‘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.
Megan Climaldi is a 19-year-old illustrator and tattoo artist who is currently working and living in Portland, Oregon. Born in Las Vegas and raised in Hawaii, Megan describes herself as an openly-gay half-Korean who is trying her best to be happy and kind. As part of Things&Ink’s on-going feature ‘Shaded’, Megan opens up about her personal relationship with art, Portland’s tattoo community and her attraction to the darker side of things.
Can you tell me about your relationship to tattoos? My relationship to tattooing is deeply personal and mostly centred around the healing aspect of it. I got my first tattoo as a 15 -year-old. My mom signed off on it, but would only allow it if the tattoo related to her in some way. She eventually became a negative part of my life, and we haven’t spoken for years. I think that was a bit of a sad beginning to my relationship with tattoos, but every tattoo I’ve gotten after, in comparison, completely relates to things that I want myself. It’s more about the feeling I associate with the imagery than anything else. It’s healing for me, and has an ultimate sense of self care to it. It’s almost ritualistic.
Who’s currently inspiring you as an artist? I look up to a lot of people, as I’m still very new to the industry. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I have very high hopes and dreams for myself. Some artists I really look up to are Nomi Chi, as someone who is also mixed race and queer. Other artists who I have immense respect for include Cal Jenx and Alice Carrier. I have always been hesitant about tattooing because I feel that a majority of the industry in the US is geared to a certain demographic, and that anyone outside of that is an outlier. It’s great to see artists that are happy and proud of their identity outside of that.
What’s tattoo culture like in Portland, Oregon? Tattoo culture in Portland is very, very interesting! People here are so open and supportive of art in all of its forms, and I feel like the people I’ve met through tattooing have mostly been very welcoming and genuinely good folks! It’s a small community, even though it feels large. The art scene here is very community centred. Everyone knows each other and will show up to each others shows. The line from tattooing to art, I feel, is starting to blur. I only hope that the worlds continue to collide! I went to a gallery show for the first time here and was in awe of how supportive and relaxed people were. I could only hope to bring that sort of feeling, that inclusivity, to tattooing. Art should be for everyone, and I feel that it has such deep benefit for so many people that it should be accessible, comfortable, and most of all, inclusive! My friends influence me greatly and their continued support and understanding has inspired me to always be kind, and to grow on a daily basis.
What attracts you to blackwork? I love contrast. I love a strong silhouette; I draw much of my artistic inspiration from the art world, and have always been interested in black and white as its own genre. I feel that being able to express with a balance of minimalism and detail is something that is very beautiful. I aspire to create things that are simple, but still complex. Black and white is a fantastic platform for this, and also happens to look great on any skin tone.
What predominantly inspires your work? My art is predominately inspired by emotion and things that I find beautiful, whether that be a feeling or an image. All of my drawings I could look at and describe exactly how I felt when I created them. I draw so much out of my own personal emotion – my own suffering, that when someone I don’t know sees something I’ve drawn and wants it tattooed, I always am astonished that the imagery resonates with them as well. The fact that a complete stranger could see something I’ve made and feel deeply enough to want it tattooed, I feel like it’s sharing in a subconscious feeling, an unspoken “me, too”. Outside of this, I draw much artistic inspiration from art with strong silhouettes and imagery, traditional Japanese and even American traditional have influenced the way I draw and create my artwork.
The imagery of your work naturally gravitates towards the dark and morbid. Can you tell me about your relationship to these things? The things I draw tend to gravitate towards themes of death, pain and even self induced suffering; I attribute most of this as a reflection of my own psyche. Art is for me very personal, and always something I have done to heal, express and recover. I have suffered for years with depression and have recovered well and am happy, so perhaps my gravitation towards images of sadness is a way of remembering. I feel like being able to take these feelings, these sad images, and make them beautiful and make them something people enjoy looking at and having on their bodies is truly where I want to triumph. I am growing as a person every day. I am still sad sometimes, but I want to spend my life making beautiful things out of the darker, more tragic parts of life. It is how we heal, and how we all exist as a microcosm of living and dying, forgiving and forgetting.
