Category: Tattoos

Yoga with Nina

We chat to 26-year-old Nina Goks, a yoga teacher and naturopathic nutrition student from London, about her vegan journey, tattoo collection and living a yogi inspired life…

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When did your yoga and vegan journey begin? My yoga journey started before veganism! I began yoga over four years ago, I was trying to get healthier, eating a more conventionally healthy diet, running and doing HIIT training. I tried a yoga style workout and quickly began doing yoga more than any other exercise – I enjoyed the peace, strength, release and focus. Before yoga I was relatively mindless when I worked out, I’d just get through it to get it over with and yoga is precisely the opposite.

My awareness of healthier eating initiated thoughts about compassion. I cut out meat and was vegetarian for a few weeks, until I watched Earthlings – I haven’t looked at the world the same since. Compassion, non-harming, living a simple life and being conscious of your health, the wellbeing of the planet and all life are certainly aspects of both yoga and ethical veganism, so it was natural for them to come along hand in hand. Then they spilled out into every aspect of my life and I quit the career I’d been very unhappy in to indulge in yoga and nutrition!

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Sunmer rolls made by Nina

What drove you to make such a huge lifestyle change? I was inspired by several people on social media, I enjoyed following along with their journeys. I was really introduced to veganism on those platforms, it enticed me to do research for myself. I chose to actively pursue it because once you know better, you can do better! It was time to be proactive. I was also having a lot of health issues, some diagnosed, some unexplained and for the most part I’d just accepted them as part of my life. Now that seems wild to me, I didn’t ever associate eating so unhealthily with ill-health – bare in mind I was a total junk food addict prior to the few months before I went vegan.

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Smoothie bowl made by Nina

Has it made you think about your body and yourself differently? Of course! I began to view myself as someone worthy of mindful health, I saw my body as something capable rather than deteriorating. It’s not arrogant or selfish to acknowledge your worth, in fact it’s liberating.

What advice would you give to others wanting to make a change? Educate yourself, watch documentaries, reach out to the online community for support and inspiration. If it’s something you want, then be kind to yourself on the journey. It can have its trials and tribulations but nothing worth doing just falls into your lap, it’s OK to be fearful, to take criticism. If you give yourself the information you need then it’s a much more simple transition. Choosing a positive outlook on something really changes the outcome!

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Pina colada smoothie bowl made by Nina

What do you share in your YouTube videos, what can people expect to see? I didn’t have a specific intention in mind when I started my YouTube channel. I just wanted to document my travels and make videos around the relatively new and exciting lifestyle I am continuing to learn about. So you can expect veganism, yoga, travel, yogi/vegan lifestyle, natural health and minimalism and probably a lot of other totally random musings.

How has your style developed? You’ve started to take more of a minimalist direction, what inspired this? With tattoos, I used to be more into traditional, but I’ve definitely developed a love for neo-trad. Minimalism was sparked by aspects of a yogi life. Living simply and the understanding that you have enough and you are enough. My aim is to have what I need, buy from independent, conscious small businesses or second hand but still use what I have now until it needs to be replaced. We are such consumers, totally feeding into what’s sold to us, when you reign that in you start to appreciate what you do have and where it comes from. My style has definitely evolved to much more clean and simple, tropical and nature inspired, vegan and barefoot living!

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? My tattoos are largely collected from female artists, but not all, especially anything I got in the past two years. Something about the experience of getting tattooed can become ritualistic. My husband, Goks, is a tattoo artist and his passion for tattooing expanded my own ideas about tattoos, I’d always wanted them, even though for a short time I said I wouldn’t have any that were visible.

That changed quickly, especially once I saw all the unbelievable artists out there. If you feel a connection with an artist, their work and their vibe, it totally changes your appreciation for the tattoo. Mine are really just things I was/am into, I’m not anal about what I get tattooed and often have my own ideas of what I want. I think there is a happy medium as far as meaning goes. If every single tattoo has to be sacred and super personal it could be hard to actually have ideas or be open to artist interpretation.

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When did you start teaching classes? How can people get involved? I’ve been teaching privately for a few months now, since I completed the start of my training. I’m in the midst of organising classes but I am available for private classes in south east London or within local areas. Information about events and classes can be found on my website and Instagram – new classes coming soon!

