Tagged: Tattooer

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 Charline Bataille

25-year-old tattoo artist Charline Bataille, works at Minuit Dix in Montreal, where she creates bright, freaky, fluorescent, sometimes even ugly tattoos. We chat to Charline about her love for colour, her oversharing nature and the space she takes up in the tattoo industry…

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How long have you been tattooing, how did you start? I’ve been tattooing for less than two years! I’m a newbie! I started learning by myself and met with other queer tattooers to exchange knowledge and tattoos.

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Can you describe your tattoo style? What sorts of things do you create? I think my style is very tender, vulnerable and emulates spontaneous drawings. I love to use colours! I love it everywhere – in my paintings, in my house, my make up, my clothes. I create weird impossible flowers, creepy cute animals and angry fat babes looking unapologetically hairy and hot! I love to tattoo a mix of cute and freaky! I like wonky lines and weird freaky colours, and I even like when my tattoos are ugly and disproportionate. I want to queer what tattoos look like. I know there isn’t only one way to tattoo and I want to break down the good/bad dichotomy! When I draw my tattoos, I always collaborate with my client. To me, their agency is very important.

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How do you feel as a queer woman working in the tattoo industry? Have you been faced with obstacles or criticism? You mention on your Instagram that you try to create a safe space for your clients, how do you do this and why is it important? It’s strange to me that I have taken this role as outspoken feminist tattooer because I don’t feel I am any good at putting my ideas into words, I much prefer to use images! I mentioned in an interview that a lot of people couldn’t have access to the tattoo industry, because of systemic oppression, and therefore, will find ways to learn and create in safe spaces. In response to this interview, I got a lot of messages, a lot of them calling me a stupid cunt but also a lot of them respectfully disagreeing and pointing out the danger of tattooing at home without proper knowledge. I don’t think I need to explain how apprenticeships and traditions are considered sacred and are needed. So I made a lot of people angry suggesting that it is possible to break tradition safely and that, in a general way, misogyny, fatphobia, cissexism and racism were too present in tattoo shops and made those spaces at best unpleasant and at worst unsafe for a lot of people.

First, there is way too little conversation about cultural appropriation in western tattooing. White tattooers still tattoo colonial imagery and sexual caricature of indigenous women on other white people. They don’t understand how important it is that tattooing didn’t originate in the western world. Consent forms in tattoo shops still force people to disclose their HIV statuses and even refuse services on that basis. It is illegal, intrusive, discriminatory and potentially dangerous to force HIV disclosure. If tattooers would take the time to reach out to their local organisation for and by people with HIV, they could offer a much fairer and safer service.

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I tattoo almost only queer and trans people and a lot of them are women. Every one of my clients has a horror story to tell; from a tattooer telling a fat woman that he didn’t understand why she would want a tattoo on her hip, to tattooers telling brown people their skin is too dark, to blatant racism or sexual harassment. I have often been horrified and heart broken hearing their experience. Being queer and tattooing mostly queer and trans people, I know that there is a really complicated relationship with the body that makes those obstacles even more meaningful. Our body is a place where it is hard to claim ownership, it’s also a place that is described as “wrong” or “bad” by science and cissexist society. It takes constant work to take back control over your body and I know tattooing is one medium to achieve that. It’s really important to respect people’s pronoun, to discuss boundaries and to respect their bodily autonomy and to be tender and present when they trust you with their body.

I think there is room for the tattoo practice and community to be tender, vulnerable and sensitive. I’ve never been in a tattoo shop where I felt comfortable until Minuit Dix! A queer owned tattoo shop that supports queer / women/ trans / poc owned companies and individuals. That is conscious of safe practices, reducing waste, uses vegan ink, gender neutral consent forms that do not force or shame HIV disclosure, in a WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE space. Working there has really made it possible for me to offer a nice and cosy space for my clients to get tattooed. It is also a space where I can be a queer femme with mental illness and have my workspace respect my limitations and honour my identity. I am working next to @katakankabin and @cammy06 and I have learned so much from @murieldemai_tattoo. I am so lucky.

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It says on your Instagram that you are an oversharer, what do you mean by this? I describe myself as a “over sharing queer femme” on my profile because I don’t draw a line between my professional life and my personal life or my activism. I don’t draw a line between my tattoo practice and my overall art practice, to me, all of this is one! On my Instagram (my only platform to share my tattoos and art) I often talk about my mental illness, my medication, my body image, my sexual trauma, my asexuality, my love life, what makes me sad and what makes me proud.