How do you see your work evolving? I see my work moving in a direction where I use more traditional influences. I would also like to work in larger spaces, but that’ll come with time. I want to involve myself more with programs that cater to marginalised groups, LGBT youth and folks with mental illness outside of my tattooing endeavours. I am so new to this – still developing and still growing that what my future holds is still so open. The possibilities are endless, I believe.
Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to handpoke tattoo artist Indy Voet, who works out of Purple Sun in Brussels, about his clean, straight lined tattoos and his relation to body modifications…
How did you get into tattoo art and body mods? I started at the desk of a piercing shop when I was about 18, after about a year or two I was piercing full time and quite interested in general body mods. Since then I pretty much always worked in piercing and tattoo shops, piercing, getting tattooed, going to conventions etc. I would say the general transition into tattooing came during the last two to three years and voluntary or not I feel good about where I am right now and the people I am with.
Have you always loved the idea of hand poked tattoos or did you just try it on a whim? It felt more natural for me coming from the piercing background. It started out as just a few small things here and there on tattooers I knew, and then it all evolved from there to what I do now.
Sometimes you work with classic tattoo machines. Do you like to mix the two techniques? I started using both not so long ago after a push and a gift from Jean-Philippe Burton. I guess for me it’s about making good tattoos no matter if it’s by machine or by hand. It helps me achieve a visual I can’t by hand, sometimes for certain styles, and it opens up to more options but of course I have a lot more to learn.
Are you more into symbolism or traditional art? I have to admit I am into a lot of different things and a lot of different influences. I try to get inspired by quite obvious tattoo references as much as less obvious ones.
You do quite simple and very clean tattoos. Where do you get inspiration from? I guess that, by looking at my tattoos right now, the clearest influences are ethnic art, patterns and tattoos on one side, and western traditional on the other side.
What is the best part of your job? I actually love the whole process, from searching, to drawing, to meeting people. But if I have to choose the best part, that one is seeing the tattoo healed and settled. Seeing people and customers wear it in their everyday life. Seeing it interact with the rest of their tattoos but also with their general style. I enjoy that quite a bit and I always find it curious.
What about the tattoo community in Brussels? Are you planning to travel somewhere soon? Brussels is not a huge capital city but I guess there was a good number of shops that opened during the last few years. I am grateful I get along with a lot of the local tattooers and shops. The fact I can go to say hello or chill at other shops, I really appreciate that. I’m trying to do some city trips within Europe, where I can meet people I know, and once or twice a year I plan overseas travels.
What are the parts of the body you enjoy the most to tattoo? I would say ears for sure but I also enjoy fingers, eyelids, the torso etc. I guess as long as I technically can do a good job, and as long as it’s possible to make the design work in harmony with the spot, I am happy to continue to do so.
What are your top three images to tattoo? I don’t really have three but I would say anything simple with straight lines or anything not too serious, western old school are always fun for me to do.
Who are your favourite artists at the moment? Too many to mention, but to mention a few: Marine Martin, Burton Ursaeminoris, Bouits, Jacob Redmond, Matt Shamah, Florian Santus, Ronnie Ronson, Horimatsu Bunchin, Bastien Jean, Cokney, Chriss Dettmer, Jeff Zuck, Kane Trubenbacher, Toothtaker, Rudy Fritch, Dan Santoro, Gakkin, Lockhart, Josh Egnew, Duncan X and many many more!
We chat to 33-year-old Grace Pantony, Licensing and Marketing Director for Marshall Amplification, based in Milton Keynes, about developing Marshall as a lifestyle brand, her tattoos and of course love for music…
How old were you when you got your first tattoo? I got my first tattoo, when I was 18. I had a big tribal piece on my back. I am now in the process of having this covered up.
What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you? At the age of 14 I really got into heavy music, and tattoos came along with this culture. I listened to a lot of metal music and was adamant as soon as I was old enough I was going to get some tribal like my idol Kerry King of Slayer! Also, my dad had always been into tattoos and was covered himself, so it was something I grew up with and never thought anything of, other than I wanted one as soon as I could.
