Tagged: tattoos

Interview with Barbie Lowenberg

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

Barbie Black Lodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Favourite Stick and Poke Artists

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

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

Grace Neutral

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

Lotte Vanns

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

Zzizzi

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

Kelli Kikcio

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

Ngh Mgco

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

TATTOO FAILS: ‘NO REGERTS’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware the tattoo fixer….

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

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

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

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Prevention is cheaper than the cure

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

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

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

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

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

Embroidery artist Jessica So Ren Tang

Here, 25-year-old embroidery artist and warehouse production worker  Jessica So Ren Tang, from San Francisco, tells us all about her beautiful hand-stitched pieces and the inspiration behind them…

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“As a child I knew I wanted a career in the arts. Throughout school I learned and experimented with various mediums, I started embroidering and playing with fabric and thread in my senior year of college in preparation for my senior exhibition. I graduated with a BA in Studio Art at Mills College in Oakland, CA.”

“I had semester-long assignment which involved playing with different materials and. for one of the experiments. I made a cup noodle container. I quickly found that styrofoam was a poor sewing material, so I began to replicate a cup noodle container with fabric instead. I enjoyed the softness and texture of embroidery in my sculpture pieces and I continued looking for other objects to replicate. I was more interested in sculpture but disliked the bulk clay and similar mediums had.

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“I continued to embroider because I loved the flexibility it gave me, as well as its rich history of being women’s work. In the future I want to explore more fibre art and sculpture and keep pushing my skills in fabric and thread.

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“I draw inspiration from memories of my childhood and my experiences of being an Asian American woman. For my object series, I look for items that I have bought or used that have Asian/American significance and use. Specifically, I look for Asian snacks and containers that I have used or seen in my childhood. Replicating objects in fibre is my way of exploring my Asian American identity – it is a way for me to replicate the duality of being too Chinese to be American and too western to be really Chinese.

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“Initially, it was not my intention for my pieces to have connections with tattoo art. Replacing the skin of suggestively posed Asian women was intended to obscure the girl’s identity, in an attempt to address this Asian American dual identity experience. the girls’ facial markers are removed but replaced with an Asian pattern, still retaining an Asian identity but non-specific to her ethnicity. But the style of pattern on the girl has specific origins to an Asian culture. I look for a variety of Asian patterns but so far they are mainly of Japanese and Chinese origins. Although I am looking to expand to different Asian patterns in my future pieces.

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“My girl series was inspired by Ikenaga Yasunari’s paintings of women and textile patterned clothing. The female forms help to emphasise the feminine medium that is embroidery, but it is also a familiar image that I express myself through. I create a little piece of myself through each girl, in the hopes of creating a tangible object that encompasses my Asian American experiences.

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“The colours in the patterns help to highlight a figure but to pull back and flatten – sort of like a silent wallflower girl. The facelessness of the women is to suggest a general Asian identity without pinpointing a specific nationality. Extending the pattern to the entire body was more aesthetically cohesive and balanced. Having the pattern on just the face drew too much attention to the head when I wanted the entire figure to be emphasised.

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“My object series, depending on the size and complexity, range from a week to a little over a month to be finished. Each mini girl takes about 50 hours of stitching and 100 hours for the larger girl pieces, as everything is stitched by hand.

“My works are currently not for sale for a variety of reasons. I still have a small body of work due to how long it takes me to complete one piece and exhibiting would be difficult if I started selling, I’m still attached to my pieces and I’m hard pressed to let them go, and I don’t have much free time outside of my day job and selling would take me away from working on my art. Of course, many of these reasons will eventually be solved and I do plan on selling my work.”

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View more of Jessica’s work on Instagram: @jessicasorentang

GRLCLB: Roobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support the Cause: STAPAW

We chat to non-profit organisation STAPAW, who work to help companies change hiring and dress code policies to allow tattoos, piercings and body mods, to find out more about what they’re fighting for and how you can get involved…

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What is STAPAW, when was it founded? We’re a non-profit that started from a social media flash gathering to help save a girl’s job who had tattoos and piercings. Today we’re an international merit-based employment advocacy group. The name STAPAW stands for Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work. Since then, it’s evolved into a movement that works to get companies to change their hiring and dress code policies to allow tattoos and piercings at work, as well as other things like coloured hair, unusual hair styles, stretched ears and beards. The goal isn’t to get companies to hire staff with tattoos or piercings, because people with tattoos and piercings don’t necessarily make great workers. What makes someone a great worker is their experience, education, skills, work ethic and qualifications, and our goal is to make the employment process based on this instead of looks.

What inspired you to create it? After STAPAW saved a close friend’s managerial job over the holidays, people started popping up all over with similar stories asking for help. STAPAW continued to have a social media presence, but didn’t become an actual organisation until a few months later. A few months after the initial Facebook page was made, PetSmart made a public announcement that they changed their hiring and dress code to allow visible tattoos and piercings because of consumer feedback. It was then that STAPAW realised the tangible impact that could be made by helping employers see they have the public support to have the freedom to base the hiring process off of qualifications instead of looks.

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What message do you want to share, what do you hope to achieve? You don’t need to have tattoos or piercings to support the piercing and tattoo acceptance in the workplace movement. We’re a movement of consumers stating that we don’t mind purchasing products or services from businesses that hire staff based on merit – in fact we support it! Our petitions go to companies on an individual basis, and we petition companies to have the freedom to hire based on qualifications instead of looks. Legislative change tramples on the rights of the business owner. We believe change through education is the answer. Change hearts not laws. If you have tattoos or piercings, whether you make a conscious effort to or not, you represent people with tattoos and piercings every day by your actions. Do not be a good worker, be the best worker. Demand respect by your actions, not your words.

How can people get involved? People can visit www.stapaw.com and sign up to become a volunteer and join to help promote the cause. Local businesses and tattoo shops can also carry STAPAW petitions.

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What things/stories/news can people expect to see from you? We constantly have interactive content where we ask followers to call or email cities, employers, universities or city councils that pass restrictive bans on tattoos or piercings. We have new petitions, new statistics and breaking stories on our social media and our website. Recently we ran the shocking story on Iran imprisoning and beating tattoo artists and putting a Sharia Law ban on all tattooing. We also broke the touching story about the boy with cancer whose dad got the son’s cancer scar tattooed to boost his son’s self-esteem. It always varies.

What would you say to an employer who doesn’t allow tattoos or piercings? This is a link answering the top 10 reasons employers don’t allow tattoos or piercings at work www.stapaw.com/tattoos-and-piercings-in-the-workplace . Whether you own a business, or you’re an employee, this is a must read!

Have your tattoos and piercings affected how you’ve been treated in the work place? Let us know on Instagram @thingsandink!

The Tiger Style: Tiggen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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