Category: Tattoo Studios

Apprentice Love: Chloe Candela

31-year-old Chloe Candela, is a tattoo apprentice at Black Market Tattoos Leicester. We love Chloe’s recognisable watercolour style and beautiful ladies, so much so that our editor Rosalie had to get one of her own! 

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How long have you been an apprentice? I started officially as an apprentice in January 2017, but have been working at the studio on alongside my other job for three years.

You work with your husband, Alex, did he teach you? Yes he did! He encouraged me to get into tattooing, as it was a passion we shared when we met. He’s been really great and pushed me a lot in a good way. Everyone else at the studio has been so supportive, I learn a lot of from everyone.

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Your styles are very different, yours reflects your watercolour paintings while Alex creates more traditional pieces. Was there a reason why you didn’t choose to do more traditional work? How did you find your own technique? I think it will take a long time to truly find my way of working as it does for everyone. I really love traditional work and what Alex does, and I’d definitely love to give it a try. But I think one of the reasons Alex encouraged me into tattooing was that I could hopefully bring my own style to it. I’ve been painting and selling work since I was in my teens, so it’s more instinctive for me to go for that style. I’ve been putting my work out there for a while, online, at fairs and art shows. I’m really lucky that now people who’ve supported my artwork in the past are coming to get tattooed and asking for my style, which is amazing. I’ve also been lucky to learn from Del (co owner at Black Market) who does realism, and I think the kind of tattoos I’d like to make sit in the middle of the two.

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With your lady heads you blood line the stencil first, why is this? What effect does it create? For the first few tattoos I did, the style was solid colour, no outline, so I tried bloodlining to act as the line work for when the stencil disappears and to make sure the carbon doesn’t contaminate the edge. I’ve carried on doing it as a bit of a safety net for the stencil, and also because it kind of helps me get my head around the tattoo, the area and the clients skin before I start putting colour in. In terms of the effect I think it definitely helps with soft, watercoluryness, because there’s no bold edge.

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What inspires your work and are there any artists that you admire? Also do you still have time for your paintings? At the moment I’m quite focussed on tattooing, but I will never abandon painting! I love portraiture and historical painting, and also movies and comics have always been a big influence for me. I love old shit, anything from the 30s through to the 70s. Claudia de Sabe was the first tattooist/painter I discovered who blew me away and has definitely been a major inspiration. My other faves at the moment are Miss Orange, Hannah Flowers, I always look out for them on my feed. Painting wise I adore James Jean, mind blowing painter.

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What would you love to tattoo? And what styles would you like to try out? I’d love to tattoo anything! I’m just into trying anything right now. It would be really cool to try something more straight up traditional, and also to try completely translating one of my paintings into a tattoo.

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Interview with Elle Donlon

30-year-old tattoo artist Ellena Donlon works out of Sweet Life Gallery in Birmingham and creates traditional tattoos. We caught up with Elle to chat Korean tigers, as well as what and who inspires her work…

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How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship September 2015. Prior to that I went to the University of the Arts in London studying a degree in Fine Art and I think I graduated in 2012. Graduating was a tough time, I never really enjoyed my degree as I felt I had to stop drawing and painting to make way for more conceptual work to please the tutors, that meant I lost a lot of direction, so I decided to figure things out and move back to my hometown, Birmingham.

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What inspired you to join the industry? Did you do anything related to art before? Me and my partner opened up a record shop and as I started to get tattooed again after a good 5 year gap, I realized that tattooing would be my dream job. I started to seek out an apprenticeship, which took a long time, but I persevered it was the only thing I could think of that I wanted to do with myself, and that was worth waiting for.

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Can you describe your style? Starting off my apprenticeship my style was very different to what it is now. Then it was purely a case of turning my style of illustrations into tattoos. I’ve only ever really had traditional tattoos on myself, and as my career has progressed my designs have evolved into a stylised version of western traditional.

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We love your Korean style tigers and animals, what inspires these? What influences your work? What inspires you? Korean style tigers! They’re so freaky I love them, I have a huge one on my back done by Will Geary who has a crazy good imagination, it’s actually bonkers. I guess I’m drawn to beautiful oddities. I see no point drawing things how they are in real life, the world can be very monochrome it’s up to artists to mix that up, so I guess that’s why I’m drawn to them.