Back (cover up by Ade at Axios)
Can you tell us about some your tattoos? I got my first tattoo when I was 18, this is now in the progress of being covered up by Ade at Axios Tattoo in Hove. Ade’s specialism is Japanese tattooing, and I first came across his work about 15 years ago when he was working in Guildford. I love his style, and have also had a full sleeve and Japanese mask done on my leg done by Ade. I always said I would never get a band tattoo, but have now got four band related tattoos. I don’t regret them at all though and already have another band filler that I want doing at some point.
My current favourite tattoos of mine are my knees done by Elliott Wells at Triple Six Tattoo in Sunderland. I am so in love with the placement, the colour, the design – everything! I never get bored of looking at them. Elliott really has mastered peonies, and I would love to have more work done by him in the future.
How did you get into your current role? I started at Marshall as a temp after returning from a work placement in Los Angeles with a previous employer. Being really into music it was such a perfect company to work for and I was really happy to get the chance to even temp at the company. Once my temp position ended I was thankfully offered a job within another department, and it has been happily ever after!
Did you have to study or get any qualifications or have you worked your way up? I have worked my way up within Marshall as well as doing study in my spare time. I have studied skills that were identified as specific to the career direction I was looking for but that also benefited Marshall and the position I was in with them.
I have worked really closely with the managing director of the company to develop the Marshall brand within the lifestyle category which is outside our core product. This was a new segment for Marshall, therefore a new department was created. I saw this as a great opportunity so seized this chance and put myself forward to take the bull by the horns and run with the development of this department, it was something I had a huge interest in and also Marshall is a brand I love, so it was a perfect fit.
I was drunk at Leeds festival with my friend and I drew a dinosaur, afterwards we felt it needed to be a tattoo!
What is a typical day like? No day is the same. My job is really varied. Which is what I love the most. I have always been someone that needs a challenge and variety in my work. And this job certainly does that. I am the director for licensed products as well as marketing for the core brand. The role means I am immersed in Marshall in all ways, I live and breathe the brand.
An average day can involve approving a new product off the factory line through to event planning and coordinating. Reviewing counterfeit goods and trademark registrations with IP attorneys to setting up a record label – it’s my dream job! The role has developed so much, and I work with such a great team. We all love the brand and have a huge amount of fun, sometimes it makes you question that what you do is your job! But saying that it is hard work, we all work really, really hard but having a great team makes this a whole lot easier.
Music Week announcing Marshall launching a record label, of which I sit on the board of directors.
What do you love about your job? I love the variety that no day is the same. That I am challenged every day to push myself and learn more about the industry and products we work with. I am forever learning a new skill, and I love that. And I would be lying if working within music wasn’t a huge part of the love for the job. I get to be around music all day. Listen to it, work with it, and getting to go to gigs for your job – life doesn’t get much better than that! It’s a dream.
How do you dress for work? Do you show off your tattoos? How would you describe your style? I am by far the scruffiest and most casual director at Marshall. My go-to is high waisted jeans, vans and a band or Marshall baseball tee. I am a comfy dresser at work and also you never know when you will be lifting amps, so a skirt and heels really isn’t practical, especially as I can’t walk in them at the best of times. I don’t make a conscience effort to show my tattoos at work, but I certainly don’t hide them, and thankfully have never been expected to.
Before Marshall I worked for the government and hid my tattoos through the interview stage and also until I passed my six month probation, so to say they were shocked when they saw them was an understatement. But I always believe that you should be judged on the standard of your work, not on if you have tattoos. Sadly, I don’t think the government is quite ready for that way of thinking yet. But thankfully Marshall are more than happy with it.
Marshall always sponsor Movember, and I got a Mo tattooed to be an official Mo’sista
How do people react to your tattoos? I normally get “you didn’t look like the sort of girl to have tattoos” and I am not sure if that is a compliment or an insult so I just ignore it. I live in Milton Keynes, where it is becoming more common to see people with a lot of tattoos but I still think there aren’t that many females who are fairly covered, so whenever I go out I get people asking about them. But it’s always in a positive way. You always get people that only want to know how much you have spent, it still seems to be the most common question. I always find that bizarre, and again ignore it.
