Tagged: Tattoo artist

Apprentice Love: Tammy Bestwick

We spotted the work of 22-year-old tattoo apprentice Tammy Bestwick on Instagram and instantly loved her traditional style tattoos. We chatted to Tammy to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Rose Tattoo, Barnstaple, Devon where she works…

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How long have you been tattooing? I worked at a tattoo shop in Exeter doing my apprenticeship for two years. I got to do a few small tattoos here and there but it’s only really since working at Black Rose that I’ve been able to tattoo regularly. I started working at Black Rose back in June so it’s just going into six months of tattooing now!

What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? My first job was selling tickets at a zoo. Straight after that I started my tattoo apprenticeship for two years, I did a couple temp jobs where I made some of the most wonderful friends who still come and get tattooed by me now! I studied art at GCSE and A-level but I didn’t find it overly enjoyable, it was more about looking deep into the meaning behind why a square could’ve possibly been painted green and writing essays than actually being artistically creative. It was only since leaving college that I started to draw what I enjoyed.

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How did you get your apprenticeship? As soon as I finished college, I took some of my drawings into a tattoo shop that was just over an hour away from where I lived. I didn’t really know anything about tattooing at this point but I’d been interested since I was 13. This shop was just opening and my mind was blown by the work of the tattooists there, I’d never seen anything like it before and so I just knew I had to try my luck. I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as it was the first shop I’d attempted to try work at and I was fully aware I had a lot to still educate myself on and so much more I could try do with my portfolio. A week later and they got back to me and they were willing to give me a trial run! Nothing could compare to that feeling when I found out I was being given a chance at something I’d wished to do for so long.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I started off being fascinated by all kinds of body modifications which then developed into tattoos. Anything a little different or controversial always drew me in. Being creative was the only thing that ever kept me interested so I knew I had to do something with it. I’m quite a quiet person and I love to have my own head space and be free with what’s on my mind, no rules or anyone to answer to. That’s what drawing was for me.

I used to draw a lot with my gramps. He painted beautiful acrylic landscapes and was a signwriter, so that’s definitely where I get my artistic flare from! The tattooists that inspired me to begin with are very different to the tattooists that inspire me now. My tastes and opinion of tattooing has developed a lot.

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How would you describe your style, what do you like to tattoo? I’m never really sure how to answer this. Before I tattooed I only ever attempted realism. Currently I do different styles according to the customer’s needs and I’d love to get to the stage where I could do anything anyone asked of me and really challenge myself. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy if I could only ever tattoo traditional again. That’s what I enjoy tattooing the most, super bold and colourful or just a lot of black! I’d love to get to do more movie related tattoos too.

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What or who inspires you? Nature and books but Instagram is a god send for being able to closely follow my favourite tattooists and their daily work. Gem Carter (this is insanely cheesy because I now work with her) has inspired me from day one, before she was even tattooing herself I followed the work she was doing. Currently, I obsess over the work of Sammy Harding, Jack Peppiette and Bradley Tompkins to name a few. But I am completely fascinated about where traditional tattooing began – Ben Corday, Percy Waters, Amund Dietzel. There is just so much inspiration and so much more to be found that it’s overwhelming.

What is a typical day like for you? I very rarely will be tattooing 11-6 at this stage so I take my time with the customers I do have in and the rest is spent providing ultimate banter, replying to emails and drawing!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? None of my tattoos have any meaning. I get something from a tattooist because I love their style of work, so I’m happy for them to do whatever they’d like to do or choose something they already have drawn! If I get tattooed by someone I want it to be a piece that is distintive to their style. I currently have work done by Danielle Rose, Sammy Harding, a re-work by James Pool (I’m dying to get something of his own too), Sento and mega babe Gem Carter.

Shaded: Stephen William

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 23-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.

