Tagged: tattoos

Apprentice Love: Tammy Bestwick

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Exhibition: Their Heart on Their Sleeve

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.

Their Heart On Their Sleeve - Stormie

A collaborative exhibition by Frances Andrijich and Stormie Mills

Opens 2 – 17 November

There Is

49 Stuart Street Northbridge WA 6003 (08) 9228 4111

Their Heart On Their Sleeve - Elle

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 - Spencer

“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: Stephen William

‘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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Interview With Lauren, The Ghost With The Most

We chatted to Lauren about her love of all things Hallows Eve, her tattoo collection and her home which we are desperate to visit…

Firstly, a little bit about yourself, where are you based? I’m based in Liverpool. Born and raised here!

What do you do for a living? I have a very mundane job working in a bank, but it funds a lovely social life and many a (regular) tattoo trip!

[Luke Jinks]

Where did your love of Halloween come from? I think I’ve always had an obsession with quite morbid and macabre things. One of my earliest memories is of playing different characters with friends, and I’d always want to play a girl who died, very tragically, and returned as a ghost to haunt them.

Do you have favourite Halloween horror films or book? Some of my favourite films now are ones I obsessed over as a kid. I loved Hocus Pocus and Return to Oz. I would read Goosebumps and Point Horror books at every available opportunity, and my favourite TV show was Are You Afraid of the Dark? I read Roald Dahl’s The Witches religiously (at least seven times!) as I loved his twisted humour and obsession with creepy individuals.

[Mark Cross]

Halloween seems to reflect in every part of you, tell us more about your personal style and accessories, how do your tattoos fit in with this? I don’t think I have a set style any more as I’ve never wanted to be pigeon-holed as looking a certain way, or fitting into a specific trend. I guess my tattoos are a permanent reflection of my likes, or things that I’ve always/will always love, whilst the way I look and dress changes.

I’m quite open to experimenting when it comes to clothing, but there’s usually a little nod to my love of all things spooky. I have found though, that the more tattoos I acquire, and the more patterned my skin becomes, the less patterned clothing I wear!

Does this creativity spill into your home? Your IG is full of fantastic treasures you’ve collected – do these influence you at all? It doesn’t so much these days. I studied Fine Art at uni and my final project was based on hoarding, collecting and taxidermy in art, but I rarely make anything these days. My boyfriend is an artist, though! He goes by the alias Daggers For Teeth and a lot of what he creates stems from his love of horror-punk and retro Halloween ephemera, so I feel like I live vicariously through his work!

How do people react to your tattoos Very positively, which is often a surprise! I tend to expect comments along the lines of, ‘but what will you do when you’re older?’ or ‘what about when you get married?’ – they’re things people have said to my tattooed, female friends! I’m lucky that I’ve not had anything negative said about mine, the majority of people tend to ask if they’re real, or if I’m wearing patterned tights. The nicest comments I tend to get are from tattoo artists who are happy to add to my ‘collection’, or people asking for recommendations.

Do your tattoos help you feel more confident, or help you to see your body differently? I’m not too sure. I’m quite shy, which people tend to be surprised by as they think that if you look ever so slightly outlandish, it’s for attention or that you’re an extrovert. I definitely love the idea that I’m decorating my body in pieces by artists who’s work I adore, and I’m honoured and so lucky that they agree to do it! So I’m happy with how I look with tattoos as opposed to not! But sometimes it does warrant unwanted attention which makes me feel a tad uncomfortable!

[Jemma Jones]

Do you have a favourite tattoo artist That’s a tough question! I have so many favourites! I’d love to get tattooed by Toothtaker, Daniel Octoriver, Diana Leets and Jon Larson! Also, all of the guys at Smith Street!

I consider myself so lucky to have been tattooed by a lot of my favourite artists within the UK already.

[Jemma Jones]

Do you have any favourite halloween tattoos / or can you take us through some of them? Yeah! I have a pumpkin lady by Harriet Heath where her boobs are where the ‘eye-holes’ should be! I also have an old witch and moon in some crazy-bright colours, that I got from Mark Cross whilst on holiday in New York last year. I love to find out what tattooers are working in cities I’m planning to visit.

I have a ghost with the word ‘spooky’ across it, so that the OOs make up the eyes, by Louie Rivers. Also, a little devil baby in pram with ‘Rosemary’s’ across it, by Jemma Jones, my mum’s name is Rosemary!

