Tagged: Bristol

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… 

Barbie Black Lodge

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.

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.

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!

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!


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!


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.

Careers: Tattooed Veterinary Receptionist

We chatted to 24-year-old Bristolian Sadie Oliver a senior veterinary receptionist at Higcroft veterinary group in Bath about her beautiful tattoo collection and her animal filled days… 

My very first tattoo at the tender impressionable age of 17 ( I knew a studio that wouldn’t question my age) was a traditional large red rose of my left foot which I showed off to all my friends but hid from my mum! It truly felt like I had opened the floodgates almost immediately after, I basked in the compliments I received. I still do to this day, I love how they are a starting point of conversation between strangers. The genuine intrigue people have about them that have no work themselves. Flash forward three years I got that same piece brightened up by a different artist, and had a snake added to it weaving in and out of the petals. I’m glad I added to it, it pops out at you a lot more now. I don’t regret the tattoo I chose for one minute.

image1 (2)

Rose on Sadie’s foot 

It sky rocketed from there and from the age of 18 onwards I’d get a piece a year up until my 23rd birthday when I discovered the amazing Jody Dawber (Our Fruity Issue cover star), then I went nuts and got six large pieces one after another. In between each piece, the empty skin would become more prevalent and I’d want to brighten them up mainly with more animals as I’ve always been passionate about them. I’ve got big plans to start a rabbit back piece based on my bunnies with her next year, which I know she’ll totally nail!


Butterfly by Jody

Leading on from my love of animals I’m very lucky to say I’ve finally found my dream career working with small furries every day at a veterinary surgery where I’ve been since January this year, working my way up to a senior receptionist position.
I’ve had lots of different jobs back in the day, rushing straight into full time work  in retail after college. I’ve found through all my jobs that my tattoos have never caused me a problem. I’ve always been asked about them respectfully and complimented, I guess none of them are offensive just bright and beautiful. I’ve always been upfront at interviews and dressed smart but made a point of mentioning them/showing them to the prospective employer if I thought it might have been relevant.


When I was hired at the vets, I won’t lie, I was apprehensive for once that my tattoos would effect my chance of getting the job. It would be the first job I would apply for since getting my neck and hands tattooed. Something I do not regret for one minute and would continue to cover in a heartbeat. At the interview I dressed smartly and covered my tattoos.  I remember wanting the chance to walk in there and blow them away without them getting a chance to judge me straight off.
The interview went well, nearing the end I felt confident enough to take my blazer off revealing my arms, which are fairly covered. The lady interviewing me stopped mid question, had a little gasp and asked me straight away about my work. She seemed genuinely interested and asked me to give her a twirl, which I did embarrassingly! She did however go on to tell me that she would have to check with those above her that if I was to be hired the company wouldn’t have a problem with my hands and neck tattoos, as she was aware that tattoos aren’t to everyone’s taste.

image2 (1)Fox by Jody

I just wanted a chance to show I’m no different to anybody else waiting in the hallway to be interviewed, and that I had more than the necessary experience for the position.
A week later I was invited for a trial shift, which was a ton of fun. I was told later that day the good news that they couldn’t wait to have me on board, and that some of the older ladies working on reception found me to be very friendly and helpful, it felt like a victory that I could be myself and prove wrong shitty stereotyping older generations seem to find it difficult to shake off.


Almost 10 months on, I’m super settled in my own branch in Bath, a small practice where I work alongside one vet manning reception and taking complete control of the practice. I get to cuddle puppies and kittens practically every day which is awesome! In particular I enjoy watching routine operations like spays and castrations, and have expressed my interest to go into veterinary nursing school sometime next year.

I’ve only ever had one older chap be a total stick in the mud and try to make a show of me,  questioning me why I felt the need to “litter my skin with monstrosities!” I think if I wouldn’t have been professional and at work I would have told him what of it! He asked me “how I got this job looking like I sold the big issue” which particularly upset me. I squared up to him and sweetly explained I got the job for being more than competent at what I do, and that my appearance had absolutely nothing to do with it.


I won’t lie I sometimes receive negative comments from people under their breath, say for example on the bus stop. I think it’s sad when typically older people move away from me as if I’m infectious, but I don’t dwell on it. They’re missing out on a good person so it’s totally they’re loss to be close minded! I’ve always found tattoos beautiful and interesting, I love the idea that we can jazz ourselves up and stand out from the crowd, show everyone this is who we are. Take us or leave us.

I’ve found my home and future career now at the vets, they’re more than acceptable of me and others in the industry who are heavily tattooed, just recently they took on a vet who’s head to toe covered. We do our jobs to the highest of standards, our appearances don’t change our values or work ethics tattoos or no tattoos.

Mobile tattoo parlour collects 200 pictures and stories

A mobile tattoo parlour has been touring Bristol, encouraging the public to document their tattoos with photographs and share their stories. The project “I Will Always Have You” will be featured in the city’s art and culture show and started in Knowle West in June 2014.

Arts producer Melissa Mean curated the exhibition in order to gather memories and stories behind tattoos to add to growing digital archives.

By exploring the power of personal narratives and the construction of character through body art, we hope to better understand the growing popularity of tattoos across the UK and the richness of Knowle West’s tattoo culture.

The exhibition will be on show at Knowle West Media Centre until Christmas. People can add their tattoos to the online archive.

Image and Melissa quoted from bbc.co.uk