Careers: Tattooed Make-Up Artist

We chat to 26-year-old Charlotte Amy Tompkins, Make-Up Artist at Urban Decay based in Chester, about her incredible tattoo collection and personal style…

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I was 17 when I got my first tattoo, a small red bow on the bottom of my back in Blackpool. God knows how I even managed go get it! I look so young now, think what I looked like at 17? Thankfully it’s since been covered by my on-going back piece – which I need to get finished! At the minute I’m filling my gaps pretty slowly, but I want to get started on a stomach piece soon too.

I’ve always loved tattoos, I never used to like colour tattoos for some reason, but now look at me! Having my tattoos is such a boost, I love having them on me as they are a part of me and will be forever. My tattoos are mainly of animals and roses – you can’t beat a good rose! I absolutely love animals and roses are my favourite flower.

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Tattoo by @gibb0o

I get a lot of mixed reactions from people when they see my tattoos, they either go one or two ways. I get stared at rudely, some people shake their head in disgust too. I was once on the bus back from work and behind me were two elderly ladies talking about how have I even got a job and I should be ashamed being a lady covered in tack!

But when I’m at work I get amazing compliments and most are from women aged 50 or over, who are so interested and just wowed by my look, which is amazing. Kids love them too, they’re attracted to the colours, I had a little girl who was shopping with her mum recently, who got her mum to tell me that she thought I was beautiful with my tattoos and hair. It’s the little things that make me smile, but some people really hate tattoos for no reason really. But I love my skin thanks to all the amazing tattooists out there!

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Chest and neck tattoos by Paula Castle, Ash Boss and Jody Dawber.

I landed my current position at Urban Decay out of pure tenacity, I just kept going back after handing in my CV and eventually I got through three stages of interviews. I worked in a coffee shop before, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do career wise.

I’m really lucky that as a make-up artist and working for Urban Decay my job let’s me be myself. I would have gotten my more visible tattoos done eventually regardless, as they are a part of me now, but my job does help. I love how they look and how pretty they are. For those wanting to get more visible tattoos I would think really hard about what you want in the long run and think about how it will effect work first. As I said I’m lucky!

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I’m vegan, and I love that I work for a brand that is cruelty free, I love what they stand for. My typical day depends on my customers, I always sit them down to get to know them and find out what it is they want. At Urban Decay we love showing the off products and having a play, we want everyone to feel good about themselves and raring to come back and try more!

Urban Decay love people being themselves so hell yeah I dress how I want. My style is definitely different, a little quirky maybe a bit weird. I love black but I also liked having coloured hair, big earrings and platform shoes. Of course my tattoos are usually on show as they’re hard to hide!

Interview with Tattoo Artist Harriet Heath

Meet 30-year-old tattooer Harriet Rose Heath. She’s based in Sheffield and works as a travelling tattooer, with a permanent monthly spot at Dharma Tattoo in London. We chat to Harriet about her tattoo style, the body positive Facebook group she started and why no one should ever apologise for their body…

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What drew you to the world of tattooing, when did you start? The first thing was getting into alternative music and seeing all the band members I loved having tattoos and wanting to be like them. I got my first on my 18th birthday and have barely stopped since. I used to work in music retail and after being made redundant, I realised I needed to sort my life out. I had a lot of tattoos already by this point and drawing has always been the one thing I am good at, so it made sense to give tattooing a shot! I used to feel like it was hugely inaccessible and how could some girl just become a tattooer? These days I think it’s too accessible! A lot of hard work paid off though and now I’ve been doing it for over six years.

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How would you describe your style, both fashion/lifestyle and art/tattoos? My style has evolved a lot over the years, both in my work and in myself. I’ve always had a huge passion for tattooing girl heads, but my work used to be a lot darker in subject matter and colour palette. These days I’ve learnt to embrace fun in my work. For so long I felt that I had to conform to a set of rules, and if I did anything too feminine then I wasn’t a real tattooer.

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This carried through into how I presented myself as a person. Embracing femininity within my work has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love trying to represent all shapes, sizes and styles of women. Learning to be more unapologetic about myself has made me more unapologetic about my tattooing. I love working in colour, I love creating these fun babes that mirror my amazing clientele. I have quite a strong personal aesthetic that carries over into my work. Strength and beauty have always been the two main ideals I hope to achieve with everything I do.