[Harriet Heath]

Have you got a favourite costume you’ve dressed up as for Halloweeen? I do! I dressed up as Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, in full wedding garb, the year before last. I’d planned it for a good while and made parts of the outfit. She’s one of my movie heroines! My boyfriend, Craig, and I also dressed up as the Grady twins from The Shining this year. He looked pretty hysterical with a wig, moustache and dress!

Any future tattoo plans? Always! Craig and I are off to Barcelona next week so we’re going to try and book something whilst we’re there. There are some incredible artists there! We love all of the artists at LTW and have been tattooed there twice before.

Other than that, I tend to book tattoos on a whim.

Halloween Tattoos

Boo! We love this time of year what with pumpkin carving, lighting candles and filling our home with even more skulls! It appears we’re not the only ones who can’t wait for October 31st to come around, as we share a coven of Halloween inspired tattoos…

@hlctattoo

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@audeladureeltattoobysandry

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@debrartist

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@shannan_meow

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@markfordtattoos

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@kellymcgrathart

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@maidstonejohn

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@isaverri

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@kerste_tattoos

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@honeybasiltattoos

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@goldlagrimas

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@ryanmrray

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Young Saigon: Ans Pham

We chat to creative developer Nick Jones about his role at Rice, the Young Saigon film series and tattooing in Vietnam…

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Rice was founded in late 2014 by a group of filmmakers who wanted to promote other young, talented filmmakers and give them the freedom to produce films. Since then, we’ve produced over 100 videos on subjects in and around South East Asia. As creative development I get involved and guide everything to do with the creative process, like concepting, shooting, editing etc.

The above film is part of a series called Young Saigon, which is about young artists working out of Saigon (musicians, dancers and artists), though this one is the only tattoo-related film in the series. The artist in this film 29-year-old Ans Pham, who works at Saigon Ink, which is probably the most well-known tattoo studio in Vietnam.

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A tattoo by Ans

We decided to make the film after a friend of mine had a tattoo done by him. Tattooing is something quite alien to me (I’ve been mulling over my first tattoo for a while) so I really wanted to explore a couple of things. Firstly what makes a tattoo artist tick, and to try and understand what goes on in Ans’ head when he’s working, and secondly, the perception of tattooing in Vietnam. Here tattooing is often seen as a taboo by older generations, but in contrast, tattooing among the younger generation has exploded. So I wanted to ask a working artist what his feelings were about the changing tattoo culture in Vietnam and his place in the middle of this change.

Like what you see? View the rest of the films here.

Tattoos in the workplace: A guide to your rights and discrimination awareness

Hands up if you’ve ever been advised not to get a tattoo in an overtly visible area in case it affects employment opportunities?
Chances are that’s a fair few of you.

But despite the forewarnings from our elders, tattoos are very much an integral fabric of society today, particularly amongst young people. In fact, it’s suggested that nearly a fifth of UK adults have had tattoos, with those under the age of 40 more likely to have them.

Tattoos in the workplace is not a new topic of discussion. However, it’s important that those with tattoos are familiar with their rights in the workplace and the discrimination that can arise during the recruitment process.

Here’s everything you need to know about body art at work.

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Recruitment

The UK Equality Act 2010 protects job hunters from a large range of diversity prejudice, from age and gender, to nationality and disability.

However, body art is not a characteristic that is protected by workplace equality law. As a result, prospective employers can make their hiring decisions based on tattoos if they wish.

However, job opportunities are improving for those with body art.

While once upon a time many customer-facing organisations were not open to hiring those with tattoos, many have now adopted a no-visible-inking policy. Some of these organisations include airlines, the police and even McDonalds.

This means that it’s now possible for those with easily concealed tattoos to apply for a greater range of roles, although if a no-visible-inking policy is in place, candidates are likely to be asked to provide photographs of all inkings with a visible measure for scale.

In the workplace

Businesses are within their rights to have rules in place around appearances in the workplace. This is because dress codes can help maintain professionalism, company branding, and even company atmosphere.

However, it’s important that the standards are appropriate for the business, staff and company culture and are not solely based on personal preference.

We’ve all seen the headlines about heels at work…

If your tattoos go against company policy, then your employer can dismiss you and you are not protected by the law. Therefore, make sure you are aware of the dress code in your place of work so you know where you stand.

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How to make tattoos work for you

Despite the statistics, policies and general perception of tattoos, they don’t necessarily have to be a hindrance for you at work.

Here’s what you need to bear in mind.

