Tagged: tattoos

Oh Bones Illustration

25-year-old Brit is an illustrator, writer and musician from London. We chatted to Brit about her dark gothic archaeology inspired drawings and her tattoos…

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Inspired by Things&Ink Brit created this self portrait just for us…

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Do you have a background in art? How and when did you start drawing? I don’t have a background in art at all, I began drawing at university when I was studying archaeology – In the labs we had to draw the artefacts and bones. It was there I noticed that my drawings were good and not going so badly.  I then graduated and moved to Amsterdam to do an MA in archaeology and I started drawing for an hour a day and thought, this is much better than being in a library studying. So I didn’t do the MA and continued drawing instead!

What inspires you? Being an archaeologist inspired me the most because I spent years researching the human psyche and behaviour throughout time. My speciality is death and burial, and I guess that often comes across in my art work. I also love poetry, which inspires my art quite a lot and along with every illustration, I write a poem.

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What medium do you use? How do you create each piece? I use both digital and non-digital. I love using fine line pens and Indian ink to create my work. I like things to be imperfect because that way you seen the human in it.

What kinds of things do you draw? Usually I will draw people, disembodied limbs, plants – anything really. I almost always draw around a poem or song I’ve written, to give some visuals to my other artwork in my music and writing. I like it all to be one big art piece – audio, visual and written.

Describe your style? Tailored, black, kind of like an old fashioned 1920’s boy!

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Do you admire any other artists, do they influence your work? I usually admire artists whose work is nothing like mine! It’s nice to clear my head of anything remotely like my work now and again, so I really like the work of Gordon Armstrong and Robert Saeheng they’re really great. But I also like old school artists like Patti Smith, her word work really inspires me in my own poetry and in-turn in the art I create around the words.

Can you tell us about your tattoos? I don’t have too many tattoos, definitely under 30 but most of them I love, even though some of them are definitely bad prison style ones. I have some plants, pinky promise hands, trouble making pigeons, dead fish, skulls, love letters, words. Everything! My first one was was just a small one on my foot in Hebrew, nothing too interesting!

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How do tattoos make you feel?
My tattoos mean a lot, I’m sure a lot of people say that. Because most of my work is visual, it’s a way that I express myself, so I really do try and add some depth to the things I get tattooed! But sometimes you have so many tattoos there’s only so much meaning behind all of them – some don’t mean a whole lot, but there’s always a good memory behind getting it tattooed.

Do you do commissions? I do commissions, I do ink originals and screen prints for sale on my shop, but I also do a lot of album cover work, tattoo designs and logo designs.

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Where can people buy your art? They can head over to ohbones.com and find my shop that way, I will be stocking up for the summer soon, so there’ll be some new T shirts and badges!

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Got Sleeves

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about how getting her arms tattooed was a big deal…

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I never thought I’d get my arms tattooed. It had never been in my plan. But then again when I first started getting tattooed I never thought I’d be even close to heavily tattooed, even when I started to get large scale pieces I never foresaw the next. For me getting tattooed has been a process, my tattoos are something which evolve- a collaboration between my own ideas and those of the artists I work with. Even now I don’t have a final vision in mind, I still don’t know if I will end up with a full body suit or not. I have a very wait-and-see attitude I guess. I know I will get two half sleeves and my sides tattooed to connect my back piece into more of a traditional style Japanese half-body suit. But my legs are a random mix of different styles, do I keep them looking separate or do I sleeve them?  I’m going off the point; the point of having my arms tattooed being a big deal for me.

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I think it’s a huge deal as even though over half my body is tattooed I still don’t feel that I look that heavily tattooed, not from the front anyway. Clothed most people wouldn’t even know I was tattooed. The arms are so visible though, there is no hiding. I have over thought my arms a lot, possibly too much which is why it took me until the age of 34 to have them done. I had also decided that I wanted them to stop at the top of the arm and not go over onto the shoulder and certainly not the chest. So now I have the outline down of my first sleeve, it stops at the elbow and creeps over my shoulder onto my chest. Yeah about that, once my artist had drawn it on, we tried a few different ways of laying it out; it’s just what looked best. I didn’t give it a second thought. Now it’s done it just feels right and I’ve no idea why I was stressing out about it so much in the first place. When I first started to get large tattoos it would take me a while to get used to them, suddenly having something alien on my skin. Now with each tattoo I feel a little bit more like myself with each addition. My sleeve is only half done but it feels like it has always been there.