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You have created a group on  Facebook called Take Up Space, can you explain what this is, why you created it and how others can get involved? I created the group after being disheartened by so many vegan and feminist groups on Facebook. Every time I joined one I felt like instead of championing people for trying, everybody was attacked for not being good enough. Your time online should never make you feel anxious and afraid. I wanted to create a space with like-minded people and really make a difference.

I’m a fat woman. I’m not ashamed to say it and I don’t think I should be. I’m happy with my body, I love how it looks and what it does, but it can be hard to navigate the world sometimes when train seats are too small, when shops don’t make clothes big enough and the world tells you that you need to minimise yourself, to become smaller and that if you are over a certain size, you are not welcome.

Learning to Take Up Space is important. Everybody is entitled to the space that they take up, both physically and more. The ethos of TUS is fat positivity, body acceptance and helping others along that journey in a warm and welcoming environment with other people that you can relate to. No restrictions on gender, size, age etc, it is for anyone who “feels big”. It’s taken me a long time to reach this level of acceptance and happiness about myself and it’s made me so happy to be able to share that wisdom with other people.

Seeing so many people grow since the birth of the group has been phenomenal. People who are now happy to wear crop tops, have bought their first ever bikini, are standing up and being more confident at work, discussing issues with people outside the group that they were too ashamed to talk about before. There is still so much negativity towards fatness, specifically in women, that we face on a daily basis, but we shouldn’t be treated as or made to feel lesser due to the vessel we exist in. If this sounds like a community you want to be a part of, search Take Up Space on Facebook and request to join then keep an eye on your inbox!

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Is it important that people become more positive about their bodies? Body positivity is a huge deal to me. So much collective brain power is wasted in this world worrying about rolls and inches and numbers and scales. I can’t tell you the number of times people have apologised for their bodies when I tattoo them, whether it’s people hating their toes, embarrassed because they forgot to shave their legs, or telling me they are sorry that I have to touch them. It breaks my heart every time. Nobody should ever have to apologise for just existing as they are!

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What would you say to others who are worried about getting tattooed because someone will be close to their body, or they perhaps don’t like their body? Please. Please. Please, do not worry. We have seen everything before. You are never too fat, too old, too hairy, too anything to get tattooed (except too young). Tattooists are professionals and should act as such. If you have self-harm scars, 99% of the time we can cover them for you, also you would be surprised how many we see all the time and a bunch of us have them ourselves. We work with skin all day long and it’s totally normal for us. If you want privacy, most studios should have blinds or screens they can put up to ensure that nobody other than the tattooist will see you. If you pick the right artist I guarantee you’ll leave feeling better about yourself! Never apologise for your body and just try to enjoy the experience!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos, have they helped you to see your body differently? I remember getting my stomach tattooed and transforming from somebody who was horrified by the idea of my shirt lifting up when I reached for a high shelf into someone who would lift their top and say “look how great this is”. The more tattooed I get, the happier with myself I become. Looking at your body and seeing something you have taken control over, chosen yourself and turned a few inches of skin you once hated into something beautiful is a powerful thing. In summer you’ll find me in short shorts and crop tops because I just love showing off my skin. I’m proud of it not only for how it looks but as a sign of what I am able to go through and come out the other side of stronger.

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Interview with Tattoo Artist Hanah Moore

23-year-old Hanah Moore works out of Queen Square Tattoo Club in Wolverhampton and creates beautifully neo-traditional tattoos. We chat to Hanah about her developing style, what inspires her and how she started in the industry…

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How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship just under two years ago, and I’ve tattooed every piece of fruit and all the friends you can imagine. But I officially did my first paid tattoo in January 2016, so just over a year.

How did you start? How did you get your apprenticeship? What did you do before?  I was extremely lucky with the whole “it’s who you know” business, my partner Josh Jeffery has been tattooing for just over four years and is insanely talented. So, when I met him I was plunged into the world of tattooing, I was studying at university when he arranged an apprenticeship interview for me. I was extremely lucky to get the job and I quit university the following week.

