Tagged: Birmingham

Interview with Elle Donlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music Review: Brand New

Our guest blogger is inventory buyer, freelance writer and creator of Typewriter Teeth blog,  Amber Carnegie. This is the first in a series of music review posts in which Amber will be documenting her experiences at various music shows. First up is her review of the band Brand New who played at The Glee Club, Birmingham earlier this month… 

Earlier this year Brand New announced a small amount of intimate dates across the UK, in the minutes that they sold out, we were held in a sort of  limbo. Were we about to experience something that you can never find in an arena or witness knee deep in mud at a festival?

Mic-stands wrapped in flowers stood patiently waiting on the stage in a nod to The Smiths, before the band shook them as they opened with ‘Mene’, Brand New’s first recording in five years. Taking the lyrics ‘we don’t feel anything’ as our own before progressing into ‘Sink’ as if working back through their discography. In a raw instant the crowd was exposed and swept together into a close moment that could only be embraced in a venue like this. ‘Gasoline’ then followed the same fervent route, the distorted end constructed the quieter moments into ‘Millstone’.

For everyone in the room there is a track or an album that has pulled them through something or become a soundtrack to a period in their life. ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me’ illustrates something to me and that is what is so perfect about this set, to everyone in the crowd there was a meaning. But the moment that Brand New continued with ‘You Won’t Know’ is one that as fans we could share.

‘Sic Transit Gloria… Gloria Fades’ erupted into ‘Deja Entendu’, these favourite songs that still generate the same responsive passion that we all felt the first time we heard them more than a decade ago. Tracks that now stir emotional drunk sing-alongs at club nights and never fail to draw a crowd. ‘I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spin Light’ and ‘Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ fittingly continued the teenage angst choir that had taken over the crowd with:

The kind of song that makes people glad to be where they are, with whomever they’re there with.’

Brand New persistently deliver incomparable shows, no matter where they play. With such a tight discography it is impossible to find a set list that doesn’t ensue an ardent atmosphere between the band and crowd. We were treated to an incredible full band version of ‘Brothers’ or ‘Untitled 03’ which is something I had never witnessed live before. Hearing a tracks like live for the first time really enhanced the night, making it stand out against all the other live shows I have been to.

‘Jesus Christ’ marks the final track to be performed by the entire band, winding down from an impassioned and perfect set, filled with everything that gets missed in a recording studio. Stirring every sentiment of nostalgia and of being in the moment.

Closing the show saw Jesse Lacey take the stage and lay every emotion out there for ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’. Usually at this moment the audience take the track for themselves,but in this close-knit venue Lacey clutched onto his words in an emotive and pained repetition with altered lyrics and a room silent in awe.

‘I’m just jealous cause you’re young and in love.’