Stephen William is an artist from the Clwydian Range in North Wales who’s currently living between London and Berlin – creating emotive, primal immediacy that speaks directly from the unconscious and transfers beautifully to skin. Here, Stephen speaks about his wide-view experience of the art world, the near-collapsing nature of his work and how a life-destroying flood pushed him to indulge the temporal medium of tattooing…

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Can you speak to your relationship with art and creativity? I’ve been making zines and running small press for nearly 15 years. Mainly North Wales punk zines that no one read or reads, because there was and is no punk scene, but it’s where I began playing around creatively. Later, I was a printmaker for about five years – specifically etching and a little bit of lithography. At the time, I was completely dedicated and driven by the desire to be the best printmaker I could be, and along with that came a lot of patient, precision and figurative drawing. I started getting tattooed in shops around this time, before then I just had things done by hand or using homemade machines attached to car batteries behind garages – the sort of stuff you’d do as a young kid who grew up in the valleys. Both methods had their own merits. I could afford to get maybe one tattoo a year from an actual shop, and would spend most of that year deciding what I wanted to get.

I moved to London to do print at the RCA, but abandoned that after a few weeks. I don’t know why, but the idea of doing things in this technical and proper way completely left me all at once – as well as my patience. I think by trying to be as technical and “good” as possible, I would dismiss 90% of my output by focusing on the end – treating everything as a precious, archived product rather than focusing on the process.

A close friend of mine bought me a cheap machine around eight years ago. I experimented with it, and blunted a lot of needles trying to make marks and textures with wood-block prints. I didn’t want to tattoo anyone with it initially, I just wanted to see what it would do on wood and zinc plates. I was making my living as an artist for about eight years before I started my apprenticeship. I did this at the same time as I did my masters in painting and video; two years of making paintings, and videos about making paintings – scrubbing grips, cleaning, drawing. The same as everyone else. I would buy cheap machines from eBay and take them apart and put them back together again. I’d take apart my power supply and build weird frames and stick motors in them, but I left my apprenticeship and set up a private quiet studio. This felt closer to what I was trying to do.

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Your tattoos are incredibly free and adventurous. Were you always able to work in such a hyper-personal way, or did you first need to cut your teeth with traditional study? I apprenticed for nearly two years, but didn’t learn very much in-terms of actually making tattoos. I left before I really started. I always felt comfortable being very loose. I’m lucky I had a lot of time to develop that without tattooing in mind, so much. It lead me to this real loose place where I felt mostly comfortable. That’s what I like, and I figured if I liked it a few other people somewhere were bound to at some point.

I love tattooing, and I believe in it unwaveringly, but I don’t feel restricted or like I have to do anything a certain way. There’s a difference between respecting a tradition, and submitting to it. If people want to build high walls, I don’t care. I’m happy sniffing around at the bottom, and I’m comfortable with my height as it is. The people who claim to be saving the industry and keeping it true are the biggest threat to tattooing’s potency. No one owns tattooing. It’s a beautiful visual culture, there’s not much left that’s genuinely doing this or bringing together fringe scenes and building culture, and this is where the power lies and always has. As soon as you call something like tattooing an industry, you take all the power out of what you’re doing and cheapen it – removing any affect that it can have. It existed largely outside of art criticism, which is a blessing and a curse, but it’s allowed itself as a medium to stay very real when it’s done right. I’m very, very lucky that people are into what I do enough to want to get tattooed by me.

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I have seen nothing quite like your backpieces, or the more ambitious work you produce. What are you trying to achieve when trusted with large-scale real estate? I’m just trying to make good compositions that get me and my customers excited. I like bare skin as much as tattooed skin. Mostly with the larger work, I’m looking for the tattoo to sit at a point where it’s just about holding itself together, but close to falling apart. I’m not sure if I’d call that a balanced point or not, but when it settles into its stillness, I still want a fight there. The main thing I want is some sort of fight or energy in the piece after it settles. I run my machines fast and like to play catch-up. I love texture and mark making, and how it makes the healed piece a lot more dynamic and longer lasting, as it moves and changes with the body over time.

I believe 100% in the power and potency of tattooing. Inherently, it’s an underground and subversive structure. Tattoos aren’t meant to be liked or appreciated by 100,000 people, and especially not jumped on by any majority. They are a subversive ritual. For me, tattoos are supposed to exist in a state of polarization. The scales are constantly changing, and this is where the energy and the magic lies, so I like the bigger work to be quite jarring visually. Of course, someone has to want to get it on their body. I can paint anything, but tattooing is an exchange, and I’m very lucky that I have people that understand what I’m trying to do and mostly give me free-reign. It’s always a concession between a client and myself, and what the skin wants and machine wants and what I want. Also, it should work next to other tattoos, so I need to take a lot of things into account.