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Do you have a background in art? I did A-level art but we weren’t given much freedom with what we could create. I never really enjoyed that so I used to doodle tattoo ideas in all my books.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I got my first tattoo in Ibiza in the back of a seaside shop, and my first tattoo experience had no impact on where I am now. I was intrigued about the potential of what can be created on the body. So, I started my research and began collecting work from amazing artists who inspired me.

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Describe your style, has it changed? 
I’ve always loved anything floral, whether it be tattoos or not, I’ve always found the flow of nature to be beautiful. So recently I’ve tried to channel that and incorporate it into to my work, and make that my style. What I’ve wanted to create has never changed but my ability to do it has. I’m still learning and growing as an artist that will never stop, but I’m slowly getting closer to what I’d like to one day to be my style.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? I love drawing and tattooing flowers, there are endless possibilities when you bring them to life on the skin. I’m also all for the pop culture tattoos, as cheesy and overdone as they are I’m a sucker for them. Harry Potter is my main obsession and I keep trying to create pieces that no one else has done, which is very tricky, everyone loves a good Harry Potter tattoo!

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What inspires you? Do you admire any other artists? I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by some insanely talented artists, I live and work with my partner Josh and he’s my biggest supporter and inspiration. I’ve learnt everything I know from him. I admire way too many artists to list, but it has to be said female tattooists are killing it right now and I look up to them!

What would you love to tattoo? I’m dying to tattoo more animals and bigger pieces in general. I have a habit of drawing small so I’d love to break out of that and start some project work and bigger pieces.

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What’s a typical day like for you? I’d love to say I lead an exciting life but I’m afraid I don’t. We drive to work with the loudest music on you can imagine to get pumped for the day. I’m always super prepared so I know when I get to the studio my design was already drawn a week in advance. I’m the only woman in our studio and due to the style of my work I tattoo mainly women, so my days consist of gossiping and laughing really loud with all my customers. I’m extremely grateful of how amazing every one of my customers has been since I started, genuinely I feel like with every customer I tattoo I make a new friend and I love that.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? 
I don’t have that many tattoos to talk about but the ones I do have I adore. I have one nearly completed sleeve which consists of a hand holding a Harry Potter letter, a free hand cover up of a compass, and a mystic fortune teller with cat’s ears and crystals all done by the talented Lewis Weatherley. I had a spontaneous tattoo to the side of my face of a little flower by Paul Terry last year at tattoo freeze that I absolutely love. I wouldn’t say they all have any particular meaning most of them are more memories from a fun day or just pure appreciation of an artist and I am honoured to where their work on me.

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The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book and Interview with MEGAMUNDEN

The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book created by MEGAMUNDEN, and published by Laurence King, is filled with a vibrant and varied collection of tattoo flash for you to colour in. Inspired by  traditional style flash sheets and tattoo imagery, it’s a celebration of the tattoo world and its history. It’s perfect for tattoo lovers who love to unwind by exploring their creativity. 

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We chat to 35-year-old Brighton-based illustrator and creator of The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book Oliver Munden, AKA MEGAMUNDEN, to find out more about his book and what originally drew him to tattoo art…

Do you have a background in art? I followed the fairly typical route of doing art and design at school, then a foundation course at college, and a graphic design course at university. This gave me a really broad understanding of design and my first job was at a graphic design studio. It was here I realised I wanted to follow a career that focused on illustration. I’d drawn all the time from a very young age, so it made sense that I came back around to focusing on that.

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What kinds of things do you create? As a lead designer at Ilovedust, I create anything from tequila bottle labels to graphics for restaurant interiors, book covers to huge murals and everything in between! As MEGAMUNDEN, I focus generally on tattoo inspired artwork but that changes from project to project. I get bored doing one style all the time, although I do always come back to a tattoo-inspired aesthetic.

I’ve created two colouring books with Laurence King Publishing, both with a tattoo theme. I’m currently working on a deck of Tarot cards with them too, these have a tattoo theme and we have other projects under discussion, so watch this space.

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What inspires you and what inspired the book?  I took a trip to the States before making the second book and I collected tons of photographs and various other trinkets to inspire me.

