Tagged: Tattooist

Interview with Barbie Lowenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with 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.

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 Tattooist Laura Gascoyne

21-year-old Laura Gascoyne works out of Never Say Die in Croydon London where she creates black dot work and pattern tattoos. We chatted to Laura about what inspires her, how she started in the industry her own tattoo collection…

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Photo taken by Nick Evans

How long have you been tattooing? How did you start? In September 2014 I popped into Never Say Die on a friend’s recommendation. Originally I thought they may just offer me a receptionist position but after seeing my portfolio Kali (the shop owner) offered me an apprenticeship. I was over the moon! I did my first tattoo about six months later and have steadily progressed since then. I’m obviously still learning, as with art and tattooing I believe you never stop learning, but I have recently become more confident with my skills and am building up a decent client basis.

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What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? I’ve always been passionate about art since I was a little kid and always knew I wanted a career in art. After completing my GCSEs, I went on to study art at a college but dropped out after a term, as I felt like the things they were teaching me in college weren’t helping me to progress.

How would you describe your style? How has it developed? Where do you see it going? That’s a really hard one to answer! Before I started tattooing I specialised in drawing realistic portraits and then went on to start drawing lots of mandalas. However once I started my apprenticeship I began with tattooing quite simple mandalas which progressed to more pattern styled work. However as a custom artist I get asked to design and tattoo all sorts of things, which I love because it really helps expand my drawing skills and pushes me out of my comfort zone.  Generally everything I draw is quite pretty and lots of patterns and dot work.

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What inspires you? Everything! Whether it be a pattern on an old tile in a bathroom, or a tattoo made my someone else, we are constantly surrounded by art work and patterns and I really see the beauty in everything, especially nature. I’m very much inspired by Tibetan and oriental style patterns and I love tattooing Thai ornamental patterns. Although I haven’t tattooed that many, I do love tattooing beautiful woman, and a lot of my large scale drawings have a woman’s face as the main feauture.

Do you admire any artists? Do they influence your work? Even before I started my apprenticeship, rather than being inspired by painters and fine artists I was always just looking at tattoos for inspiration. On Instagram 90% of the pages I follow are tattoo artists, I won’t pick out any names in particular because there’s just so many who I admire so much! Of course everything I see has the ability to influence my work in some way, as my work is a combination of everything I’ve ever seen and felt, and everything that has inspired me.

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What kinds of things do you like to tattoo and draw? If I’m just let loose in my sketch book I find myself drawing very detailed and patterned orientated large scale pieces, with a very spiritual and symbolic feel about them. I am a very spiritual and positive person myself so that’s the sort of thing I would like to predominately tattoo on people, as for me tattooing is all about sharing my art work and spreading messages though art.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos?  So my right leg is basically a sticker book of random tattoos given as gifts and just spontaneous ones, and a fair amount of tattoos I’ve done on my self. My left arm is for tattoos I’ve put more thought into, all just black ink and quite dark, but all revolved around the beauty in nature and positivity. I have a few small random tattoos dotted about, included a handpocked unalome on my ear, a smiley face on one of my finger tips, and the seed of of life on the back of my neck. I have a full back piece in progress which so far has just been four sessions of solid black work.

Interview with Jessica O

We chat to 28-year-old tattoo artist Jessica O who works out of Lado Clássico Tattoo in Blumenau, in the south of Brazil, about what inspires her traditional style and the tattoos she creates… 

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing for about three years now, counting my apprenticeship.

How did you start? I had tattoos and loved them, but never imagined myself as a tattoo artist because I was afraid of creating bad tattoos. I was in a very bad year of my life, at the end of 2012, I had just quit an awful job and wasn’t happy at all with my professional life. So I decided to do what I had always loved the most: drawing. Then I started to study and understand tattoo flash and read about the old tattooers, Coleman, Bert Grimm, Percy Waters, Dietzel and fell in love with it all. A friend of mine saw my paintings and offered me an apprenticeship at his studio and here I am today!