Show your dedication to the industry

While many employers are missing out on the top talent for jobs due to tattoo policies, body art could make you more employable in some instances. You may be more employable within the creative industries if your skin exudes your artistry and innovation.

What’s more, if your tattoo pays homage to your favourite brand or company you want to join, like these inkings, you might increase your chances of securing an interview since your dedication game is strong.

Go with your gut

If you’re looking for work and are not sure how well your tattoos will be perceived in an interview or in the company’s culture, it’s important to trust your instincts.

Try and make a fair evaluation based on the organisation’s environment and industry before you show off your tattoos.

For example, if you’re applying for a client-facing finance role in a corporate firm, revealing your creative sleeve may not go down so well. However, if you’re applying for a position in a tech startup, where suits are a rarity, your tattoos may not be an issue at all.

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Be aware of stereotypes

We’re all familiar with the stereotypes surrounding heavily tattooed people. But no matter what your opinion on tattoos is, you must try to keep an open mind and remain aware of how others may perceive you in the workplace.

Ultimately, you may want be known for your professional ability, you may not want to be known as “the one with the giant Batman tattoo”. While it’s great to be unique, try not to let your artwork define you or upstage your professionalism or it may do more harm than good.

Laura Slingo is Digital Copywriter for the UK’s leading independent job board, CV-Library. For more expert advice on job searches, careers and the workplace, visit their Career Advice pages.

Vintage Vista: Ruella-Maria

38-year-old Ruella-Maria is a part-time vintage slinger, mumma, wife and full time sick girl, who lives in The Woodlands Texas but originates from Aberdeen. We chat to her about her courage to keep going when faced with a myriad of health issues, how she started selling vintage and her stunning tattoo collection…

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Tell us a little about your Etsy shop, and how you began selling vintage? I predominantly sell antique fashion on Etsy. I have a penchant for late 1800s to 1930s women’s clothing. I’m drawn to anything feminine, light and airy or a bit manky and masculine with possibilities for longevity. I like to combine sourcing vintage for myself and my shop with exploring Texas. Texas is an antique and vintage fashion treasure trove. My hunting grounds are flea markets, antique malls, fairs and estate sales.

I started selling vintage after my health deteriorated a few years ago. I only sell vintage on a very part time basis as my health permits. I was born three months premature in 1978, weighing 1lb and wasn’t expected to survive. I’ve been told that I’m a fighter my whole life,  I see it more as stubbornness, I don’t like being told what I can’t do. I am neuro diverse, I have a developmental disorder known as dyspraxic with overlapping disorders on the spectrum.

I’ve always known I was different. It isn’t always easy but it’s part of who I am.

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I also have Ehlers danlos syndrome a collagen disorder that affects my skin, blood, muscles, ligaments and joints, which causes major pain for me. I also have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome which causes a myriad of problems but mainly has me feeling sick, tired and dizzy on a daily basis. I’ve gone through hell over the years with both these illnesses but luckily I have an amazing husband who has helped me figure out how to weather the bad times and a daughter who gives me a reason to be strong each day. There are no cures for what ails me but I think it’s good to be honest & talk about them as they obviously impact greatly on my everyday life.

So selling vintage gives me a purpose. I don’t make it out of bed every day. I might be the slowest seller in the world but I know that I carefully choose each piece on my adventures, I put love into reviving the lost and broken pieces and I enjoy sharing what I find with others. I also set up a vintage fashion community Instagram page two years ago so folk like me had a place to tag outfits. I spread the word to use the tag #truevintageootd when listing personal vintage fashion outfits. 18k people later and I now have a group of Instagram friends helping to run the page so we can feature new people are regular users daily. It’s been an adventure building our not so wee vintage fashion community!

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Can you describe your personal style? I have been wearing vintage properly since I was 17. My own style is a mix of antique femininity almost fairytale pieces mixed with modern and masculine pieces. I love the 1920s but find the Edwardian, 1910s and 1930s styles suit my curves better. I’m a bit obsessed with Victorian prairie and whore house boudoir looks at the moment. I spend a lot of time at home which affords me the opportunity to wear impractical outfits such as underwear for outerwear and corsetry.

It’s only really been the past few years that I feel I’ve really explored all decades of fashion and found my own fashion groove. I don’t feel like I fit in a particular category anymore.

Now I’m happy to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Difference is good.