In a work capacity, no one has reacted negatively, if anything it is a positive as my arms have been used for marketing campaigns for the brand, so that I do take as a compliment!
Do you have any advice to other people considering their careers when getting tattooed? Regardless of career choice, you should always research what you want and who is the best person to do that. I learnt the hard way and lived with a bad tattoo for far too long.
When it comes to work and tattoos I think honesty is the best policy and also knowing what you want to work in and if tattoos are still a bit of a taboo in that career. I am lucky that I work in music and that tattoos are common place. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it when getting another one. When I got my fingers done, the first person I asked if they had any problems with it before I got it done was my boss. I wouldn’t want to do anything that could jeopardise my job regardless of how tolerant they are of tattooing – so yeah, be honest and run it past them before walking in with your hands done, it softens the blow that way!
30-year-old Nicole Draeger tattoos at Lygon St Tattoo Co in Melbourne Australia, and creates wonderfully bright neo-traditional tattoos. We chatted to Nicole about her style and what inspires her work…
How did you start tattooing and what did you do before? I’ve been tattooing for eight years now. I was studying graphic design and working part time as a receptionist. I had been designing tattoos for my friends and they were all going to the same shop to get them tattooed. Then one day I went with my friend to watch her get tattooed and they offered me an apprenticeship because they had seen so much of artwork already.
Do you have a background in art? I have always been into art and drawing, all I wanted to do when I was a kid was to become a cartoonist so I could draw my favourite cartoon characters all day. But as I got older I got more into graphic design and illustration and then eventually tattooing.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I always liked tattoos but I was put off getting one for a long time because of my parents. I had never really thought of becoming a tattooist until I was offered an apprenticeship and then I just dived right in and never looked back.
How would you describe your style, has it changed? It’s always hard to describe your style but, the best way to describe it would be neo-traditional. My style is always changing, I don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing all the time. Some days I enjoy doing simpler cute designs and other days I love doing more detailed pieces.
What do you like to tattoo and draw? Mostly animals and flowers. I draw a lot of cats, insects and mammals.
What inspires you? I love watching David Attenborough documentaries, I also watch a lot of anime and cartoons. I also find a lot of inspiration from some of my favourite tattoo artists.
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I love tattooing animals and stylised pet portraits but I also really enjoy the occasional pop culture related tattoo so movies, cartoons and anime. I refuse to tattoo anything racist or ignorant.
Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? This year I have been pretty quiet with the guest spots, but I’m looking forward to the New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival in November this year.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Most of the tattoos I have are from my friends or artists I look up to. They are all colour and pretty much all of them are some kind of animal or flower. Some of my favourite pieces include a winged rabbit on my forearm from Rachi Brains, a big blue peony on my shoulder from Jamie August and a portrait on my dog from Clare Clarity on my leg.
23-year-old Georgina Liliane is a tattoo artist based at Intense Colours in Southampton, who is now currently working and travelling across Canada. We chatted to Georgina about what inspires her and the guest spots she has planned while travelling…
How long have you been tattooing? Including my apprenticeship four years and still constantly learning.
How did you start? What did you do before? I drew designs for friends and my close friends got tattooed by my mentor and he was about to open a studio and was looking for an apprentice. My friends recommended me to the studio and they had a look at my work and I was offered an apprenticeship. At the time I was just about to finish my foundation in illustration so it was perfect timing as I didn’t want to go to university at all!
Do you have a background in art? I have always been drawing since I can remember, I studied fine art at college and illustration at uni.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I remember being at school and loved flicking through tattoo magazines and pictures online (instead of doing work I needed to do of course). I loved the bright colours and bold style of traditional tattoos.
How would you describe your style, has it changed? In my very early years of tattooing I drew in more of a traditional style, it wasn’t very distinct at first but through practise and patience I started to draw delicate, illustrative and more feminine designs, mostly animal and nature related.