I mostly draw right onto the skin these days. The currency of tattooing is time, so you should think like that in terms of placement. It’s a collaboration with decisions that were made 10 years ago and will be made in 10 years time, but the time thing is great – to sit and experience the exact sensation as those before you, and to be able to look someone in the eye with the same understanding that has permeated history for centuries, is mad. I play with traditional reference a lot. It’s all mostly from religious paintings, porno mags and advertisements. I like to play with combinations of traditional reference and my own drawings. I like to nod towards traditional, but mess around with it. I’m talking like I’m at a point where I’m in some sort of “creative bliss”, but it’s not like that at all; I kind of agonize over a lot of what I do, and stress out a lot. I draw designs over and over and over again to get the right level of rough, but held together, and on the skin it changes again! It’s important for us not to look backwards but forwards. A lot of the classics looked great on sailors because it was of its time, but seeing people trying to look like sailors and criminals now is just sort of a shitty and kitsch dress-up, and a quietening echo of something that was powerful in the past.

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Where did you draw inspiration from when starting out in tattooing, and where are you currently sourcing influence? My first experiences with machines were to see what they could add to what I was already doing, like I mentioned before. What I was doing wasn’t on the skin at all! Right now, I guess I’m mostly excited by the same things as everyone else: painting, videos, art-theory, browsing eBay for all kinds of things, and a lot of outsider art as well as traditional reference. I love Welsh history, and draw from this a lot, but mostly I just like to draw and see what happens. I feel like every day someone is coming up in the world and doing exciting new work, and I love that! I don’t know what to say about tattooing in terms of whether or not I think it’s art – I’m not sure if it really even needs to enter that dialogue. It’s too available and too cheap, comparatively speaking, to ever be considered or work as a high-art commodity, which is why it’s great! Tattooing has permeated culture completely, and it’s not like a painting or a sculpture where you need to carry it into a gallery. With tattoos, you can enter any establishment and move and exist freely within it – you can infiltrate any demographic or space. I like that people don’t have so much choice over how they interact with tattooed skin, and I draw a lot of inspiration from that. Tattoos are much harder to avoid than art.

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Prior to tattooing, you spent eight years as a student of fine art. What is it you felt you could achieve with tattoos that you couldn’t with any other medium? 
Everything changed for me over the course of a few days. I had both a group and solo show happening at the same time and I was right in the middle of moving apartments. Over one weekend, I had almost all my output and everything I owned stored at my parent’s place before moving it on. The river burst its banks by nearly nine feet that evening and destroyed everything I ever made – as well as everything I owned. At the same time, I was reading a book that was pushing the argument forward that there’s no way anyone could judge the merit of art in their own lifetime. Museums are almost always great because they have filtered down the best of the best over years and years and years, and exhibitions are often bad because there’s no filter. Tattoos don’t care or need any of it. I took some wry comfort in the idea that there was too much art now. Humanity has made enough. I had been thinking about tattooing, and getting tattooed, for a long time. It fell in place when I got into the temporality of it all. Give it 30 years, and no tattoos I make will be around anymore. That put this fire in me to commit to a new medium. Basically, I wanted to make temporary art that didn’t need a podium.

What’s your relationship to free-hand and free-machine tattooing, and how do these ways of working inform what you do? I guess I see mechanically copying a stencil and trying to reproduce something like a painting onto skin as ignoring the potential of the medium. I still sometimes use stencils because they’re incredibly useful, and I like to use everything I can to get the best results, but more and more often I’m moving away from them. Things change, though. Sometimes I like to get super loose, and other times tighten up. I’m not overly keen on trying to pin anything down and figure anything out 100%. I like to exploit the accidents and the unexpected things that can happen. I really like to see the marks of the needle and the hand of the person that’s done it. Also, it’s early days for me. I’ve not been tattooing for a huge amount of time – it’s been three years, and things change all the time. Since you live with a tattoo, and they exist in time, I think they should represent that. I really want the medium to be the message in a way, I guess. By drawing everything on, it works really well with the body every time – it makes it more of a process for me, and almost always unpredictable things happen that you need to respond to. I’m always wanting to feel excited by what I’m doing, so drawing tattoos straight on always keeps me at a point of being very fresh. It’s not a design I drew a few weeks ago or months with someone else in mind that I’m trying to make work elsewhere. It’s exactly where I’m at.