The first book was a 50/50 split between Japanese and Western inspired tattoo style artwork. I wanted the second book to be more Western focused in its source of inspiration. I wanted it to be decorative yet bold and graphic. I wanted patterns to be woven into the visuals. I’m really into the old sailor style tattoos, and they’re a big trend right now. I looked at many recognisable tattoo icons, including vases, flowers, anchors, gypsy girls, ships, snakes, tigers, and tried to give them all my own spin.

What medium do you prefer to work in? I hand-drew most of my first book but at the moment I tend to work digitally using a Cintiq drawing tablet. It allows me to draw more complex things quickly, although the second book took even longer than the first despite having less pages! It’s just that much more complex in design and I like to think it’s a much more consistent and considered collection of tattoo flash. All there for people to colour if they wish!

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What drew you to the world of tattoos? The way designs impact you when you see them, like when you see a amazing tiger head tattoo and it stays with you. So many fields take influence from the world of tattoos, for example snowboard riders want their design to be easy to see when their board is flipping, so bold tattoo inspired visuals work nicely for that.

Skulls, snakes, spiders and flowers all resonate with me. My father has been keen on keeping reptiles and amphibians all his life, and that definitely rubbed off on me. I think all of that has a lot to do with the icons within tattooing it’s just so inspiring.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos ? I have a full Japanese sleeve on my left arm and my right arm is a collection of more sailor style pieces that I’ve got on my many travels and work trips. I’ve been to the USA a lot and had stuff done there, but I’ve also got a couple of pieces from Lisbon and Barcelona. Dan Frye does a lot of my tattoos when I’m at home in Brighton – he’s ace!

The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book created by MEGAMUNDEN and published by Laurence King is a must for tattoo lovers and available to buy here.

Guerrilla stick and poke tattooing: Prison Style Tattoos

In this post our guest blogger Amber Bryce talks about getting her first stick and poke tattoo from Prison Style Tattoos

I’ve always told myself that getting tattoos impulsively is a bad idea. It’s the kind of decision that leaves you with a boy’s name on your wrist, or a dog anus for a belly button, right? But in late November, I changed my mind.

I saw that Hannah Hill (AKA Hanecdote) had gotten a small stick ‘n’ poke gravestone reading “RIP ART SKL” on her bum cheek. I’ve always loved black and grey tattoos that have a simplistic, sketchy style to them – as though they’ve been doodled on a notepad during a boring geography lesson. Hannah’s tattoo (pictured below) had that appeal.

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I clicked through on Instagram to see @prisonstyletattoos’s ink-filled page, each tattoo framed by a peace sign. I Dm’d him and we arranged an appointment for the following week.

Secret Studio is where Prison Style Tattoos (AKA 34-year-old Timothy V) operates from, a gated complex in East London. I knew instantly I’d like PST when he messaged asking if I wanted a glass of wine. He also had blue hair, wore cool trainers and loved Fleetwood Mac.

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He got into tattooing after being turned down for a pair on his hands at 18/19. “I decided to take matters into my own hands (again, literally) and buy loads of dodgy tattoo gear online and do them myself. I’m happy to say it was a good lesson. It helped me to develop and let me do my own thing.”

I was getting a small UFO tattooed on my arm (pictured below). After checking placement we sat for a bit and chatted. I asked him what it was about hand-poked tattoos he preferred.

“I love the way by hand you can slowly build up a line and watch each poke change the identity of that line. Sounds farty but it’s such a unique experience for me each time. I love it.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 15.40.25I’d always imagined that hand poking would hurt more than a regular machine tattoo, perhaps because it seems more of a medieval approach. As he dipped the single needle into ink, I laid back and so began the tattoo. Or so I was told, because I could barely feel a thing. The whole experience was ridiculously relaxed, to the point where I felt like a fraud. I’d told friends I was going to get a stick ‘n’ poke and they’d thought it sounded really bad-ass, yet in reality here I was, chilling out with a glass of wine.

“What’s the strangest experience you’ve had while tattooing?” I asked. “During a tattoo I did on my genitals, the skin around my penis tripled in size and filled with water. I actually had a bloated sea cucumber for a chap! It wasn’t until I received a response to my panicked text from the Brighton tattoo artist Adam Sage that I felt relieved enough not to go to A&E. Taxi to hospital cancelled and all returned to its sore normal the next day.” At this point I couldn’t shake the image of a sea cucumber.