What do you like to tattoo and draw? My favourite tattoos to do are cats, any animal, gothic/halloween related and pop culture related designs such as Studio Ghibli, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, all of which I’m a huge fan of!
What inspires you? Classical art and vintage postcards are something I frequently look at. I went to the Robert Bateman gallery on Vancouver Island and his paintings were beautiful. Although incredibly detailed he focuses mainly on creating a certain mood to be felt when viewing his paintings, and adding other details that wouldn’t necessarily be seen at first glance, which I found interesting and something I could take inspiration from.
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I would love to do larger scale pieces in the future, I wouldn’t want to do anything that could be offensive. I often turn away certain cover up tattoos if the old tattoo is difficult or too dark to cover, I always suggest to laser the tattoo to lighten it. This means less limitation on what could be tattooed over it.
Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? So far I’ve worked on Vancouver Island at Painted Lotus, Vancouver at Gastown Parlour, I’m about to start working at Scythe and Spade in Calgary, followed by the Montreal Convention in September. Then I’ll be working at Deathless tattoo in Montreal, and in Ottawa I’ll be at Ink Spot. That’s all I’ve planned so far! I’m nervous for the convention as it’ll be the first one I’ve done by myself and in another country can be quite daunting. But everyone in Canada has been so friendly and helpful and I’ve settled in quickly.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Both of my sleeves have been done by the very talented Antony Flemming, I love them as everyday there’s a new detail I didn’t see before. I’ve done a couple of tattoo trades with my friends Ashley Luka and Charlotte Timmons both stupidly lovely and talented artists in Birmingham. I still have a lot of space and ideas for future tattoos for myself, I’d love it if I can get a tattoo from Sam Smith who I’ll be working with in Calgary, but if not I’ll be more than happy to sit and watch her work and hopefully learn a thing or two!
How long have you been tattooing? Looking back through my diary, I’ve been tattooing on a regular basis for about 7-8 weeks now. I started my apprenticeship in October of 2015 and my mentor let me tattoo myself after about four months so I could get a glimpse of the world I was stepping into. I tattooed myself again a couple of months later and then a handful of my wonderful friends volunteered to let me tattoo them, and then all of a sudden I’m tattooing every day alongside all the other artists at the shop. This is something I’ve wanted for so long and sometimes I still wake up and think ‘is this really my life now?!’
How did you start? What did you do before? I remember telling my tutor at college that I wanted to be a tattoo artist and she looked at me blankly with no advice to give. I then went to university for a year, worked in bars and restaurants, went travelling for a bit, all the while knowing I still just wanted to tattoo.
It got to the point where I couldn’t stand my job any longer and I plucked up the courage to email Mike Stockings (my mentor) and asked if he would be willing to see me to discuss the possibility of an apprenticeship at his studio. I had been avidly following his work for years and I had my heart set on learning from him. He agreed to see me, went through my work, picked it apart, gave me some advice and then told me to go away and draw some more. I don’t think he expected that I’d ever come back, but I continued to take more work to show him for about six months until he offered me the apprenticeship.
Do you have a background in art? Drawing was always ‘my thing,’ when I was younger. I remember going round to other kids’ houses to play and being shocked that they didn’t put the lids back on their colouring pens, or that they only had scrap paper to draw on. Looking back, I’m so grateful to my mum for nurturing my interest in art. Even at a young age she would take me to exhibitions and buy me good quality drawing materials.
I studied art at college and even went on to university to start an illustration degree. I probably thought my art classes were boring at the time but I realise now that they really did teach me some valuable things about composition, light and shadow, complementary colours etc.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I remember seeing some of Guy Aitchison’s luminous bi-mech work when I was about 16 and I was instantly blown away. It was like at that moment, my eyes were opened to a whole world of tattooing beyond the high street flash that I was familiar with. I then went on to discover Emily Rose Murray, Tiny Miss Becca, and (dare I say) Kat Von D who were all women starting to make waves in a male dominated industry at the time. I was so inspired and excited that you could make a living out of drawing wonderful pictures on people. I was desperate to get tattooed when I was a teenager and now I’m starting to build up a nice collection of my own I feel more comfortable in my skin than ever.