I do it because it helps me, because I love people to be able to relate and be reminded that I am far from alone, but I also love to see that it helps people working through their own trauma and experiences and feel like the stigma is possible to overcome. I am very sensitive and I have no filter! I think this part of me also makes me a better tattooer. It’s my way of telling people that they can also be themselves and I will be real with them at any moment.

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Interview with Tattooist Mike Love

26-year-old hand poke tattoo artist Mike Love works out of Black Market Tattoo Parlour in Leicester and Second City Tattoo Club in Birmingham, where he creates bold and solid blackwork tattoos. We chat to Mike about his process, how he started tattooing and his guest spot plans…

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How long have you been tattooing? I’m in my third year of tattooing. I am a self taught hand poke tattooer, before this I was body piecer for around four years, there I completed a more traditional style apprenticeship. I have pretty much spent my adult life being in a tattoo shop. 

What drew you to the tattoo world? The idea and practise of self expression. In my late teen years I became massively depressed, after seeking a lot of help I really started to find myself. The things that kept me going and made me happy were tattoos and piercing. I approached a local shop about a piercing apprenticeship and from then on my life was changed. From piercing my love eventually blossomed into tattooing. I discovered hand poke tattooing and was totally transfixed by it. The process mesmerised me. Creating a tattoo by hand from one dude to another was for me. 

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Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing has changed and still is changing. To be honest I think it changes slightly each day. I mean everyday I try to improve what I do and learn whatever I can. But that’s what I love about tattooing, it will never be perfect. It will always stay true to what it is, yet we evolve as tattooers everyday. 

When I started tattooing I did a lot more of the typical ‘hand poke’ and more ignorant styled work, but this wasn’t me. Traditional tattooing has always had my heart and that’s what I love to see and have tattooed.  I work real hard everyday to be inspired by what I love and create bold and solid pieces that will stand the test of time. For me I love to tattoo anything that’s bold and black. I am constantly creating a lot flash, which is typically inspired by classic traditional flash or pop culture. 

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Can you tell us about your set up and the process behind your tattoos? I tattoo by hand, my set up is very minimal. I like to keep it simple and disposable. No bullshit. I hand make each tool for every tattoo combining a chopstick and a tattoo needle. I only ever tattoo in black and I keep my process vegan. 

I am very much into the technical aspect of tattooing. I am all about learning and creating a solid well lined, bold, clean and nicely shaded tattoo. Tattooing by hand is typically a really calming and relaxing process, I gently push the ink into the skin by hand using the needle. There is a lot less trauma to the skin, which typically means the tattoo heals faster and for a lot of people this can be an easier process to sit for. It also doesn’t have to take a long time which some people think it can. Typically a palm size tattoo would roughly only take a couple of hours. 

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What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? Man, I am inspired everyday. Whether it’s current events, or things happening in the city that I live in. But you know what, I have so many artists that inspire and influence me, and that I look up to, I wouldn’t be able to list them all. In both shops I work in, there are incredible people and talented artists, which inspire me daily. Tattooing is my life, so most of my close friends and my partner are tattooists, so we talk tattooing a lot and try to influence and  constructively help each other. 

Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? You know, I just love tattooing. So when I was young and dumb I would have pretty much had anything and everything. Which now has left me with limited space. I don’t regret what I got though, but when I do get tattooed now I really like to get tattooed by people I really look up to and really love what they are about. So normally I chose from their flash, or get a piece they really like, as that way I feel I get a tattoo that really represents that artist. 

Trading with another tattooer is probably my favourite way to get tattooed now. I find it a great way to learn and share a cool experience with another tattooist. 

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Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? I normally guest in another shop every month, whether it be the UK or abroad, this is one of my absolute favourite things to do in tattooing. Traveling and meeting phenomenal artists drives me to be a technically better tattooer.  Currently for the rest of this year I do not have any conventions planned, but my next coming guest spots are at One For All Collective in Manchester late August and Seny Tatttoo in Barcelona late September. I am currently taking bookings for both of these via Instagram or email.

