James Streeter, a photographer from Sussex UK is creating a Ink Series of work where plumes of billowing ink collide with tattooed models. The tattoos on their skin merge into colourful clouds of ink to create a beautiful effect…
James Streeter, a photographer from Sussex UK is creating a Ink Series of work where plumes of billowing ink collide with tattooed models. The tattoos on their skin merge into colourful clouds of ink to create a beautiful effect…
Modern-day passion, tangible tradition, and striking creativity: trace how tattooing continues to evolve in the follow up to Forever.
Art on the body is painful to acquire, arduous to own, and intimate to produce, and as such may be the best refection we have of the soul of modern life.
Matt Lodder, Preface
Forever More covers the best of the ever-changing contemporary tattoo underground. Bold tribal motifs and gritty stick and pokes bask in a resurgence alongside the fluidity of watercolours and the deviance of Art Brut. From traditional sessions in parlors to traveling artists, Forever More celebrates tattooing’s unsung heroes and contemporary celebrities.
Forever More tracks the scene’s inventiveness and originality as tattoos continue to emerge from subculture obscurity. Just as the needle infuses the skin with ink, the artists profiled infuse life into current tattoo culture. In a scene where artists travel the world, often organizing appointments exclusively via social media, tattooing can be a lifestyle and a way of life. Featuring Miriam Frank, Duncan X, David Schiesser, Grace Neutral, Fidjit, Isaiah Toothtaker, and many others, Forever More explores their unique stories and iconic work whilst creating a comprehensive narrative of this dynamic and enduring scene.
We chat to 30-year-old Ecommerce and Editorial Stylist Rebecca Griffin, from Leicester about her tattoo collection…
What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you? I was always fascinated with tattoos and body adornment from a young age, and I chose to research this as a subject when doing a self-directed art project at university. During my college years I was particularly interested in tribal and international cultures, and the meanings behind the traditional ink work you would see covering the bodies of tribal men and women. My fascination then developed into looking into fashion subcultures and how they adorned their bodies with piercings and tattoos, which similarly were influenced by their surroundings.
Can you tell us about some your tattoos? I got my first tattoo at 27, all my tattoos I have are of birds and the reason that I left it so long to get any tattoos, was because I wanted to be sure. As I never want to have any tattoos I’d live to regret. My second tattoo work is a number of birds sitting or moving within wild flowers and leaves. These are my favourite and are by the lovely Tiny Miss Becca!
Bird tattoos by Tiny Miss Becca
I had originally had the idea to have two birds positioned flying up from he tops of my feet to my ankles surrounded by flowers. Once these was done I decided I wold really love to extend them up and a around the bottom of my legs with more birds and flowers. And Becca agreed and thought it would look great too. Becca has drew each bird to have it own personality and work with each other so they look like they are part of a flock. There is a total of seven birds and the cutest little egg basket.
I never really been a fan of my legs as I am a very pale person and feel all my vain’s show to much so was never one to get my legs out in public. I now absolutely love my legs and they are my favourite part of me thanks to Becca. She really powers through to achieve the amazing work she done for me. I love that even though we was only planning to start and finish with just the two birds she’s managed to create a design for me that looks as though we always planned to have all the birds wrapped round to begin with. Becca is such an amazing talent and I feel very privileged that she was excited by my idea and wanted to carry on the work for me.
How did you get into your current role? Before I was a e-commerce stylist I was working as a fashion designer, which I enjoyed doing but wanted to have another creative outlet outside of my job. Before I became a designer I used to do visual merchandising for a high street store and wanted to get back into a role similar. I began to style for fashion photographers, I began to build up a fashion styling portfolio by working with models and MUAs. I slowly progressed to improve and have a greater understanding of what was required to fully organise and style a fashion shoot and began to feel inspired to change my career path and get into styling full time. A close friend of mine knew of a e-commerce Stylist opportunity that had arose and advised me to go for it, I did and I got the job and I’ve not looked back since.
Can you tell us a little bit about your other projects too? I still style a lot of fashion shoots out of my full time styling role as I really love the chance of organising and directing a shoot that is fashion editorial inspired. E-commerce styling is great and I love that too, but it’s very commercial and sometimes a little restricting creatively. I really like having a diverse portfolio that shows the work I can create commercially and editorially.