Are there any artist that influence your work? I really like all the bold, bright work that is coming out of Germany at the moment. Lars Uwe Lus lips, is one of my absolute favourites. His use of colours, line weights and style in general is pretty mind-blowing. I love the illustrative quality of Kate Selkie’s work and I am always reminded that good drawing skills are the foundation of a good tattoo. And of course, watching Mike work is probably my biggest influence. His work has so much character and he’s always trying to push boundaries and put out fresh new ideas. It’s impossible not to be inspired.
Describe your style, has it changed? I’d say my style changes a little bit with every tattoo I do. I think my work is leaning towards neo-traditional, working with bright colours and bold line. The guys where I work taught me early on to follow the fundamentals of traditional tattooing, emphasising the importance of clean lines and getting a good amount of black into any tattoo to create contrast and a tattoo that will age well.
What inspires you? Everything really. I guess that’s a pretty terrible answer but it’s true. I’ll often find myself sneaking into people’s front gardens to take photos of their flowers to use as reference, or stuffing a leaflet in my bag because I like the colour palette that’s been used. I feel like my eyes now scan everything to see if it’s a possible reference or inspiration in some way.
I love Japanese art and culture, art nouveau, pop art, film photography, and really enjoy going to museums and galleries. Even if the work doesn’t influence mine directly, I always feel so creatively energised after seeing another artist’s vision come to life.
What would you love to tattoo? I consider myself incredibly lucky that Mike gives me the freedom to tattoo what I want already. He has always really emphasised that if you do work you enjoy then that will be evident, and people will come to you.
Eventually I’d like to be tattooing larger scale animal designs and faces (tattoos of faces, not tattooing on faces!) I love the idea of working on a project and can’t wait to be piecing together ideas for a sleeve or back piece. For now though, I am happy doing my little designs, trying to make each one cleaner and better than the last. I think there’s a fine line between continually pushing yourself to improve, and trying to run before you can walk. The guys at work will often tell me that I’m not ready to tattoo a certain part of the body yet, or that a design is too complex and then I just have to take a step back and remember that it’s still really early days for me.
What is a typical day like for you? I usually get to the studio at around 9 am, mop the floor, clean the grips, set up Mike’s station and try to make sure everything stays tidy during the day. I’m trying to do one tattoo a day at the moment and truthfully I couldn’t tell you anything that happens in the shop during that time!
24-year-old Olivia Olivier works out of Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco, California and creates wonderfully traditional tattoos. We chatted to Olivia about her inspirational mother and what drew her to the tattoo world…
How long have you been tattooing? Four and a half years now.
How did you start? What did you do before? My mom’s boyfriend owns a shop that I started working at doing miscellaneous jobs and counter work at 15, then started full time at 17. And at 18 started my apprenticeship. I haven’t had any other job!
Do you have a background in art? I have always had drawing going on around me, my mom is a phenomenal artist. She encouraged me to draw ever since I can remember. I have learned a lot from her, especially about figure drawing. She teaches at San Francisco’s City College and I have taken her class along with others multiple times.
What drew you to the tattoo world? Definitely the idea of being able to make art for a living, somewhat on your own terms. I love being able to make people happy by tattooing them. Also the ability to travel, and essentially work anywhere in the world.
Describe your style, has it changed? I would say I pretty much stick to traditional tattooing, bold lines are very important. Although I do use fine lines as well, and a wider range of colour, it’s too much fun to stay away from. I don’t think I’ve been tattooing long enough to have changed styles, I’m still learning what works for me and developing one.
What do you like to tattoo and draw? I love to tattoo women, whether it be full body pin up or just a bust. Happy, sad, sassy or lusty! Also flowers, plants, animals, insects, creatures in general. Fancy things like jewellery, religious imagery. Anything organic or decorative.