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Also you create more traditional women and flora is this inspired by something completely different? I get inspired by a lot of religious imagery particularly from Asia, I love south western tribal art, alchemy and witchcraft and the 70’s! But I must say my biggest push are other tattoos artists. Some of my inspirations are Walter McDonald, Dan Higgs, Robert Ryan, Windle Berry and Gregory Whitehead. All of these people adopt this weirdo traditional style, which is what I hope to one day pursue. I love that surreal style it pushes me to work harder with my own and attempt to think in different ways.

But my true loves are Claudia de Sabe, Rachel Rhatklor, Valerie Vargas, Wendy Pham and Lizzie Renaud. Apart from Wendy Pham these women predominantly tattoo traditional ladies and lady heads. Ladies and flora have always been my favorite subject to draw even before I tattooed, I can draw and tattoo them forever no inspiration even needed, it just cheers me up. I don’t really see my lady heads as a separate thing per se, but they certainly come a bit more naturally to me than my animal or surreal work.

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Is there anything you would love to tattoo? I’m desperate to do more famous lady heads. I Would love to do anything from a John Waters’ film, Dolly Parton, Cher, Poison Ivy from the Cramps, the girls from B-52s, Kim Gordon if any of those trigger anyone’s fancy!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoo collection. My personal collection is predominately traditional. The thing I love so much about a traditional tattoo is that is gets better with time, like fancy cheese! In my opinion this is the style (alongside Japanese traditional and tribal) that celebrates the body so perfectly, it is timeless yet has still evolved with each decade. I love Dan Higgs, I have tributes from both Nick Baldwin and Teide who are both fans of his work and I think they’re my favorites. Me and my partner are going to LA later this year we’re hoping to get tattoos from Derrick Snodgrass, And I’m saving my hands for Rachel Rhatklor, if I ever get chance to go over to Australia or she guests over here.

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Do you have any guest spots planned? I will be guesting at Crooked Claw in Sheffield in April and Death’s Door, Brighton in June, with some other exciting ones in the pipeline!

Interview with Kerste Dixon

27-year-old tattoo artist Kerste Diston creates beautifully abstract watercolour tattoos at her tattoo studio, The Drawing Room in Coventry.  We chatted to Kerste about her style, and running a fully female tattoo shop…

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing around seven years.

How did you start? I started as an apprentice at a studio in my home town in Rugby where I worked for about four years.

What drew you to the tattoo world? Its always something I’ve been interested in. As soon as I turned 18 I was in studios getting work done. I’ve always been more interested in creative industries. I did footwear design at uni before getting my apprenticeship and I did art at college. I can’t imagine not doing something creative as a career.

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How long have you been a studio owner? How did it all come about? I’ve had my own studio for nearly two years. It just sort of happened – I left the studio I worked at in my home town in Rugby and I started working in Coventry. I had an old school friend who has their own business at Fargo Village where my studio is based. When I saw him posting on social media photos of Fargo I was intrigued. It’s a village for creative business and I thought that it would be the perfect place for a studio. They thought a tattooist would fit in well and they had a small unit available. My mum and dad encouraged me to go for it and set off on my own! I’m not sure I would have had the confidence without them to do it. But it’s definitely the best desicion I made. I opened in May 2016, and it started as a small private studio with just me. In May 2017 we expanded into next door and now we have myself and four other full time artists.

Who works in The Drawing Room and what kinds of tattoos do they create? We have myself who specialises in abstract watercolour and black work. Hanah who does super cute girly neotrad work, Emily our apprentice who does blackwork and Haley who does minimilist blackwork

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Was it your intention to have a fully female shop? To be honest it just sort of happened and now it’s a thing. Most of us have a mostly female customer base too because of the style of work we do so it all just sort of fits. That’s not to say if the right artist came to me looking for a job and was a guy I’d turn them down! It just happens that everyone so far that’s been right for us has been female! We also have lots of guest artists – we seem to have made this reputation where ladies like to come guest too, which is lovely! So many people think a big group of girls can be bitchy but honestly the studio is the complete opposite of that – it’s such a lovely place to work and I’m so pleased to have the team I do!

How would you describe your style? Has this changed? I do mostly rainbow watercolour work, however I’ve branched off into doing darker blackwork. It’s still quite abstract but it’s just opened up some more doors for me work wise!

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Do you prefer colour or blackwork? Is there anything you would love to tattoo? I like both colour and blackwork equally – it’s nice to break things up sometimes If I’ve had a week of all colour work and a blackwork piece comes in that’s nice and vice versa! Keeps things interesting! I love to tattoo all things nerdy/ponies and animals mostly!

Do you have any conventions planned? Just one more this year – Scarborough in May. We may look into a few more towards the end of the year though.