Photoshoot styled by Rebecca
Did you have to study or have you worked your way up? I have worked my way up to this role and made it a personal goal to keep working hard to gain as much experience in this role as possible. It’s not easy to be able to get models, photographers and make up artists to work with you, which is why it so important to be persistent in your search and communication with fellow creatives.
What is a typical day like? I style in a photo studio based in Rugby, these products are then uploaded to the fashion retailer’s website. When I arrive there is normally a rail of clothing I will need to style a shoot on a standard model size mannequin. I get to use a really cool price of equipment called a style shoot which allows me to get the clothing product I’ve styled shot without the requirement of a photographer. Some days I do style clothing on a mannequin set also, working closely with a photographer to achieve an editable shot that will be re-touched before going on to the retailer’s website. Also the products I shoot need to be shot as symmetrical a possible which sometimes can be a challenge, but is all part of the fun.
What do you love about your job? The studio I work in means that I get to see and style lots of big name brands, such as Moschino, Alexander McQueen, Emilio Pucci and Versace. I really love having the chance work with these products. I also working in a really nice environment where we all work closely and well together as one big team.
How do you dress for work? Quite casually, jeans and nice t-shirts or shirts with Dr Martens or bright colourful trainers. My style is a little boho hippy, skater-ish rocker with a little sports mixed in. As you can tell I am not very good at describing my style, but my usual aim when I get dressed for work is to wear what comfortable but has a little personality to it.
Do you show off your tattoos? Yes, I do. I’m very lucky to work somewhere that does not discriminate against or does not like tattoos on show.
How do people react to your tattoos? Majority of the time people love them and are really interested and ask lots of questions. I do on the very rare occasion get disapproving looks but it’s a personal preference thing and I love them which is all that matters
Do you have any advice to other people considering their careers when getting tattooed? I would say go for the career you want to do, you can still have tattoos just be mindful where on your body to have them. If you want a career where tattoos can potentially lower your chances of getting a job then get them in places you can cover them with clothing.
We chat to tattoo artist Hannah Westcott, who works at Hales Street Studios in Coventry, UK about her neo-traditional style, her very first tattoo and plans for 2018…
How long have you been tattooing? I have been tattooing professionally now for almost eight years. I started a couple of years prior to this just from home originally; practicing on myself and friends, before obtaining a job as a junior artist/apprentice in Melton Mowbray. I’ve since been based in Leicester, Coventry and until recently, Redditch, Birmingham. I’m now back in Coventry!
What drew you to the world of tattoos? I remember first becoming drawn to tattoos when I started to learn about the alt scene; the alt music scene was a big part of it, seeing musicians I loved with cool tattoos. I remember designing tribal tattoos for myself when I was a kid in school, I’m a kid of the 90s and I’d only really seen tribal work at that time! I’ve drawn ever since I was a kid and would copy stuff that I was drawn to.
When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was a classic rose on my should blade and it was a little sketch I made in biro, based on a rose I’d seen whilst researching online. I’ve since had that tattoo reworked/covered up as it began to look older than me!
How would you describe your style? I guess I would describe my tattooing style as neo-traditional. I mostly enjoy neo-traditional work, along with Japanese and anything in colour. Although I do enjoy Black & Grey work too and have a few large scale dot work pieces on the go. I’d say I’m pretty varied in the types of work i do. My favourite things to tattoo are animals, birds in particular and anything based on nature. I draw a lot of inspiration from the natural world. I also really enjoy ornate work and colour will always be my favourite type of work to do. I also specialise in cover ups.
Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? I currently don’t have any conventions confirmed for next year yet but I will be looking to travel around and do some guest spots around the country at my friend’s studios. I find it’s a lot nicer getting to hang out in their lovely studios than the stress of dealing with setting up at conventions and the hustle and bustle of it all. I need to pull my finger out and get in touch with everyone to make arrangements! I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!