What inspires you? Like I mentioned before, figure drawing has been a big inspiration. I like going to the library and look at art books, from Greece’s marble sculptures to renaissance paintings, baroque jewellery and decoration, up to modern pop art. I also take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, growing up in San Francisco being around really creative and unique people.
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I would love to tattoo lady faces on a larger scale, and more black and grey. Things I usually decline are tattoos with no outline, watercolour style tattoos, and tattoos on the finger because I think they generally age poorly. And definitely no hate symbols.
Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? Currently, I only have one guest spot set, at Icon Tattoo in Portland, OR. August 11th-13th. I hope to be travelling more often, and will post dates on Instagram. I have worked the Star of Texas convention in Austin the past three years, and Salt Lake City the past two and will hopefully be back to both this coming year.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? My legs are where I stared, one shot, just for fun stuff. Arms are a bit more planned, I stick to black and grey and still have real estate open that I am saving for certain things. I also kept the black and grey theme on my chest and stomach.
25-year-old Karolina Skulska tattoos out of Kult Tattoo Fest in Krakow, Poland and creates wonderful floral tattoos. We chatted to Karolina about the natural world that inspires her and how she started tattooing…
How long have you been tattooing? It’s been two years since I took hold of a machine for the first time. But I’m not sure if my first steps could even have been called tattooing!
How did you start? What did you do before? Before I was studying journalism but after a short time I realised that the work didn’t suit me. During that time I was a customer of Kult Tattoo Fest and was getting tattooed by Edek. One day I noticed that guys from TF Mag (magazine about tattoos which is released by people who are a part of Kult team) were looking for another editor. As a journalism student and tattoo fanatic I was a good candidate. I worked there for few years and was drawing a lot of the time, I was tottally absorbed in the tattoo industry.
Do you have a background in art? I didn’t graduate from art school or academy, but I was always drawing a lot and also taking some drawing lessons. I was doing it for no real reason, but I felt that it might be useful in the future.
What drew you to the tattoo world? Since I remember I’ve felt that there’s something in tattoos that attracts me more than other people. When I was under the legal age I was begging my parents to let me get my first tattoo. Then work in TF Mag showed me this tattoo world from the inside. Doing interviews with tattoo artists was helping me to become more more interested in the craft. I wanted to try the things they were talking about and understand them. Now it’s my greatest passion and job all in one.
Describe your style, has it changed? I don’t think it has changed, my career is too short for big changes. I call myself a tattoo florist, because I love to put lots of flowers into my works, lots of leaves and other botanical aspects. It looks great on all body types as it’s easy to fit the anatomy lines of the body. I use strong outlines but in the same time add small details, I love pastel colours and dotwork.
What do you like to tattoo and draw? What inspires you? As I mentioned, nature is the most inspiring thing for me. In my camera roll I have more photos of botanical elements than food and selfies combined. I love drawing these things, I find a great sense of pleasure from the dots, lines and floral designs.
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I don’t have a list of stuff I want to do, I simply love all tattoos. Colouring people and using machines is great fun and pure happiness for me, so I just want to do it! I will refuse to do motives that are harmful for other people like racist symbols etc. and I’m also not into religious stuff. I also refuse to make designs that I know will look really bad after a few years, like very small and detailed stuff or super fashionable white ink tattoos.
Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? This summer I will go to Trondheim for a few guest spot for sure, but as I was travelling a lot last month I’ll probably take a break. Then I’ll start guest spotting with renewed energy next year.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Most of them are made by Edek, but you can also find on me works of Piotr Bemben, Bartek Kos, Marie Kraus, Davee, Mazak, Kay Lee. Most of my tattoos were spontaneous and creates in the happy moments of my life.
In this post our guest blogger Amber Bryce discusses how she thinks veganism and tattoos go perfectly together and she talks to two tattoo artists who also share her point of view…
In many ways, I think that veganism and tattoos make a perfect pair. They’re decisions that hold a lot of weight and impact, they can change your entire outlook on life and help to narrate a new kind of future for either yourself, or the world. To discuss the subject further I spoke with two lovely women in the tattoo industry: Avalon, a tattoo artist who works at The Grand Illusion Studio in Melbourne, Australia, and Dina, who owns Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, USA.