The Best Botanical Tattoos on Instagram

Our guest writer Katie Houghton shares her favourite botanical tattoos…

It’s been scientifically proven that being around plants improves happiness, lowers anxiety, enhances your perception of space and positively adapts the air around you, so getting tattoos of plants must make you almost goddamn invincible, right? Botanical tattoos are peaking in popularity right now, and I wanted to create a list of some of the best trailing their way across Instagram.

Joanna Świrska 

The work of Poland’s Joanna Swirska almost feels like the art of screen-printing meeting skin. Layered and beautifully toned, I love how she’s blended the shape of snaisl and snippets of foliage into something solid yet sweet.

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Kate Scully

The tone of her client’s hair in contrast to the blackwork. The perfect alignment of the tattoo. The soft botany alongside the dauntless lines and thick shading. The fern. The fern. The fern. Yes, this is a love letter to Kate Scully.

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Britt

If you’re tattooing monstera deliciosa you’re probably already catching my eye in some capacity, but it was the shell and the dotwork that meant Britt’s botanical work found its way onto this list. From the blanketing of leaves to the stippling of tone, this is an undeniably pretty piece.

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Nomi Chi

Resident at Gastown Tattoo Parlour in Canada, Nomi Chi makes no apologies for her work, going big and certainly not going home. Catching my eye for all the right reasons, this is a stunning example of torso tattooing, giving botany the domination it deserves.

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Alexis Hepburn

A Sydney kid, Alexis Hepburn does botanical tattoos in a distinct, bold and unafraid fashion. Clearly inspired by the lines of 50s sailor tattoos, Alexis has taken this classic style and switched it up, giving the flora an ornamental and pretty edge.

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Pastilliam

Sticking it out in Stockholm, this work by Instagram name Pastilliam is as distinct as they come. With those thick lines juxtaposing the lushness of leaf, I love how this artist has pieces that you’d be able to spot a mile off.

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Lilly Anchor

Fine, I’m biased. Having been tattooed by Lilly already, it’s pretty easy for me to champion her work, but you only have to catch her on Instagram to see that she’s the queen of clean botany, with some of the most polished lines in the business.

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Mental Health Hearts By Callum Glover

23-year-old tattooist Callum Glover works out of Black Craft in Wakefield and Secret Society in Hartlepool and Brighton, where he creates blackwork tattoos. We chat to Callum about the hearts filled with positive messages, that he tattoos to raise money for mental health charity MIND and his own struggles with mental health…

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I got into tattooing after I had  been to college doing non art related courses and after working poorly paid jobs with little job satisfaction. I had been tattooed a few times with pretty poor tattoos before I started tattooing. But I just loved getting tattooed, so I remember going to get tattooed by a guy in his house (cringe)! This guy happened to become my best friend, he showed me a tattoo machine, asked if I’d like a try, so I did, I tattooed a small tribal design on a piece of fake skin made out of rubber. The tattoo was awful, the machine was cheap but I was hooked from then on. I’ve never been good at keeping quiet or staying still, or being told what to do, and with tattooing I saw an opportunity to do something that I’d be happy doing for the rest of my life.

So I looked and looked for around two years for an apprenticeship, all the while improving my art work, trying to find my style, which I’m still doing! I found my apprenticeship and the rest is history as they say.

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What drew me to the tattoo world was properly experiencing the tattoo world. I remember being an apprentice not knowing if I could make it as a tattoo artist, wondering if it was for me or if I fit in. Until I went to my first tattoo convention, as soon as I entered my mind was set to rest, I remember thinking this is it, this is my world, it’s where I feel at home.

Tattooing helped me so much, I could have turned out so differently, due to the struggles I’ve been through, but it’s been there for me and gave me something to get lost in. I’ve done a lot of tattoos, a lot I’m super proud of, but the ones that mean the most to me are the mental health heart tattoos I do.

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I remember where the idea came from, I myself have severe depression and anxiety and I’ve suffered for years. It’s ruined so many friendships and relationships in my life and it’s took me to some dark places. I remember having a really bad few days, where I just shut myself away, I was bitter and nasty, I thought I was a lost cause. Until I managed to drag myself through, with the help of a friend.

In the moments that followed, I decided I didn’t want to get to that point again, not only that, but I wanted to help others. So I designed a bunch of hearts, with positive messages inside. It is sometimes hard to take help from a person, and it’s usually the best option to help someone else to help themselves.

