Category: Tattoo Studios

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.

Black Inc Tattoo, Frome

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Jo Black tattoos out of Black Inc Tattoo in Frome, Somerset and specialises in neo-traditional tattoos with a dark and gothic twist. We chat to Jo to find out more about the fun and vibrant studio, the artists that work there and the tattoos she creates…

blackink Merry Morgan specialises in blackwork and apprenticed under Jo. He became a full time artist about a year and a half ago. He recently won his first award at the Northern Ireland show for his blackwork tattoos.

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Verity Ann Fox specialises in neo-traditional in black and grey.  Verity moved to black Inc this year from a shop in a neighbouring town. She has brought a fresh and exciting attitude into the shop. She currently works part time so she can spend as much time with her little girl as possible

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Yoji Canniffe works in blackwork and tribal and joined the studio this year. He does most of the shops walk-in customers and loves anything tribal or blackwork.

 

INTERVIEW WITH JO BLACK

How long have you been tattooing? I have had my own shop for six years now, although I tattooed for a couple of years before that. We have expanded once already into a bigger shop and a second expansion is on the cards for the near future!

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Tattoo by Jo Black

How did you start? What did you do before? I did it the wrong way and learned on my own legs and a friend took me under her wing at her studio to show me the right way to do it. Before tattooing I was at uni completing my graphic design degree in Cardiff. I was also a chef, this supported me through university. I actually decided to open my own shop in my third year and spent my final year commuting between Cardiff and Somerset to run the shop and complete my degree. It was hard work but it was so worth the effort!

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Foot tattoo by Merry Morgan 

Do you have a background in art? I have always been encouraged by my family to be creative and artistic, in primary school they noticed early on I had a passion for art and teachers throughout my education continued to nourish this. After GCSEs I went on to do a foundation degree in art and design and then a BA Hons in graphic communication.

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Hamsa by Yoji Canniffe

What drew you to the tattoo world? Firstly it was the creativity and excitement of such an unusual art form, and one which so many people look down upon. When I realised that making a regular income from my canvas art was practically impossible, I started thinking about other options. As someone who already had tattooed it seemed to fit. Then as I got further and further into the industry I realised what an incredible community of just about every kind of person from every walk of life it is. I was totally hooked on just how many talented, beautiful and inspiring people I began to meet. Not just other tattoo artists but my clients as well!

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Verity Ann Fox

Describe your style, has it changed? My style has always been neo-traditional, I suppose this is how I have always drawn anyway but I never had a label for it until I began to tattoo. But in my early days I was certainly more drawn towards a cartoon like style which I have outgrown and I now try to balance on the line between cartoon and reality. It’s what I enjoy most and even if it goes out of fashion I will plug at it until it comes back again.

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Skull by Merry Morgan

What inspires you? My mum and dad, every day! They are so strong and patient and kind and generous and they have always supported me in every aspect of my career and personal life. Without them I would not be doing this now.Also, every artist I admire and look up to, not just tattooers but all kinds of artists, inspire me to do better and push myself all the time. I love flicking through books, fashion magazines and tattoo mags and just soaking up a bit of everything!

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Lantern by Jo Black 

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I always adore tattooing animals, the more natural the better for me, I don’t understand symmetry, my brain does not seem to work that way. I adore it visually and appreciate how incredible it is, but I find it hard to do things in a symmetrical way. Perhaps because nature isn’t symmetrical and I prefer to do nature based art.

I don’t often do tattoos that ‘celebrities’ have – the moment someone comes in and says ‘you know that one Cheryl Cole has’ my ears just tune out. I can’t think of anything less original than copying a tattoo someone already has.

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Tattoo by Verity Ann Fox

Do you have any guest spots, guest artists or conventions planned? Next two tattoo conventions are the one in our home town Frome Tattoo Convention on Feb 18th and 19th. Then right after that I am at the Manchester Tattoo Tea Party which is one of my all time favourite shows to work. We have a constant flow of guest artists in the shop, next up is Beci Murphy and then Emily Dawson and then pretty much someone every other weekend thereafter. It’s great, keeps the studio fresh and exciting. I haven’t any guest spots planned at the moment because we might be moving shops again soon and I want to focus on that before I take any time off to travel.

Shaded: Maidstone John

‘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.

Maidstone John is a 25-year-old Cantebury-based freelance illustrator and tattoo apprentice who conjures up gnarly magic from the comfort of Three Crows Tattoo. As part of Things and Ink’s ongoing interview series ‘Shaded’, the master of morbid etchings tells us of his past-life as a fruit picker, his current obsession with medical journals and how he’s working hard towards producing “bigger and busier” work.