Mixing a fierce fox design and her signature barbed wire, Emily is spreading the ‘no fur’ message. If you’re a cruelty-free fashion love you can now wear your heart on your collar with the fox and wire pin, modelled by Anaïs Gallagher.
photographer, Chloe Sheppard
“Fur belongs on the animals who are born with it, and I’m proud to rock my fur-free status with this pin,” says Gallagher. “Don’t ever be afraid to speak up for animals – they need us to be their champions.”
PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear” – notes that animals on fur farms are confined to cramped, filthy cages before they’re drowned, beaten, strangled, electrocuted, or even skinned alive for fur coats, collars, and cuffs. Animals caught in the wild in steel-jaw traps can languish for days – facing blood loss, dehydration, and attacks by predators – before being suffocated or bludgeoned to death.
We chat to Stuart and Sam, a husband and wife duo producing design-led, British made home-wares and founders of Stuart Gardiner Design. Check out our Instagram for details of our giveaway (you could win the oven gloves in this photo!)
When did you set up your business? What did you do before? I set up on my own in 2008 leaving behind a job in the music industry designing album covers etc, which after a few years seemed to be a dying business. Going alone seemed like the only option for me, and after that and I had lots of ideas. Sam is a textile designer by trade and she worked at Laura Ashley HQ for 14 years, designing fabrics and wallpapers, but has always had a hand in the business. I used her colour skills from the beginning.
What inspired you to do so? How did it all come about? My degree course was in Graphic Information Design, so this was the info graphic direction was the format my first designs took.
How long have you and Sam been together? How did you meet? Why did you decide to work together? Who is more creative?! We met at school about 25 years ago! We went off to different colleges/universities (me to Falmouth, Sam to Huddersfield). I got my first job in Bristol and Sam in London, so it was a few years before we lived in the same city again. By 2011 the business was growing, we’d had our first child and so after maternity leave Sam joined me in our studio in East London. We made the move out of London two years ago and Sam now works with me three days a week researching and developing new ideas, doing our social media and sales. I wouldn’t dare say who is more creative but it would have been handy if one of us was more business minded – we just have to wing that side of things!
What influences your designs? I grew up heavily into music and skateboarding, and still am, so the rich visual culture of both have had a massive influence on my design work. I’m very drawn to typography and graphic images/illustration in general which I think comes across in my work.
You create a host of tattoo inspired products, do you have tattoos? What draws you to tattoo artwork? We don’t have any ourselves – as a designer I could never commit to having a permanent image etched onto myself – I change my mind too much. I also remember desperately wanting a Celtic band tattooed on my bicep when I was about 18. If I’d had it done, I would never get my arm out now! Saying that, I am very drawn to the graphic styles of tattoos, and I really love the work of tattoo artists like Mike Giant. Someone has had one of our designs tattooed on their leg though (see below)!
What types of things do you sell? Do you design the illustrations? How are pieces created, what is the process? I never intended the business to be so focused on tea towels and oven gloves, that’s just how it’s happened! My first design ‘A Seasonal Guide to British Fruit and Vegetables’ was originally going to be a print to frame and hang on the wall. But I then thought a tea towel would be handier and always in the kitchen. The design side is just down to me at the moment. We generally pick a food or drink related subject, research the hell out of it, and then begin an appropriate design solution. It can often take a long time as we try to be as thorough as possible, and we often don’t know much about the subject matter.
Do you do commissions? Where can people buy your products? We do occasionally work on commission and have done projects for Liberty London, the V&A, Selfridges, Friends or the Earth and Lurpak. We have just finished a commission for a new shop called Naiise, a print all about gin. Our products are sold all over the country from gift shops to delis and vineyards, but you can buy the whole range from our website and we ship all over the world.
Head to our Instagram to find out how you can enter our give away to win a whole host of tattooed oven mitts and gloves!
We chat to 25-year-old travelling tattoo artist Igor Puente, about his style, how he got started and his future guest spot plans…
When did you start tattooing? How did you begin? I started tattooing six years ago in my home, as I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to have me as apprentice in Madrid. In the beginning it was quite difficult, but I worked hard and studied art the first three years, which turned out to be the perfect combination to become a professional tattooer.
What inspired you to become a tattooist? I wanted to be creative in my work, and I thought that tattooing was the best way to do that. Sometimes my clients come to me for one piece of my art and they give me lots of creative freedom, to me this is like the paintings or sculptures in the Renaissance period. People back then had art on their walls and now people have it on their skin.