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That’s what these tattoos are, my customers come and pick from my designs or we create a personal message for them together. That way when they feel low they have a permanent reminder from themselves that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and ‘you are enough’.

If I was hoping to spread a message, then I think the message would be ‘you are not alone’. No matter how you feel, you are not on your own, help someone help you, reach out, seek help. I want to share love and positivity with every single one of these tattoos. Every single one I do helps both my customer and myself with the daily struggles that mental health issues bring.

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I believe that we can all do more to help those in need, show love, show compassion and show understanding. Just listen, any of these things could save someone’s life – I know from experience. So I’d say the best way to help is to pay attention, notice the signs and just be there for that person.

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 Harriet Heath

Meet 30-year-old tattooer Harriet Rose Heath. She’s based in Sheffield and works as a travelling tattooer, with a permanent monthly spot at Dharma Tattoo in London. We chat to Harriet about her tattoo style, the body positive Facebook group she started and why no one should ever apologise for their body…

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What drew you to the world of tattooing, when did you start? The first thing was getting into alternative music and seeing all the band members I loved having tattoos and wanting to be like them. I got my first on my 18th birthday and have barely stopped since. I used to work in music retail and after being made redundant, I realised I needed to sort my life out. I had a lot of tattoos already by this point and drawing has always been the one thing I am good at, so it made sense to give tattooing a shot! I used to feel like it was hugely inaccessible and how could some girl just become a tattooer? These days I think it’s too accessible! A lot of hard work paid off though and now I’ve been doing it for over six years.

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How would you describe your style, both fashion/lifestyle and art/tattoos? My style has evolved a lot over the years, both in my work and in myself. I’ve always had a huge passion for tattooing girl heads, but my work used to be a lot darker in subject matter and colour palette. These days I’ve learnt to embrace fun in my work. For so long I felt that I had to conform to a set of rules, and if I did anything too feminine then I wasn’t a real tattooer.

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This carried through into how I presented myself as a person. Embracing femininity within my work has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love trying to represent all shapes, sizes and styles of women. Learning to be more unapologetic about myself has made me more unapologetic about my tattooing. I love working in colour, I love creating these fun babes that mirror my amazing clientele. I have quite a strong personal aesthetic that carries over into my work. Strength and beauty have always been the two main ideals I hope to achieve with everything I do.

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You have created a group on  Facebook called Take Up Space, can you explain what this is, why you created it and how others can get involved? I created the group after being disheartened by so many vegan and feminist groups on Facebook. Every time I joined one I felt like instead of championing people for trying, everybody was attacked for not being good enough. Your time online should never make you feel anxious and afraid. I wanted to create a space with like-minded people and really make a difference.

I’m a fat woman. I’m not ashamed to say it and I don’t think I should be. I’m happy with my body, I love how it looks and what it does, but it can be hard to navigate the world sometimes when train seats are too small, when shops don’t make clothes big enough and the world tells you that you need to minimise yourself, to become smaller and that if you are over a certain size, you are not welcome.

Learning to Take Up Space is important. Everybody is entitled to the space that they take up, both physically and more. The ethos of TUS is fat positivity, body acceptance and helping others along that journey in a warm and welcoming environment with other people that you can relate to. No restrictions on gender, size, age etc, it is for anyone who “feels big”. It’s taken me a long time to reach this level of acceptance and happiness about myself and it’s made me so happy to be able to share that wisdom with other people.

Seeing so many people grow since the birth of the group has been phenomenal. People who are now happy to wear crop tops, have bought their first ever bikini, are standing up and being more confident at work, discussing issues with people outside the group that they were too ashamed to talk about before. There is still so much negativity towards fatness, specifically in women, that we face on a daily basis, but we shouldn’t be treated as or made to feel lesser due to the vessel we exist in. If this sounds like a community you want to be a part of, search Take Up Space on Facebook and request to join then keep an eye on your inbox!

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Is it important that people become more positive about their bodies? Body positivity is a huge deal to me. So much collective brain power is wasted in this world worrying about rolls and inches and numbers and scales. I can’t tell you the number of times people have apologised for their bodies when I tattoo them, whether it’s people hating their toes, embarrassed because they forgot to shave their legs, or telling me they are sorry that I have to touch them. It breaks my heart every time. Nobody should ever have to apologise for just existing as they are!