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What’s next? Working on larger projects and travelling, always. I’m midway through a couple of backs and bodysuits, and I’m always on the look out to start large scale projects. I have a small journal centred around contemporary tattooing and visual cultures that I’m very excited about. Another issue is ready for release! I’m also working to develop some physical spaces where artists can stay and work during residencies; assisting with publishing projects and travel to help and hopefully widen the landscape a bit – involving communities and exchanges with fringe individuals and groups from other parts of the world.

I mean, a lot of the time I feel pretty confused from overthinking, or having a lot of projects mixing together at once, so my future plans are about finding a way to still be very productive when I’m still in the process of working things out. For the future, in terms of tattooing, of course I want big changes; I’d like to see tattooing move into a more positive and open realm, and the end of bullying and empire building – neo-liberal tattooers appropriating and diluting culture on the internet and TV, macho bullshit, lifestyle becoming consumption. Instead, seeing a rise in pure, potent, visually exciting and heartfelt work. Things are happening that I feel need to be talked about in a productive and positive way. It’s easy to be negative about the state of tattooing, but everyone choses where they want to be within it.

Interview With Chris Green

We chat to 24-year-old Chris Green, who tattoos out of Redwood Tattoo Studio in Manchester about his love for anything out of the ordinary, his guest spot plans and his own impressive tattoo collection…

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When did you begin tattooing? I’ve been tattooing full time for three years since finishing my apprenticeship, so I still feel very new to everything!

What inspired you and what drew you to the tattoo world? I grew up playing in bands, drawing and writing music. I came to realise that there wasn’t much chance of  me making a living in the music industry and what little money I did have I spent on getting tattooed. I think I needed a career that was still creative, but one where I could be my own boss and work for myself. Tattooing was perfect, I just wish I had thought of it sooner.

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How would you describe your style, has it changed? My favourite style of tattooing is traditional and that’s what I started with. I love tattoos that actually look like tattoos so I try to keep the traditional structures of tattooing in my work whilst showing my love for classical art in my designs.

What would you love to tattoo? What do you particularly love doing? I feel as though I’m quite lucky, as people ask me to do some amazing pieces already, but my favourite things to draw are probably ladies, animals and anything out of the ordinary or a bit weird. I’ve also been enjoying working on big projects like backs and fronts recently, I’d love to start more!

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What inspires your work, do any other artist influence you? I’ve always been mostly inspired by classic art – the Renaissance and baroque periods in particular. I spent some time in Italy and Greece last year and I was fascinated by the architecture and sculptures. I came back to England with tons of amazing references and spent the rest of that year trying to include stories and mythologies into my work. I’m always looking for new inspiration and often find it in the most basic everyday things. Of course, a bunch of tattoo artists also inspire me too!

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? Conventions and guest spots aren’t my strongest points (and by that I mean I don’t really do them), but I would love to start travelling more. I did my first guest spot a couple of months ago at Jayne Doe in Essex to see how much I’d freak out, and I did majorly (mouth full of ulcers, ate half a slice of toast over three days). Everybody was nice there and I became good friends with Becca who owns the shop so I think that helped. I’ll be making regular(ish) trips back there, next being in October. I’ll be at Salon Serpent in Amsterdam in September and hopefully working the next Brighton convention. Also I’m in the middle of figuring some dates out for a few spots in America next year.

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Can you tell us a little bit about your own tattoo collection? I’ve been lucky enough to get tattooed by some great artists (probably forgot a few) such as Eckel, Mitch Allenden, Dan Molloy, Cassandra Frances, Ashley Love, Alex Bage, Lars Uwe and Lauren Sutton and Dale Sarok who I work with. I’ve pretty much always given each artist complete freedom so I have all kinds of subject matter. Lars has tattooed probably the majority of my body and I imagine he’ll probably tattoo what’s left, which scarily isn’t as much space as I thought.

