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Claudine Julien

Posted on October 09 2017

Claudine is a freelance lettering and handpoking artist based in South Florida. She has been tattooing for five years and has exclusively been doing handpokes for the past three. She grew up with a passion for art and expression, which led to her fascination with tattoos. When Claudine isn’t busy drawing letters or stabbing flesh, she manages a DIY venue/gallery that she started out of a warehouse bay in hopes of providing a safe space for other young creatives in her area to express themselves.

Was Hand Poke tattooing something you went to after machine tattooing, or has the hand poke style always been your preferred method?

I started learning with a machine first, and then dove into the world of handpokes. My apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to learn all about skin and sterilization, and soon enough I just took that knowledge and did a bunch of research on machine free tattoos throughout history and ways that people are continuing the practice today.

What was your apprenticeship experience like?

Pretty interesting, to say the least. I learned how to tattoo from an old man who I randomly met at a flea market. He had been tattooing for over 20 years and had learned how to tattoo himself in prison. A war veteran with a very interesting life and many stories to tell, he devotes his time to teaching people like me how tattoo for free, so if we ever ended up on Shit Alley, we can at least have a trade that we can travel with and still be able to support ourselves. Super grateful for that chance encounter.

What was it like the first time you put needle and ink to skin?

The first tattoo I gave someone was with a machine, it was someone I didn’t know and there really was nothing special about the process.

The first hand poke I did was on myself. In 2014, I was living in an artist commune in North Carolina and was pleased to see that one of the other artists had brought along their tattoo kit, which she made available for me to use. One day when I was alone, I went ahead and drew something small on my hand and set up the machine. I started going in and actually couldn’t do it. So the line I had was a bit long enough to look like an incomplete tattoo and some of the other artists had agreed that I needed to figure something out. The next day, I went ahead and grabbed just the needle and some ink and just started poking away at it until it was done. It was a lot less intimidating without the buzzing of the machine and the pain was little to none. That was when I knew that I wanted to make something out of doing handpokes.

Have you always been a tattoo artist?

At heart, I guess, yeah. I used to spend so much time watching shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink just mesmerized. Back then I never thought of being a tattoo artist but I just thought it was so damn cool. Art has always been apart of my life, for sure, so it was just kind of fitting that the worlds merged the way that they did. No complaints.

Do you have any memorable/ funny stories you can tell?

In 2015, my second summer at the art farm, I became the resident tattooist. I was asked to do a piece for a young kindergarten teacher from Vermont. She was a petite, tatted up woman with the most bubbly personality who wanted a tattoo that said “Folk the System” - on her butt!

So during our session I asked her what exactly “Folk the System” meant and she replied:

“Folk the System… it’s like Fuck the System, but instead, it’s about trying to create change through community and grassroots and love. And I want to get it on my ass so that when people are fucking me they can also be thinking about social change.”

Fast forward a couple years later and now I sport my own “Folk the System” tattoo.

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 absolutely agree. Tattoos outside of tattoo shops have been around long before us and will continue long after we’re gone. Nowadays there are a lot more resources for people to do their research before they begin but there’s still room for infection and error if you grab your nana’s sewing needle and try to sterilize it with a lighter. I never tattooed this way and was lucky enough to live close enough to a tattoo shop that actually did sell me new, sterilized supplies when I was ready to experiment.

It’s kind of like organizations that give addicts clean needles. They realize that unfortunately, people are going to shoot up regardless, so at least give them something safe to do it with, because otherwise its likely they will use a shared or broken needle.

IG: @claudine_julien


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