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Does your home decor emulate your style? I guess my house reflects my style a little bit. I’ve lived in Texas for four years with my hubby and 17 year old daughter plus two dogs. If I lived alone my home would would be pink and floral with mad Victorian wallpaper and dolls everywhere. But as it is I’d call our home industrial luxe – a mix of rustic wood and metal furniture with pink velvet chaise, teal velvet sofas, a taxidermy buck wearing a tiara and knick knacks everywhere.  I have several cabinets filled with my older, rarer antiques, curiosities and pretty things.

Are there any values or traditions that you have that have been influenced by your love of the past? What pieces are you drawn to and which are your favourite? I am a HUGE period drama and old classic movies fan. I always have an old movie or something running in the background whilst I work. I have eclectic music tastes ranging from Victorian era music in swing, blues and jazz to more modern but probably 70s at the latest rock artists like The Doors.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? How do these fit into your look? Do they help you to feel comfortable in your body or help your confidence? My tattoos are also an expression of who I am. They are the pain I choose. But I live life in daily pain – at least tattoo pain is something I choose for myself and I get something beautiful at the end of it. I have a lot of scarring on my body – the collagen disorder EDS makes it all worse. I’ve been through the wars, had a bubba, been thin then fat then a bit less so and I’m almost 40, it all leaves its mark. I guess my tattoos cover up some of my tell tale signs in places and I prefer to look at tattoos than scars so that’s a bonus! My tattoos are for me. I’ll be getting more for sure and eventually there will be more visible but for now I like that they are mostly for my eyes only.

I see tattoos as personal art that I’ve collected. They are either tokens of fond memories or something that I admire. My recent, more complex pieces have all been done by the same amazing folks at Power House Ink. Jason and Amanda – both big antique & vintage fans. Both are very talented and I plan to have as many of my tattoos as I can done there and I’m far more likely to choose from their own flash as I admire their style and skill

Interview With Prof. Nicholas York

Our guest writer, digital marketing executive and traditional tattoo fan 21-year-old Poppy Ingham, talks to Nicholas York about his humble beginnings and the work he does out of Dark Age Tattoo in Denton, Texas…

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21-year-old Nicholas York is customarily cited as Professor York, in a nod to the likes of Samuel O’Reilly, the dubbed King of the Bowery tattooers, who adopted the “professor” epithet. He has been tattooing since he was 15 and although this might not be the licit way of entering the tattoo world, Nick received his first tattoo machines two months before starting high school. Coupled with a power supply purchased with his earnings from a part-time job, Nick began tattooing classmates and anyone who was willing. 

Fast forward five years, give or take, Nick is now embodying the definition of “world class electric tattooing”, producing nostalgic tattoos and paintings that ring true to the early 1900s. 

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What first inspired you to take on tattooing, especially at such a young age? I was in eighth grade at a school for kids with behavioural problems, and I started seeing some of the kids in my class get small tattoos. After I saw that you could get tattooed underage, I got my first tattoo at 14. The tattooist who did it was different from the guy who was tattooing the other kids, he approached me at the public library and asked if I wanted to get tattooed. Just a of couple days later I was in his apartment after school getting a tribal design that I had drawn.

I started tattooing a couple months after my first tattoo. In between the time of my first tattoo and the first tattoo I did, I had gotten my neck and my chest tattooed and started working on my arms. I was 15 when I got my throat tattooed. The throat tattoo was what made me start thinking about pursuing a career in tattooing. I knew I had found the job for me, when I found out that all you had to do was buy a kit online and do it out of your house. I started getting good and I was starting to feel hopeful about my choice.

My mom always knew about my tattooing and watched me do my first couple the day I got my kit. She was always supportive, because my dad was a tattooist, although I didn’t grow up with him (he went to prison when I was two). Over the years, he’d send drawings and paintings, but at the time, I was too young to realise they were tattoo designs that he had tattooed on people in prison.

My dad tattooed before he went to prison in the 1990s in downtown Dallas. He painted cars before he was a tattooist so it was a natural transition. Then he met my mom and stopped tattooing for a bit. He picked it back up when he went to prison a couple years later. I’ve seen a lot of his work and I hold onto all the paintings he sends me now. He is, in my honest opinion, one of the best black and grey tattooers out there. He does extremely smooth tattooing with a 90s twist. He really hasn’t gotten to see just how much tattooing has evolved since he has been locked away, except for the tattoos that he sees on me when I visit him.