Interview With Tattoo Artist Hannah Flowers

We chat to 27-year-old Tasmanian tattooist Hannah Flowers about her travel plans, the beautiful women she creates and what inspires her…

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Where are you based? I’ve been on the road for most of this year, which has been amazing and inspiring, but living out of a suitcase can become tiresome. So I’ve recently decided to settle in London, for a little while at least! I also have some upcoming trips to Scotland, Ireland and America planned too.

How long have you been tattooing? Around six years, hopefully there are many more to come.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I was a broke university student studying fine art and was intrigued by the idea of receiving actual money in return for my art.
Even though I didn’t actually make money the first couple of years, I fell in love with the medium and can’t imagine myself in any other job.

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Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing is ever changing and I imagine it will always be so. Mostly because there is always something to improve on, but also my taste has changed a little over the years. I think I try to emulate what impresses me the most. Before I really started tattooing I was mainly trying to draw realism because I thought it was impressive, but then when I started tattooing and realised how god damn hard it is to make clean lines and solid colour! I became really impressed with traditional work and started doing more things along those lines, at the moment I try to mix the two styles together a bit. My style has changed but my favourite subject matter seems to remain the same – ladies and animals all day everyday!

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We love the women you create, are these inspired by real life women? Or perhaps fictional characters? Thank you! Mostly they are not so much inspired by individual women or characters, (unless a client asks them to be) but more by femininity in general. I often start by choosing what feeling/meaning/theme I want them to portray. Some of my favourites themes are the femme fatale, the sad girl, and the girl with a secret. I tend to make up little stories for them as I draw them, and try to put a little heart and soul into each one.

What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? I’m inspired by all kinds of things, quite often banal everyday things like a certain colour combination (lately peach and olive green does it for me) or the way the light is reflected off a friends face, then I may lose track of what they’re saying, because I’m an absent-minded weirdo!
But to list some more solid things that inspire my general aesthetic; Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Pre-Raphaelite art, pop surrealism, medical illustrations, film noir, gothic architecture, burlesque, the femme fatale, pulp art, natural history illustrations, cats and of course other tattooers (too many to name).

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Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? I sometimes wish I had the foresight to plan out a body suit, or at least a sleeve, but it’s too much fun to collect different styles and bits and pieces! So I’m very much an indecisive patchwork of styles. I’m lucky to have some amazing works of art, some funny jokes with friends, a couple of people’s very first tattoos and then some other unmentionable trash I might get around to lasering one day to make room for more bits and pieces!

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? My next guest spot will be will the lovely people at Semper in Edinburgh, I’m also doing the Galway Tattoo Show, the London Tattoo Convention, a guest spot at Grit and Glory in New York and possibly the Calgary Tattoo Show.

Collab: Convicts and Tati Compton

Tati Compton is an L.A based stick and poke tattoo artist with some serious adventure stories about her days travelling the world in a van and busking. New York based digital media brand Convicts collaborated with Tati to create a profile and original video exploring her art, outlook on life and love of cuddling…

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I really like tattooing naked ladies and kind of cultish things. But people know me for my delicate wrist work and stuff. Stick and poke is really organic feeling. You can tell that somebody has made it with their hand, it has a really personal feel to it. Once it’s on your skin it feels like it’s been there forever. So, my style is hand poked.

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Dude, I worked every job under the sun forever. I’ve painted houses. I’ve been a housekeeper. I’ve been a bartender. I’ve been like all that stuff. I was managing a vintage clothing store and I had a breakdown at lunch one day and was like ‘I can’t fucking do this anymore. I’m just going to go crazy. I have to do something else.’

When I quit, I saw that there was like a niche for tattooing small tattoos at a cheaper price. Mostly for girls who were too intimidated to go into a tattoo shop and ask for a tiny tattoo and pay a lot of money. I was like ‘I can do that.’

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Read Tati’s full interview here and watch the video below to find out more about her tattoos…

For more music, art, style and travel videos check out Convict’s Instagram and Facebook.

Gin Wigmore: New Single & GIRLGANG

The sultry, gravel voiced New Zealand singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore returns with her defiant new single, ‘Hallow Fate’ and simultaneously launches GIRLGANG a collaborative project focusing on music and art…

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Written and produced by Gin Wigmore and Steve Rusch, ‘Hallow Fate’ is the first single taken from her forthcoming album. Launching in conjunction with the release of the new song is GIRLGANG – an exciting new collaborative project that combines both art and music and focuses on female empowerment and partnership. Wigmore has hand selected five artists to create exclusive and original pieces inspired by five songs from her new album.