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What would you say to others who are worried about getting tattooed because someone will be close to their body, or they perhaps don’t like their body? Please. Please. Please, do not worry. We have seen everything before. You are never too fat, too old, too hairy, too anything to get tattooed (except too young). Tattooists are professionals and should act as such. If you have self-harm scars, 99% of the time we can cover them for you, also you would be surprised how many we see all the time and a bunch of us have them ourselves. We work with skin all day long and it’s totally normal for us. If you want privacy, most studios should have blinds or screens they can put up to ensure that nobody other than the tattooist will see you. If you pick the right artist I guarantee you’ll leave feeling better about yourself! Never apologise for your body and just try to enjoy the experience!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos, have they helped you to see your body differently? I remember getting my stomach tattooed and transforming from somebody who was horrified by the idea of my shirt lifting up when I reached for a high shelf into someone who would lift their top and say “look how great this is”. The more tattooed I get, the happier with myself I become. Looking at your body and seeing something you have taken control over, chosen yourself and turned a few inches of skin you once hated into something beautiful is a powerful thing. In summer you’ll find me in short shorts and crop tops because I just love showing off my skin. I’m proud of it not only for how it looks but as a sign of what I am able to go through and come out the other side of stronger.

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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.

Interview with Charlotte Verduci

24-year-old Charlotte Verduci works out of Lav Mì Tattoo in Milan and Ink Factory Tattoo Shop in Bergamo, where she creates wonderful blackwork tattoos inspired by her love of baroque patterns…

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How long have you been tattooing? How did you start? I started tattooing at the age of 19. I’m now five years in, I started very young. I fell in love with this wonderful craft straight the way at the age of 14 as I read tattoo magazines.

What you did before? Do you have a background in art? Before I was tattooing I was studying and I graduated from art school. I did a year’s academy illustration course. But as soon as I was asked to start as an apprentice at a tattoo shop, I stopped studying. I have not thought twice about it, I don’t look back and I’ve been thrown head first into learning the art of tattooing.

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How would you describe your style? How has it developed? I started with colorful tattoos, traditional and classic style at the beginning. Then I began learning the rules of ornamental tattooing, it all happened one evening, a day before a tattoo convention, when I wanted to propose something new.  So I started to draw, and I developed the Baroque figures that I do so much now. It was love at first sight, at last I felt that I could give my work a touch of originality. I wanted to create something that fully represents the Baroque style. Over the past year I have developed a recognisable style- you can’t miss it! I call it a Baroque blackwork!

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What inspires you? I would answer this question with everything! I’m very sensitive to everything around me. Milan is a city where you find art in every corner, from craft shops to the Art Nouveau buildings. I love to walk into a bookstore and browse through books filled with antique prints and vintage prints, and I go the markets on Sunday where there is no shortage of decorated frames. I am fascinated by the baroque vector, textures, and mostly historical illustrations. However I always try to maintain solid work in my tattooing, this a basic rule for me. As much as I can fantasise and dream I always keep order in my designs, making them as clear and readable as possible.

Do you admire any artist? Do they influence your work? I follow a lot tattoo artists who make ornamental tattoos, but also Japanese and traditional. Not really anyone in particular, but I follow so many! Thomas Hooper, Kelly Violence, Jack Papiette, Filip Leu, Abby Drielsma and Lus Lips always remain my favorite artists!

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What kinds of things do you like to tattoo and draw? Baroque filigree! I had a period in time when I only drew snakes, I could do an encyclopaedia! Then came the month where I would only do cats! I really like to draw female faces with hats and dresses in a vintage style, of course embroidered with my style added to them. I really like to evoke an ancient and classical touch in my designs!

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Can you tell about your own tattoos? For now I have a Japanese arm made by Simone Valentinuzzi, the other arm with works carried out by various colleagues – Angela Smisek and a miniature swallow by Stizzo. I definitely want tattooed by the artists I mentioned. I always want a tattoo, but they hurt more and more!

Shaded: Maidstone John

‘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.

Maidstone John is a 25-year-old Cantebury-based freelance illustrator and tattoo apprentice who conjures up gnarly magic from the comfort of Three Crows Tattoo. As part of Things and Ink’s ongoing interview series ‘Shaded’, the master of morbid etchings tells us of his past-life as a fruit picker, his current obsession with medical journals and how he’s working hard towards producing “bigger and busier” work.