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After the first round of the design was done I went to take a look in the mirror. It looked faint, like half-erased pencil. Apparently some people quite like that look, but I sat back down for another layer of ink.  There was a large graffiti beetle on the wall, which PST told me was done by his friend and co-creative @veratattoos. This is whom he started his pop-up parlour with. “It’s purely us doing what we love, low key, unique and on a need to know basis. It’s, I hope, a unique, personal and endearing experience for the client.”

After another few rounds of hand poking, my tattoo was finished. A UFO had landed on my upper arm, leaving the skin beneath it only a little red and raised. After a quick Instagram picture, PST wrapped it up and I took one last swig of wine. Getting a tattoo is always exciting, but this felt especially exhilarating.

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As an anxious person, venturing to an unknown location in London to get a tattoo by someone I’d never heard of before at less than a week’s notice was a serious step outside of my comfort zone, but it’s this kind of rebellious impulsivity of tattoo culture that PST is hoping to recapture.

“I’m a firm believer tattoos should be spontaneous but at the same time sum up something that’s fearless and ‘non-standard’.” Before heading off into the cold, I asked him what’s in store for the future. “The plan is to be a successful, fun, busy, happy, exciting, passionate maker of hand poke tattoos and give each person who is willing a lovely, personal experience. I want to play this gig full time, baby!”

I’m already planning going back for a vegan-inspired ‘RIP cheese’ tattoo.

Interview with Barbie Lowenberg

27-year-old tattoo artist Barbie Lowenberg works out of The Black Lodge in Portishead, Bristol, and creates beautifully bold tattoos. We chat to Barbie about what inspires her and how she started in the industry… 

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been hand poking for about four years and started machine tattooing towards the end of 2016.

How did you start? What did you do before? Having been a freelance illustrator for the last five years, I have always drawn inspiration from tattoos – particularly traditional and blackwork tattooing. My partner, Iain Sellar and I started our little brand Long Fox five and a half years ago, where we made prints, t-shirts and murals for shops/bars/cafes etc. Not long after we started Long Fox, Iain started tattooing at The Black Lodge and I decided to give hand poking a go – slightly intimidated by the thought of a machine. I immediately fell in love with it, it was the perfect starting point for me and such a calm and intimate way of creating art on someone’s body. It gave me the opportunity to really think about each line/element of a tattoo as it takes time and careful precision. It wasn’t until last year that I took the opportunity to learn with a machine and it’s been great.

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Do you have a background in art? Growing up, I was very musical. The focus was all on that and art was more of a side thing/personal hobby. I learnt loads of instruments in school and composed music, then went on to study music at university and become a violin teacher. I liked it, but the entire time I was drawing in the evenings, and the tattoo influence was evident even then. I never really showed anyone my drawings but Iain found my stash and that’s how Long Fox started.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I had always liked the idea, even as a small kid, of having something meaningful preserved on your skin. In the margins of my school books I would draw tattoo ideas based on my cat and my love for music. I have been presented with a lot of resistance and anti-tattoo opinions within my family which has been hard to deal with. I just love that there’s the opportunity to adorn your body with unique art directly from the artists, and it’s there to treasure for the rest of your life! I’m so glad it’s becoming more acceptable and more appreciated as an art form.

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Describe your style, has it changed? I’ve always drawn just black on white bold images. I’m not sure why, just the simplicity of black ink on white paper appeals to me. I think over the years, you can see a change in my drawings – I’ve played around with line weights, methods of shading, bolder blockier images and developing my own individual style and subject matter. I feel like it’s something that will continue to change and develop over the years, and that’s part of it for me!

What do you like to tattoo and draw? So many different things! Sometimes it’s mood dependent, sometimes it’s a spontaneous idea, or maybe an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while – those ones never turn out how I imagine though. Tattooing means I have the opportunity to draw up other people’s ideas and put my own twist on them as well as offering my own flash to choose from. I will sometimes obsess about a certain idea and it’ll appear in several of my drawings. I’m struggling to think of specific things I like to draw – other than cat eared babies and windy sky scenes! I guess I like to draw most things!