How would you describe your style of work? Has it changed over time? Right now I’m into creating mutated animals with lot of eyes and heads, and if the customer lets me do it, then I like to use red .I really love animals, so for me it’s amazing that I get to create lots of animals. When I started out I loved horror stuff and black and grey, but this changed when I saw the work of tattooer Eckel. I couldn’t shake the beautiful drawings out of my mind and that was when I decided to work in a more neo-traditional style.
You tattoo a lot of animals, do you enjoy making these? What would you love to tattoo? I really love animals! My first career choice was to become a vet, but I decided to choose something much more creative. Animals are my favourite thing to tattoo. If the animal is also red and has lots of eyes than I am in heaven!
What influences your art? Are there any artists you love? I am influenced by everything, from nature to films, TV series and books. I love a lot of other artists and they influence my everyday life. Eckel, of course is for me the master, but I also admire Alex Dörfler, Antony Flemming, Adrian Machete and many many more.
Do you have any guestspots or conventions planned? Yes lots of them and I am every excited!
23 November – 22 December 10 Thousand Foxes Tattoo, New York
5-9 December Mystic Owl in Marietta, Georgia
16-20 January Tattoo Addicts, Bilbao Spain
24-25 February Brighton Tattoo Convention
We spotted the work of 22-year-old tattoo apprentice Tammy Bestwick on Instagram and instantly loved her traditional style tattoos. We chatted to Tammy to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Rose Tattoo, Barnstaple, Devon where she works…
How long have you been tattooing? I worked at a tattoo shop in Exeter doing my apprenticeship for two years. I got to do a few small tattoos here and there but it’s only really since working at Black Rose that I’ve been able to tattoo regularly. I started working at Black Rose back in June so it’s just going into six months of tattooing now!
What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? My first job was selling tickets at a zoo. Straight after that I started my tattoo apprenticeship for two years, I did a couple temp jobs where I made some of the most wonderful friends who still come and get tattooed by me now! I studied art at GCSE and A-level but I didn’t find it overly enjoyable, it was more about looking deep into the meaning behind why a square could’ve possibly been painted green and writing essays than actually being artistically creative. It was only since leaving college that I started to draw what I enjoyed.
How did you get your apprenticeship? As soon as I finished college, I took some of my drawings into a tattoo shop that was just over an hour away from where I lived. I didn’t really know anything about tattooing at this point but I’d been interested since I was 13. This shop was just opening and my mind was blown by the work of the tattooists there, I’d never seen anything like it before and so I just knew I had to try my luck. I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as it was the first shop I’d attempted to try work at and I was fully aware I had a lot to still educate myself on and so much more I could try do with my portfolio. A week later and they got back to me and they were willing to give me a trial run! Nothing could compare to that feeling when I found out I was being given a chance at something I’d wished to do for so long.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I started off being fascinated by all kinds of body modifications which then developed into tattoos. Anything a little different or controversial always drew me in. Being creative was the only thing that ever kept me interested so I knew I had to do something with it. I’m quite a quiet person and I love to have my own head space and be free with what’s on my mind, no rules or anyone to answer to. That’s what drawing was for me.
I used to draw a lot with my gramps. He painted beautiful acrylic landscapes and was a signwriter, so that’s definitely where I get my artistic flare from! The tattooists that inspired me to begin with are very different to the tattooists that inspire me now. My tastes and opinion of tattooing has developed a lot.
How would you describe your style, what do you like to tattoo? I’m never really sure how to answer this. Before I tattooed I only ever attempted realism. Currently I do different styles according to the customer’s needs and I’d love to get to the stage where I could do anything anyone asked of me and really challenge myself. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy if I could only ever tattoo traditional again. That’s what I enjoy tattooing the most, super bold and colourful or just a lot of black! I’d love to get to do more movie related tattoos too.
