Tagged: art

Interview with James Musker

23-year-old James Musker is a Creative Writing student, freelance illustrator, and not only does he write for us but he also writes for Nine Mag. From Bournemouth but based in Manchester, James talks to us about his connection with tattooing, what inspires him and his illustrations…

 IMG_8199

Photo credit @rob__bell

Can you tell me about your relationship with tattooing? Since I first started getting tattooed a few years back, it’s never not felt vital. I’ve worked every kind of terrible job just to keep getting work! It immediately gripped me, and since my first, I’ve lost count of how many additions I’ve made, as it stopped feeling important to tally them up. The direction of it all has changed so much since I started out, and continues to change. Raw magnetism guides my relationship with tattooing. It’s all dictated by spontaneity and intuition, and although these things have betrayed me at times, I feel I’d never have learned as much as I have without having made some mistakes. You need to make big mistakes to learn big, and however much you might be able to veil a tattoo with meaning, I do think it’s a very instinctual process. You don’t always have to understand why it is you gravitate towards one image over another at the time you do, as the work often speaks for you more than you can for it. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that each tattoo needs to be loaded with significance. You can’t deny your instincts, and acting on them only serves to better hone your senses. I’ve gotten to this point now where I automatically absorb any visual information I can relate back to tattooing, and it doesn’t really matter where that information is sourced. I can’t help but see potential everywhere.

What’s your favourite piece? My favourite piece is probably this tiny rune I have on my arm. I first came across the symbol in some strange book, and was initially attracted to it for its raw power. It looks as if it was made for skin. If I still had the space, I would probably wipe-out my back with a huge version of the thing! I later discovered that the symbol stands as a protective, teaching force, and I feel like that’s what tattoos have the potential to be. 

Image-1(1)

Photo credit @jdrroberts

Who inspires you? In-terms of tattooing, Duncan X. Aside from being hugely influential in that he leads the charge of tattooing with no regards for the future or anything that has come before it, I remember meeting him and seeing his body-suit for the first time. There were so many overlapping ideas and timelines – history overlaid with new history, but you could see him in all of it. I was stunned by what he’d achieved. Some people lose themselves to their tattoos, in that you stop seeing them due to the extremity of their work. They get aggressive, shocking statements that, although powerful, draw you away from who they are, and shed light on that dangerous fine-line between self-expression and self-erasure. Duncan described his tattoos to me as “black mush”, but seeing his body-suit in-person was evidence that the only thing a tattoo needs to be disarming is a sense of honesty, and honesty can be romantic or vicious or ridiculous or confessional.

Image-1-1

Photo credit @jdrroberts

Can you tell us about your illustration work? 

I’ve never studied art or anything like that before, but I’ve always been pretty restless. I need something to put my energy into, and without that, I’m not myself. I tried taking illustration seriously a while back, but I was too focused on figurative accuracy and tweaking-out details that I’d always end up driving myself crazy and hating whatever it was I was working on. It wasn’t until things went kind of wrong for me on a personal level that drawing started to feel like a necessity. I finally felt like I was producing sincere work, because it was charged by more than the desire to get things “right”, and with that I gained the confidence to start sharing it. I was world-building with each piece I put out there – creating some place far-removed from where I was at, I guess. There are elements featured in each piece that connect them to each other, and I think that keeps it all suspended in this imagined head-space.

 

IMG_3319

In the same way that tattoos can overlap and interact, I feel that blasting my work over old Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and hijacking the power that they hold provides this immediate sense of depth and history that I love. I’m interested in the ways in-which people read images. I think it’s natural for us to read images from left-to-right when trying to understand them, as that’s the way we read text, but that changes from culture to culture, and with it so does the image that’s being read. When it comes to Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave…’, we are moving with the wave, but in other cultures, they are moving against it.

I like the way tattoo-flash just hangs on the page, and can sometimes look chaotic. I like how there’s no starting point and no implied path to follow, and that you can read different things from a sheet of flash if you connect the significance of the images in different ways. I have my own intentions when putting a piece together, but I like it when people read something in a piece of mine that I never considered. Although I don’t tattoo, I always have tattooing and the strength it’s imagery holds in the back of my mind when composing my work and considering things such as placement and balance.

