Category: Art

Shaded: Megan Climaldi

‘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.

Megan Climaldi is a 19-year-old illustrator and tattoo artist who is currently working and living in Portland, Oregon. Born in Las Vegas and raised in Hawaii, Megan describes herself as an openly-gay half-Korean who is trying her best to be happy and kind. As part of Things&Ink’s on-going feature ‘Shaded’, Megan opens up about her personal relationship with art, Portland’s tattoo community and her attraction to the darker side of things.

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Can you tell me about your relationship to tattoos? My relationship to tattooing is deeply personal and mostly centred around the healing aspect of it. I got my first tattoo as a 15 -year-old. My mom signed off on it, but would only allow it if the tattoo related to her in some way. She eventually became a negative part of my life, and we haven’t spoken for years. I think that was a bit of a sad beginning to my relationship with tattoos, but every tattoo I’ve gotten after, in comparison, completely relates to things that I want myself. It’s more about the feeling I associate with the imagery than anything else. It’s healing for me, and has an ultimate sense of self care to it. It’s almost ritualistic.

Who’s currently inspiring you as an artist? I look up to a lot of people, as I’m still very new to the industry. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I have very high hopes and dreams for myself. Some artists I really look up to are Nomi Chi, as someone who is also mixed race and queer. Other artists who I have immense respect for include Cal Jenx and Alice Carrier. I have always been hesitant about tattooing because I feel that a majority of the industry in the US is geared to a certain demographic, and that anyone outside of that is an outlier. It’s great to see artists that are happy and proud of their identity outside of that.

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What’s tattoo culture like in Portland, Oregon? Tattoo culture in Portland is very, very interesting! People here are so open and supportive of art in all of its forms, and I feel like the people I’ve met through tattooing have mostly been very welcoming and genuinely good folks! It’s a small community, even though it feels large. The art scene here is very community centred. Everyone knows each other and will show up to each others shows. The line from tattooing to art, I feel, is starting to blur. I only hope that the worlds continue to collide! I went to a gallery show for the first time here and was in awe of how supportive and relaxed people were. I could only hope to bring that sort of feeling, that inclusivity, to tattooing. Art should be for everyone, and I feel that it has such deep benefit for so many people that it should be accessible, comfortable, and most of all, inclusive! My friends influence me greatly and their continued support and understanding has inspired me to always be kind, and to grow on a daily basis.

What attracts you to blackwork? I love contrast. I love a strong silhouette; I draw much of my artistic inspiration from the art world, and have always been interested in black and white as its own genre. I feel that being able to express with a balance of minimalism and detail is something that is very beautiful. I aspire to create things that are simple, but still complex. Black and white is a fantastic platform for this, and also happens to look great on any skin tone.
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What predominantly inspires your work? My art is predominately inspired by emotion and things that I find beautiful, whether that be a feeling or an image. All of my drawings I could look at and describe exactly how I felt when I created them. I draw so much out of my own personal emotion – my own suffering, that when someone I don’t know sees something I’ve drawn and wants it tattooed, I always am astonished that the imagery resonates with them as well. The fact that a complete stranger could see something I’ve made and feel deeply enough to want it tattooed, I feel like it’s sharing in a subconscious feeling, an unspoken “me, too”. Outside of this, I draw much artistic inspiration from art with strong silhouettes and imagery, traditional Japanese and even American traditional have influenced the way I draw and create my artwork.

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The imagery of your work naturally gravitates towards the dark and morbid. Can you tell me about your relationship to these things? The things I draw tend to gravitate towards themes of death, pain and even self induced suffering; I attribute most of this as a reflection of my own psyche. Art is for me very personal, and always something I have done to heal, express and recover. I have suffered for years with depression and have recovered well and am happy, so perhaps my gravitation towards images of sadness is a way of remembering. I feel like being able to take these feelings, these sad images, and make them beautiful and make them something people enjoy looking at and having on their bodies is truly where I want to triumph. I am growing as a person every day. I am still sad sometimes, but I want to spend my life making beautiful things out of the darker, more tragic parts of life. It is how we heal, and how we all exist as a microcosm of living and dying, forgiving and forgetting.