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What inspires you? From a young age, I’ve enjoyed surrealism, medieval etchings, scientific, dark ideas and botanical illustrations, amongst lots more. I take inspiration from all sorts of things like photography, editorial fashion, furniture, jewellery, book covers – so many things! And of course, tattoos themselves.

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love to tattoo anything bold, cute and a little bit weird. I also love to tattoo new and challenging ideas! I think I’d have to refuse to tattoo someone if I thought someone was getting it for the wrong reasons and that they might regret it. If someone wanted something which I thought would be offensive to someone else, I would definitely refuse. I wouldn’t want to be associated with anything that would cause offence or hate. So far, I’ve not had to refuse anything!

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Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I have my first ever guest spot coming up this April at Insider Tattoo (Edinburgh) which I’m really looking forward to! I hope to be doing more guest spots this year so keep a look out for more!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I got my first tattoo when I was 21 from Marcus at Broad Street Tattoo in Bath. It was an idea I’d had for a while to honour my Hungarian heritage and it was a great experience. Since then Iain and I have travelled to see some of our favourite artists to get either flash or their take on our ideas. I still have plenty of space left and so many ideas I’m saving for artists I love.

Getting tattooed is such an exciting journey. I treasure all of mine as they either represent something important to me or hold a memory of a certain time in my life. My tattoos are always positive ideas that lift me up when I need them to and to me, they add beauty to my body. Not all my tattoos hold a specific meaning behind them, sometimes its nice to get a tattoo that simply looks nice and I can appreciate it for just being the awesome piece it is. Some of my favourites are the ones that turned out nothing like I had expected them to, which made me realise that it’s the idea behind it that holds importance for me and an honour to have an artist’s personal interpretation of it.

Five Favourite Stick and Poke Artists

Our guest blogger Katie Houghton  shares her five favourite stick and poke artists of the moment…

While once considered unregulated, raw and reserved, ‘stick and poke’ is still here, and it’s bigger than ever. Most of the people I know that have tattoos, now have a stick and poke piece to go along with them, and more artists than ever are replacing motor-led machines with the simple needle and ink combo instead. Having recently acquired a couple of my own after lashings of Mexican food and a harrowing hour in front of American Pie, I wanted to see what artists were bringing this out the bedroom and into the mainstream.

Grace Neutral

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Whether you’ve gone gooey eyed over her latest tattoo series on VICELAND or not, Grace Neutral is undoubtedly one of London’s biggest hand-poked names. Don’t let her slight of voice fool you, there’s a brassy, boldness to her lines that are unmissable. While stick and poke is an artwork often reserved for petite and simple pieces, Grace is dominating sleeves and covering skin with some of the most intricate and hardy work in the business.

Lotte Vanns

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Lotte, a plant enthusiast and illustration student, calls herself a ‘confused human bean’ on her Instagram account, but nothing about her work confuses me. A perfect example of the divine line work coming out of hand-poked tattoos, Lotte Vanns not only showcases the female form in all its honest, and often delicate glory, her range of flora, nods to fauna and wispy lines summarise everything I like about the art of stick and poke.

Zzizzi

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From Taiwan to Sydney, this is a stick and poke artist that likes to get around, but that’s not just what I like about him. I’ve always been the person that thought hand poked tattoos were reserved to one colour palette and one colour palette only, and that’s black. Not only proving that I am very often wrong, Zzizzi rejects modest and cutesy lines for thick, chunky ‘ignorant’ themed line work that screams of the fun of the 80s with a little rock ‘n’ roll thrown in for good measure.

Kelli Kikcio

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Born in Canada but currently staking her tattoo claim at a studio in Brooklyn, New York, Kelli is something of a creative butterfly, dipping her toes in production, art and design combined. Yet another example of the simple satisfaction that comes from stick and poke, Kelli defines the art with direct and natural lines that play with female figures, flowers and crisp imagery to generate a flash collection that keeps me coming back for more.

Ngh Mgco

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If I had my way, this entire piece would be dedicated to hand poked botany, but it’s the likes of Ngh Mgco from Russia that add a firm edge to femme-esque pieces. More old school than most that stay devoid of a machine, the bold pieces, dark colours and noir feel to Ngh makes his work enticing and rich in a scene of simple, light stick and poke. I like his edge and the bravery of anyone sticking it out under those thick lines.