Alana Macleod

22-year-old Alana Macleod, who creates beautifully coloured and patterned clothing is currently studying textiles in Bournemouth. We chatted to Alana about the process behind her designs, her tattoos and how, by sharing her own story, she hopes to help others struggling with eating disorders… 

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How would you describe your style, both how you dress and what you create? My style is very colour focussed, and is an exploration of variety of textures and shapes. In terms of my dress sense, I like to wear structural, interesting shapes, and with my textiles work I like to create these shapes with a combination of materials and embellishments. I feel as though my work and my style can often be very connected, as for me it is important that both express an element of fun, with the outcome never being too serious. I think fashion should be fun.
What influences your work and who inspires you? It sounds cliché but I really am inspired by things that I see around me, whether that’s an interesting place or a person. I think when you have been around textiles for so long, you automatically take inspiration from things and it’s hard to escape, so my influences can come from anything. I think Instagram is also such an amazing, inspiring platform; we can use it to discover people who interest us and are doing really cool things, and I think it’s so great to have that at our fingertips.

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Can you tell us about the process behind your designs? All my outcomes start with mass amounts of drawings and paintings, then there is a lot of cutting, sticking, photocopying, until I start to develop some ideas for prints or surfaces. I use a combination of screen print, digital print, embroidery, and hand embellishment; there isn’t really an order to doing this within my practice, things just kind of develop naturally and I just follow what I feel is working at the time. I always start with a plan when I am designing, but the creative process always changes.

Do you sell any of your designs? I’m currently not selling my work anywhere online, however I’m in the process of starting up an online store! I also take commissions if anybody is interested.

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When did you get your first tattoo? What was it and do you still love it? Well technically my first tattoo was a horrific hand poked diamond on my  which I had done at the age of 13! And I absolutely do not love it, neither did my mother at the time, ha. I waited to get my first professional tattoo at the age of 18, which were some bows on the back of my legs. I was going through quite a rockabilly phase at the time; looking back, they are definitely something I would not get now, but they also remind me of a certain time, and that’s why I will always like all of my tattoos regardless of whether my style has changed since.

What inspired you to start getting tattooed? Throughout school I had always experimented with a lot of styles and subcultures, all of which were quite alternative. I always wanted to stand out with my appearance as a teenager, and was always getting in trouble at school for it. I think my love of tattooing definitely developed from my urge to be different. I listened to a lot of punk music from a young age, and I always admired the musicians and the whole aesthetic. I also think that my creativity has had a big part in my interest within tattoos- art class was the only that I engaged in fully within school and college, and when I grew up and realised that I could display this creativity on my own body, it just made sense to me.

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Do tattoos influence or alter how you feel about your body? Have they helped you with feelings of self confidence? Yes definitely- when I have experienced difficult times with my body and my confidence, having my tattoos makes me still feel comfortable within my skin regardless. I’m much happier to show my body, or even look at my body, knowing that I have this collection of beautiful art, whereas previously I may have struggled to see any positives about myself.

On Instagram you’re quite open about your struggles with an eating disorder, why do you think it’s important to share your own experience? I think it’s really important because of how alone you can feel when you are caught up in an eating disorder, and I really want to remind people that they’re not alone. I remember when I was at a really awful point in my life, and I felt that nobody would understand and that my behaviour was so alien. I was seeking help from eating disorder ‘help’ forums, as I had nowhere to turn, but these websites are bad news and an awful trap that is even more difficult to get out of. I hope that speaking about my issues openly on Instagram will not only keep people away from these sites to seek reassurance, but will also let them know that the people that they follow and admire also have their own struggles and that it is a lot more common that they may have realised. I think the word bulimia has such a stigma and a misunderstanding around it, and there are a lot of misconceptions. I didn’t actually realise that I was bulimic for quite some time, I’d convinced myself that my over-exercise, restrictive diet and purging ‘bad’ foods was just me being healthy and normal. I’d love to help people realise that obsessive behaviours aren’t actually normal, and to help them become aware before they’re in too deep.

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Do you think social media has helped you or hindered you in your progress and self love journey? I have mixed feelings about social media and it’s impact on my eating disorder. In the early days, I think Instagram was definitely a contributor towards my obsession with my weight- I was feeling a lot of pressure to keep up my ‘healthy lifestyle’, which essentially was making me much more ill. However, when I eventually publicly opened up about my disorder, the amount of positive feedback and genuine kindness I received from everybody was so warming and lovely, and I think it’s amazing to have that kind of support network. I’ve been open about my struggles online for just under a year now, and it definitely has helped with my self-love since I started therapy. Some days I will be having a bad day with my body image, but to receive such lovely praise from people who have known my struggles is really special.

Have tattoos played a part in your recovery? I  say they have helped my recovery, but they have definitely made me still feel like ‘me’, when I’ve had low times where I’ve been unsure of who I am. During recovery I have gained some weight again, and my tattoos have helped me with loving myself still too. I can’t imagine to have not had them throughout this journey, they’re the one thing that have always given me another layer of confidence, and I’ve always been able to express myself through my tattoos.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I’m continuing with working on my legs next, I have some exciting plans to try and make them feel much more completed, ankle cuffs, some blacking out and some ornamental work within the things that I have already!

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Viewing Pleasure

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about how she feels she is always fully dressed because of her tattoos… 

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I’ve been continuing to think about viewing and how we control others seeing our tattoos. When I think about my tattoos I see them on my body as whole. When I’m thinking about new tattoos it’s how they will look and fit onto my body in its entirety, not what will look good peeping out from my clothes. Thinking more about this I realised that even though I share a lot of photos of my tattoos the only people who have actually seen them all in their entirety are my partner and my artist. What anyone else sees is fragmentary, tiny snippets of a fuller story. Bodysuits and large area tattoos are designed to work in harmony with the body and to be viewed as a whole akin to the naked body. In this sense, tattoos whilst a visible medium can remain highly private. As a lecturer and researcher in fashion and identity this is something I have become fascinated by, how we dress and how having tattoos may affect this.

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Before I had tattoos I would never have worn short dresses, I now crop off the bottom of my jeans so that my ankle tattoos can be seen and I am always on the hunt for yet another backless dress. I used to dress quite outlandishly, obsessed with Vivienne Westwood my clothes were always a talking point and I certainly stood out in a crowd. I’d walk for miles in skyscraper heels and think nothing of it. These days I’m more often found in ripped jeans and dirty old Converse. I wear more of my boyfriend’s clothes than my own, over size t-shirts and plaid shirts. Perhaps getting older has had some impact on this; I will always opt for comfort over fashion now. I save my money for tattoos rather than designer shoes.

How would I dress now though if I woke up tomorrow without any tattoos? I look at photos of myself without the tattoos and I feel like I look naked. I feel like a part of me is missing. Now my skin is dressed I don’t have the need for fancy trappings. I feel I can dress simply- because I am always dressed by my ink.

Interview with Rachie Rhatklor

27-year-old tattooist Rachie Rhatklor works out of Blue Lady Tattoo in Melbourne Australia and creates beautifully fierce tattoos. We chatted to Rachie about the strong women who inspire her and her own sassy women tattoos… 

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing for eight years now.

How did you start? What did you do before? I was living in Auckland, New Zealand at the time. I took a gap year after high school working at a cafe. I really wanted to start tattooing, so I quit and focused on drawing and painting flash for months and months. When I felt like I had some what of a portfolio to show (looking back now it was so bad), I approached as many tattoo shops as I could find. I was shit scared and the tattooists I spoke to were definitely intimidating.

Eventually one guy, Clint Jones at Blue Lotus Tattoo, told me that he couldn’t pay me and he already had an apprentice, but that I could hang out a couple of days a week. I showed up everyday and worked my ass off and eventually the other apprentice was let go. It was a fairly old school apprenticeship. We didn’t use pre-made needles, Clint made them every morning and taught me how to. I would do all the cleaning, emails, scrubbing tubes, setting up and breaking down, draw all his tattoos and stencil them by hand and more, plus trying to squeeze in learning what I could. That apprenticeship was tough as hell but I really appreciate it all now. That’s how it should be.

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Do you have a background in art? Art was my strongest subject in school for sure. I didn’t really care about anything else at the time.

What drew you to the tattoo world? Drawing came naturally to me and I had some outside influences like some family members and friends who were getting tattooed. It always fascinated me, it’s one of the oldest cultural traditions around. I also wanted to be able to make a living off of what I loved to do, and I was really drawn to tattooing because of every other challenge it involves. There’s a lot to learn, it never stops either.

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Describe your style, how has it changed? I would say it borders on traditional because of the way it’s put down – bold lines and simple shading and colour. But I’m trying to push different images, using references from sources other than traditional flash and where I can, from my own head.

What do you like to tattoo and draw? I think my absolute favourite subject to draw is women. Every aspect is always different, the hair, the face, I never get bored with them, they’re always fun to tattoo. I like to draw tough, sassy ladies and anything that ties into that theme.

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What inspires you? Strong women, I am lucky to know so many of them! Especially my mum who had the hardest childhood and still managed to raise three kids, work full time and now rides a Harley! She’s a big inspiration, which is why I think I like to portray strong women in my artwork. Also, vintage playboy, cars, movies and beauty advertisements, old tattoos, nature, classic hip hop & soul, 90’s girl grunge bands and my boy Jordi who is the hardest working person I know and influences me everyday.

What would you love to tattoo? I love tattooing from my flash of course, ladies, man’s ruin themes etc. I still enjoy traditional flash too. I think as long as there’s people wanting to get tattooed I’m happy to do anything.

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Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned?  I’ve just come back from a guest spot in New Zealand at Two Hands Tattoo. No other plans set at this stage, but I would love to get over to the States, Asia and back to Europe in the next couple of years!

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Most of them are from trades with good friends I’ve been lucky to have worked with over the years. You guys rule!

Interview with Tan Van Den Broek

27-year-old tattoo artist Tan Van Den Broek works out of Dark Cloud Electric, a private studio in Fitzroy, Melbourne, and creates beautifully colourful neo-traditional tattoos. We chatted to Tan about her love for hard working bees and a dirty olive colour pallet… 

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How long have you been tattooing? It’ll be my sixth year of tattooing this August, I completed an apprenticeship over three years in two separate studios. I’m currently working in a private studio in Fitzroy, Dark Cloud Electric, with Dean Kalcoff.

What did you do before? Before tattooing I was at university completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Drama. Performance and art have always been an important part of my life, so it seemed fitting to do a degree in it. While studying I was waitressing (classic part-time actor job) and continued to waitress over the weekends while apprenticing. I would work five days a week at the studio, weekends waiting tables, drawing every other moment.

How did you start? Straight after I graduated uni, I applied for an apprenticeship in a local tattoo studio that was just opening up. He already had an apprentice, who had a fancy tattoo nick-name and lots of Kohl eyeliner, but I dropped by the studio with my folio of work anyway. He set a two year apprenticeship for me, I spent the first six months just observing and cleaning before I was allowed to tattoo.

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Do you have a background in art? Yes, I was a really quiet child and so I escaped into drawing imaginary worlds and what was around me; lots of flowers, animals and vegetables! I grew up on a organic vegetable farm, and both my parents are avid gardeners. I took on life drawing classes and later completed my drama degree doing as many visual art subjects as they would allow me to do. I stayed in most nights during my adolescence drawing, I guess nothing much has changed.

What drew you to the tattoo world? Music and my sister. Most of the bands I was listening to when I was younger had tattoos and their cover artwork always made me start brainstorming my first tattoo ideas.

My sister got her first tattoo under age over new years eve. She lied to our parents saying it was semi-permanent and that the pigment would fade away after a year. After a year rolled by and more tattoos were added, my parents clued on. Every tattoo she got, I just kept thinking that I could’ve drawn that better for her and made her happier.

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Describe your style, how has it changed? My style is neo-traditional but more on the bold, colourful traditional side. I like bold lines balanced with finer details.

Initially I wanted to be strictly a traditional tattooist, I loved the work produced by Andrew Mcleod and Jaclyn Rehe (still do) and loved the aesthetic. Tattoos that look like tattoos. Bold and badass. Vintage photographs of men and women adorned with ropes, ships, butterflies, women got me going! I quickly discovered I would over complicate my traditional drawings and I could not restrict my colour palette. I liked soft pastels and dirty olives. Neo-traditional was a better fit.

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What do you like to tattoo and draw? Easy! Animals, flowers and Birds! Lately I’ve been tattooing lots of Native Australian flora, which can be a challenge but I LOVE the challenge and the colours of our flowers.

What inspires you? Beautiful gardens, climbing roses, old buildings, lakes, lead-light windows, crystals, Scandinavian towns, autumn leaves, caves and good coffee.

What would you love to tattoo? Monkeys, I love their expressions. Big cats, toucans/horn-bills, fishing birds, flowering fruits and more native flowers.

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Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? I’m heading back to Hobart for a week in June, then my next convention will be New Plymouth NZ Tattoo & Art Expo in November. Then Three Eyes Convention in Adelaide in February 2017. I’m currently planning a trip for Aug/Sept, fingers crossed I’ll be heading to United States or back to Europe. I miss Vienna and Göteburg.

Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Sure, my left thigh, left sleeve/hand and left side of my neck was tattooed by my amazing co-worker Dean Kalcoff. My sleeve is inspired by my love of Art Nouveau and 1920s fashion. I’ve got a big orange rose on my neck, my hand has another rose and a Mike Pike Teacup machine. My left thigh has a rabbit being constricted by a snake.

My chest was tattooed by Emily Rose Murray, fuck I was lucky to jump in on a last minute availability! That piece makes me feel really beautiful, big soft peony roses and a little bee. I have three bees tattooed on me (so far), I love their meaning of female strength, hard work, self sacrifice and the importance of teamwork for a greater good.

I have four tattoos from my dear friend Clare (Clarity) Hampshire, one is a vintage nurse with red poppies for my G’ma who served as a head nurse here in Melbourne during the second World War treating the returned soldiers and my G’pa who passed due to WWII PSTD. I have only one matching tattoo with my best friend Jen, it’s a little teapot with the words “Tea For Two” We always catch up over a cuppa, and it’s helped us get through the more difficult times in our lives. Tea just seems to help, you know?

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Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Public Property

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about the stir visible tattoos can cause…

Us Brits are a predictable bunch, first sign of a little sun and we are stripped down to our shorts and vests before you can say ‘ice cream van’. Every year the warmer weather seems to jump on us out of nowhere- no warning until one day you are walking home from work in your faux fur coat as everyone else passes you in flip-flops. Lament as I did in my last column about winter clothes hiding our tattoos; I had forgotten what a stir tattoos can cause. In true Brit fashion I jumped at the chance to go to work today without my woolly tights on, legs bare and if I’ll admit a bit cold! I was walking around enjoying the vitamin D when I heard it ‘look at those tattoos’! The girl actually gave me a sheepish smile as she realised she hadn’t been as discreet as she might have though and I couldn’t help but laugh. But it did bring back to me the reminders of how other people find our tattoos to be something of their business. Suddenly my skin that had been protected by jeans and thick jumpers was exposed and public property.

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This got me thinking about who we get tattoos for and how we control who sees them. Back, torso, bum these are all quite private areas which we generally conceal on a daily basis. For me anything above the knee is generally hidden away from sight unless I consciously choose to wear something like shorts or a backless dress. I am fully aware that if I chose not to cover my tattoos I will draw attention, wanted or not. As I’m sat writing this in the park a guy comes over and asks if he can look closer at my arm/ back tattoos – I’m wearing a vest top. I say sure and we have a quick chat about whether they hurt and where I got them done. He says I’m a ‘tattooed wonder woman’ and bids me farewell. The more visible tattoos I get the more I have to consider how I control my body. I’m not sure I’m ready to be in position where I can’t choose to hide my tattoos, not yet anyway. I salute those who do.

Rock n Roll Soul: Emma Inks

Emma Copland is a 28-year-old Scottish charity support manager and blogger living in London. We chatted to Emma about how she started her blog emmainks.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I had a secret blog that was a scrapbook of my life but it was October 2014 when I officially started Emma Inks. The combination of living in London and my passion for travel meant friends were always asking for recommendations so I started promoting my posts, hoping that other people might find my ramblings useful too.

What kinds of things do you blog about? My blog is a reflection of me so it is a bit all over the place with posts on: London life, travel, vegetarian food, style, beauty and any other random thoughts I have.

How would you describe your style? I am not one to follow trends; I just wear what makes me feel comfortable, which often includes lots of leather, ripped denim, vintage rock t-shirts, black, and leopard print. I often end up looking like I have just been thrown out of an American dive bar. My style is mainly influenced by rock music, movies, Cher and people I see on the street.

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What inspires you? I am inspired by many things, but mainly travel and people who are not afraid to be themselves. I love people who make their own path instead of following the crowd or doing what is expected of them.

Do you have a favourite designer or artist? There are so many talented artists; a few of my current favourite tattoo artists include Kirk Jones, Kelly Violence, Dani Queipo, Henbo, Rebecca Vincent, Cally-Jo, Hannah Pixie Sykes, and my gorgeous friend Nikki Nairns. They are all high on my list of people I would love to be tattooed by.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo just after turning 18. It was bought by my two best friends before I went on my first solo backpacking trip and was a meant to be a heart/thistle representing our friendship and my Scottish roots.

These days it looks more like a club stamp I have not washed off and has a scar right through the middle of it after I broke my wrist snowboarding. It is definitely not a piece of art, but it reminds me of an amazing time in my life, being young and reckless so I don’t think I will ever get it covered.

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Tell us about your tattoos? I started getting tattoos at 18 and went with the tribal style which was common at the time. I had my aforementioned club stamp on my wrist and a hand drawn sun on my back within the same year. The back tattoo was meant to represent my backpacking trip around South-east Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, though I still like it I am thinking about getting the Buddha in the centre covered up as I don’t want any religious symbolism in my tattoos.

When I was a poor student I couldn’t afford new tattoos but I did plenty of research and started to get into more traditional, colourful pieces. I got my anchor by Frank Paradiso in Tattoo Peter, Amsterdam’s oldest tattoo shop. I loved the style and vibrancy so much I got my second traditional tattoo by his colleague, Bill Loika, at Brighton Tattoo Convention. You could tell Bill has been a tattoo artist for years as my swallow inking was super speedy, yet beautifully executed.

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A year later I promised myself that I was just going to look at the artwork at the same convention but after seeing Adam Cornish’s flash I couldn’t resist and got the rose on my shoulder.

The most recent piece was done by Harry Harvey at Vagabond in East London, the arrow was my idea but Harry took it to the next level and I was so pleased with the final design.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I definitely want many more tattoos, I know that I want to continue with a few more traditional pieces on my right arm but I also want to start on some more detailed blackwork on my left leg. I would have more right now but unfortunately money is in the way of my grand plans.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Yes, I would say so. I love having a range of art by different people on my body.

What reactions do your tattoos get?  I have had a mixture of positive and negative reactions to my tattoos. I think mainly people are just inquisitive so I really don’t mind answering their questions, even though they often get repetitive. The one which I get asked all the time that does get on my nerves is “What does your boyfriend  [who has no tattoos] think?”. It kind of implies that my body is not mine to do what I want with and also that tattoos make me unattractive. It is never meant with malice but usually has an undertone of disapproval. People’s reactions don’t really bother me as I love my tattoos, and that’s all that really matters.

Interview with Arianna Settembrino

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to Arianna Settembrino, who works out of her personal studio Skinwear Tattoo in Rimini about what inspires her and how she sees today’s tattoo culture…

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You were one of the first women to stand out in the tattoo world, not just here in Italy but in the world. How did you get to where you are now? I’m very proud of what I have become. My path, somehow, has always been characterized by great commitment and great sacrifice.
I am very self-critical, but very determined. When I was young, I can remember, being given the chance to work in a studio as an assistant/apprentice, and how I devoted all of myself to this job, making the most of everything I was required to do by my mentor.

If you weren’t a tattoo artist, what would you be doing now? Another great passion of mine is education. I would definitely like to work in the school environment, with particular attention to adolescents. I strongly believe in the value of rehabilitation and recovery- I would have probably worked on a project of rehabilitation and reintegration of young people when they leave juvenile detention centres.

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Do you believe that every tattoo artists chooses their tattooing style based on the characteristics of their own personality? It is absolutely true! The style of a tattoo artist and the characteristics of their work are an external representation of their character and of their essence. I would say that on one side we choose the style, and on the other one, the style chooses you.

Who and what inspires you? Is there any recurring themes in your art?
My sources of inspiration have always been tied to classical iconography of traditional tattoos, with bits of Victorian style and religion thrown in. I’ve definitely found my identity and style, and my own self-discipline and awareness have helped me to do this. I love anything form of art that is very graphic, futurist and Gothic or the brilliant works by Bosch- these intrigue and enchant me, even the music.

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What has changed since you started tattooing? What would you like to change and what would you never want to change? It has changed a lot. The tattoo world reflects significantly the society in which we live in and nothing is as it was then.

Tattooing has evolved so much, especially where technology and equipment are concerned. Social media has elevated tattoos to new heights, and more and more people are getting tattooed because of it. But on the other hand tattoos being so available has generated the false belief that a tattoo is easy- people think they’re cool and simple to create. It takes respect and awareness to be a good tattooer, nowadays no one respects the art or their customers. There are so many ‘famous’ tattooers that do not always know the meaning of ethics and professional conduct, and tattoo their face and hands with a carelessness that leaves me astounded. It is an already saturated environment, and in a way it is so widespread that it has lost value. This job is not for everyone, you have to earn it!

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Do you have a personal mantra that you live by?
My personal mantra is “I am present”. I use it every day, not just at work as I need to keep in touch with myself and stay centred.

What do you think of people who call themselves tattoo collectors? What I think of today’s tattoo collectors is that many of them are hurrying to fill up every little blank space, getting tattooed only by those branded and trendy tattooists. Their collection is not a true representation of a story, it hasn’t grown over time, with no life experiences instead it is a mere status symbol- a pre-packaged design. A visual impact that really makes me sick.

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 If we think of the first tattooed people, years and years ago, we understand that tattoo was seen as something wild, forbidden but fascinating. Considering this, how do you see the future of tattoo culture? If once tattooed people were seen as freaks and people paid a ticket to the circus to see them up close, well, today I would say that we have gone the other way. Today is just the non tattooed person to be something exceptional. It is both good and bad, nowadays many people are getting tattooed because everyone else has one! I hope the future of tattoo art will be positive and that it will flourish, I hope that quality will win against quantity.

Nicole Leth: Sex and Ice Cream

23-year-old Nicole Leth is an artist and designer based in Kansas City, Missouri. We chatted to Nicole about her self love journey and her new store which will celebrate the work of hard-working female creatives… 

How would you describe your style? My style is Katy Perry meets Marilyn Monroe meets Jeremy Scott meets Yayoi Kusama meets tween girl in America all wrapped up in a Miami in the 1970’s colour palate.

What inspires you? I am inspired by day to day life and everything that goes along with it. When I first started designing I pulled a lot of inspiration from past relationships and break ups and now I like to view my work as an autobiography or visual diary where I can talk about things I’m experiencing and going through as a 23 year old woman in the world today. I like to translate these ideas and emotions through traditional textile processes, imagery from my diaries, and colour play. I guess to sum it all up: I’m inspired by the notion that everyone has a valid and important story to tell regardless of their age or gender.

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When will your new shop open? How have you made this happen? Do you have a background in retail?  Ah! My shop is opening on May 6th! ( Eeeee! I’M SO EXCITED!) I’ve been working my way up in retail jobs for the past four years and just recently quit all my other jobs to do Sex + Ice Cream full time. How did I make this happen? Hard work. No bull shitting. I don’t take days off — when I was working my other jobs I would work there for eight hours and then come home at night and work on my own stuff for eight more hours, fall sleep on a pile of sewing supplies, wake up and do it all over again.  I think that sometimes people underestimate what it means to be an artist, let alone have your own business, and make it work. I think its super important to set goals for yourself and be your own support system.

What can people expect to see in it? I’ll be selling my pieces that I’ve designed over the years. Everything that is for sale on my online store you’ll also be able to buy in my shop! I’ll also be selling one of a kind items that I’ve hand sewn and hand painted the fabric of. Also, I’ve brought in a lot of work from some of my favourite brands and artists from around the world! Lots of ceramic pieces, zines, handmade panties, patches, pins, and all that jazz. I like to think of it as a badass collective of work made and designed by extremely talented female makers.

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Are there any artists that you’ll be collaborating with? I think collaborating is one of the most important and stimulating parts about being a practising artist. I’m working on a million different projects: doing surface design on clay pieces from ceramic artists, creating handmade candles in candle holders with a candle girl, working with photographers and video graphers to produce digital work, and with writers on zines!

On your website you say that your garments are your personal diary, what do you mean by this? I mean it in both a very literal and theoretical way. A lot of my pieces have imagery or doodles that have been scanned directly from my diary pages and printed on the fabric. Other pieces I literally treat as my diary and hand draw, write, or paint on the fabric to record what’s going on in my life, what is exciting me or making me sad. Designing garments is a way for me to express my words in a visual way.

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Do you see yourself as a feminist? Yes.

How do you hope to empower and inspire other women? I chose to start designing and creating clothing because I had gone through a bad break up and wanted to do something to empower myself and reclaim the person I knew I was. That was a pivotal, breakthrough moment for me and led me to discover something I was truly passionate about and a future that I wanted for myself. Most importantly, it made me realise how I strong I could be on my own, for myself. I think every women should feel that way — like they are capable of attaining anything in the whole goddamn world. I think the thing that a lot of women connect to in my work is the way I tell stories openly, without shame.
Recently, I’ve also been doing a lot of community work with young women’s organisations. I’ve done a few empowerment workshops where I tell my story, talk about relationships and ambitions, and create shirts with the girls.

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Is self love and body positivity important to you? Is it something you want to share? Yes. Its one of the driving forces behind my work and the stories I tell.

Can you tell us about your own self love journey? My self love journey has been a long one with lots of ups and downs. My childhood was filled with endless crash diets and gym memberships. At my thinnest I’ve weighed 120 pounds and at my heaviest I was over 200. I’ve been in relationships that were so tormenting I lost 50 pounds and I’ve been put on medicines that made me gain it all back. It was hard to have a healthy and accurate relationship with my body because it felt like something that was always changing and that I had no control over.

It took years and years and years but over the past two years especially I have developed an intense love and acceptance for my body. It feels really good to finally be content. I think its important to realize and understand that your body is something that cannot be labelled. That your health and self love is not something that can be determined by someone else. That your body is the one thing that has been with you since the beginning and helped you get through every hardship you’ve endured. That your body is beautiful and perfect as it is at this very moment in time.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? Which was your first, do you still love it? My first tattoo is a big feather that turns into birds on my lower back. My father passed away when I was 17 so it was something I got for him. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of tattoos — all of which have personal meaning to me. My tattoos act a lot like a diary as well — I get them to record exact moments in time, experiences, feelings that I never want to forget. I have a portrait of my cat Sprinkle on my forearm (she was the first pet I ever adopted on my own, she’s handicapped and the most loving cat I’ve ever had). I have a few matching tattoos with people who I love. I have a diamond tattooed on my ring finger (my love for myself will always be the most important, I will always belong to myself). I have tally marks on my hand counting how many people I’ve truly been in love with in my life (right now there are two, I hope to add more to it someday).