How do you see your work evolving? I see my work moving in a direction where I use more traditional influences. I would also like to work in larger spaces, but that’ll come with time. I want to involve myself more with programs that cater to marginalised groups, LGBT youth and folks with mental illness outside of my tattooing endeavours. I am so new to this – still developing and still growing that what my future holds is still so open. The possibilities are endless, I believe.

Crafters and the ink on their skin

Ahead of Sunday’s BUST Craftacular in London’s East End, our editor Alice Snape interviews three vendors about their creations, why they love crafting and the ink they wear on their skin. With over 70 independent designer-makers featuring at ‘London’s coolest craft fair’ (Time Out) we knew there had to be some awesome tattooed folk in there too.

Sarah Corbett, 32, Founding Director, Craftivist Collective, London based, works worldwide.

sarah“All of my tattoos help me on my journey to be the best version of myself. They are a mix of craft related tattoos, nature and music. I have scissors to remind me to help shape the future, thread to encourage me to thread my values through all that I do and jigsaw pieces to remind me to see where I can be part of a positive world and where it’s best to prioritise my time and energy. I also have Bjork ducks because she is such an inspiring innovator, quotes like ‘tough mind tender heart’ which is a Martin Luther King quote and reminds me to always be kind to people but always work as strategically as possible too and never get complacent. They might look fun to viewers but they all have big meanings for me and some of those meanings I keep secret.

“There are so many links between crafts and tattoos! Handicrafts are naturally a slow process and so is tattooing because you need to work carefully and often with courage. The physical results of both are permanent so people really take ownership of their tattoos or completed craft object because so much love and care has gone into them. They are both often very personal for the creators and intimate things to do.”

“I call myself a “craftivist”, which is someone who uses craft (mostly handicrafts) as a tool to deliver activism. Protesting against systems and structures of injustice using objects to help do in different ways from encouraging us to be the change we wish to see in the world, giving gifts to power holders to become critical friends rather than aggressive enemies and work together to leave small pieces of provocative street art to provoke passersby on particular injustice issues.

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“I started creating my own craftivism projects with my ‘gentle protest’ approach in 2008. Within a few months people asked to join me in my projects and the Collective was born as a small group of people in the British Library cafe meeting up monthly in London. Now groups and individuals around the world take part in our projects and use our DIY kits and tools. I will be at BUST Craftacular with some of our lovely craftivists from the collective in our ‘Craftivism corner’ where you can join us anytime 11am-5pm to rest and take part in some slow, gentle, positive activism alone or with friends. Every single one of us has gifts and talents we can use to be the change we wish to see in the world and our activity area hopes to help remind us of that. We will also have our own stall with other craftivism projects and tools people can buy and be inspired and empowered by.”

Check out how you can become a Craftivist at their BUST Craftacular workshops here craftivist-collective.com

Lucian, 29, Cambridge, artist, Vapvla leatherworker and Real Wizard

lucian-profile“All my tattoos are artwork that I’ve drawn up myself specifically for my body and its shape. I endeavour to portray, through my tattoos, inner workings of my mind, creative process and spirituality that would otherwise be invisible. These days, I am sufficiently covered that I think I could explain my religion just by rotating, naked and silent, before an audience – but I’m not finished yet! I had my first tattoo – my favourite David Bowie lyric – when I was 22. I wanted it to encompass as much of my hidden self as possible just in case I hated the process and wouldn’t want another. It turned out to be completely fine. People have said that I must be addicted – but when I receive a tattoo, the whole process – from idea genesis, to body painting, to drawing up, to needle, to clingfilm, to healing – leaves me with such an immediate positive effect upon my self esteem that I see no real reason to stop!