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What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? I worked within the fashion and product development sector of the textile industry. I have been drawing since I can remember, but I’ve never taken classes for it.

How would you describe your style? I don’t know,  it’s too detailed to be traditional and too simple to be neo traditional I guess. But I like to say traditional. I try to make tattoos that are solid and long lasting, anatomically correct (little OCD especially with hands), bright and beautiful to look at from close and far away.

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What inspires you? I especially like vintage photography, circus and old postcards. I love looking at old tattoo flash sheets, and the history behind tattooers and tattooing. Early renaissance paintings are beautiful but I’m most of all I’m inspired by people that make things with love.

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Do you admire any artists? Do they influence your work? I admire a lot of today’s artists, too many to count! For the most part they’re women. Since the beginning of my career I have looked up to lady tattoo artists. I discovered Ashley Love, Claudia de Sabe, and I thought “God, I hope to be this good someday!

What kinds of things do you like to tattoo and draw? Mostly human figure, ladies, cats, dogs, mermaids, roses and hands.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? On the palms of my hands I have a butterfly, that was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Most of my tattoos were done by friends and people that I admire. I mostly choose flash from the person I’m getting tattooed by. I plan on going to Europe to get tattooed by a lot of awesome people someday soon!

Interview with John Avanti

35-year-old John (Lupo) Avanti works out of Ocean Avenue Tattoo in San Francisco and Lucky Drive Tattoo in San Rafael, where he creates surreal tattoos. We chatted to John about his style of work and how he likes the idea of reading people through their tattoos…

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I began tattooing  about five years ago, after my friend Joey Cassina decided to open his shop Ocean Ave Tattoo in San Francisco. I used to work in construction so I helped to get OAT built and eventually spent enough time at the shop to pursue an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was going great but was cut short, so I decided if I was going to keep tattooing then I would have to figure it out on my own. I quit Ocean Ave and started working out of my basement in Oakland tattooing friends and locals to build my portfolio up enough to get in another professional shop.

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Fortunately, the guys at Lucky Drive tattoo saw I had some potential and gave me a sort of soft apprenticeship. I was at Lucky Drive for about a year until I decided to take my tattooing to Australia. I spent three years in Australia and just recently moved back to work at both Ocean Ave and Lucky Drive where I started. A bit of a complicated start but I really love my friends and family in San Francisco and I’m proud to have made the long journey back.

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Tattooing has been the best way for me to do what I to do best. As I said before, I was in construction but over the years I also worked part time in many other forms of illustration including: animation, comics, large-scale murals, and commercial illustration. The only formal training I have was a trade school style animation course I took in Vancouver. I also did a landscape painting class in Italy. That’s probably more artist experience than most tattooers have starting out so my style has a lot of influences.

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Coming from San Francisco I was initially focused on doing traditional tattoos but after my time in Australia I wound up wanting to make tattoos that resemble a style closer to my acrylic paintings. If you had to put a label on it – you could describe it as “neo traditonal surrealism.” Italian style tattooing and George Burchett tend to be my “go-to” influences but it’s hard for me to draw things without it being overly imaginative. I want people to like my designs without fully knowing the reason why they like them.

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A good image will always jump out at you and you don’t always have to understand it. It’s that geo treasure kind of searching for new iconic designs that makes it interesting for me. I also tend to think about what people will look like when they are dead and in a morgue having their bare bodies examined. I like the idea of seeing a person’s tattoos and understanding who they are without knowing them. Sometimes I just want to make designs that are classic with little to no distortion but most people like my more artsy pieces. Usually they are simple concepts in unique combinations.

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I don’t put many restrictions on what I want to tattoo but it also depends on the person. If the person is not familiar with my work then I don’t just put a fine line surreal image next to the their sailor Jerry eagle. I am also careful when it comes to people with intense mental illnesses. Tattoos are therapeutic in troubled times but I will never tattoo a person who’s mental condition is constantly changing.

Shaded: Megan Climaldi

‘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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

Interview with Indy Voet

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!