Here’s what they had to say…
Avalon Westcott, 24, Melbourne
How long have you been tattooing for? I started apprenticing at The Grand Illusion (Melbourne) at the start of 2013 and did my first tattoo ever on myself by the end of 2013. Before tattooing I had been painting for a few years, doing custom pet portraits for people, which was so much fun.
When did you become vegan? I went vegan five years ago when my fiancé Josh and I moved to the states for a few months. A month into my veganism I realised how amazing I felt, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. At that point I knew there was no turning back and that nothing, no peer pressure, no craving, no situation would ever make me eat animals again.
Is your veganism something that has always inspired your tattoo designs? I can’t count the amount of vegan inspired tattoos that I’ve done. Animals have become my speciality! I usually tattoo a combination of animals together, cows, lambs, chickens (lots of chickens) and piggies. Meeting like-minded people, chatting food, chatting animals and sharing a mutual lifestyle really brings me closer to the clients.
How do you think tattoos can help veganism? It’s no surprise that people with tattoos are often asked about why they have particular tattoos. My clients get tattooed for themselves, often to celebrate a milestone in their veganism or to commemorate animals, however, if anyone were to ask about why they have a love heart with animals in it tattooed on them I’m sure they’re proud to explain why. I believe that having a vegan tattoo is a very courageous and inspiring thing. To welcome people to question your lifestyle or even comment on it takes strength.
Do you have any personal vegan tattoos? If so, who are they by? I do have a few animal tattoos myself! My most recent is a girl dressed up as a chicken referenced from some vintage flash painted by Earl Brown, circa 1950, on the side of my thigh by the brilliant Becca Gené-Bacon from Hand of Glory in Brooklyn, NY.
What’s your favourite vegan tattoo that you’ve done? Every vegan tattoo that I have done holds its own meaning and its own memories. Really, they’re all as special as each other for the client, and myself.
Dina DiCenso, Brooklyn
When did you become vegan? I’ve been 100% vegan for six years and the two years prior to that I was 90% vegan (I ate cheese once every four months) and then I was vegetarian for about 15 years prior to that. So when I opened my own business it seemed natural for it to be vegan.
How has veganism informed your business? I use the shop to do a lot of fundraisers for animal rescues. We work with small, local rescues that are in desperate need of funds. We tailor each fundraiser flash to fit the organisation. For example, we do wolves when we work with Wolf Conservation Center, we do farm animals when we work with Skylands or Woodstock Farm Sanctuaries and we have a TnR event coming up so we’ll design cat related flash.
How do you think tattoos can help the cause of veganism? I think tattoos can inspire veganism in a few ways. First, if people encounter enough people with vegan tattoos, they may stop and think about how many people are vegan and that it’s possible for them to change and be vegan too. And second, they may also see an image that inspires them to change their own lifestyle and habits.
Tell us about your tattoos? For me, it’s important to have my tattoos have meaning so I don’t get sick of them. Few things have more importance to me than the animals I’ve rescued, and animals in general, so I’ve tried to get a few of my favourites as tattoos.
You convinced Reprofax to make the first vegan stencil paper! Tell me more about that. I had read online about the stencil paper possibly not being vegan. Rather than take the postings at face value, I tried to contact the company directly. After several contact attempts and no response I had my geneticist friend test it. He came back with lanolin as the offending ingredient and then about the same time I got his results, the company responded confirming it was indeed lanolin — it holds the ink onto the plastic sheet.
I then began harassing them until they agreed to make a vegan stencil paper. Their chemist had retired ten years prior, which is why they were reluctant to create any new versions of the paper. We helped test their early versions and when they had a solid final version, I was the first one to buy it. Many artists are unaware products in the tattoo process are not vegan – they think it’s limited to the ink and aftercare. But it’s the ointment, the soap and even the moisture strip on razors.