“I will be at BUST Craftacular with my exciting “new” endeavour – my leather company VAPVLA, which I founded last year. I love harnesses and leather, but always found the world of harnessry disappointing in that it assumes that, if you want to wear a harness, you must be either a cis woman who wants to appear vulnerable or a cis man who wants to appear powerful. Drawing lines across the body with a hard, restrictive (but supple) material like leather (or our vegan-friendly heavy vinyl) is inherently a neutral action. Bodies are wildly variable, much like gender and power presentation. I didn’t want to be prescriptive. I like to think our harnesses will do anything, or nothing, for anyone. The name, VAPVLA, is a stylisation of the name of a Goetic demon that I came across in 2014 when I produced an illustrated edition of the Ars Goetia – a demonology grimoire from the 17th century.

“My future plans are to render my body both more explanatory of my inner self and more baffling through tattooing and surgery, and to be number one in What Wizard! magazine, should such a thing exist.”

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

Ella Masters, 28, Freelance illustrator

ella-masters-portrait-ink“My first tattoo was of a swallow and stars with music notes on my left wrist, I’ve also got a siren’s head on my thigh that I got at Brighton Tattoo Convention on a whim a few years ago. I have a large skull and kewpie on the back of my right arm done by Hugh Sheldon – I love his work. I recently got two that mean the world to me. I had a sentence tattooed near my heart on my side, it’s for my mum, we lost her suddenly and it’s been devastating, but we had a strong bond. I have “always be by your side” and, just last week, I got the Joy Division lyrics “love will tear us apart” in a heart. It’s by Luke Jinks, he took my illustration and did his own twist on it, which I’m in love with. I have eight hand poked tattoos on my ankles, which I did myself, and seven others dotted around my body, they all mean a little something, a moment I want to remember. I feel more me the more tattoos I get.

“I find inspiration in most places, and I love nature. I trained as a fine artist so I carry my sketchbook wherever I go. I will be doing live portraits of customers at BUST Craftacular! And I can’t wait to draw you all, so come see me!

“As far as the future goes, I’m hoping to just keep creating art, I’m currently writing and illustrating my own book about life, dating, tattoos and loss – a real mix of things. I’m working with some great companies at the moment illustrating for them and just creating great commissions for people. My blog is doing really well and collaborating with some big brands has given me a real boost, so hopefully just going with whatever feels right.”

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

Interview with Indy Voet

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to handpoke tattoo artist Indy Voet, who works out of Purple Sun in Brussels, about his clean, straight lined tattoos and his relation to body modifications…

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How did you get into tattoo art and body mods? I started at the desk of a piercing shop when I was about 18, after about a year or two I was piercing full time and quite interested in general body mods. Since then I pretty much always worked in piercing and tattoo shops, piercing, getting tattooed, going to conventions etc. I would say the general transition into tattooing came during the last two to three years and voluntary or not I feel good about where I am right now and the people I am with.

Have you always loved the idea of hand poked tattoos or did you just try it on a whim? It felt more natural for me coming from the piercing background. It started out as just a few small things here and there on tattooers I knew, and then it all evolved from there to what I do now.

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Sometimes you work with classic tattoo machines. Do you like to mix the two techniques? I started using both not so long ago after a push and a gift from Jean-Philippe Burton. I guess for me it’s about making good tattoos no matter if it’s by machine or by hand. It helps me achieve a visual I can’t by hand, sometimes for certain styles, and it opens up to more options but of course I have a lot more to learn.

Are you more into symbolism or traditional art? I have to admit I am into a lot of different things and a lot of different influences. I try to get inspired by quite obvious tattoo references as much as less obvious ones.

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You do quite simple and very clean tattoos. Where do you get inspiration from? I guess that, by looking at my tattoos right now, the clearest influences are ethnic art, patterns and tattoos on one side, and western traditional on the other side.

What is the best part of your job? I actually love the whole process, from searching, to drawing, to meeting people. But if I have to choose the best part, that one is seeing the tattoo healed and settled. Seeing people and customers wear it in their everyday life. Seeing it interact with the rest of their tattoos but also with their general style. I enjoy that quite a bit and I always find it curious.

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What about the tattoo community in Brussels? Are you planning to travel somewhere soon? Brussels is not a huge capital city but I guess there was a good number of shops that opened during the last few years. I am grateful I get along with a lot of the local tattooers and shops. The fact I can go to say hello or chill at other shops, I really appreciate that. I’m trying to do some city trips within Europe, where I can meet people I know, and once or twice a year I plan overseas travels.