Interview with Tattoo Artist Paul Colli

Clean lines, not too many details. Paul Colli, resident at Satatttvision in Milan, likes to call his tattoos “ugly and ignorant”. In this interview, our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti explains why and discusses his humble view on current tattoo society, more about Horitomo references and his Monmon cats…

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What brought you into tattoo culture? How did you start tattooing? I walked into the tattoo world when I was 16, with total ignorance. I got the initials of my mum and my sister tattooed, I thought it was cool as I was the only guy to have one in my class. A few months later, I went for the second and then goodbye, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and I started getting tattooed all the time!

At 18, I bought my first “machine” and the first power supply at the Milan Tattoo Convention and I began to work on pork rind. Unfortunately some friends came in to get scribbled, but after a few months I stopped. I didn’t get tattooed for a couple of years until I met Max and Marta the owners of studio Vigevano. I spent everyday there, I had become a cumbersome presence and when I was asked if I was interested in learning how to clean, sterilise and live the apprentice life, I accepted. I began to draw more frequently, tracing Hoffmann, Sailor Jerry, Dietzel, tons of flash badly implemented on paper.

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You often say your tattoos are “ugly and ignorant” tattoos, how would you define this style? I’ve always loved simple tattoo designs. The less details there are the better.  “Ugly and Ignorant” is a deliberately extreme definition of  my work, linked to the clarity of a subject realised in an elementary way – a few lines that are immediately readable. Lately I’ve been putting a little more detail in my tattoos, but I prefer to use thicker lines that keep the process of simplifying the original flash, leaving many empty spaces where I can “scratch”.

Your cats are a traditional version of those recreated by Horitomo? Who/what inspires you? Yes, without a doubt! The first cat I made was at “Sailor Whisper” in Ravenna, the girl wanted the classic curled Monmon Cat. I remember having developed it until it became a skull! Since then I have studied and played with the cats of Horitomo, but also with various photographic references, changing the thickness of the lines and inserting traditional subjects pattern.

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What subjects do you prefer? Are there any projects you would like to start? In the past year I have concentrated on Eastern tattoo art, with the use of geishas, samurai and masks. I like to keep the classic traits of Japanese art but simplify it. The results look good, but I think I still have a lot to study and improve.

What are your points of reference in the world of tattooing? I have always studied traditional tattoos, and been inspired by the flash of tattoo artists who have shaped the history of this craft. Every artist I know is helping me to grow and to understand something different. Everything can be considered a good reference point when the exchange takes place in a constructive way.

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How do you think the future of this art will develop? On one side there are castes in the Italian tattoo scene that in my opinion should have never been created, and these contributed to make it definitely a worse world – success is not necessarily synonymous with talent. On the opposite side, however, exist and continue to come to light great artists who contribute every day to make the tattoo world a crazy and magnetic place. So really, I have not the faintest idea what will happen in the future!

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Some say that the tattoos are ‘not for everyone’, what do you think? Tattoos are for everyone. Now the market supply has exploded and this allows everyone to have the means to start tattooing, not necessarily having the qualities suited to undertake this type of work. Who now begins considering himself as an artist, often ignores history and is not interested in traditional iconography and has a very low personal culture. I think it’s fair to adapt to developments in a constructive way, to experiment, evolve, but always maintaining respect for the tradition. And above all, stay humble. If you think you made it, you will not be able to go on. There is always more to achieve.

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The role of the tattooist in current society, is it artist or craftsman? The question is all the rage in recent years! As I mentioned before, I think it’s a balance between craft and art. As I do not believe that a tattoo artist sees the tattoo only as an art work. Basically I think that technological developments have influenced the way tattoo artists act, work and so they’re a mix between a craftsman and an artist. Certainly it is always satisfying when a customer chooses you among a thousand others because of your personal style.

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Do you have any upcoming guest spots and projects in the works? I am now a resident artist at Satatttvision Collective in Milan. I will be working at Sang Bleu in Zurich at the end of February, April I’ll be at Area Industriale in Rome, Sailor Whisper in Ravenna and Maux Les Bleus in Paris. June I’ll be working at Modificazioni Corporee in Chiavari, and finally in November I will be at the Brussels Tattoo Convention.