The first GIRLGANG pairing sees Gin collaborating with San Diego tattoo artist Briana Sargent who created a tattoo inspired by ‘Hallow Fate’, her love of vibrant colours and the spirit of California.

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Over the next eight months, Gin will release five songs taken from her upcoming fourth album, each one a collaboration with a different female artist. Gin personally chose the artists and assigned them a song for them to use as inspiration for their creations. The GIRLGANG project is designed to highlight and celebrate fellow women and to find a new way to have an experience and connection with music through a variety of artistic formats.

‘Hallow Fate’ is available worldwide now. Download/stream it HERE.

Interview with Gaston Tonus

25-year-old guest writer Jessica Miorini chats to Gaston Tonus, an Argentinian tattoo artist based in Germany, as she gets tattooed in his private studio. Between a thigh piece and a Fritz-Kola, they chat about his unique graphic style, his inspirations and his background as a tattoo artist…

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It’s a long way from Argentina to Wiesbaden, both physically and culturally. What brought you here? Here, in Europe, I believe I can express myself better. People give me the freedom to tattoo these crazy things on them and this gives me the greatest satisfaction.

What made you want to become a tattoo artist? I first approached tattooing as I wanted to get tattooed myself. This was 20 years ago in Argentina, where I started to build my own machines and experiment with them. You’ll have to imagine a completely different industry, where there weren’t too many machines available and still a strong stigma attached to tattoos.

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How would you define your style? I would define it as graphic blackwork. It’s also sketchy and dark, but it has something more personal to it.

Among graphic tattooers, your artwork has a distinctive identity. What is your style most influenced by? The work of other tattoo artists, especially here in Europe, has definitely had a big impact on my art. My stylistic influences come from a lot of different places, from painters and cartoonists, like Caravaggio, Dürer, Mark Ryden, Alberto Breccia and H. R. Gige, to film directors, like Kubrick, Lynch, Cronenberg and Hitchcock. Music also plays an important role, there are bands that take me to a dreamland, like Tool, A Perfect Circle and Deftones, among others. I tend to mix all these different inputs together and translate them into tattoos.

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 Your works include traits of both surrealism and dark naturalism. Where do you draw your inspiration from? I find inspiration in almost all things, from nature, dreams and places, to people and buildings. I love tattooing animals, I’m a vegetarian as well, and I’m deeply inspired by nature, plants and birds, as well as manmade objects. I like to mix them, merge animals and faces, and come up with some strange and crazy combinations.

 Do you prefer to tattoo your own flash or enjoy the whole custom-made process more? Most of the time I prefer to tattoo my own pieces, as I invest so much energy and time in drawing them. But if the client’s idea speaks to me and we’re like-minded, it can turn into something even more beautiful, as this exchange of ideas and thoughts can spark my creativity even more.

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What are your favourite pieces that you’ve tattooed so far? I put too much of myself in each single piece to choose one. They all have a unique history or meaning, which will end up being completely different from my clients’.

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Finally, how has your art evolved and what further direction do you see yourself taking in the future? When I started, almost 20 years ago in Argentina, there weren’t many styles and techniques to choose from. You had magazines full of mainly tribal and traditional tattoos, and that’s what I started tattooing. With time, I started to draw more, I studied graphic design and decided to focus on my own artwork.

I never stop, I love spending my time drawing all day in my studio to make better tattoos every day. I keep pushing myself to improve and always keep an eye open for new things that might tickle my imagination. I always hope I will get to know new people, make good friends all around Europe and keep sharing experiences and good times with clients and colleagues.

Interview with Tattoo Artist Hanah Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Barbie Lowenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with China’s “First Lady of Tattoo” Zhuo Dan Ting

We chat to 34-year-old Zhuo Dan Ting, China’s “First Lady of Tattoo” who owns Shanghai Tattoo in Shanghai, China, about what inspires her, how tattoos have changed how she sees her body and what her title means to her…

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How long have you been tattooing? I have been tattooing for 15 years now.