What or who inspires you? Nature and books but Instagram is a god send for being able to closely follow my favourite tattooists and their daily work. Gem Carter (this is insanely cheesy because I now work with her) has inspired me from day one, before she was even tattooing herself I followed the work she was doing. Currently, I obsess over the work of Sammy Harding, Jack Peppiette and Bradley Tompkins to name a few. But I am completely fascinated about where traditional tattooing began – Ben Corday, Percy Waters, Amund Dietzel. There is just so much inspiration and so much more to be found that it’s overwhelming.
What is a typical day like for you? I very rarely will be tattooing 11-6 at this stage so I take my time with the customers I do have in and the rest is spent providing ultimate banter, replying to emails and drawing!
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? None of my tattoos have any meaning. I get something from a tattooist because I love their style of work, so I’m happy for them to do whatever they’d like to do or choose something they already have drawn! If I get tattooed by someone I want it to be a piece that is distintive to their style. I currently have work done by Danielle Rose, Sammy Harding, a re-work by James Pool (I’m dying to get something of his own too), Sento and mega babe Gem Carter.
Celebrated Australian visual artist Stormie Mills has teamed up with award winning photographer Frances Andrijich to present an exhibition that celebrates tattoos and the reason why people choose to get inked.
A collaborative exhibition by Frances Andrijich and Stormie Mills
Opens 2 – 17 November
49 Stuart Street Northbridge WA 6003 (08) 9228 4111
While people have been opting to get ‘inked’ since prehistoric times, this number is rapidly increasing in Australia, yet reasons remain the same. It is the need to feel unique, fit in or stand out, a silent expression of a moment in time. 1 in 5 Australians has one or more tattoos with a further 1 in 5 of those getting their first tattoo aged mid 30s or older.
The idea of creating portraits of these individuals has inspired a very special collaboration between internationally renowned visual artist Stormie Mills and award-winning photographer Frances Andrijich. Now for the first time they bring their crafts together in a series of unguarded moments.
Frances has captured the essence of each subject through her lens. Stormie has then taken these images and painted a representation of the subjects’ internal portrait to create a striking work that connects the outside with the beauty within.
“Their Heart on Their Sleeve” is an intimate insight into humanity from the perspective of ten people who until now were nothing more than strangers to one another before a love of art and a photoshoot brought them together.
From a University Lecturer to an award-winning Mixologist, an Architect, FIFO worker and Furniture Maker, the one common thread these people share is the fact they have become a human canvas, choosing to carry a piece of Stormie’s artwork with them wherever they go.
‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 23-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.
Stephen William is an artist from the Clwydian Range in North Wales who’s currently living between London and Berlin – creating emotive, primal immediacy that speaks directly from the unconscious and transfers beautifully to skin. Here, Stephen speaks about his wide-view experience of the art world, the near-collapsing nature of his work and how a life-destroying flood pushed him to indulge the temporal medium of tattooing…
Can you speak to your relationship with art and creativity? I’ve been making zines and running small press for nearly 15 years. Mainly North Wales punk zines that no one read or reads, because there was and is no punk scene, but it’s where I began playing around creatively. Later, I was a printmaker for about five years – specifically etching and a little bit of lithography. At the time, I was completely dedicated and driven by the desire to be the best printmaker I could be, and along with that came a lot of patient, precision and figurative drawing. I started getting tattooed in shops around this time, before then I just had things done by hand or using homemade machines attached to car batteries behind garages – the sort of stuff you’d do as a young kid who grew up in the valleys. Both methods had their own merits. I could afford to get maybe one tattoo a year from an actual shop, and would spend most of that year deciding what I wanted to get.
I moved to London to do print at the RCA, but abandoned that after a few weeks. I don’t know why, but the idea of doing things in this technical and proper way completely left me all at once – as well as my patience. I think by trying to be as technical and “good” as possible, I would dismiss 90% of my output by focusing on the end – treating everything as a precious, archived product rather than focusing on the process.
A close friend of mine bought me a cheap machine around eight years ago. I experimented with it, and blunted a lot of needles trying to make marks and textures with wood-block prints. I didn’t want to tattoo anyone with it initially, I just wanted to see what it would do on wood and zinc plates. I was making my living as an artist for about eight years before I started my apprenticeship. I did this at the same time as I did my masters in painting and video; two years of making paintings, and videos about making paintings – scrubbing grips, cleaning, drawing. The same as everyone else. I would buy cheap machines from eBay and take them apart and put them back together again. I’d take apart my power supply and build weird frames and stick motors in them, but I left my apprenticeship and set up a private quiet studio. This felt closer to what I was trying to do.
