Posted on February 01 2020
I am a 23 year old self-taught tattoo artist and university drop-out living in Brighton, England. I am soon to be starting a residency at a tattoo studio in Brighton. I have been tattooing on and off for 4-5 years and have been taking it seriously for almost 1.
Was Hand Poke tattooing something you went to after machine tattooing, or has the hand poke style always been your preferred method?
After. Kind of. I was gifted a couple of tattoo machines while studying illustration in University by a friend and I fucked about with them a couple of times to mixed results. I got burnt out on uni and dropped out, I didn't draw anything for around a year, so the machines got buried away. It was only after then that I got into hand poking. I still dabble in machine tattooing, I just bought myself a new Bov Williams custom liner and I'm having a lot of fun with it.
What was it like the first time you put needle and ink to skin?
During Uni I just remember sitting in our flat's kitchen and taking it in turns to scratch shitty drawings into each other. I don't really remember what it was like but we all knew we were shit and it was good fun.
Have you always been a tattoo artist?
I've always drawn. Since I was 16 I wanted to pursue a career in freelance illustration but never considered being a tattoo artist until the end of last year. Kind of just fell into it. I've also been working in food & drink since I was young. I currently do a few bits and bobs for a distillery in London, a mobile cocktail events company and a small craft cocktail bar here in Brighton.
What stigma have you faced as a self-taught tattoo artist?
I have been very lucky. From very early on I've had support and kind words from the guys at Death's Door Tattoo (@deathsdoortattoo) in Brighton - Lou Hopper especially (official_louhoppertattoo) and from other self-taught tattoo artists. I've had support from customers and followers when I've needed somewhere to tattoo also - I'm currently tattooing from the flat of two girls who answered a plea I posted on instagram looking for a new location to tattoo from after my neighbour reported me to my letting agent for tattooing from my own flat.
Recently my good friend and brilliant artist Tizane (@this.is.no.invasion) was put down by local shop owner for working as a self taught artist. She was told that no one would ever want a tattoo from someone that was self taught. If you look at the face of contemporary tattooing right now we have some very big names who are all self-taught artists. Non-traditional styles of tattooing are becoming more and more popular. Tattoo culture at the moment is akin to art collecting; it is an easy and accessible way for a person to own a piece of art from an artist they like. 'Ignorant' and self taught tattooing is what is allowing people access to this non-traditional style of tattooing.
Do you have any memorable/ funny stories you can tell?
When I first seriously started getting into and practicing my hand poking I was doing a lot of free tattoos which I advertised on my instagram (shoutout to Patrick @european.son.420 for being a massive help to me when I was starting and still now). I was having a lot of strangers come to my flat and not all of them were cool. This dude messaged me saying he wanted to get his mate a tattoo for his birthday. Seven of them showed up and the dude who I was tattooing had no idea where he was being taken nor was he aware of what his mate had chosen from him to have tattooed.
So Single Needle Tattoo Kits, I believe that home tattooing is inherently risky, but people have, and will continue to tattoo themselves, therefore making a safe and affordable kit is the way forward... What's your take on this?
I think for those looking for a way into tattooing but can't or don't want to go through the apprenticeship process or hobbyists they are essential. Treat them like a Warhammer starter set - y'know where you get one brush, five paints and five guys and very precise instructions on what to do. Once you nail it and it teaches you the basics and sets you up with the skills for the bigger sets. I was lucky I had other tattoo artists around me to teach me what is right and wrong but a lot of people don't have that luxury so a safe and affordable kit is a massive help for those who want to or have to learn on their own.