Interview with Ruslan & Tonya

26-year-old Tonya and 29-year-old Ruslan are tattooers from Russia. The couple work together in their private studio Abusev Tattoo in Moscow. We speak to Tonya about their unique style of tattooing…

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When we’re not tattooing at our studio we travel around Europe, soon we’ll be working in Barcelona, then Istanbul and Berlin.

We started our tattoo collaboration over five years ago in Russia. Since then our tattooing has transformed into what we call BIOGRAFIKA. It is not a style it is more like a way to see form and composition on human body. We both tattoo in black and color ink, although I mostly enjoy playing around with my colours and Ruslan likes to stick to black.

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We both work on the composition of a tattoo, creating its shapes and forms. Although I enjoy using colour  in my work, I do agree with Ruslan that black fits best on skin.

Inspiration is what makes our collaboration so special. We inspire each other to be better people, better artists, better tattooers! Working together is not always easy, it takes a lot of patience, and a great will to create something truly unique! We always try to bring something new into every tattoo project.

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It is pretty hard to describe how we met and how we started tattooing together, but each of our lives had wild twists before fate brought us together. Ruslan was working as a professional tattooer when I found him, he did a cover-up for me, and it all went from there – it’s our crazy story!

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One which you would love to see in a movie. I truly love the place we have reached so far, it’s a happy life of two tattooers that never let eachother get bored. Tattoos brought passion into my life. And from what I see, every tattoo we create brings a new life chapter to the person wearing it.

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Interview with Joaquin Ardiles

Because music is in itself an art, it comes as no surprise that so many involved in the industry also have an affinity for tattoo culture. 31-year-old guitarist Joaquin “Jo” Ardiles of Good Tiger has taken his love of tattoos one step further by becoming a tattoo artist. When he’s not on tour, Jo can be found tattooing a mx of western traditional and illustrative styles at Kilburn Tattoo in London. 

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How long have you been playing guitar and how long have you been tattooing?I’ve been pretending to play guitar now for about 15 years, and tattooing for about six or seven years I don’t remember exactly.

Which one do you love more? Or is it like picking a favourite child? They are both a lot of fun and I enjoy different things from each of them, I’m lucky that I get to do both. I think I get the same enjoyment from playing a sickhead riff as I do from finishing a cool tattoo. I like the freedom the tattooing gives me to be able to go out and play music and I like that playing music means I get to be tattooed by people in different parts of the world that would be difficult/expensive to get to otherwise.

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What was it about each craft that drew you in and peaked your interest? How do they make you feel? I started playing guitar because I thought chicks dug that shit, but actually they like saxophone. I quit playing the saxophone to play guitar, so I really fucked up there. By the time I realised it was too late and I was already invested, so I just kept going. Also I wanted to slam some sick riffs and be Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. Playing guitar means that I get to hang out with my friends and play a lot of Nintendo Switch with them in tiny backstages across the world, which is cool, I’m into it.

I started tattooing because I thought it would be easy and I could make some money in between touring but it turns out it’s not and I had to work hard for my place. Luckily I had a bossman that was ok with me going on tour, as long as when I was back I was at the studio watching and learning. I knew very little about tattoos when I started, I was a bit of an idiot actually. I love the world of tattooing now, I love that it’s not easy to get into, and I love that I still have a lot to learn.

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How would you describe your style of tattooing? What influences you? Are there any artists you admire? I think my style is a twist on western traditional, I like to keep things a little weird, make it’s something that’s mine as much as something the client wants. I’m influenced by other tattooers, by video games, music, comics. It all plays a part in influencing the way I draw, even if its not obvious in the piece itself. There are so many good tattooers out there right now, I could probably make a really long boring list but I think right now @greggletron is next level. @scumboy666 and @wan_tattooer have such a cool style, I wish people in the UK got more stuff like that I’d love to do shit like that. @joefarrelltattoo is the bossman at my shop he taught me everything I know and I owe him a lot. I work with @lauralenihantattoo and she has been putting out some bigboy pieces recently. HOLD TIGHT THE KILBURN MASSIVE.

How does your music and tattooing go hand in hand? I like to try and get tattooed while I’m on tour if I can. It’s not always easy depending on routing and timing and such, but it’s a nice way to meet tattooers and visit cool shops. Playing music means I get to meet a lot of people and tattoo a lot of people that have found me through the band. Also the music world is full of people with tattoos, I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo people in my favourite bands or talk to musicians about their tattoos and where they got them. I think both those worlds are interlinked, the first tattoos I saw were on musicians in magazines and on tv.