 

What influences you? I guess I’m influenced by things I don’t fully understand, and sometimes a singular experience can become this abundant well you endlessly draw from in-hope of grasping it to some degree. I see making things as a way of climbing back inside of moments you can’t necessarily speak to, but the attempt is what’s important. I naturally gravitate towards anything with a sense of romance and surreality. I think that we’re all guilty of distorting our own history through a romantic lens, and I think the ways in-which we mold past-chaos into these perfect, hyper-edited shapes can lead memories to feel fantasy-like. I try to inject a sense of that into my work. I don’t really draw with anyone else in-mind, but it’s important to me whenever people respond to whatever it is I do. I like to think that when people do, it’s because they’ve unwillingly imprinted their own memories and fantasies onto something that was driven by my own. I can be a thief – pillaging the past for references and inspiration, but it all comes back to how these found-images and twisted revisions relate to my own experiences, and what I’m trying to translate.

 

 

IMG_3454(1)

Do you have an end-goal for your body of tattoos? Not so long ago, tattooing felt like the only freedom I had. I mentioned how important instinct is to getting tattooed, but at that point in time instinct had no relationship to imagery, but more the process of getting tattooed. It didn’t matter so much what I was getting tattooed, just that it was happening. I’d let artists try out all kinds of wild ideas on me, and some sit confidently, but others were just that; wild ideas. I only developed an end goal once I’d made one too many untamed judgements. It was quite destructive, but it sharpened my view. At this point in time, I’m investing in the body of work I want to wear for the rest of my life, and that process involves additions and subtractions, but at least now each move I make feels like a huge step forward.

Interview with Elle Donlon

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

840c19f1-3b52-40f9-96cb-b3f9ff512293

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

IMG_2763

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

IMG_2248

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

IMG_2190

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

IMG_1837

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

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

IMG_1104

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

IMG_8368

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

IMG_1836

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

Interview with Kerste Dixon

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 08.15.07

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 08.15.54
How long have you been a studio owner? How did it all come about? I’ve had my own studio for nearly two years. It just sort of happened – I left the studio I worked at in my home town in Rugby and I started working in Coventry. I had an old school friend who has their own business at Fargo Village where my studio is based. When I saw him posting on social media photos of Fargo I was intrigued. It’s a village for creative business and I thought that it would be the perfect place for a studio. They thought a tattooist would fit in well and they had a small unit available. My mum and dad encouraged me to go for it and set off on my own! I’m not sure I would have had the confidence without them to do it. But it’s definitely the best desicion I made. I opened in May 2016, and it started as a small private studio with just me. In May 2017 we expanded into next door and now we have myself and four other full time artists.

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 08.16.29
Was it your intention to have a fully female shop? To be honest it just sort of happened and now it’s a thing. Most of us have a mostly female customer base too because of the style of work we do so it all just sort of fits. That’s not to say if the right artist came to me looking for a job and was a guy I’d turn them down! It just happens that everyone so far that’s been right for us has been female! We also have lots of guest artists – we seem to have made this reputation where ladies like to come guest too, which is lovely! So many people think a big group of girls can be bitchy but honestly the studio is the complete opposite of that – it’s such a lovely place to work and I’m so pleased to have the team I do!

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 08.15.39
Do you prefer colour or blackwork? Is there anything you would love to tattoo? I like both colour and blackwork equally – it’s nice to break things up sometimes If I’ve had a week of all colour work and a blackwork piece comes in that’s nice and vice versa! Keeps things interesting! I love to tattoo all things nerdy/ponies and animals mostly!

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

Yoga on my Skin

Yoga On My Skin is a collective show curated by Rossana Calbi and Giulia Piccioni, in collaboration with Parione9 Gallery, Rome. On Saturday 24th February Yoga On My Skin came to its natural location: The Other Side of the Ink, the Roman convention dedicated to the art of female tattoo artists.

yoga on my skin (2)

Spiritual stability comes from the experience of a calm and clear state.