How long have you owned your shop? I have owned my shop for a total of 13 years, with nearly three of those years being in Harbin, China. The shop was originally called “Wenyifuxing” 纹艺复兴, but after moving to Shanghai, I remained the shop to Shanghai Tattoo 纹艺复兴.

How did you start? I have always have been doing art. It was when I got my first tattoo when I was 17 was that I fell in love with tattoos and I knew this was going to be my trade. It wasn’t easy though, back in those days in Harbin, China, you couldn’t  just go and be an apprentice under someone, there were’t many shops. So I took it upon myself to travel around to different cities in China where there were more opportunities for me to learn how to tattoo.

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How does it feel being called the “First Lady of Tattoo”? I feel old! It is a great honour to have set the bar for the female tattooists here in China as well as female business owners. It’s kinda crazy that only 15 years ago it was frowned upon for a woman to be independent in my country. I’m so glad that I was able to break out of that and do my own thing and be successful at it!

What obstacles have you faced and overcome on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist? In the old times, when I was getting started, tattoos were looked down on and people were not very supportive. People would always ask what about your future? What do your parents think about what you’re doing? Other obstacles were simply trying to get better, learning from somebody else and improving. I had to travel and do my own research to learn the art of tattooing. Putting beautiful quality tattoos on people for life, felt like my destiny – I had no choice.

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Do you have a background in art? I’ve always been involved with art. My father was an artist too, and a art teacher. He started teaching me art when I was five years old, every night I would draw on the kitchen floor with him. This eventually evolved to paper and canvas, then art college and university.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I’ve always liked tattoos, and was drawn to them through a sort of obsession. It was when I got my first tattoo at age 17 that I knew this was it. I had to do it, and not only create tattoos but be the best tattooer What an amazing way to express your art, I absolutely love tattoos and couldn’t live without them.

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Can you tell us about the tattoo scene and culture in China? The tattoo scene is improving, especially these past five  years, as tattoos are getting more popular. For example when I started tattooing here in Shanghai, there were a handful of shops now there are hundreds – I can’t even count them! The tattoo scene and culture is really taking off, I only wish more people would take the time to investigate what a good tattoo shop is and isn’t. People are always wanting to save money and go to a scratcher. Overall though tattoos are being more and more accepted in China, it’s pretty awesome.

How do people view women with tattoos? People’s attitudes are getting better, they’re seen as cool. Before this it was pretty brutal, people would always ask how are you ever going to get married? (This being top priority in Chinese culture) How are you ever going to find man to take care of you with those tattoos? Most of the time it’s still like this but I’m married to a wonderful man, so I don’t listen to that shit anymore and we take care of each other.

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What kind of reactions do you receive? Reactions to my tattoos, green hair and clothes are pretty crazy! People stop dead in their tracks everyday and just stare! I’ve seen people almost get into serious accidents as they freak out when looking at me. I’m pretty much blowing their minds! Pretty funny, the closets people live in, and how they freak out when they see someone that doesn’t appear the same as everyone else here in China. The further you go out of the cities the more people freak out too – like they seen a ghost, alien or something. They just stare at you with no shame in total disbelief!

Have tattoos changed how you see your body, and how you feel about it? Yeah I feel good,  as there’s no blank skin. My tattoos are like armour for me, without them I would feel naked, bland and not like me.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw? I like to draw creepy different styles, snakes with legs and such. With my tattooing I like to focus on black and grey realism. I would love to do more large pieces including backs – the bigger the better! I love a good challenge.

What inspires you? Anything different or creative I suppose – movies, things on the internet and randomness. Walking down the crazy streets of Shanghai can be pretty inspiring!

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Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? Yes actually I’m doing the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention this year in April, also I will be heading to Malmo, Sweden, guest spotting at my friend’s shop Malort. Hopefully Oslo in Norway too, but I’m still working out all the details. I’ll be heading to California as well to Sacramento, Bay Area possibly Portland, Oregon later in the year, around November, December. I will have more details later this year!

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I have a lot of tattoos, around eight that I have done myself. Most of them are now covered up but still there to remind me of my beginning days. I love all my tattoos they all tell my stories, and I’m continuing to build my own canvas.