Tagged: tattoos

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 when 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 honor to have set the bar for the female tattooist 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 friends 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 tattoo 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 o build my own canvas.

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

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How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

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What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

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How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

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What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

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Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

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Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

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Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

Shaded: Danny Rossiter

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Danny Rossiter is a legendary 37-year-old tattoo artist and co-owner of Manchester’s Rain City Tattoo Collective. As part of Things and Ink’s ongoing interview series ‘Shaded’, I spoke with ‘The King’ about his passion for tribal tattooing, surfing and Japanese culture as he tattooed my shoulder.

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“Before I was tattooing, there wasn’t anything I wanted to do,” answers Danny Rossiter, more commonly referred to as ‘The King’ by his peers, to a question regarding his relationship with tattoos that I can barely ask as the Traditional-Japanese heavyweight begins to hammer an Eastern-inspired demon onto my shoulder. “I just wanted to surf,” he continues casually – as if he were telling the story over dinner as opposed to the violent process of tattooing. “My grandma was an artist – a painter, and she always encouraged me to draw, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I asked myself “what can I do that’s really cool?” and tattooing looked cool.”

From fantasist beginnings spent dreaming up his very own ‘Endless Summer’ meets Horiyoshi III existence to a nomadic life spent darting across the Southern Hemisphere, Danny is currently tattooing me out of his own shop: the legendary Rain City Tattoo Collective. The 37 year-old Zimbabwean’s corner of the shop holds a plethora of books – most of which relate to the subject of Japanese culture. “I just love Japanese Culture! The imagery is really powerful and holds so much meaning. You can find yourself looking at a brutal battle and a serene scene of beauty within the same Ukiyo-e print!” Although a master of the craft himself, Danny constantly humbles his position that’s backed-up by an 18-year relationship with the industry by suggesting that he’s simply riding history’s wave. “There’s so much tradition to Japanese tattooing, and ‘tradition’ loosely translates into ‘repetition’. It’s traditional because it has worked, been repeated and been passed down, so I’m well aware that all of my work has either been stolen or borrowed.”

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The idea for the collective was born out of a drunken, lightning-strike evening Danny spent with talented artists Matt Cooley, Gre Hale and Dan Morris, who had all decided they no longer wanted to work under the thumb of any kind of shop hierarchy, but wanted to create a diplomatic space that allowed them the time and freedom to develop and concentrate on their work. Founded in 2012, the shop has grown to be one of the most well respected spots the world over. “The shop has influenced me to keep working and to keep going,” speaks Danny of Rain City’s effect on him. “You can get complacent when working with one other person, but when you’re surrounded by so many people that are so stoked on tattooing, you can’t help but get caught up in it.”

When speaking of his first memories of tattooing, Danny speaks with a cool detachment as if unburdened by nostalgia. “I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was this tribal biohazard symbol. It’s covered now, but I do love tribal. It’s such a strong look that often invites passionate criticism. That’s what’s so great about it: it encourages passion – it’s so powerful that people fucking hate it!” Danny’s enthusiasm for tribal bled into the story of the first ever tattoo he produced. “I vividly remember the first tattoo I ever produced: It was this tribal spider – I couldn’t stop shaking! I’d love to see what that tattoo looks like today. ”

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As someone who is called ‘King’ more than he is his own name, I feel hesitant asking Danny of his inspiration, but much like the rest of our conversation Danny is open and unpretentious in his answer. “Everything is visual with me. I’ve never been the kind of person who finds inspiration in more abstract places, like music or writing. Maybe there’s a whole world of work I could be producing if I dug into that.” Danny follows the thought with how he sees his work evolving. “People can get lost in the idea of ‘style’ and leaving their own unique mark on tattooing, but producing work for the customer rather than yourself is far more important. People think too much about the mark they want to leave, but it’s all about what you’re doing in the moment. You don’t want to get too involved in the future.”

Interview with Tattooist Laura Gascoyne

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

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Photo taken by Nick Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Jessica O

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Mermaid Moon Child

19-year-old Hayley Sunter is a business student and blogger from Bradford. We chatted to Hayley about how she started her blog www.mermaidmoonchild.wordpress.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I started blogging September of this year, what got me into blogging was just a passion for writing, I also wanted to share and talk about things I love.

What kind of things do you blog about? I don’t like to see myself as a typical beauty blogger not that there is anything wrong with that, I just wanted my blog to be more. I blog about things such as mental health, my tattoos, life updates and if I do talk about beauty products I am always promoting cruelty free ones. I like to see my blog as a somewhat visual and online diary,  I am a very open about my life online as I hope some of my life struggles and achievements will either help or inspire people who come across my blog.

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How would you describe your style? Honestly I have people try to label my style as many things but for me personally I get fashion inspiration from alternative women, typically on Instagram so I would label myself as alternative.

What inspires you? I get inspiration from a lot of different things from compassion and kindness I see online, to people loving themselves and being truly happy the way they are in their body. I feel like the world wants us to dislike at least one thing about ourselves and seeing people overcome that inspires me to love myself and others.

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Do you have a favourite artist, designer or musician? Or someone you admire? The person I admire the most is a tattoo artist called Hannah Pixie Snowdon, I first came across her on Instagram when I saw some of her tattoos and that is one of the first times I fell in love with heavily tattooed women. I then went on to get more inspired by her outlook on life, she has so much compassion, she is so mindful and she has overcome some dark demons in her life. I plan on getting her portrait tattooed one day, because she has inspired me so much and pretty much changed how I see life.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo August 2015 just after my 18th birthday, its a little traditional style black cat sat on a moon on my ankle and honestly it was a painful little thing. I do still love it but where it is in terms of placement, it didn’t heal the best and the lines blew out a bit.

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Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see your body differently, do they inspire confidence? I am not the most heavily tattooed person but I plan on being, I currently have four tattoos including my second tattoo – my thigh piece done by Lucy O’Connell at Red Tattoo Leeds. It’s a portrait of my beloved pet ferret Ed who sadly passed last year, he was literally like my fur child so I booked in with Lucy the month he died. My third tattoo is done by Danny at Cobra Club Leeds, it’s of Gizmo from the film Gremlins I just love everything about it!

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My last but not least was done by Tom Flanagan at Odd Fellows in Leeds. This tattoo has a lot of meaning behind it, as it features a love heart with a hand holding a panther paw its a little twist on the traditional style two people holding hands tattoos. I wanted it to represent that animals are here with us not for us. I recently turned vegetarian when I got this tattoo and never looked back.

In terms of do my tattoos make me see myself differently? Absolutely they do, about three years ago I never got my legs out without some fake tan, as I didn’t really like my legs. Now with my legs featuring some beautiful art I love it, I can’t wait for summer so I can get them out again! Each time I get a tattoo I feel more and more like myself.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I actually have a tattoo booked just after Christmas which I am looking forward to. As for future plans I plan on adding more and more to my legs first then I will work my way up my body. For years I have wanted my stomach tattooed so I might make plans for that sometime next year.

Do you consider yourself as a tattoo collector? I do, I plan on travelling around the country to different tattoo artists I have admired on Instagram. Luckily some really talented people are based right on my door step in Leeds. I’ll only really stick to one artist if we are working on a stomach or back piece, other than that I want to collect as many different tattoos from different artists that I really admire.

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What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Honestly I think I have only had one bad reaction to my tattoos and that has been online, where they were a bit old fashioned and thought that females don’t suit tattoos. Other than that I have had some lovely reactions in person and online. I remember in the Summer I was shopping and the shop assistant asked to look at my legs I was so confused for a second until she commented on how beautiful my tattoos are. Sometimes I forgot they are there I am so used to them now.

Sonia Kolner Illustration

24-year-old Sonia Kolner is an illustrator and retail worker based in Oakland California. We chatted to Sonia about her dark illustrations, what inspires her and her tattoo collection… 

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Inspired by Things&Ink  Sonia created this illustration just for us…

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What medium do you use? How do you create each piece? I use mainly crowquill for my pen and ink work. I also work on printmaking from time to time, mostly consisting of lithography. I create each piece digitally and traditionally. The end result is always fully traditional, however I like to collage digitally beforehand. It makes planning a lot quicker and I can scan/scale elements easily. I am committed to the idea of being a pro at Photoshop slowly but surely.

What do you like to draw? I love drawing anything anatomy related, eyes, patterns, distorted or conjoined things. I also find comfort in drawing nature such as flowers, and of course snakes and bats.

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What inspires you? Really, really good music. I would say a lot of creative people whether it’s other artists, musicians, skaters, writers, etc. Also, any other unique beings who have their own style, tastes and opinions that I find to be inspiring and good to converse with. A few of my close friendships inspire me, as I find myself getting into unexpected deep conversations with them about life, death, trust, and everything in between. Often what inspires me as well is other people’s stories. I always treasure when someone trusts me enough to open up about their suffering and or other personal things. Because it’s an extreme challenge, those small moments inspire me and I hold them dearly. Other than that I would say last but not least, nature, animals, and old school Japanese art. The list could go on!

How would you describe your style? Organized chaos. Visually and emotionally.

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Are there any other artists that you admire, do they influence your work? Of course. My current favorites are Suehiro Maruo and Junji Ito. I love both artists work because of not only their talent, but also the psychological twists to their pieces and stories. I enjoy art that’s intriguing and leaves me wondering. I never liked comics, but Junji Ito’s Uzumaki series is gory, emotionally haunting and nothing short of brilliant. Besides them, about two years ago I used to have a long list of artists, but now I find I get most of my inspiration from old books, music, and certain conversations.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I have quite a few so I’ll just talk about my two most recent ones that I drew and designed that mean the most to me. I got conjoined Japanese Noh Masks in June, done by Arielle Coupe. In September I got a chrysanthemum done by Michael Deschenes. The tattoos are on the same forearm, one in the front and the other in the back, close to the elbow. Both of them are super talented and translated my drawings onto skin seamlessly. I’m planning to get a snake that sort of intertwines itself among these two current tattoos.

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What drives you to create work that draws upon the motifs and the style of tattooing? Pen and ink stippling/hatching style is my driving force. I like how much dedication and patience it takes.  I never used to think that my work drew upon tattoo motifs, until anyone who saw my work would asked me if I either a) Would design them a tattoo, or b) If I would consider being a tattoo artist. That’s when I started to notice a pattern and blackwork translates quite easily into a tattoo these days.

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Do you do commissions? Where can people buy your work? Absolutely. You can contact me through my website and we can chat. www.soniakolnerillustration.co. You can purchase my work on Society6 https://society6.com/soniakolnerillustration

Careers: Tattooed Retail Manager

We chat to 33-year-old Natasha Janzemin, Retail Manager for MAC Cosmetics based in London, about her love for cosmetics, the freedom she has at work to explore her creativity through her style and tattoos…

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How old were you when you got your first tattoo? I was 17 when I got my first tattoo at a shop in Fulham. I went on my lunch break from college and got a compass star, naturally on the lower spine!

What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you? For as long as I can remember I have loved alternative styling and the darker styles of fashion and lifestyle. I saw Cher in her ‘If I could turn back time’ video with her mesh body stocking and the tattoo on her behind and it definitely gave me food for thought! Also, my grandad had a few tattoos, I was so intrigued as a child by them. The twist is that he was Iranian so having them was very rare. He had his hands tattooed and his forearms and I just loved them. He had a heart with a serrated edge surrounding it on his hand which I always remember.

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Can you tell us about some your tattoos? I tend to have work done based on my mood like my Danielle Rose piece of a woman putting her red lipstick on. It’s a very feminine and dark, all rolled into one. Or when I researching and really immersing myself in John Willie imagery I had my bullet bra tattoo done and when I had green hair, I saw a flash piece for Halloween of a green haired witch on broomstick years ago by the lovely rose Whitaker which I had to have! This has cemented a firm friendship between us! Also my ornate dagger between my breasts on my sternum done by the insanely talented Clara Sinclair, combining again softness with an edge. Right now, I’m in to a lot of esoterica and also medieval oddities. I recently have a mace on my arm as well as creepy doorway, almost something you would see Nosforatu peeking out off! The next one I have planned is the hanging man tarot card. Adam ruff at parliament always gets it right!

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How did you get into your current role? Working for MAC has been and continues to be an amazing journey! I worked damn hard to get where I am coupled with respecting my colleagues and customers alike. I started as a supervisor and worked my up to my current role as retail manager of my Camden store. Working for a brand where you can be yourself, where actually, being yourself is celebrated is an amazing feeling to have! You do your best work when you’re being yourself!

Did you have to study or get any qualifications or have you worked your way up? I’ve worked in retail management for years. Since I was 17 I’ve been running stores and I’ve worked in a fair few brands for the past 16 years. I’ve always loved cosmetics, in fact been obsessed with them and creating and executing looks! I believe in hard work and that’s exactly what I’ve done to grow in my retail career. I’ve never trained in retail management but just got stuck in and learned from my mistakes and moved forward.

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What is a typical day like? A typical day for me is never the same twice! I have a great team of people I work with who all bring a lot of fun, creativity and personality to my everyday working life. I do the normal setting up of the store, organising and then see where I’m needed. I may be office based some days or on others, working the floor with my team, interacting and making customers happy through make up and having a good time with each other. It’s amazing to work with such a talented bunch of individuals and so great to be able to create looks and introduce products to our customers to make them feel amazing!

How do you dress for work? Do you show off your tattoos? How would you describe your style? For work we have an all black dress code which is great for me! I dress how I feel for the day. My tattoos are exposed depending on the weather really.  It’s great working for a company who don’t see tattoos as a barrier to executing your job successfully. I wear black all the time and I alternate between Doc Martens and Vans for my feet. Some would say slightly goth but I just dress in what I feel comfortable in!

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Do you find in retail people react more to your tattoos? I find that people are definitely drawn to me because of my tattoos. Where I work in Camden, a lot of tourists come in and ask about them. I think a lot of people are intrigued about body art if they haven’t got anything and working in retail makes it more accessible for them to ask questions rather than someone they may see on the street.

Do you have any advice to other people considering their careers when getting tattooed? The only advice I could give is maybe to start getting pieces in areas where you can cover them until you decide on a career. Unfortunately some career paths will be obstructed by visible work, although I do feel more and more leniency is being displayed in more traditional careers nowadays for visible work . Now I have a career with a great brand who accept and celebrate art and individuality, if I took the plunge and got something more visible it wouldn’t be a problem but just add to the diversity in image we have here!

Interview with John Avanti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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