Yoga On my Skin is a project born from a collaboration between curators Rossana Calbi, Giulia Piccioni and Parione9 Gallery. The project traveled to amanei in Salina and reached Parione9 Gallery in Rome, a gallery that is always very interested in tattoo art.

Yoga is a sacred science. It is a science because it bases its principles on specific affirmations on the human nature and universe, it is sacred because it represents the interior path of the individual to gain awareness of his own divine self.

yoga on my skin (3)

In the middle of this inner path, there are asana, body positions according to the yoga discipline. Asana are postures, and asana is the art of using the entire body with a physical, mental and spiritual attitude. The structure of an asana is not changeable because each asana is a piece of art. In the Yoga Sutra, Maharishi Patanjali stated that when an asana is perfectly done, there is no duality between body and mind, spirit and soul. According to yogi T.K.V. Desikachar through yoga the mind and senses are directly connected to the consciousness and they are not perceived as separated or disorganized.

yoga on my skin (5)

The project consists of two asana for each chakra (from Sanskrit wheel or disc). The asana are selected according to the physical appearance of the posture and the relevance of the specific chakra stimulation. There is no asana for the seventh chakra because no postures directly stimulates it.

Yoga teacher and psychologist Giulia Piccioni embraced Rossana Calbi’s curatorial idea with the technical support of studio d’arte Candeloro to set up an exhibition that is a physical and mental experience.

yoga on my skin (6)

Art work is by Nicoz Balboa, Genziana Cocco, Cecilia De Laurentiis, Cecilia Granata, Marta Ierfone, Marta Messina, Roberta Kinney, Anita Rossi, Maria Grazia Tolino.

The next stop for Yoga on My Skin will take place in an abbey, in Italy. Find out more about the original location and the future projects here.

Interview with Ruslan & Tonya

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

_DSC4009

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

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

обработано в 2018_7

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

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

Для контакта

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

инстаграмм

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

1_11

Shaded: Pot Yer Tits Away Luv

‘Shaded’ is an ongoing interview series created by 23-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people who wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Emma Low is a Leeds-based ceramic artist who creates pots that represent the human-form in all of its wonderful shapes, sizes and colours. At first gifts for those closest to her, Emma’s pots were soon in-demand, and the Glasgow-native found herself starting up her pottery business ‘Pot Yer Tits Away Luv’. Here, Emma speaks about her “inclusive brand”, tattoo tributes to her cat Trouble and how her work aims to celebrate differences and liberate women. “Tits don’t mean sex.”

Screen-Shot-2018-01-22-at-14.00.33
Tell us about ‘Pot Yer Tits Away Luv’?
 Pot Yer Tits Away Luv is a pottery business that I started in February 2017. My main inspiration is a realistic representation of the female form, but I also do some work with the male form as well. It all started with a Christmas present that I made for my boyfriend. I wanted to give him something that was personal so I made him a pot with my tits on it. It was okay for a first attempt, but it looked nothing like mine – regardless of that fact, he loved it. People saw it and wanted me to create pots that represented them, and then from there it’s just snowballed. I never expected that it would eventually become my full-time job. I now spend five days a week crafting pots with tits on them, which is pretty mad.

26071399_1758545800836381_4803052735886786560_n
What first attracted you to working with clay? My boyfriend had done a short course and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d try it out! It was really difficult to figure out in the beginning, but like everything else, practise makes perfect. I then enrolled in a night class and learned more about the craft. I never made any tit-related items, though. It was all really basic, and most of it wasn’t actually that great.

As well as creating works that celebrate the human body, you also share the work of painters, illustrators and photographers that aim to do the same thing. Can you speak about your on-going relationship with the subject? I’ve always been fascinated by form. It’s amazing how we all have bodies that essentially do the same thing, yet they vary drastically in relation to what they look like. I grew up in a very body positive environment. To me, naked bodies were never deemed as sexual. I like to try and express that in my work – especially when it comes to the female form. Tits don’t mean sex. I think a lot of people misunderstand what my work is about. It’s supposed to be liberating, not about sexualising women. I always love to share other artist’s work because I think it’s important to express gratitude towards the people who inspire you. Social media can be such a useful tool when it comes to finding out about new artists or being exposed to new ideas. There are so many amazing artists who share similar views to me when it comes to feminism, and I like to promote those ideas.

