

Visit www.briarrosetattoo.com, or follow Tiggy’s studio on Instagram @briarrosetattoo

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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 that 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 honour to have set the bar for the female tattooists 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 friend’s 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 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 to build my own canvas.

Shaded: Danny Rossiter

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Danny Rossiter is a legendary 37-year-old tattoo artist and co-owner of Manchester’s Rain City Tattoo Collective. As part of Things and Ink’s ongoing interview series ‘Shaded’, I spoke with ‘The King’ about his passion for tribal tattooing, surfing and Japanese culture as he tattooed my shoulder.

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“Before I was tattooing, there wasn’t anything I wanted to do,” answers Danny Rossiter, more commonly referred to as ‘The King’ by his peers, to a question regarding his relationship with tattoos that I can barely ask as the Traditional-Japanese heavyweight begins to hammer an Eastern-inspired demon onto my shoulder. “I just wanted to surf,” he continues casually – as if he were telling the story over dinner as opposed to the violent process of tattooing. “My grandma was an artist – a painter, and she always encouraged me to draw, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I asked myself “what can I do that’s really cool?” and tattooing looked cool.”

From fantasist beginnings spent dreaming up his very own ‘Endless Summer’ meets Horiyoshi III existence to a nomadic life spent darting across the Southern Hemisphere, Danny is currently tattooing me out of his own shop: the legendary Rain City Tattoo Collective. The 37 year-old Zimbabwean’s corner of the shop holds a plethora of books – most of which relate to the subject of Japanese culture. “I just love Japanese Culture! The imagery is really powerful and holds so much meaning. You can find yourself looking at a brutal battle and a serene scene of beauty within the same Ukiyo-e print!” Although a master of the craft himself, Danny constantly humbles his position that’s backed-up by an 18-year relationship with the industry by suggesting that he’s simply riding history’s wave. “There’s so much tradition to Japanese tattooing, and ‘tradition’ loosely translates into ‘repetition’. It’s traditional because it has worked, been repeated and been passed down, so I’m well aware that all of my work has either been stolen or borrowed.”

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The idea for the collective was born out of a drunken, lightning-strike evening Danny spent with talented artists Matt Cooley, Gre Hale and Dan Morris, who had all decided they no longer wanted to work under the thumb of any kind of shop hierarchy, but wanted to create a diplomatic space that allowed them the time and freedom to develop and concentrate on their work. Founded in 2012, the shop has grown to be one of the most well respected spots the world over. “The shop has influenced me to keep working and to keep going,” speaks Danny of Rain City’s effect on him. “You can get complacent when working with one other person, but when you’re surrounded by so many people that are so stoked on tattooing, you can’t help but get caught up in it.”

When speaking of his first memories of tattooing, Danny speaks with a cool detachment as if unburdened by nostalgia. “I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was this tribal biohazard symbol. It’s covered now, but I do love tribal. It’s such a strong look that often invites passionate criticism. That’s what’s so great about it: it encourages passion – it’s so powerful that people fucking hate it!” Danny’s enthusiasm for tribal bled into the story of the first ever tattoo he produced. “I vividly remember the first tattoo I ever produced: It was this tribal spider – I couldn’t stop shaking! I’d love to see what that tattoo looks like today. ”

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As someone who is called ‘King’ more than he is his own name, I feel hesitant asking Danny of his inspiration, but much like the rest of our conversation Danny is open and unpretentious in his answer. “Everything is visual with me. I’ve never been the kind of person who finds inspiration in more abstract places, like music or writing. Maybe there’s a whole world of work I could be producing if I dug into that.” Danny follows the thought with how he sees his work evolving. “People can get lost in the idea of ‘style’ and leaving their own unique mark on tattooing, but producing work for the customer rather than yourself is far more important. People think too much about the mark they want to leave, but it’s all about what you’re doing in the moment. You don’t want to get too involved in the future.”

Interview with Charlotte Verduci

24-year-old Charlotte Verduci works out of Lav Mì Tattoo in Milan and Ink Factory Tattoo Shop in Bergamo, where she creates wonderful blackwork tattoos inspired by her love of baroque patterns…

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How long have you been tattooing? How did you start? I started tattooing at the age of 19. I’m now five years in, I started very young. I fell in love with this wonderful craft straight the way at the age of 14 as I read tattoo magazines.

What you did before? Do you have a background in art? Before I was tattooing I was studying and I graduated from art school. I did a year’s academy illustration course. But as soon as I was asked to start as an apprentice at a tattoo shop, I stopped studying. I have not thought twice about it, I don’t look back and I’ve been thrown head first into learning the art of tattooing.