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Good Tiger released their new album We Will All Be Gone on Feb 9th 2018 via Metal Blade Records. Can you tell us a little bit about the new album, what is your favourite track? The new album rules and it’s gonna make me bigger than Kid Rock I think. We really pulled it out of our arses with this one, managed to make a non stop, start to finish, banger after banger, perfect album. Have you guys heard Dark Side of the Moon? This shits all over it and then some. My favourite track is Blue Shift because I think it will make me the most money/chains/emerald encrusted pimp canes.

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Will you be touring? What can fans expect? We will be yes, our next tour is in the states, little headline run followed by a load of dates in the US/Canada with our favourite beanheads Protest the Hero. Fans can expect a lacklustre show because we are old now and don’t have the gusto or the legs to put on a show with any kind of enthusiasm. Gonna keep it tight though and play real good. I might get a rat tail haircut again so if I turn around during the show, the front row is going to get a real visual treat, a battering of the senses, even. Prepare yourselves.

Lionel Fahy Tattoos

Tattoo artist Lionel Fahy is co-founder of the Parisian shop Les Derniers Trappeurs (LDT). A graduate of the Orleans Institute of Visual Arts in France, he has been creating illustrative drawings and tattoos for twenty years.

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My style is DREAMLIKE. Full of dreams, hope, wishes, secrets, double readings, and protective symbols. It does not meet any of the standards of classic tattooing, it is minimalist and stylised.

I love the work I create. I am lucky compared to many other artists. My customers come from the four corners of the world to get tattooed by me. To get something in my style and I am so grateful.

My biggest influences are my customers, my kids, my partner in life Tal and some books, and museums. I am inspired by my work as a duo artist with Tal. You can see our work on our blog.

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Apprentice Love: Lauren Burrows

Having fallen in love with Lauren Burrow’s bold and spooky style on Instagram, our editor Rosalie, had to add a piece of Lauren’s girly neo-trad to her collection. Situated in Bedford UK, Seven Magpies Tattoo is home to tattoo apprentice Lauren, realism tattooist Mark Watson and traditional tattooer Sam Childs. I spent the day chatting to Lauren about her love of horror, doughnuts and knee tattoos…

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What drew you to the world of tattooing? I always knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something with art, it was all I ever wanted. It was a natural progression into the realisation that tattooing was what I’d love a career in. I think neo-traditional work was probably what drew me in the most, I realised that out of all modern art I’d ever seen that the work I was seeing by neo-traditional tattooists was my favourite, and it was quite life changing really discovering all of that. When I was quite young I fell in love with Art Nouveau and the style, especially the work of Alphonse Mucha. I remember studying it and it remained to be my all time favourite style, influencing my work even more so as I got older.

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There’s only three of you in the shop, and you’re pretty tight knit, did you know the guys before you started? I didn’t know the guys before I began my apprenticeship with them, but quite honestly of all things I could ever be greatful for, I’m so happy that I ended up working with them. I love my life at the shop, and I can never even begin to thank Mark and Sam enough for everything they’ve taught me, for being incredibly patient with me and for pushing me to improve every step of the way. Also our days are forever made more enjoyable by winding each other up as much as possible and giving hell with ridiculous amounts of sass which is very funny.

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How did you get your apprenticeship and when did you start? What did you do before? I started my apprenticeship with Seven Magpies just over two years ago. I studied illustration and graphic design at the university of East London, but realised very strongly towards the end of my degree that tattooing was what I really wanted to do. During the time that I was putting my portfolio together and looking into it all, I heard that Seven Magpies were looking for an apprentice. It was quite literally the dream job as I’d known about them for a long time, since they are based in my hometown of Bedford, massively admired their work and couldn’t believe that the opportunity had popped up right when I was looking.

I tried my luck, asking if they’d be happy to take a look at my work, which they did. Shortly after that Mark offered me the apprenticeship and I still remember being so over the moon happy and basically in total shock for days!

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Are there any artists that you admire or influence your work? I think It’s massively benefited me having the influence and guidance of both Mark and Sam because their styles also vary massively, so between them they’ve always been able to help me out and it’s been awesome to have the perspective from a realistic and neo-traditional view. The guys have always helped me to broaden my view on the industry, encouraging me to look at work from different genres, and I think it’s definitely helped me to appreciate styles like Japanese, realism and far more classic traditional looking work too. Neo-traditional work does remain to be a massive influence for me and it’s certainly where I imagine I’d completely love to end up!