What are the parts of the body you enjoy the most to tattoo? I would say ears for sure but I also enjoy fingers, eyelids, the torso etc. I guess as long as I technically can do a good job, and as long as it’s possible to make the design work in harmony with the spot, I am happy to continue to do so.

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What are your top three images to tattoo? I don’t really have three but I would say anything simple with straight lines or anything not too serious, western old school are always fun for me to do.

Who are your favourite artists at the moment? Too many to mention, but to mention a few: Marine Martin, Burton Ursaeminoris, Bouits, Jacob Redmond, Matt Shamah, Florian Santus, Ronnie Ronson, Horimatsu Bunchin, Bastien Jean, Cokney, Chriss Dettmer, Jeff Zuck, Kane Trubenbacher, Toothtaker, Rudy Fritch, Dan Santoro, Gakkin, Lockhart, Josh Egnew, Duncan X and many many more!

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.

Interview with Anka Lavriv

30-year-old Anka Lavriv owns and works out of Black Iris Tattoo in Brooklyn, New York, where she creates beautifully delicate illustrative style tattoos. We chatted to Anka about her style, inspirations and her distorted female figures… 

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been at it on and off since I was 15, but I have been tattooing full time for about three years. Opening our studio Black Iris Tattoo last December was so life changing and taught me so much, it still feels pretty unreal.

How did you start? What did you do before? I didn’t have a traditional apprenticeship, so it took me a while to get to the point where I was able to build a personally acceptable portfolio and feel confident enough to get into a shop. A friend of mine got a tattoo from John O’Hara (who is now my business partner at Black Iris) and that friend put us in touch. I interviewed at the shop he worked at and basically begged the owner to give me a chance! Before that interview I bartended in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I also did illustration work on the side. I still worked at the bar part time through my first year of tattooing as I was building a clientele but it took me a little while before I felt comfortable enough to go into tattooing full time.

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Do you have a background in art? I am originally from Ukraine and my mom was an artist and font developer in The Soviet Union, so we had a bunch of art supplies and books when I was growing up. I was always interested in drawing and drew obsessively at times, but I never imagined I’d be able to make a living out of it. I am self-taught and don’t have any formal art education.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I’ve always been drawn to mediums that are lasting and non-erasable – ink, ballpoint pen. Tattooing is the ultimate form of this idea of permanence for me. When I know I don’t get a chance to make a mistake and start over, I get into a hyper focused state – I love the feeling of it. Tattooing is a craft that needs constant practice. I’m really grateful for coming up through the industry in such an interesting time when tattooing is a lot more accessible and socially acceptable.

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How would you describe your style, has it changed? When I was starting out, I didn’t have the execution skills, but I did have great imaginative concepts that came to me very freely. As I got to practice more and more, I started catering to my clients and now I’m trying to find the balance between producing work that is relevant while staying true to my aesthetic.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? I mostly draw distorted female figures adorned with symbolic and natural elements. I use female characters to tell a particular story or to just to give the image a certain feel. I love to tattoo animals ( cats cats cats!), botanicals, anything organic. I’m always down for a good old 17th century type of etching design too.

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What inspires you? My emotional state plays a huge role in the creative process. I like to think of inspiration as a reaction to the outside world and my inner experiences, sort of a filtration system. It can be anything really, for the most part other people’s work in any medium that emotionally affects me. The sensation I get from a particularly effecting piece of art becomes a part of me. I think about how it makes me feel and then draw based on that feeling. It’s pretty different with tattooing cause I mostly do custom design work and it’s more of collaboration process. I take my clients’s idea and illustrate it in my style.

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love tattooing animals, anything that involves mashing concepts together and my own drawings. I usually refuse to do small symbols, lettering is definitely not my thing. I wouldn’t tattoo anything offensive.

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Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I am guesting in Denver CO October 4-6 at All Sacred Tattoo and Portland OR at Scapegoat Tattoo (November 4-6). Hoping to get to Europe soon. I will be posting my travelling plans for 2017 on my Instagram pretty soon.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Most of my tattoos are done by my friends and I pretty much always get their flash/available designs. I’m happy that I was a wuss in my early 20s and didn’t get a bunch of bad tattoos so now I still have some good space available to get work done from the artists I admire.