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Can you talk me through your relationship with tattoos? I got my first tattoo at The Brighton Tattoo Convention when I was 18. I got a portrait of my mum on my forearm, and it’s still one of my favourite tattoos to this day. My Uncle was a biker, and I’d always hang out with him and his friends who were all heavily tattooed at the time. Its always been my plan to be covered before I reach 30, and so far It’s going pretty well! I’ve always been lucky enough to have a lot of friends in the tattoo industry. I was over the moon when my buddy Chris got me a full-time job as a shop boy at a tattoo shop! At the time, it was never my intention to tattoo, but I would always draw and the boss would let me display my prints and drawings in the shop. I would often get asked if I was apprenticing, but I would always say no and tell people that it wasn’t for me. I left the shop on good terms after two years and moved on to Canterbury where I got an early morning job on a farm picking fruit and doing odd-jobs. Three Crows Tattoo in Canterbury was in the process of opening when I moved, and I would pop in whenever I could to help paint the walls and frame all of the flash. I told Adam, the owner, what I had been up to and that I planned to put a portfolio together over the next year or so to apply for an apprenticeship. There and then, he offered me an apprenticeship!

What’s the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve gained since the start of your apprenticeship? It’s kind of hard to explain, but I would personally have to say that gaining an understanding of the tools for the job at hand has been incredibly valuable. You have to take into consideration the area of skin you are working on, what needle grouping and voltage to have set-up and, of course, the high level of hygiene for the customer and everyone else in the studio.

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What attracts you to black-work and etching? I have always worked in that style from day one. Craig Scott, Dan singer and Richard Sayer got me drawing in the first place and were always such strong influences, and it wasn’t until I discovered guys like DuncanX and Liam Sparks that I ever thought it would be possible to adapt that style to tattooing. I have always loved and appreciated every style of tattooing, but I personally think that black tattoos just look so strong, and as for the etching, I just want to be able to stand out and offer something a little different.

Can you tell me about your own tattoos? I wouldn’t say any of my tattoos have any particular meanings behind them. I’ve been tattooed by a fair few people now. My legs consist of a lot of apprentice tattoos by my friends when they were learning. I recently tattooed myself a few times too. My buddy Dan Frye has tattooed some of my favourite pieces of mine. He recently tattooed a solid, black spider caught in a traditional web right in the ditch of my knee. I’ve mainly been getting tattooed by Philip Yarnell recently though.  We are currently in the middle of finishing off my front, which includes a huge bat across my chest and shoulders.

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What is currently inspiring you? I am currently very inspired by old medical journals, as well as monster toys from the 80’s. I have a never-ending collection of books and curiosities. I’m pretty obsessed. Me and my pal Dan Carrington have some pretty gnarly collaborations in the works that involve murder and suicide victims, so keep your eyes peeled!

Have you tattooed anyone yet? I’m currently in the process of filling up my friends’ legs with as many small designs as we can possibly fit, including cover-up work and blast over’s, which I love to do. One of the first tattoos I did on him was this tripped out Mickey Mouse, the other being this devil moon. Both tattoos took me so long to do. I was in the shop by myself for one of them which was a struggle when it came to packing the black in. I was just so lucky and grateful for my trooper of a friend who let me do what I had to do.

Despite the struggle at the time, its all healed up better than I could ever have imagined. I was never nervous as such when tattooing, it was more excitement which was just as bad at the time because it still made me a little shaky, but that shortly disappeared. I am now up to tattoo number seven and I am happy to say I have defiantly gained a lot confidence and picked up a lot of speed in a pretty short gap. I still have such a long journey ahead of me but I am so determined to reach my goal and get to a point where I am clean and consistent enough to move on to bigger and busier designs.

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Who inspires you artistically? I would have to say Dan Santoro, Daniel Higgs and Duncan X predominately – as well as everybody else at In To You. At the moment, I am so inspired by Jack Ankersen and my buddy Lice4Life when it comes to tattooing and printmaking: out of the box and out of this world. They both produce very unique and exciting stuff!

How do you see your work evolving? I’m just forever going to strive to get my line-work, blackwork and shading to the point where it is as clean and consistent as possible. At that point, I would like to focus on bringing back some of my more detailed and complicated designs. I will always be putting out flash and illustrations for records. I enjoy that side of things so much! I equally want to keep pushing that too.