As far as artists that inspire me, there are just so many incredible artists out there and even if they don’t directly influence my work, seeing the sheer talent which is around definitely pushes me forwards to try and improve within my own practice. If I were to try and narrow it down and give a few names of artists that I admire I’d say that Danielle Rose and Cassandra Frances have been two of my favourite artists for the longest time, and the work of Emily Rose Murray is completely beautiful and I love everything that she creates!

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Rosalie’s scorpion that Lauren created

I asked you to create a floral scorpion design, because I wanted to match your creepy yet girly style, would you agree that this is your genre? What would you love to tattoo? Do you have any drawn up designs you would like to tattoo? I would say that creepy and girly sums up everything that I love to create entirely! I’d love to tattoo more girl heads as they are one of my favourite things ever to draw. I also love anything with a Halloween theme – all year round, insects, bat heads and cocktails are all things that I’d love to tattoo. I have a flash book of designs which are all things I’d really like to do but there is a sassy, stabby little toad holding a knife that I particularly want to tattoo at the moment and am waiting for someone to claim him!

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Would you say your style is influenced by your love of horror? At the moment you’re reading IT by Stephen King, but what is your favourite book or film? Are there any characters that you are dying to tattoo? I love watching horror films, if ever it is up to me to choose a film to watch it will always be a horror! But I think in terms of inspiration for my art Guillermo del Toro’s films strike me the most as they are creepy but completely beautiful. I love Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak. I also love Tim Burton’s work and I adore his characters because they are so cute but also incredibly creepy! I love Edgar from Frankenweenie and would love to tattoo him. There are plenty of characters I’d be so happy to make into tattoos, Sally or Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, Edith Cushing and Lucille sharpe from Crimson Peak, Coraline, The Addams family (especially Wednesday Addams) and of course I’d love to do my own version of Pennywise the clown from IT.

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Can you tell us a bit about your own tattoos? My favourite tattoos I currently have are a couple by Will Thomson – a lady with a ship in her hair and also a ship’s wheel with flowers. I absolutely love the wolf I have on my knee which was done at our  studio by Sam Childs, it’s a massive monster of a wolf head and it’s so angry and awesome. I actually haven’t been tattooed that much, purely because of spending so many years as a student and then an apprentice and not having enough spare income to get what I really want. But I know it will be worth the wait and there are so many pieces I’m dying to get and a lot of artists that I know I really want to be tattooed by. Generally I think I’ll end up getting quite a few spooky and Halloween based tattoos, I’d love a big neo-traditional style sorceress lady. I also adore animals so I’m pretty much guaranteed to end up with a lot of those also!

Interview With Igor Puente

We chat to 25-year-old travelling tattoo artist Igor Puente, about his style, how he got started and his future guest spot plans…

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When did you start tattooing? How did you begin? I started tattooing  six years ago  in my home, as I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to have me as apprentice in Madrid. In the beginning it was quite difficult, but I worked hard and studied art the first three years, which turned out to be the perfect combination to become a professional tattooer.

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What inspired you to become a tattooist? I wanted to be creative in my work, and I thought that tattooing was the best way to do that. Sometimes my clients come to me for one piece of my art and they give me lots of creative freedom, to me this is like the paintings or sculptures in the Renaissance period. People back then had art on their walls and now people have it on their skin.

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How would you describe your style of work? Has it changed over time? Right now I’m into creating mutated animals with lot of eyes and heads, and if the customer lets me do it, then I like to use red .I really love animals, so for me it’s amazing that I get to create lots of animals. When I started out I loved horror stuff and black and grey, but this changed when I saw the work of tattooer Eckel. I couldn’t shake the beautiful drawings out of my mind and that was when I decided to work in a more neo-traditional style.

You tattoo a lot of animals, do you enjoy making these? What would you love to tattoo? I really love animals! My first career choice was to become a vet, but I decided to choose something much more creative. Animals are my favourite thing to tattoo. If the animal is also red and has lots of eyes than I am in heaven!

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What influences your art? Are there any artists you love? I am influenced by everything, from nature to films, TV series and books. I love a lot of other artists and they influence my everyday life. Eckel, of course is for me the master, but I also admire Alex Dörfler, Antony Flemming, Adrian Machete and many many more.

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Do you have any guestspots or conventions planned? Yes lots of them and I am every excited!
23 November – 22 December  10 Thousand Foxes Tattoo, New York
5-9 December Mystic Owl in Marietta, Georgia
16-20 January Tattoo Addicts, Bilbao Spain
24-25 February Brighton Tattoo Convention

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: