Tagged: tattoo

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.

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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.

Five Favourite Stick and Poke Artists

Our guest blogger Katie Houghton  shares her five favourite stick and poke artists of the moment…

While once considered unregulated, raw and reserved, ‘stick and poke’ is still here, and it’s bigger than ever. Most of the people I know that have tattoos, now have a stick and poke piece to go along with them, and more artists than ever are replacing motor-led machines with the simple needle and ink combo instead. Having recently acquired a couple of my own after lashings of Mexican food and a harrowing hour in front of American Pie, I wanted to see what artists were bringing this out the bedroom and into the mainstream.

Grace Neutral

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Whether you’ve gone gooey eyed over her latest tattoo series on VICELAND or not, Grace Neutral is undoubtedly one of London’s biggest hand-poked names. Don’t let her slight of voice fool you, there’s a brassy, boldness to her lines that are unmissable. While stick and poke is an artwork often reserved for petite and simple pieces, Grace is dominating sleeves and covering skin with some of the most intricate and hardy work in the business.

Lotte Vanns

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Lotte, a plant enthusiast and illustration student, calls herself a ‘confused human bean’ on her Instagram account, but nothing about her work confuses me. A perfect example of the divine line work coming out of hand-poked tattoos, Lotte Vanns not only showcases the female form in all its honest, and often delicate glory, her range of flora, nods to fauna and wispy lines summarise everything I like about the art of stick and poke.

Zzizzi

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From Taiwan to Sydney, this is a stick and poke artist that likes to get around, but that’s not just what I like about him. I’ve always been the person that thought hand poked tattoos were reserved to one colour palette and one colour palette only, and that’s black. Not only proving that I am very often wrong, Zzizzi rejects modest and cutesy lines for thick, chunky ‘ignorant’ themed line work that screams of the fun of the 80s with a little rock ‘n’ roll thrown in for good measure.

Kelli Kikcio

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Born in Canada but currently staking her tattoo claim at a studio in Brooklyn, New York, Kelli is something of a creative butterfly, dipping her toes in production, art and design combined. Yet another example of the simple satisfaction that comes from stick and poke, Kelli defines the art with direct and natural lines that play with female figures, flowers and crisp imagery to generate a flash collection that keeps me coming back for more.

Ngh Mgco

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If I had my way, this entire piece would be dedicated to hand poked botany, but it’s the likes of Ngh Mgco from Russia that add a firm edge to femme-esque pieces. More old school than most that stay devoid of a machine, the bold pieces, dark colours and noir feel to Ngh makes his work enticing and rich in a scene of simple, light stick and poke. I like his edge and the bravery of anyone sticking it out under those thick lines.

Interview with Tattoo Artist Paul Colli

Clean lines, not too many details. Paul Colli, resident at Satatttvision in Milan, likes to call his tattoos “ugly and ignorant”. In this interview, our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti explains why and discusses his humble view on current tattoo society, more about Horitomo references and his Monmon cats…

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What brought you into tattoo culture? How did you start tattooing? I walked into the tattoo world when I was 16, with total ignorance. I got the initials of my mum and my sister tattooed, I thought it was cool as I was the only guy to have one in my class. A few months later, I went for the second and then goodbye, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and I started getting tattooed all the time!

At 18, I bought my first “machine” and the first power supply at the Milan Tattoo Convention and I began to work on pork rind. Unfortunately some friends came in to get scribbled, but after a few months I stopped. I didn’t get tattooed for a couple of years until I met Max and Marta the owners of studio Vigevano. I spent everyday there, I had become a cumbersome presence and when I was asked if I was interested in learning how to clean, sterilise and live the apprentice life, I accepted. I began to draw more frequently, tracing Hoffmann, Sailor Jerry, Dietzel, tons of flash badly implemented on paper.

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You often say your tattoos are “ugly and ignorant” tattoos, how would you define this style? I’ve always loved simple tattoo designs. The less details there are the better.  “Ugly and Ignorant” is a deliberately extreme definition of  my work, linked to the clarity of a subject realised in an elementary way – a few lines that are immediately readable. Lately I’ve been putting a little more detail in my tattoos, but I prefer to use thicker lines that keep the process of simplifying the original flash, leaving many empty spaces where I can “scratch”.

Your cats are a traditional version of those recreated by Horitomo? Who/what inspires you? Yes, without a doubt! The first cat I made was at “Sailor Whisper” in Ravenna, the girl wanted the classic curled Monmon Cat. I remember having developed it until it became a skull! Since then I have studied and played with the cats of Horitomo, but also with various photographic references, changing the thickness of the lines and inserting traditional subjects pattern.

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What subjects do you prefer? Are there any projects you would like to start? In the past year I have concentrated on Eastern tattoo art, with the use of geishas, samurai and masks. I like to keep the classic traits of Japanese art but simplify it. The results look good, but I think I still have a lot to study and improve.

What are your points of reference in the world of tattooing? I have always studied traditional tattoos, and been inspired by the flash of tattoo artists who have shaped the history of this craft. Every artist I know is helping me to grow and to understand something different. Everything can be considered a good reference point when the exchange takes place in a constructive way.

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How do you think the future of this art will develop? On one side there are castes in the Italian tattoo scene that in my opinion should have never been created, and these contributed to make it definitely a worse world – success is not necessarily synonymous with talent. On the opposite side, however, exist and continue to come to light great artists who contribute every day to make the tattoo world a crazy and magnetic place. So really, I have not the faintest idea what will happen in the future!

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Some say that the tattoos are ‘not for everyone’, what do you think? Tattoos are for everyone. Now the market supply has exploded and this allows everyone to have the means to start tattooing, not necessarily having the qualities suited to undertake this type of work. Who now begins considering himself as an artist, often ignores history and is not interested in traditional iconography and has a very low personal culture. I think it’s fair to adapt to developments in a constructive way, to experiment, evolve, but always maintaining respect for the tradition. And above all, stay humble. If you think you made it, you will not be able to go on. There is always more to achieve.

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The role of the tattooist in current society, is it artist or craftsman? The question is all the rage in recent years! As I mentioned before, I think it’s a balance between craft and art. As I do not believe that a tattoo artist sees the tattoo only as an art work. Basically I think that technological developments have influenced the way tattoo artists act, work and so they’re a mix between a craftsman and an artist. Certainly it is always satisfying when a customer chooses you among a thousand others because of your personal style.

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Do you have any upcoming guest spots and projects in the works? I am now a resident artist at Satatttvision Collective in Milan. I will be working at Sang Bleu in Zurich at the end of February, April I’ll be at Area Industriale in Rome, Sailor Whisper in Ravenna and Maux Les Bleus in Paris. June I’ll be working at Modificazioni Corporee in Chiavari, and finally in November I will be at the Brussels Tattoo Convention.

TATTOO FAILS: ‘NO REGERTS’

Our guest blogger John James, Senior Associate at Levi Solicitors LLP, talks tattoo regrets and what to do about them… 

What happens when you choose a new tattoo, pick a tattoo artist you haven’t used before and then:
• “Never Don’t Give Up”;
• “Regret Nohing”;
• “It’s Get Better”;
• “Thuuder Only Happens When It’s Raisin”?

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Disaster! All of a sudden, you are an internet sensation thanks to your tattooist and your cruel friend who shares the photo with the world…

…Even worse, you have also been left with an infection from the needle the tattooist had used for the previous four days. And what’s more, you just found out he doesn’t have any insurance.

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What can I do?
The consequences for failed tattoo treatment can be very costly, both financially and physically. Needless to say, you have a right as a customer to have the artist fix the error or give you a refund.

However, you may also have other rights to compensation for personal injury or other damages you sustained as a direct result of this failed treatment.

Beware the tattoo fixer….

Unfortunately, there’s a surprisingly high number of people who have suffered cuts, burns, scars and even poisoning from failed treatments. Quite often, this is because people have been too hasty in choosing their provider – and if you choose unwisely, your options may be limited.

If you have been left with injuries after a failed procedure, you may be entitled to bring a personal injury claim against the person who carried out the treatment. Rather than trying to sue the individual (who may not have the money to pay your damages), your best chance of a successful claim is against the insurance company which covers them in the event that things go wrong.

However, if you have picked a tattoo artist without checking their insurance or their credentials properly, you could face the nightmare scenario of being left with an injury for which you cannot claim compensation.

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Prevention is cheaper than the cure

Whilst you might be in a rush to get your tattoo, or to have it removed, repaired or altered, you should take time to research properly the person you approach to carry out the procedure.

People who have taken their time choosing their artist to either create or remove a tattoo stand a much better chance of a claim succeeding if the treatment goes wrong.

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Therefore, my best possible advice to those people looking for the perfect tattoo is:
• Research the artist before walking into their studio
• Check they are insured before they go anywhere near you!
• Avoid the “backstreet” tattooist – you are unlikely to succeed in a claim against him/her if their treatment fails.
• If in doubt, do not have the treatment until you are certain you are safeguarded against things going wrong.

If you follow these three simple tips, you will have “no regerts” when you finally have your tattoo!

Guest article by John James, Senior Associate, Levi Solicitors LLP

GRLCLB: Roobs

We chat to 24-year-old Ruth Finn Leiser (aka Roobs), writer, feminist and founder of GRLCLB about starting her own business, creating a zine and her tattoo collection…

What inspired you to start GRLCLB? How did it come about? How did it start? GRLCLB is the product of frustration, neglected creativity, and a horrible job. I was working full time, often up to 60 hours a week, running a gift shop – for a boss who wanted me to give my all for just £7 an hour and to whom nothing was ever good enough.

I spent so long looking for that one thing that would save me, the outlet that I needed, and eventually I realised that the reason I couldn’t find it was because I needed to create it. I had stitched a couple of t-shirts – the reaction from my Instagram followers was really positive and I just sort of thought ‘well what have I got to lose?’ I bought the domain name for under a tenner and set up this rookie website with no clue what I was doing, and just took it from there.

What message are you hoping to spread or share? Really, I just want to be honest. It’s so easy to shy away from speaking your mind when the internet can be such a brutally unforgiving place. But when you realise that by simply speaking your mind, you can be providing comfort for other people who are thinking the same things as you or feeling the same way as you, it becomes a) less scary and b) more important. In a world where you can create an entire existence – persona, success, lifestyle – out of square pictures on a social media app, it is, I think, genuinely necessary that people are shown what’s real from time to time.

What can people expect to see and read on your blog? Well that’s where I start to feel like ‘blog’ doesn’t really apply. To me, blogs are like really well-oiled machines that rely on organisation and planning and structure and conforming to a particular kind of aesthetic/content for a specific intended audience. The writing side of GRLCLB is, honestly, completely shambolic. I’ve never really been able to write for purpose, I’ve always just gone with the flow and refused to ever force anything.  So the Girl Talk section of the website is littered with unscheduled outpourings talking about stuff ranging from body positivity to domestic abuse to the neurochemistry of introversion to what’s happening with the business side of GRLCLB to why I’ll never promote skinny tea.

Can you tell us about your new zine, what’s inside? The zine has been a highlight for me. Even though it was a little bit rushed to get it out in time for Christmas, it provided a really nice new level to the whole GRLCLB experience I think. I loved the thought of people settling down to read it on paper rather than a screen. The first issue had poetry, tips for challenging anxiety, a self-care guide, a recipe, doodles, a list of facts that make the world seem nicer etc.

How can people get involved? That’s something that I really want to focus on in 2017! From the outset, I wanted GRLCLB to be like a community, and I’m constantly trying to find ways for people to contribute. I’m excited for the next issue of the zine because the potential for exciting collaborations is endless. I just can’t think of anything nicer than a converging of girl power from the internet into real life.

Do you have a background in art? From a recreational point of view, I was such a manically creative child, but from an academic perspective, not at all. University also killed my creativity. I studied psychology. It was only when I graduated that I realised I’d forgotten how to be anything other than analytical. I spent a lot of time pointlessly wondering whether, if I’d pursued art way back when like I’d wanted to, I’d have ended up somewhere else. But, actually, part of me thinks that art school could’ve been even more damaging. The thought of creating something, only to have a quantifiable grade assigned to it is totally soul-destroying to me.

What inspires your creations? I truly believe that we’re a product of everything we experience. Everything we create is a product of all the people we’ve known and the music we’ve heard and the stories we’re told and the sights we’ve seen. My mum introduced me to a lot of great music – Bruce Springsteen and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Led Zeppelin etc – and my dad is just totally eccentric – anything weird or unusual or surprising that I like is definitely down to him. I think I draw equally from their generation and mine.

The more political side of GRLCLB is, I guess, just inspired by what’s going on in the world around me. The only difference between other people and me is that where someone else vents through Twitter or their friends, I’m like ‘this is going on a t-shirt’.

When did you get your first tattoo? What was it? Do you still love it? My first tattoo was a couple of years ago. I was late to the game because I’m so indecisive that I was convinced I’d get something on a whim and then end up hating it. So, obviously, I got an ode to Shakespeare. It’s based on a couple of lines from The Merry Wives of Windsor: ‘Why then, the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open’. The first bit has obviously filtered into general usage, but it’s the second bit that always appealed to me – the world might be mine for the taking but I actually have to do something about it. Darryl from Irezumi tattoo studio in Glasgow drew me up a hand with a dagger and an open oyster shell, and I’m as obsessed with it today as I was the day I got it.

Can you tell us about your other tattoos? Some have meaning, some don’t. I have a thistle and a cornflower (the flowers of Scotland and Germany respectively) and a banner saying ‘Give Em Hell’ in tribute to my ancestors and the struggles they faced – also by Darryl at Irezumi. Mel at Black Dot gave me some of my favourites: a badass woman’s torso, a pair of hands sewing out the words ‘Girl Boss’ to remind me to keep at it, and the simplest GRL PWR across my Achilles.

Do tattoos have to tell a story or have a meaning behind them? Not at all. I think that, for me anyway, it’s nice to be able to recount the stories behind them, but of course, sometimes the stories behind them are just the people you were with or the shop you were sat in or the laughs you had while getting it done. I don’t think that the art itself has to have a meaning – tattoos are a way to remember people and places and context, and I reckon that’s more important than trying to make them visually significant. 

What plans do you have for GRLCLB in the future? I’m trying to make it less labour intensive for me on my own. Whether that means getting other people involved – or not – I’m not sure yet. I just feel like so much of my time is taken up with sewing that I can’t let the brand grow into something that can reach more people. I want to start engaging more with ‘real life’ people – the goal of it was to create a safe place for people, so how wonderful would it be if that could be translated into a physical one? I want to concentrate less on the actual physical act of stitching, and more on the ways that GRLCLB can really make a difference. This year will see the introduction of more printed products, still with the signature GRLCLB style/sass, but that will hopefully just mean the start of bigger and better things to come!

The Tiger Style: Tiggen

We chat to Tiggen, 19-year-old retail assistant manager and blogger, from London about her blog, fashion style and collection of blackwork tattoos…

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I first started blogging last March, however I’d been building up the confidence to start for about a year by that point. After following and admiring many other bloggers online, I wanted to try it out for myself. It was something I’d always thought about pursuing but initially I had to push myself into writing my first post.

What kind of things do you blog about? Typically, I enjoy blogging about personal style, as it’s something that is unique to everyone and so closely linked to self image. I find issues around body image, and how we view ourselves and others, to be very interesting and I plan on writing more about that in the future. Other topics I blog about are lifestyle, beauty and London.

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How would you describe your style? My style is very minimalist. I only wear black and white, with one exception of a brown jacket. As my colour plate is so simplistic I tend to focus on the quality of the material over anything else. I would say I dress quite casually on a day to day basis, I’m nearly always wearing my leather jacket.

What inspires you? I take inspiration from people watching, seeing the variation of street style and how people present themselves. London is such a diverse city and full of so many interesting people that I can’t help but feel inspired.

Do you have a favourite, artist, designer or musician, or someone else that you admire? I wouldn’t say there was just one person in particular that I admire, there are so many people that I look up to. Social media plays a part as it allows you to glimpse into people’s lives, to respect what they’re feeling and going through. To name a couple that I follow on Instagram:  @jayrosetattoo @acornandauger

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When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo the day after I turned 18, it was only small but I was extremely happy to finally have one. Sometimes I forget it’s even there now that I have many more, but I still like it.

Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see you body differently, do they inspire confidence? Each time I get a tattoo it instills more confidence in me and makes me feel at home in my own skin. They don’t feel like an addition, more as though they were there all along just under the surface and now they’re revealed. To me getting a new one is not only a physical change but a mental one, they help me to see my body differently and to boost my self image. I find them empowering. Much like my personal style I only have blackwork pieces, they range from illustrative style to more mehndi buddhist pieces.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I have a habit of planning very far ahead in regard to tattoos. I’ve carefully thought about what I’m going to get and where, most of my body is already planned out. Next on my list is to get my other hand done.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Without a doubt. I enjoy collecting tattoos and meeting new tattoo artists. I’m hoping to travel to get a lot of them done, it’s all part of the experience. The beautiful thing about collecting tattoos is having artwork on your own skin that you can admire everyday and carry with you.