43T Clothing

The love child of a culture crazed couple, London based fashion brand 43T Clothing was created by Oli and Steph who pride themselves on their quirky and unconventional hand-printed apparel. We chatted to the pair to find out more about their eco-friendly fashion line, cool product illustrations and what inspired their collections

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What inspired you to set up the brand? The main reason we wanted to start our brand is because we both love fashion and always have growing up! We also like to think of ourselves as green people so we thought why not try and combine two of our passions?
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What inspires your designs? They tend to come from things that we love or just ideas that sprout out of our head. The characters are all based on friends of ours and now they feel immortalised by the sketches.

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We love your interesting sketch style product shots, what motivated you to create these? Right at the start we decided to combine our love of tattoos and art, that’s what inspired us to draw the doodles of our ’43T Characters’. We’ve chosen to use them instead of conventional models, as we both feel this aesthetically looks great and stands us out fro  the crowd! We will eventually plan to use real human models but for the moment we like what the ’43T Characters’ give us and how we can keep adding more to the site.

What are your plans for the future, any new products in the pipeline? We have lots of new products coming out over the next three months and we have already started our new range. We feel it’s important to give people more variety so every Friday we release a new item onto the website and have done this for the past four weeks. This is going to be continued right up until Christmas so there is plenty to get excited about if you’re a 43T Customer! Finally our aim moving forward is to grow and grow, but not in terms of owning a million shops but grow our idea that eco and fashion can mix! Also that we should all support small businesses, creativity, individuality, music and the arts.

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Why is being eco-friendly so important to you? Well being eco-friendly is important to us for a few reasons, the obvious being is we kinda frickin love this planet! Also we don’t see that many ecological brands out there so we wanted to show that it can still be fashionable to wear eco-friendly garments. Another big  reason we wanted to go eco was because we feel there is no reason, in this day and age, that everyone shouldn’t produce eco or fair-trade clothing. Everyone that has tried on one of our famous Bamboo T-shirts can’t believe how super soft they are and what amazing quality they are!

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Check out the website at 43tclothing.com

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.

Handpoke Tattoos by Boo

31-year-old Boo Tattoo, is a handpoke tattoo artist who works out of  Embody Tattoo Studio in Derby UK. We chatted to Boo about how she became a tattooist, her handpoke style and her own tattoo collection… 

Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist
 www.rugglez.com – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016

How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship at the end of 2009, so around seven years now.

How did you start? What did you do before? I had been asked to draw tattoo flash to sell and got a bit precious over my designs. I’ve always loved exploring different medias and decided I wanted to learn to tattoo my own designs. I couldn’t really leave it alone after that! I had one tattoo apprenticeship that fell through after a month so I then opened a fair-trade gift shop selling clothes I had revamped, jewellery I had made from vintage and broken pieces and much more. I shut it down after nearly two years to start a new apprenticeship at Tradition 180 Custom Tattoo studio.

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Do you have a background in art? I have always drawn! It was crazy as in my second primary school I was actually taken out of art lessons to do more spelling as I am really dyslexic. I did 3D Design for Sustainability Ba Hons, it was pretty strict and so it kept me focused and well one of my life ethos is to live by the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Hence I guess why I am trying to make Embody Tattoo studio one of the first inclusive and sustainable tattoo studios in the UK. I want to minimalise our negative impact on the planet.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I very much fell in to it, I honestly thought I would be designing chairs and spoons, but I burnt through so many forms of art and so far handpoke tattooing has stuck. Every day I feel like I learn something new and I’m always looking to be better than yesterday.

How would you describe your style, has it changed? I try not to draw tattoo art and instead draw whats in my heart! I love realism but I try to make it more abstract. I love lines and I was told off a lot in art lessons for putting lines where there were none, I also love realistic forms and colour.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw? At the moment I am trying to push handpoking as far as I can take it, so I’m loving colour blends and smooth grey shading. I love to draw things inspired by nature and incorporating symbolism, and relish encoding stories and thought into my pieces.