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How would you describe your style? How has it developed? I started with colorful tattoos, traditional and classic style at the beginning. Then I began learning the rules of ornamental tattooing, it all happened one evening, a day before a tattoo convention, when I wanted to propose something new.  So I started to draw, and I developed the Baroque figures that I do so much now. It was love at first sight, at last I felt that I could give my work a touch of originality. I wanted to create something that fully represents the Baroque style. Over the past year I have developed a recognisable style- you can’t miss it! I call it a Baroque blackwork!

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What inspires you? I would answer this question with everything! I’m very sensitive to everything around me. Milan is a city where you find art in every corner, from craft shops to the Art Nouveau buildings. I love to walk into a bookstore and browse through books filled with antique prints and vintage prints, and I go the markets on Sunday where there is no shortage of decorated frames. I am fascinated by the baroque vector, textures, and mostly historical illustrations. However I always try to maintain solid work in my tattooing, this a basic rule for me. As much as I can fantasise and dream I always keep order in my designs, making them as clear and readable as possible.

Do you admire any artist? Do they influence your work? I follow a lot tattoo artists who make ornamental tattoos, but also Japanese and traditional. Not really anyone in particular, but I follow so many! Thomas Hooper, Kelly Violence, Jack Papiette, Filip Leu, Abby Drielsma and Lus Lips always remain my favorite artists!

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What kinds of things do you like to tattoo and draw? Baroque filigree! I had a period in time when I only drew snakes, I could do an encyclopaedia! Then came the month where I would only do cats! I really like to draw female faces with hats and dresses in a vintage style, of course embroidered with my style added to them. I really like to evoke an ancient and classical touch in my designs!

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Can you tell about your own tattoos? For now I have a Japanese arm made by Simone Valentinuzzi, the other arm with works carried out by various colleagues – Angela Smisek and a miniature swallow by Stizzo. I definitely want tattooed by the artists I mentioned. I always want a tattoo, but they hurt more and more!

Interview with John Avanti

35-year-old John (Lupo) Avanti works out of Ocean Avenue Tattoo in San Francisco and Lucky Drive Tattoo in San Rafael, where he creates surreal tattoos. We chatted to John about his style of work and how he likes the idea of reading people through their tattoos…

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I began tattooing  about five years ago, after my friend Joey Cassina decided to open his shop Ocean Ave Tattoo in San Francisco. I used to work in construction so I helped to get OAT built and eventually spent enough time at the shop to pursue an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was going great but was cut short, so I decided if I was going to keep tattooing then I would have to figure it out on my own. I quit Ocean Ave and started working out of my basement in Oakland tattooing friends and locals to build my portfolio up enough to get in another professional shop.

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Fortunately, the guys at Lucky Drive tattoo saw I had some potential and gave me a sort of soft apprenticeship. I was at Lucky Drive for about a year until I decided to take my tattooing to Australia. I spent three years in Australia and just recently moved back to work at both Ocean Ave and Lucky Drive where I started. A bit of a complicated start but I really love my friends and family in San Francisco and I’m proud to have made the long journey back.

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Tattooing has been the best way for me to do what I to do best. As I said before, I was in construction but over the years I also worked part time in many other forms of illustration including: animation, comics, large-scale murals, and commercial illustration. The only formal training I have was a trade school style animation course I took in Vancouver. I also did a landscape painting class in Italy. That’s probably more artist experience than most tattooers have starting out so my style has a lot of influences.

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Coming from San Francisco I was initially focused on doing traditional tattoos but after my time in Australia I wound up wanting to make tattoos that resemble a style closer to my acrylic paintings. If you had to put a label on it – you could describe it as “neo traditonal surrealism.” Italian style tattooing and George Burchett tend to be my “go-to” influences but it’s hard for me to draw things without it being overly imaginative. I want people to like my designs without fully knowing the reason why they like them.

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A good image will always jump out at you and you don’t always have to understand it. It’s that geo treasure kind of searching for new iconic designs that makes it interesting for me. I also tend to think about what people will look like when they are dead and in a morgue having their bare bodies examined. I like the idea of seeing a person’s tattoos and understanding who they are without knowing them. Sometimes I just want to make designs that are classic with little to no distortion but most people like my more artsy pieces. Usually they are simple concepts in unique combinations.

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I don’t put many restrictions on what I want to tattoo but it also depends on the person. If the person is not familiar with my work then I don’t just put a fine line surreal image next to the their sailor Jerry eagle. I am also careful when it comes to people with intense mental illnesses. Tattoos are therapeutic in troubled times but I will never tattoo a person who’s mental condition is constantly changing.