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Have you always wanted to tattoo in the traditional style, or did you experiment with a number of styles before settling on it? When I first started tattooing, I was doing a very new school style and everything was extremely colourful and cartoony. I was hanging around with an old tattooist named Sneaker and he had a big influence on my style and technical application. Over the years, my tattooing evolved into a more neo-traditional style thanks to a guy I worked with named Rene. He did some of the best neo-traditional tattoos I had ever seen up until that point. Rene told me I needed to simplify my designs and stop using so many colours. He told me I couldn’t do traditional tattoos because I always complicated my tattoos so much, so to challenge him, I did a traditional tattoo. From that one tattoo I realised that I was missing out on what I was meant to be doing.

Thinking along the lines of Rock Of Ages, Belle Of The Plains etc, what are some iconic pieces of art that you never get tired of recreating? Easily one of my favourite iconic images is the Rose of No Man’s Land. I always love seeing renditions of it. I also really enjoy dragons; they’re always big and impressive. And, of course, the Rock of Ages is always a classic.

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Do you find that younger people (our age) are aware and appreciative of traditional tattooing, or do you feel like there is more demand for other styles? I think young people really dig the designs of classic traditional tattooing, but I don’t think they care for the history. The history posts I make [on Instagram] never get as many likes as the flash posts. I understand, though – not everyone has the attention span or appreciation for history.

Who, in particular from the past, do you admire and why? I’m a big fan of George Burchett. He encompasses everything I love about turn-of-the-century tattooing and has some of the best paintings I’ve ever seen! When I started tattooing in the style I do now, George Burchett was a big influence. My stuff doesn’t look like his that much, but if you know your stuff you can see small hints of it. I’m also interested in the early Bowery tattooers of New York. Samuel O’Reilly and his contemporaries have a certain mystery about them. We only understand a small fraction of their life, while we have a decent amount of George Burchett’s history.

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Where do you gather information and history on the tattooists of the past? I get all my knowledge of tattoo history from books I buy, websites like http://www.buzzworthytattoo.com and just speaking to and being friends with as many tattoo historians as I can. I am no historian myself, and I don’t add any unknown insight and I have not made any new discoveries, like some of the other historians that I look up to, I’m just a big fan of history and love to learn as much as I can about my craft. I do happen to have a good eye and have found many great bits of history in photographs that have been looked over before.

For people wanting to explore authentic traditional tattoos in 2017 and beyond, can you recommend any modern-day tattooers who you applaud? There are too many to name but those are just a few that come to my mind and I think they each are very true to the essence of traditional tattooing. I’m extremely proud I can call all of these tattooers my friends and contemporaries:

Charity Tattoo Convention: Nessy Forever

In loving memory of Mark Nesmith

Nessy Forever Charity Tattoo Convention

17th September 

11-8pm

FarGo Village Coventry

Entry fee – £10 on the door
Free to under 16s 

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We would love to have you with us to celebrate the life of Mark Nesmith. Together we can give Nes the send off he deserves – with loud music, great tattoos, laughs, smiles and the beautiful acomplished feeling of being a part of something amazing.
Something Mark made us feel, everyday we spent with him.

The convention will be filled with live tattooing and many artists will have walk-ups available. Live music and DJs will play throughout the day including; Charles Dexter Ward & The Imagineers and Special Brew. Also don’t miss the raffle to win artwork and many more fun surprises!

Confirmed artists:

HALES STREET STUDIOS Paddy O’RaffertyWarren PerryDan Jackson & Mitch Weaver

GRIZZLYS ART Dan Dygas

SEMPER TATTOO Joanne Baker

CIRCLE OF SWORDS Hanan Qattan

NEMESIS TATTOO STUDIO Ellis Arch

THE DRAWING ROOM Kerste Diston

REAL ART TATTOO Matt Barratt-Jones

BOLD AS BRASS TATTOO Nick Baldwin & Mark Walker

THE CHURCH TATTOO Hannah Wescott

QUEEN OF HEARTS Natalie OughtonJamie Radburn & Kate Stenner

MODERN BODY ART Ethan Jones

SACRED HEART TATTOOS Dave Carson

CREATIVE BODY ART Joanne Leslie & Holly Marie

RED TATTOO AND PIERCING Lucy O’Connell

SECOND CITY TATTOO CLUB Isobel Stevenson Morton

INFINITE INK Donna Reid, James Aston Mewett & Mike Williams

MEN’S GROOMING COMPANY Barber’s Chair

100% of all money raised will be given to Mark’s Mother and Father