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Can you talk me through your relationship with tattoos? I got my first tattoo at The Brighton Tattoo Convention when I was 18. I got a portrait of my mum on my forearm, and it’s still one of my favourite tattoos to this day. My Uncle was a biker, and I’d always hang out with him and his friends who were all heavily tattooed at the time. Its always been my plan to be covered before I reach 30, and so far It’s going pretty well! I’ve always been lucky enough to have a lot of friends in the tattoo industry. I was over the moon when my buddy Chris got me a full-time job as a shop boy at a tattoo shop! At the time, it was never my intention to tattoo, but I would always draw and the boss would let me display my prints and drawings in the shop. I would often get asked if I was apprenticing, but I would always say no and tell people that it wasn’t for me. I left the shop on good terms after two years and moved on to Canterbury where I got an early morning job on a farm picking fruit and doing odd-jobs. Three Crows Tattoo in Canterbury was in the process of opening when I moved, and I would pop in whenever I could to help paint the walls and frame all of the flash. I told Adam, the owner, what I had been up to and that I planned to put a portfolio together over the next year or so to apply for an apprenticeship. There and then, he offered me an apprenticeship!

What’s the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve gained since the start of your apprenticeship? It’s kind of hard to explain, but I would personally have to say that gaining an understanding of the tools for the job at hand has been incredibly valuable. You have to take into consideration the area of skin you are working on, what needle grouping and voltage to have set-up and, of course, the high level of hygiene for the customer and everyone else in the studio.

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What attracts you to black-work and etching? I have always worked in that style from day one. Craig Scott, Dan singer and Richard Sayer got me drawing in the first place and were always such strong influences, and it wasn’t until I discovered guys like DuncanX and Liam Sparks that I ever thought it would be possible to adapt that style to tattooing. I have always loved and appreciated every style of tattooing, but I personally think that black tattoos just look so strong, and as for the etching, I just want to be able to stand out and offer something a little different.

Can you tell me about your own tattoos? I wouldn’t say any of my tattoos have any particular meanings behind them. I’ve been tattooed by a fair few people now. My legs consist of a lot of apprentice tattoos by my friends when they were learning. I recently tattooed myself a few times too. My buddy Dan Frye has tattooed some of my favourite pieces of mine. He recently tattooed a solid, black spider caught in a traditional web right in the ditch of my knee. I’ve mainly been getting tattooed by Philip Yarnell recently though.  We are currently in the middle of finishing off my front, which includes a huge bat across my chest and shoulders.

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What is currently inspiring you? I am currently very inspired by old medical journals, as well as monster toys from the 80’s. I have a never-ending collection of books and curiosities. I’m pretty obsessed. Me and my pal Dan Carrington have some pretty gnarly collaborations in the works that involve murder and suicide victims, so keep your eyes peeled!

Have you tattooed anyone yet? I’m currently in the process of filling up my friends’ legs with as many small designs as we can possibly fit, including cover-up work and blast over’s, which I love to do. One of the first tattoos I did on him was this tripped out Mickey Mouse, the other being this devil moon. Both tattoos took me so long to do. I was in the shop by myself for one of them which was a struggle when it came to packing the black in. I was just so lucky and grateful for my trooper of a friend who let me do what I had to do.

Despite the struggle at the time, its all healed up better than I could ever have imagined. I was never nervous as such when tattooing, it was more excitement which was just as bad at the time because it still made me a little shaky, but that shortly disappeared. I am now up to tattoo number seven and I am happy to say I have defiantly gained a lot confidence and picked up a lot of speed in a pretty short gap. I still have such a long journey ahead of me but I am so determined to reach my goal and get to a point where I am clean and consistent enough to move on to bigger and busier designs.

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Who inspires you artistically? I would have to say Dan Santoro, Daniel Higgs and Duncan X predominately – as well as everybody else at In To You. At the moment, I am so inspired by Jack Ankersen and my buddy Lice4Life when it comes to tattooing and printmaking: out of the box and out of this world. They both produce very unique and exciting stuff!

How do you see your work evolving? I’m just forever going to strive to get my line-work, blackwork and shading to the point where it is as clean and consistent as possible. At that point, I would like to focus on bringing back some of my more detailed and complicated designs. I will always be putting out flash and illustrations for records. I enjoy that side of things so much! I equally want to keep pushing that too.