26866828_1538185392937222_2546057145644744704_n
What’s your relationship with tattooing? I started getting tattooed quite late in comparison to most of my friends. I think I was 24. My first tattoo was done by my friend’s boyfriend when I went to visit them on holiday in Berlin. It’s a black heart with ‘Trouble’ running through it. Trouble was my cat, he passed away last summer but I’d had him for around eight years. The last tattoo I got was by Olivia Chloe Lewis, and it’s a vase! I think regardless of whether your tattoos have a specific meaning you can tell a lot about a person from their tattoos and that’s what’s always drawn me to them. I’ve only ever had my thighs tattooed, I wouldn’t want to move on to anywhere else on my body until my legs are completely covered.

tattoo1Photo taken by @fiayqb_

Your pots represent the human body in so many different ways – large and small, and sometimes tattooed. What is it you feel you are addressing with your all-embracing work, and how do you feel tattooing is part of that conversation? I just want to have an inclusive brand where everyone feels like they are represented. People who have tattoos usually want me to incorporate them into custom pieces, and I really like drawing them on because it can sometimes be challenging! Just like anything else; scars, piercings, moles, third nipples, freckles. Regardless of whether it was a choice, like a tattoo, or a mole you were born with, it all makes you the individual person that you are and that’s what my work is all about: celebrating differences.

whole legs
Who influences you? My boyfriend, Archer. He’s very creative, and I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without him. My best friend, Tammy, has built her own nail empire (NAF! Salon). She has shown me that it’s not at all about getting lucky, it’s about hard work, dedication and endless passion. When it comes to artists I absolutely love, the work of Sally Hewett. She is unapologetically honest. Her work is so well thought out and the end product is always so beautiful even if to society the subject might be seen as “ugly”. I have a massive girl-crush on Jen Gotch, founder of Ban.do. Her personal Instagram is so refreshing. She talks openly about her struggles with mental health, is a huge babe, dresses like a crazy old lady, and pulls it off, and somehow also manages to run a very successful business.

26869549_175372859889371_8112903518009950208_n
What’s next for you? I have a few collaborations in the pipeline! The only one I can really talk about at the moment is a jewellery collaboration with Lou Clarke. We’re doing earrings! It’s such an exciting time for me. I feel like there are endless possibilities when it comes to doing fun things, but at the moment I haven’t really got a clear path. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me. I’m not really one for planning – plans stress me out! So yeah, to be honest I have no idea, but for now I’m happy just living in the moment.

26262049_399502570488116_5435032769489010688_n

Ronit Baranga: Clay Sculpture

Israeli artist Ronit Baranga creates unique clay sculptures which combine traditional ceramic items such as teapots with  grotesque body parts. Her creations cross the border between the living and still life with their gaping mouths, grasping fingers and tattooed babies. Ronit’s art is displayed in museums and galleries around the world, follow her Instagram to see more…

Breakfast

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 20.59.17

Crowd04

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 20.58.38

Breakfast02

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 20.58.23

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…

tumblr_okx1msIt7d1qmj6pno2_1280
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.

tumblr_osqeqgydc01qmj6pno7_1280

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.

tumblr_or9cnghnDW1qmj6pno3_1280

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.

tumblr_ommff8v0kq1qmj6pno8_1280

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.

tumblr_oou10tGE841qmj6pno2_1280

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.

tumblr_or9cu7qykT1qmj6pno1_1280

Etienne Steffen: Bluttiefdruck

In this interview German born tattoo artist Etienne Steffen talks about his latest art project, performance and work: Bluttiefdruck

Screenshot_20170831-173000

Etienne tattooing at the exhibition

Can you tell us about your project and performance? During my project Bluttiefdruck I combined my method of dry point printing with tattooing. I tattooed eight of a series of nine dragons – each one a whole sleeve. After each sleeve was finished I replicated the image of the tattoo onto a life-sized zink plate using a tattoo machine. Afterwards the image on the plate was printed onto handmade paper.
The performance was a combination of the previous techniques and mediums. The fusion was the next logical step. The ninth and final dragon of the series was tattooed on a participant using solely water instead of ink. The outflowing blood caused by the perforation of the skin was caught on a white piece of linen. An impression of the ninth dragon appeared. I coined this technique Bluttiefdruck.