Your tattoos are incredibly free and adventurous. Were you always able to work in such a hyper-personal way, or did you first need to cut your teeth with traditional study? I apprenticed for nearly two years, but didn’t learn very much in-terms of actually making tattoos. I left before I really started. I always felt comfortable being very loose. I’m lucky I had a lot of time to develop that without tattooing in mind, so much. It lead me to this real loose place where I felt mostly comfortable. That’s what I like, and I figured if I liked it a few other people somewhere were bound to at some point.
I love tattooing, and I believe in it unwaveringly, but I don’t feel restricted or like I have to do anything a certain way. There’s a difference between respecting a tradition, and submitting to it. If people want to build high walls, I don’t care. I’m happy sniffing around at the bottom, and I’m comfortable with my height as it is. The people who claim to be saving the industry and keeping it true are the biggest threat to tattooing’s potency. No one owns tattooing. It’s a beautiful visual culture, there’s not much left that’s genuinely doing this or bringing together fringe scenes and building culture, and this is where the power lies and always has. As soon as you call something like tattooing an industry, you take all the power out of what you’re doing and cheapen it – removing any affect that it can have. It existed largely outside of art criticism, which is a blessing and a curse, but it’s allowed itself as a medium to stay very real when it’s done right. I’m very, very lucky that people are into what I do enough to want to get tattooed by me.
I have seen nothing quite like your backpieces, or the more ambitious work you produce. What are you trying to achieve when trusted with large-scale real estate? I’m just trying to make good compositions that get me and my customers excited. I like bare skin as much as tattooed skin. Mostly with the larger work, I’m looking for the tattoo to sit at a point where it’s just about holding itself together, but close to falling apart. I’m not sure if I’d call that a balanced point or not, but when it settles into its stillness, I still want a fight there. The main thing I want is some sort of fight or energy in the piece after it settles. I run my machines fast and like to play catch-up. I love texture and mark making, and how it makes the healed piece a lot more dynamic and longer lasting, as it moves and changes with the body over time.
I believe 100% in the power and potency of tattooing. Inherently, it’s an underground and subversive structure. Tattoos aren’t meant to be liked or appreciated by 100,000 people, and especially not jumped on by any majority. They are a subversive ritual. For me, tattoos are supposed to exist in a state of polarization. The scales are constantly changing, and this is where the energy and the magic lies, so I like the bigger work to be quite jarring visually. Of course, someone has to want to get it on their body. I can paint anything, but tattooing is an exchange, and I’m very lucky that I have people that understand what I’m trying to do and mostly give me free-reign. It’s always a concession between a client and myself, and what the skin wants and machine wants and what I want. Also, it should work next to other tattoos, so I need to take a lot of things into account.
I mostly draw right onto the skin these days. The currency of tattooing is time, so you should think like that in terms of placement. It’s a collaboration with decisions that were made 10 years ago and will be made in 10 years time, but the time thing is great – to sit and experience the exact sensation as those before you, and to be able to look someone in the eye with the same understanding that has permeated history for centuries, is mad. I play with traditional reference a lot. It’s all mostly from religious paintings, porno mags and advertisements. I like to play with combinations of traditional reference and my own drawings. I like to nod towards traditional, but mess around with it. I’m talking like I’m at a point where I’m in some sort of “creative bliss”, but it’s not like that at all; I kind of agonize over a lot of what I do, and stress out a lot. I draw designs over and over and over again to get the right level of rough, but held together, and on the skin it changes again! It’s important for us not to look backwards but forwards. A lot of the classics looked great on sailors because it was of its time, but seeing people trying to look like sailors and criminals now is just sort of a shitty and kitsch dress-up, and a quietening echo of something that was powerful in the past.