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What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Luckily most of the reactions I receive are positive, whether from friends and family or strangers. However, there are occasions when people  make derogatory remarks or invade my personal space to try and touch my tattoos. In the end though they’re on my body, so the only thing that truly matters is how they make me feel.

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.

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

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How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

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What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

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How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

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What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

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Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

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Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

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Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

Shaded: Danny Rossiter

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Danny Rossiter is a legendary 37-year-old tattoo artist and co-owner of Manchester’s Rain City Tattoo Collective. As part of Things and Ink’s ongoing interview series ‘Shaded’, I spoke with ‘The King’ about his passion for tribal tattooing, surfing and Japanese culture as he tattooed my shoulder.

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“Before I was tattooing, there wasn’t anything I wanted to do,” answers Danny Rossiter, more commonly referred to as ‘The King’ by his peers, to a question regarding his relationship with tattoos that I can barely ask as the Traditional-Japanese heavyweight begins to hammer an Eastern-inspired demon onto my shoulder. “I just wanted to surf,” he continues casually – as if he were telling the story over dinner as opposed to the violent process of tattooing. “My grandma was an artist – a painter, and she always encouraged me to draw, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I asked myself “what can I do that’s really cool?” and tattooing looked cool.”

From fantasist beginnings spent dreaming up his very own ‘Endless Summer’ meets Horiyoshi III existence to a nomadic life spent darting across the Southern Hemisphere, Danny is currently tattooing me out of his own shop: the legendary Rain City Tattoo Collective. The 37 year-old Zimbabwean’s corner of the shop holds a plethora of books – most of which relate to the subject of Japanese culture. “I just love Japanese Culture! The imagery is really powerful and holds so much meaning. You can find yourself looking at a brutal battle and a serene scene of beauty within the same Ukiyo-e print!” Although a master of the craft himself, Danny constantly humbles his position that’s backed-up by an 18-year relationship with the industry by suggesting that he’s simply riding history’s wave. “There’s so much tradition to Japanese tattooing, and ‘tradition’ loosely translates into ‘repetition’. It’s traditional because it has worked, been repeated and been passed down, so I’m well aware that all of my work has either been stolen or borrowed.”

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The idea for the collective was born out of a drunken, lightning-strike evening Danny spent with talented artists Matt Cooley, Gre Hale and Dan Morris, who had all decided they no longer wanted to work under the thumb of any kind of shop hierarchy, but wanted to create a diplomatic space that allowed them the time and freedom to develop and concentrate on their work. Founded in 2012, the shop has grown to be one of the most well respected spots the world over. “The shop has influenced me to keep working and to keep going,” speaks Danny of Rain City’s effect on him. “You can get complacent when working with one other person, but when you’re surrounded by so many people that are so stoked on tattooing, you can’t help but get caught up in it.”

When speaking of his first memories of tattooing, Danny speaks with a cool detachment as if unburdened by nostalgia. “I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was this tribal biohazard symbol. It’s covered now, but I do love tribal. It’s such a strong look that often invites passionate criticism. That’s what’s so great about it: it encourages passion – it’s so powerful that people fucking hate it!” Danny’s enthusiasm for tribal bled into the story of the first ever tattoo he produced. “I vividly remember the first tattoo I ever produced: It was this tribal spider – I couldn’t stop shaking! I’d love to see what that tattoo looks like today. ”

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As someone who is called ‘King’ more than he is his own name, I feel hesitant asking Danny of his inspiration, but much like the rest of our conversation Danny is open and unpretentious in his answer. “Everything is visual with me. I’ve never been the kind of person who finds inspiration in more abstract places, like music or writing. Maybe there’s a whole world of work I could be producing if I dug into that.” Danny follows the thought with how he sees his work evolving. “People can get lost in the idea of ‘style’ and leaving their own unique mark on tattooing, but producing work for the customer rather than yourself is far more important. People think too much about the mark they want to leave, but it’s all about what you’re doing in the moment. You don’t want to get too involved in the future.”