_DSC7666 copy

The impression of the ninth dragon – Bluttiefdruck

How long did the performance take, how did the participant cope with the pain? The performance itself took about two hours. The participant took the pain very well. The pain was equivalent to getting a regular tattoo, due to the same process just replacing ink through water.

The Nine Dragon Scroll by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244 served as the main point of reference in this nine-part series. What was it about the dragon scroll and Japanese tattooing that fascinated you? It was always a reference when it came to dragons. I believe I have seen its influence in a lot of East Asian art whether ukiyo-e, sumi ink painting or horimono. So to me this project is also a homage to the nine dragon scroll. With regards to Japanese tattooing, I like the idea of a complete body suit concept with the back as the centre piece. Not to mention the fluidity in the background which carries the motives and connects them.

IMG_5784_1

The participant and her finished tattoo after the performance

How has the exhibition been received? Most people that come to an exhibition are there because of the event, and the exhibition itself serves as a vehicle. The project and performance was very niche, to be able to understand it fully you needed specific knowledge of Horimono (carving or engraving) and dry point printing, so not everyone understood what exactly was going on. But there were quite a few close observers that really took the time to understand what the project and the performance are about – these were astonished and appreciated what they saw. On the other hand, someone in the tattoo industry, who I respect very much, said that they ‘hate everything it (the film) stands for and it has nothing to do with the art of tattooing’ – apparently my project polarises people.

What inspired you? Japanese woodblock prints have served as reference for most of Japanese tattooing and Horimono, and there is already a connection between printing and tattooing. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of combining Japanese tattooing with dry point printing since I started “tattooing” metal plates. To me it just felt natural to connect the two. When I realised that horimono could also be translated as engraving it made even more sense. After a long process of distilling different ideas the project became clear during one of my many travels to Japan to get my backpiece.

_DSC6614

Four of the nine dragons in the series

What were you hoping to achieve, what message are you spreading? I want the people to see a certain subject through my eyes. To make the connections that I can see visible to others that might not see those parallels. To interpret traditional concepts and mediums (of art) in a new way. To put things into a new context. This project is about pushing boundaries. In today’s cultural landscape everything is about aesthetic -everything is superficial. In Bluttiefdruck I visualise the process. I had to disconnect the process from a more permanent motive, to span an arc between Japanese tattooing/horimono, European printing/drypoit and initiation rituals of ancient African cultures. My work is about discurs.

Bluttiefdruck_Veit_60x90

One of the tattooed dragons created for the exhibition

What do you love about tattoos? I love so many things about tattoos! They’re simple and complex at the same time. On the one hand you have the simple exchange- I produce something someone else likes, they buy it and we’re both happy. Then there is the aspect of craft, no matter how good my design is I have to be able to tattoo it in a proper way. On the other hand some of the most beautiful and meaningful tattoos are not well crafted at all and because of that they send a stronger message than a good tattoo ever could. As a professional tattooer I also think it’s fascinating that as soon as the tattoo is finished it has no more monetary worth. It can not be sold anymore but it is still valuable for the wearer. No matter how good or bad a tattoo is, no matter if it is meaningful or just jewellery it marks a certain point in your lifetime. But what’s most appealing to me is that there is more to tattooing than meets the eye. The process of tattooing and receiving a tattoo is spiritual to me.

Bluttiefdruck_Veit_0643

A close up of one of Etienne’s dragons

What the below video to see the Etienne’s performance and the creation of Bluttiefdruck: