Tagged: Things and Ink magazine

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: New Tattoo Blues

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer,  freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. This is the second of many posts to appear on th-ink.co.uk, in which Natalie will be telling us about her life in tattoos. Read the first in the series here

I woke up with a deep crushing regret for the tattoo I’d gotten the day before. Thoughts of laser removal and cover ups running through my mind. Don’t get me wrong it was an utterly beautiful tattoo by a talented artist, it just wasn’t the tattoo I thought it was going to be…

These thoughts and feelings weren’t all that alien to me, nor did it seem to others too. Only days before my friend had confessed that details of her latest addition had been lost in translation with an Italian artist. I too bore in mind the first large and highly visible tattoo I had, a rooster stretching from ankle to knee. Bold and unapologetic, dark against my pale skin. It was something on me, rather than part of me. Yet as it healed and settled into my skin, became smooth to the touch, my eye grew used to seeing it everyday, my body and gaze accepting it as part of me.

Cockerel by Max Rathbone 

As the day went on I found myself going through a series of emotions, I felt like I was betraying my artist by admitting my concerns, whilst feeling ashamed of myself for ending up in this position. Why hadn’t I put across any specifics that I wanted to the artist, before letting someone etch this onto my skin for the rest of my life?

In truth I was exhausted that day. It was the third time in a week I was getting tattooed. For the past few months I’ve gotten tattooed on average 2-3 times each month. You could say I’d become a bit blasé about the whole thing, when you have most of your body covered in tattoos another small one really doesn’t make that much difference – or does it?

I’d decided on the design based on the artists flash and asked her to do something similar. I didn’t see the design till the night before, again nothing unusual – in fact for all my other tattoos I’d not seen the design until right before it was to be tattooed. I choose artists because I like their work and I trust their judgement. But of course you are the one who will carry this art on your body for the rest of your life (possibly). I’ve never been too specific in my tattoo requests, I’ve given indications  and let the artist get on with it.

So why was I so upset about this tattoo? This was the first tattoo I’d gotten which had meaning, real meaning on a personal level.I have a Japanese bodysuit on the go and lots of Western traditional tattoos so yes of course in the symbolical sense all my tattoos have some meaning, however this one held personal meaning. It was my heart on a plate that I couldn’t explain away. It was my soul laid bare in a great big heart on my thigh. I realised I wasn’t worried about explaining the tattoo to anyone else.

Tattoos by Kelly Smith, Holly Ashby, Max Rathbone & Paul Goss 

No, the shock was in admitting to myself what I had actually done. This tattoo I got because of my boyfriend, not for him, not a gift, not an unyielding declaration of my love. He knows that without the need to permanently mark it on my body. I got it for myself. As a reminder not to run away when things get tough.

Now the swelling has gone down, the blood and plasma washed away, my new tattoo somehow fits.  I like to trace the tattoo with my finger whilst it’s still raised. If I had the chance to alter it now to what I’d previously imagined it to look like, I can safely say I wouldn’t – a tattoo that would have sat alongside my others, small and hidden, no that doesn’t seem right now. I adore this tattoo, its mine, its part of me. It might not have been the tattoo I first expected, but it’s definitely the tattoo I needed.

Post script: My tattoo is now healed and I utterly adore it, the overly emotional state passing in two days leaving me puzzled at how I could ever question such a perfect tattoo. I think we underestimate our bodies sometimes and the endurance we put them through in life. My advice, if you choose an artist whose work you adore and you trust them you can’t go wrong. Getting a permanent addition to your body is a big deal, let yourself be emotional about it but also give yourself time to adjust to it.

Interview with a tattoo artist: Holly Astral

We chatted to 31-year-old tattoo artist and jewellery maker Holly Astral from Hertfordshire about her painting style, her inspirations and the art shows she has been involved in. 

Do you have a background in art? I studied art at school and college before doing a degree in model making and special effects. With regards to painting and drawing I’m self taught, just figuring things out as I go along.

How did you get your apprenticeship? Why did you want to become a tattooist? I am trained as a model maker, and spent the first ten or so years of my working life prototyping toys and products for manufacture. To cut a long story short, I realised I wasn’t in love with what I was doing any more and decided to make a change. I love to paint and draw, and I had been thinking about expanding this. I wanted to learn to tattoo for years, but it was always a kind of distant far away dream. It occured to me that the only way to learn would be to make that dramatic change and immerse myself fully into learning to tattoo. I was working for myself at the time, so I stopped saying yes to model making jobs, closed my toy making company and got cracking with finding an apprenticeship!

How long have you been tattooing? Just over a year, but it’s gone so quickly! This year has flown by. I am loving every minute of it!

What kinds of things do you like to tattoo? I love tattooing animals and flowers the most so far! Flowers look so lovely flowing across the body. I am still just working on smaller, simple pieces right now.

How would you describe your tattoo style? I’m still just getting started, so my style is still very much in the developing stages. I’d say it’s pretty girly and some times cute but not too cutesy-poo. And more spacey, dreamy and magical when it comes to my art. In terms of painting I love to paint spacey pin up style ladies, and I hope my tattooing takes me in that kind of direction once I’ve built my skills up further to do larger pieces.

What mediums do you use? Oil paints mostly, sometimes acrylics. I always add some gold leaf to each painting, too. I like a bit of sparkle

Where do you get your inspiration from? Magic, nature, films – I love fantasy films and anything with ghosts or aliens in it. I am also really inspired by the vast loneliness of space, it kind of depends on how I’m feeling that day. Usually I start by sketching away in my sketchbook, I draw every single day, and then I see which ones start to flesh out and feel real to me on their own. My favourite part of any drawing is adding all the tattoos and long swishing hair.

Can you tell me about the gallery shows you have been involved in? I’ve exhibited at galleries in Europe and the USA, including The Sho Gallery Wales, Forbidden Planet London and the Japanese American National Museum in LA.  A lot of the shows in the states I sent my work over, but I always prefer to go to the show and getting to meet all the other artists involved. My art has taken me all over the place, all around England and Wales, and LA. I used to run my own line of collectible plush toys called Cavey, I produced a small numbered run of them each month in a different design, a bit like beanie babies. For Cavey’s birthday each year I would put on an art show where other artists and toy designers would contribute their own interpretation of the Cavey platform. The show was held at a pop up location each year in London, but one year I put the show on in LA. That was a lot of fun!

In April I put on my first solo show at Toycon in the UK and I’ve also curated shows at pop-up locations in London and LA.

Were the pieces you created for the galleries based around themes? Often the show will have a running theme that the artists are encouraged to work to, and I really like to work this way. Having a little bit of direction as to what to produce really gets the creative juices flowing!

A favourite show of mine was ‘Dragons’ which took place in Wales. Each artist was given a blank plastic dragon toy to customise, and everyone made their own interpretation of he platform. I made mine in the image of Falcor from The Never Ending Story. It was such a fun night!

Where can people buy your art?  I have a small online shop where I sell my silver jewellery. My artwork is available to purchase privately by emailing me at hollyastral@gmail.com

Holly is currently doing guest spots in Hertfordshire, if you’d like to get tattooed by her email: hollyastral@gmail.com

Follow Holly on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr for more artwork and tattoos.

Are matching tattoos a curse?

With so many celebrity couples getting matching tattoos these days, our editorial assistant Rosie asks: ‘are matching couples tattoos a relationship curse or a way to further cement a loving bond?’

The latest celebrity couple to get matching tattoos in honour of their love for one another is Ellie Goulding and Dougie Poynter. ‘Skullin ell’ was the phrase Poynter used on his Twitter account to show the world his new ink.

But looking at other celebrity couples it seems that matching tattoos are a type of relationship curse. For instance Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, Chris Brown and Rihanna, the list could go on and on.

By getting a matching tattoo are you adding a sense of dooming permanence to your relationship or is it merely a way to document an important part of your life. Is there a pressure that your relationship has to go the distance because of the ink in your skin?

I hope not as my boyfriend of six years and I have two tattoos that we have gotten together. Although the pieces are similar in design they are not entirely matching, and unless we tell people no one really guesses that the images are part of a pair. Our tattoos are of our first pet we got together, Elsie the hamster, and we bought each other the tattoos as Christmas gifts. I knew I wanted to get something from Charlotte Timmons at Modern Body Art in Birmingham, and as she does animals so wonderfully, Elsie was an obvious choice.

To me it makes no difference whether or not we have these tattoos, they do not control our lives and impact our future. They represent the fun we have had together, the things we have done as a couple and moments in our lives. I can look at them and remember the exact time we had them done nearly two years ago and why.

Would you consider getting a matching tattoo with your partner? Have you already got one?

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: My Life In Tattoos

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer,  freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. This is the first of many posts to appear on th-ink.co.uk, in which she’ll be telling us about her life in tattoos… 

I got my first tattoo aged around 16, three four-leaf-clovers circling my outer wrist. A badly executed inking of a pretty little doodle I’d drawn. Aged 32 I decided after living longer with it than without it, the time was right to have it covered up with something that didn’t scream ‘crap teenage tattoo’. The ink was faded and it covered easily with a thick black traditional snake. That was the last of six teenage tattoos to be covered up. From the ages of 16 to 20 I had acquired the odd small tattoo over the years, growing up in the 90s I had earned my tribal and inaccurate Chinese kanji. I couldn’t tell you now what had prompted me to get tattooed back then, to be honest I probably couldn’t give you a reason as to why I get tattooed now. Perhaps it was some kind of rebellion, an attempt at carving out my own identity, a desire to be ‘tough’ and ‘cool’. Neither can I remember anything about the pain, I remember getting all of the tattoos, the shops, the designs chosen but nothing about the pain.

My second tattoo was a tribal-style design in black, green and purple on my lower back, they call them trap-stamps these days, I don’t think they did at the time, if so unbeknownst to me. I got it on holiday in Gran Canaria because a girl in the next hotel room really wanted to get a tattoo but was too scared to go alone. She got something similar on her foot and screamed the place down whilst holding my hand so tight I thought the bones would shatter. I remember leaving a wet bum print on the stool I sat on from my still wet bikini. The design was just a flash off the wall, I wonder how many others got that same tattoo? Do they still have it? Do they still love it? The tattoo ended up raised in scars as I disregarded the tattooist’s advice and went swimming in the pool right after having it done.

My third tattoo was another holiday venture, this time in Aiya Napa, Cyprus. The studio was called Alien Nation and I had walked past it every day for two weeks.  On the last day of my holiday the artist was sitting outside sketching tribal designs, I stopped and chatted to him. He altered the design he was working on to fit the curve of my foot. It was beautifully done, sharp and bold. He made me walk home barefoot warning of the damage the strappy wedges I had on would do to my new tattoo

My final tattoos of that time were three clumped together on my right thigh, a string of bad Japanese possibly Chinese, ignorant as I was symbols, a red and orange butterfly and a floral vine. I know that the butterfly and vine were the last but can’t remember where the other came in now. Done by the tattooist who had done my first tattoo, a guy called Buzzard, who I think I had a bit of a crush on due to his tattooed and long haired rough cut image. Nice guy that he was, draw he could not and the tattoos were really only scratcher standard. Patchy, wobbly lined and badly coloured. Did I mention the inaccuracy of the characters? I found that out thanks to the guy down the local take-away. It was meant to spell out my name, but in fact said nothing of any sense – I later would tell people it said ‘Won Ton Soup’.

Roses on foot by Kelly Smith

Anyway the butterfly and vine was another sketch I had drawn myself, again I was disappointed at the badly tattooed result. Yet I lacked the knowledge of how and where to get better tattoos from. As I entered my twenties the tattoos stayed with me, but my desire to seek out more faded. Tattoos were expensive and as a student clothes became my only luxury purchase. I never really thought about my tattoos, every now and again I might get asked about them but that was that. They didn’t bother me, they were just there.

A good while after university I found myself living in Sheffield, to me there seemed to be a new tattoo culture emerging, one where tattoos were pieces of art not small marks collected here and there. I came across some old books on Japanese tattooing and the historical tattooed ladies which captured my imagination and were the first prompt in me deciding to go and get tattooed once more. At first my sole desire was to have the bad Chinese (as it turned out) writing covered up, being surrounded by a lot more international students had made me slightly paranoid about it. The artist I had in mind was booked solid for a whole year, so I left my deposit and embarked on a series of laser removal to fade the tattoos on my thigh before the cover-up started.

Cover up by Paul Goss

I wonder now had I not had to wait for this tattoo would I still have ended up with 50% of my body covered in ink. If I could have had that tattoo right away would that have quashed my desire? Or would I still have been compelled to gain more – most likely. Either way during this time I scoured books, magazines and compiled online searched. Researching styles of tattooing, different artists and the history and meaning behind tattoo symbology. During my waiting time I decided to treat myself to just one more tattoo – at this stage I was still in the mind-set that I would only ever have discrete tattoos. I ended up with a huge Sailor Jerry style wolf head and rose on the back of my left thigh. This was the start of me getting four traditional tattoos by the same artist around that thigh. I can’t tell you when or how exactly my attitude to tattooing and tattooed women changed during that time, but my next stage was to embark on a full Japanese style back piece. I fell in love with the idea of having this vast amount of work invisible to everyone but those I chose to reveal it to.


Cross-Stitch Tattoos by Eva Krbdk

Turkish tattoo artist Eva Krbdk from Daft Art Tattoo creates beautifully crafty cross-stitch tattoos. From up close the designs are made up of tiny crosses, the tiny brightly coloured stitches also look like pixels, but look at the image from a far and you will see a colourful design, much like any cross-stitch embroidery.

Follow her on Instagram for more amazing tattoos

Channel 4 Tattoo Fixers

The new series of Tattoo Fixers on Channel 4 is set in a pop-up tattoo parlour where three tattoo artists transform unwanted and regrettable tattoos. The team work on a mixture of clients who wish to change their embarrassing, badly done, rude and crude tattoos. People come to the studio and show the team the piece that  they want covering, while giving a short brief and each artist draws a tattoo design and the customer picks the one they want to get tattooed.

The team includes:

Jay Hutton who manages his own studio in Cheshire, where he tattoos realism and black and grey work on celebrity clientèle.

The wonderful self-taught Lou Hopper of King of Hearts London, who was one of the artists tattooing at our recent Feminist Flash day.

Sketch who specialises in traditional bold colour tattoos from Reppin Ink London..


Watch the trailer for the programme below.

Missed an episode? Watch the series here.

Please note that this is a blog post about the programme, we are not actually running the shop. Please get in touch with the artists personally if you have any questions.

Image from Tom Barnes


My Anxious Heart Photographic Series

Katie Joy Crawford has created a series of photographs titled My Anxious Heart to capture and expose her struggles with anxiety and depression. 

Katie explains on her blog that:

My Anxious Heart explores and identifies how emotionally and physically depleting general anxiety disorder can be from a personal perspective. As I have carried anxiety for the majority of my life, I’ve chosen to photographically depict this battle and its constant presence. Since it is within my own mind where anxiety is born, I have decided to interpret my roles as both instigator and victim through self portraiture.

Each portrait depicts a part of depression that Katie struggled with, each accompanied by a caption to explain the altering affects of her mental state.

“My head is filling with helium. Focus is fading. Such a small decision to make. Such an easy question to answer. My mind isn’t letting me. It’s like a thousand circuits are all crossing at once.”

“A captive of my own mind. The instigator of my own thoughts. The more I think, the worse it gets. The less I think, the worse it gets. Breathe. Just breathe. Drift. It’ll ease soon.”

“A glass of water isn’t heavy. It’s almost mindless when you have to pick one up. But what if you couldn’t empty it or set it down? What if you had to support its weight for days … months … years? The weight doesn’t change, but the burden does. At a certain point, you can’t remember how light it used to seem. Sometimes it takes everything in you to pretend it isn’t there. And sometimes, you just have to let it fall.”

Follow Katie on Facebook for my photographs and updates on future projects. 

Edward Bishop: Knuckles

Edward Bishop is a 41-year-old photographer from Brighton and author of Knuckles. The book houses a collection of photographs  depicting hundreds of knuckle tattoos. We chatted with Edward to find out where he got his inspiration and what he would have tattooed on his knuckles…

Where did you get the idea for the book from? What inspired you? The idea for the book came out of a small exhibition of the project that I put on last year in Brighton. The project was five years old and I felt that the time was right to take stock of the body of work and to do something with it. I started selecting prints for the exhibtion and the construction of the book happened organically alongside this.

Did it start out as a small project or did you set out to create a book? Five years ago my photography didn’t really involve people that much. I wanted to start shooting people’s knuckles and purely by chance the first person I approached had a couple of musical notes tattooed on his knuckles. As soon as I looked at the photo I realised that the project was going to be about documenting knuckle tattoos.

The book became a natural part of the whole project. I knew in my mind as my collection grew that at some point there would be a book, but I didn’t know what form it would take until I started bringing all the photos together.

I worked with a fantastic designer called Lucy Davidson who helped me design the layout of the book and the logo. I had another friend Sak who made the Tattoo Generator on the website where people can go and make their own knuckle tattoos and post them online.

Do you have a background in photography?  My background is in the film industry, but I moved over to become a full-time photographer about 8 years ago. I work mainly in the music industry as a portrait and documentary photographer, I also shoot small documentary films from time to time.

What drew you to knuckle tattoos? As I mentioned it was that first set that drew me in. I was hooked as soon as I took that first shot.

Do you have tattoos? People always ask when I take their photo and I say that I live vicariously through the tattoos of others. I don’t have any tattoos, but every year I visit the Brighton and London Tattoo Conventions I come a little closer to getting something done. Knuckle tattoos have a nickname of ‘jobstoppers’  for obvious reasons, but I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where this wouldn’t count against me, so who knows, maybe next year…

Where do you find people to photograph? On the first day of the project I managed to get 5 or 6 sets just within a couple of streets in Brighton. So at the end of that that I returned home and already had a small body of work for the project.

I spent the next few months wandering around Brighton and London collecting knuckles,  and then the Brighton Tattoo Convention happened and I realised that this was a much better way of building a collection of tattoos.

I continue to shoot knuckle tattoos for a second edition of the book.  The love and support for the book has been amazing. I’m quite blown away with the reception it gets.

Which knuckles have been your favourites? Having shot 450+ sets, I tend to see the same ones come up quite often. Ones that stand out for me are usually ones that make me smile, like BADA BING, SOMERSET and SANDWICH. I saw MOUNTAIN this year at BTC, which really resonated with me. My all time favourite, and this one I don’t mind how many times I see it is STAY GOLD from the Robert Frost poem ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’, quoted in film The Outsiders – “Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold”. ‘Stay gold’ meaning holding on to the innocence of youth.

Is their a particular phrase you’d have on your own knuckles? WIDE OPEN is an expression used in the film and photographic industries to mean that a lens is at it widest aperture. I guess that would be suitable for me, given my background.

Get your hands on a copy of Knuckles by Edward Bishop here and see more inspirational knuckle tattoos, you never know you may even see your own! 

Royal College of Art graduate develops a personal tattoo machine 

Jakub Pollág, a Royal College of Art graduate has developed the Personal Tattoo Machine which allows users to create markings on their skin to be associated with memories and meanings, rather than art. “Personal Tattoo Machine democratises the tattoo industry,” he said. “It puts a tool used only by a limited group of people into the hands of enthusiasts, who are seeking an alternative and unique way to permanently mark their meaningful memories onto their skin.”

Pollág has some homemade tattoos on his own skin that he executed with a needle and ink, but he wanted to try and make this diy experience more “user friendly” and accessible. The same way that prisoners fashion tattoo machines out of found objects is what influenced Pollág’s design for his own machine.

Pollág allows only one thickness of needle and a much slower speed within the machine so that it allows the user to focus on what they are drawing…hopefully enabling more precision.

 So far the machine prototype has been used to create 30 tattoos on 20 different subjects. However, Pollág still recommends visiting a professional parlour for more accurate designs. “This machine is not aiming to replace tattoo parlours,” he said. “It’s there to offer a more personal option. If you want a realistic portrait of your, let’s say, cat, you should still go to a tattoo parlour and not use this machine.”
Pollág is presenting his project at this years RCA graduate show in London which ends today, July 5th.


Music Review: Brand New

Our guest blogger is inventory buyer, freelance writer and creator of Typewriter Teeth blog,  Amber Carnegie. This is the first in a series of music review posts in which Amber will be documenting her experiences at various music shows. First up is her review of the band Brand New who played at The Glee Club, Birmingham earlier this month… 

Earlier this year Brand New announced a small amount of intimate dates across the UK, in the minutes that they sold out, we were held in a sort of  limbo. Were we about to experience something that you can never find in an arena or witness knee deep in mud at a festival?

Mic-stands wrapped in flowers stood patiently waiting on the stage in a nod to The Smiths, before the band shook them as they opened with ‘Mene’, Brand New’s first recording in five years. Taking the lyrics ‘we don’t feel anything’ as our own before progressing into ‘Sink’ as if working back through their discography. In a raw instant the crowd was exposed and swept together into a close moment that could only be embraced in a venue like this. ‘Gasoline’ then followed the same fervent route, the distorted end constructed the quieter moments into ‘Millstone’.

For everyone in the room there is a track or an album that has pulled them through something or become a soundtrack to a period in their life. ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me’ illustrates something to me and that is what is so perfect about this set, to everyone in the crowd there was a meaning. But the moment that Brand New continued with ‘You Won’t Know’ is one that as fans we could share.

‘Sic Transit Gloria… Gloria Fades’ erupted into ‘Deja Entendu’, these favourite songs that still generate the same responsive passion that we all felt the first time we heard them more than a decade ago. Tracks that now stir emotional drunk sing-alongs at club nights and never fail to draw a crowd. ‘I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spin Light’ and ‘Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ fittingly continued the teenage angst choir that had taken over the crowd with:

The kind of song that makes people glad to be where they are, with whomever they’re there with.’

Brand New persistently deliver incomparable shows, no matter where they play. With such a tight discography it is impossible to find a set list that doesn’t ensue an ardent atmosphere between the band and crowd. We were treated to an incredible full band version of ‘Brothers’ or ‘Untitled 03’ which is something I had never witnessed live before. Hearing a tracks like live for the first time really enhanced the night, making it stand out against all the other live shows I have been to.

‘Jesus Christ’ marks the final track to be performed by the entire band, winding down from an impassioned and perfect set, filled with everything that gets missed in a recording studio. Stirring every sentiment of nostalgia and of being in the moment.

Closing the show saw Jesse Lacey take the stage and lay every emotion out there for ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’. Usually at this moment the audience take the track for themselves,but in this close-knit venue Lacey clutched onto his words in an emotive and pained repetition with altered lyrics and a room silent in awe.

‘I’m just jealous cause you’re young and in love.’