What inspires you? I’m interested in ancient cultures and their forms of art and symbolism, I get a lot of inspiration from there. Also the beauty of nature and our surroundings. I guess that why I also love the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. I often bump into things whilst looking up at either the flourishes on the tops of buildings or just the forms of the trees and skies.

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What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? It’s always amazing when someone asks for a piece of my art that I’ve just drawn. I love creating custom work for my clients, but its always pretty special to have someone see what comes from deep inside. I would love to do more free form and free hand work. I try not to refuse things, but to guide in a better direction, however I refuse to do anything with a hateful intent.

Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I do! After I have got Embody Tattoo studio running smoothly I hope to be back up in Aberdeen at Sailor Max Tattoo Parlour. I also have a few more guest spots to confirm with other studios such as Electric Lady Tattoo studio (Reading) and The Crow and Quill Tattoo studio (Southampton), so I’ll be up and around the country.
The next convention I am 100% working is the Goa Tattoo Festival and you will for sure be seeing me at next years Manchester’s Tattoo Tea Party and Doncaster’s Tattoo Jam. I’m still waiting to confirm a few more, but you’ll be certain to see me down in the south of England, across in Wales and up in Scotland.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? On my body I mostly have abstract pattern work and nature inspired pieces. My sleeve was done by the man who taught me, Adam “Starfish” Dutton and contains so much I swear seven years on I am still finding new things! My neck is by Touka Voodoo and it is based on sacred geometry and I can’t wait to get it finished! I am collecting a thigh of skulls from artists I admire and love. I have Hermes wings on my feet which I handpoked myself and I have hands with peacock feathers on my left side for Hera. I also had five of my chakra points tattooed in order of the most under active, I’m yet to have my third eye and crown chakra though as I believe I’m not at that level yet. I am also collecting Swastikas in respect of ManWoman and his work trying to bring back the original meaning of the symbol, which is actually luck and good fortune!

Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist
www.rugglez.com – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016

Interview with Nicole Draeger

30-year-old Nicole Draeger tattoos at Lygon St Tattoo Co in Melbourne Australia, and creates wonderfully bright neo-traditional tattoos. We chatted to Nicole about her style and what inspires her work…

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How did you start tattooing and what did you do before? I’ve been tattooing for eight years now. I was studying graphic design and working part time as a receptionist. I had been designing tattoos for my friends and they were all going to the same shop to get them tattooed. Then one day I went with my friend to watch her get tattooed and they offered me an apprenticeship because they had seen so much of artwork already.

Do you have a background in art? I have always been into art and drawing, all I wanted to do when I was a kid was to become a cartoonist so I could draw my favourite cartoon characters all day. But as I got older I got more into graphic design and illustration and then eventually tattooing.

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What drew you to the tattoo world? I always liked tattoos but I was put off getting one for a long time because of my parents. I had never really thought of becoming a tattooist until I was offered an apprenticeship and then I just dived right in and never looked back.

How would you describe your style, has it changed? It’s always hard to describe your style but, the best way to describe it would be neo-traditional. My style is always changing, I don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing all the time. Some days I enjoy doing simpler cute designs and other days I love doing more detailed pieces.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw?  Mostly animals and flowers. I draw a lot of cats, insects and mammals.

What inspires you? I love watching David Attenborough documentaries, I also watch a lot of anime and cartoons. I also find a lot of inspiration from some of my favourite tattoo artists.

What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love tattooing animals and stylised pet portraits but I also really enjoy the occasional pop culture related tattoo so movies, cartoons and anime.  I refuse to tattoo anything racist or ignorant.

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Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned?  This year I have been pretty quiet with the guest spots, but I’m looking forward to the New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival in November this year.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos?  Most of the tattoos I have are from my friends or artists I look up to. They are all colour and pretty much all of them are some kind of animal or flower. Some of my favourite pieces include a winged rabbit on my forearm from Rachi Brains, a big blue peony on my shoulder from Jamie August and a portrait on my dog from Clare Clarity on my leg.

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