Where did you draw inspiration from when starting out in tattooing, and where are you currently sourcing influence? My first experiences with machines were to see what they could add to what I was already doing, like I mentioned before. What I was doing wasn’t on the skin at all! Right now, I guess I’m mostly excited by the same things as everyone else: painting, videos, art-theory, browsing eBay for all kinds of things, and a lot of outsider art as well as traditional reference. I love Welsh history, and draw from this a lot, but mostly I just like to draw and see what happens. I feel like every day someone is coming up in the world and doing exciting new work, and I love that! I don’t know what to say about tattooing in terms of whether or not I think it’s art – I’m not sure if it really even needs to enter that dialogue. It’s too available and too cheap, comparatively speaking, to ever be considered or work as a high-art commodity, which is why it’s great! Tattooing has permeated culture completely, and it’s not like a painting or a sculpture where you need to carry it into a gallery. With tattoos, you can enter any establishment and move and exist freely within it – you can infiltrate any demographic or space. I like that people don’t have so much choice over how they interact with tattooed skin, and I draw a lot of inspiration from that. Tattoos are much harder to avoid than art.
Prior to tattooing, you spent eight years as a student of fine art. What is it you felt you could achieve with tattoos that you couldn’t with any other medium? Everything changed for me over the course of a few days. I had both a group and solo show happening at the same time and I was right in the middle of moving apartments. Over one weekend, I had almost all my output and everything I owned stored at my parent’s place before moving it on. The river burst its banks by nearly nine feet that evening and destroyed everything I ever made – as well as everything I owned. At the same time, I was reading a book that was pushing the argument forward that there’s no way anyone could judge the merit of art in their own lifetime. Museums are almost always great because they have filtered down the best of the best over years and years and years, and exhibitions are often bad because there’s no filter. Tattoos don’t care or need any of it. I took some wry comfort in the idea that there was too much art now. Humanity has made enough. I had been thinking about tattooing, and getting tattooed, for a long time. It fell in place when I got into the temporality of it all. Give it 30 years, and no tattoos I make will be around anymore. That put this fire in me to commit to a new medium. Basically, I wanted to make temporary art that didn’t need a podium.
What’s your relationship to free-hand and free-machine tattooing, and how do these ways of working inform what you do? I guess I see mechanically copying a stencil and trying to reproduce something like a painting onto skin as ignoring the potential of the medium. I still sometimes use stencils because they’re incredibly useful, and I like to use everything I can to get the best results, but more and more often I’m moving away from them. Things change, though. Sometimes I like to get super loose, and other times tighten up. I’m not overly keen on trying to pin anything down and figure anything out 100%. I like to exploit the accidents and the unexpected things that can happen. I really like to see the marks of the needle and the hand of the person that’s done it. Also, it’s early days for me. I’ve not been tattooing for a huge amount of time – it’s been three years, and things change all the time. Since you live with a tattoo, and they exist in time, I think they should represent that. I really want the medium to be the message in a way, I guess. By drawing everything on, it works really well with the body every time – it makes it more of a process for me, and almost always unpredictable things happen that you need to respond to. I’m always wanting to feel excited by what I’m doing, so drawing tattoos straight on always keeps me at a point of being very fresh. It’s not a design I drew a few weeks ago or months with someone else in mind that I’m trying to make work elsewhere. It’s exactly where I’m at.
What’s next? Working on larger projects and travelling, always. I’m midway through a couple of backs and bodysuits, and I’m always on the look out to start large scale projects. I have a small journal centred around contemporary tattooing and visual cultures that I’m very excited about. Another issue is ready for release! I’m also working to develop some physical spaces where artists can stay and work during residencies; assisting with publishing projects and travel to help and hopefully widen the landscape a bit – involving communities and exchanges with fringe individuals and groups from other parts of the world.
I mean, a lot of the time I feel pretty confused from overthinking, or having a lot of projects mixing together at once, so my future plans are about finding a way to still be very productive when I’m still in the process of working things out. For the future, in terms of tattooing, of course I want big changes; I’d like to see tattooing move into a more positive and open realm, and the end of bullying and empire building – neo-liberal tattooers appropriating and diluting culture on the internet and TV, macho bullshit, lifestyle becoming consumption. Instead, seeing a rise in pure, potent, visually exciting and heartfelt work. Things are happening that I feel need to be talked about in a productive and positive way. It’s easy to be negative about the state of tattooing, but everyone choses where they want to be within it.