Women & Children First

Published: 26 February, 2013 - Featured in Skin Deep 222, March, 2013

We’re always digging into every feature of the tattoo landscape here at Skin Deep. So we asked a few leading ladies to give us a snapshot of the industry from their perspective: do female artists really offer a different approach to tattooing? Do we even need to make the ‘male’ and ‘female’ artist distinction these days? Meantime, Chantale Coady got in touch about a realm we rarely get a chance to visit – that of the tattoo family, and what it’s like to have a child as a working artist.

Hannah Keuls - Gilded Cage

On tattooing…

“I don’t necessarily want my art to look feminine, I want it to be black, bold and linear. But I guess your character comes out in your designs!”

On female artists’ work…

“I think more feminine work is definitely done by women. I can’t think of any female artists who have a really gnarly, aggressive style. But it’s natural instinct perhaps, everybody’s style of working is a reflection of who they are, so naturally, yes, a female artist’s approach to a design might be more feminine.

“I get a lot of female clients because some people just feel more comfortable having a woman tattooing them. I had a client who had a horrible experience getting tattooed by this guy who basically pressurised her into getting something she didn’t like, and she felt completely overwhelmed by him. She came to me and said ‘can you please sort this mess out? I don’t ever want to go back to him’.”

On women in the industry…

“I guess more women are getting more heavily tattooed, whereas before it might have been more discreet; but then that’s absolutely the same for both men and women, as tattooing is so mainstream now.

“There are definitely more and more female tattooists. I think there are more female studio owners too – although that’s probably partly due to the fact that studios are popping up everywhere and it’s anyone’s game at the moment! But when you look at specific genres, at who’s on top of their game, it’s usually men. I don’t know why that is; maybe it’s always been male-dominated and women are still trying to fight for a space.

“But there are people like Nicole Lowe [of London Ink fame, and I Love Good Times studio] now and I’m hoping that’s going to keep going. It’s just evolving so much and people are pushing the boundaries so much, so hopefully it will become a level playing field with just as many female artists as male.”

 

Chantale Coady - Electric Vintage Tattoo

On parenthood…

“I know I’m not the only tattoo artist who has had to think long and hard about having a baby while working, so I wanted to share my experience. When I mentioned this to my friends, their own stories flooded in. Like Casey Baker, who told me about his son and said ‘the best part of kids growing up in this industry is that they won’t be so judgemental about the way people look. My son absolutely adored The Enigma when they met. While many other kids were scared of him, my son couldn’t get enough of being around him.’

“Or Robin Punky Lasky, who told me ‘my daughter has grown up in a tattoo shop and she loves the art. She’s always saying she wants to be a tattoo artist so she can pay her way through medical school; and this is a nine year-old talking. It’s great!’

“Having a baby was something I really wanted to do but was hesitant about. I had a number of concerns, like not earning money for a long period of time, and I questioned whether or not I would lose clients by being away for a couple of months. Then there were the usual worries like childcare, as I can work crazy hours.

“But then I saw Jo Harrison working a convention while heavily pregnant and that was it for me! If she could do it then so could I, and a couple of months later I was pregnant. Halfway through my pregnancy I was working at a convention too, although at that stage you couldn’t tell if I was pregnant or just fat – so I wore a sticker stating ‘I am pregnant, not fat!’”

On impending motherhood…

“When organising my time off I didn’t allow for the fact that things can go wrong in labour. I booked a month off and worked until very close to my due date, which I struggled with thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome and tiredness.

“Now, I considered myself a very organised person and expected everything to go as planned, but unfortunately my baby had different ideas. I had to have an emergency c-section and I had to take more time off than I’d planned. Luckily I had understanding clients who were OK with their appointments being pushed back; that was one of my original concerns dismissed!”

On getting back in the saddle…

“My first day back was a convention. Nothing like a bit of pressure! My husband, Joel, and my son, Ocean, came along. Being a new mum I didn’t take certain things into account; like how I would end up having milk leaking down my belly while tattooing; or having to keep making trips to the toilet to feed Ocean, which is not easy to do in a small cubicle. I think I soaked every wall in there! Ocean seemed to love the convention though, I think the sounds of the machines were comforting as that was the sound he heard most in the womb.

“As we’ve gone on childcare hasn’t been an issue as many childminders can do odd hours, which works for me perfectly. I’m also lucky to have a husband who loves the industry, and has more friends within it than I do! So he’s happy to carry our son around the conventions, meeting all the other babies and parents. It’s funny to watch guys that most people would be scared of due to their size and tattoos go all mushy over Ocean – I love the idea that he will grow up with all the other babies in the industry.

“Having my son was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m proud and lucky that he’ll grow up in our industry, which is very creative and loving. There’s no racism as everyone is accepted no matter what colour – and there are a lot of colours! My son is going to grow up amongst a kaleidoscope of people and cultures, and I couldn’t imagine anything better for a child.”

 

Emma Garrad - Emma Garrad Tattoo

On tattooing…

“My apprenticeship was a really old school style one; ‘don’t talk to other artists’, ‘people don’t like each other’… it was the old mentality. But that mentality is fading. I came away from that training knowing I never wanted to be like that, it was a gift in a way; it makes you appreciate the way it is now a lot more.

“I love the idea of helping someone create a piece that will allow them to express themselves a little bit more. And I think people are becoming more open-minded now to different styles and techniques, which is great.”

On female artists’ work…

“I suppose there’s a difference between masculine and feminine tattooing. A man might want to portray himself in a certain way through strong tattoos, and if you put that kind of artwork on a woman it wouldn’t look right. But if you put on something sexy, soft, flowing – something that brings out the curves of her body – it’s going to look much more jaw-dropping than it would on a man. The bodies aren’t the same, you’ve got to work differently with them.

“But I don’t know about the idea that women might tattoo differently to men. I’ve taught loads of people to tattoo, male and female, I’ve taught them all to approach it in the same way, and they all do. I don’t think it comes down to gender, I think it’s personality more than anything else. Some women are really horrible, and some guys are really soft. It’s more about energy, rather than men or women.”

On women in the industry…

“I’m not a feminist in any way, so for me, I never look at the difference between male and female artists. I don’t think there is one – it doesn’t enter my mind. I haven’t noticed there being more women or less women, it’s just ‘I’m a person and you’re a person’ and that’s it, really.

“The quality of tattooing has improved so much in the last few years and I think it’s maybe opened itself up to more feminine styles. Which is maybe why women are coming more to the forefront; or maybe it’s a fashion thing more than anything else?

“It’s an interesting point to debate. But the attitudes towards women have definitely changed; it used to be very male-dominated. I don’t know if it makes it more cool to go to a female artist, for some people, because it’s slightly more alternative than a guy doing it.”

 

Rachel Baldwin - Modern Body Art

On tattooing…

“My style is somewhere between traditional and new school – girly traditional. I don’t really class myself as anything; my work doesn’t really fit into any category.

“I got my first tattoo on my 19th birthday and then after that I just wanted to fill in all the gaps; as soon as I walked into a studio I knew it was what I wanted to do, I thought ‘this is amazing’. I’m so lucky to be working at Modern Body Art now, which is where I got my first tattoo done.

On female artists’ work…

“I definitely think you can tell, most of the time, if a girl has done a tattoo as opposed to a man. You can see the feminine side, and certainly they [the tattoos] look a bit softer.

“You do still get quite a lot of women wanting to be tattooed by a woman, but I also have a surprising number of male clients given that my style is quite cute! But I definitely have a lot of female clients who want something feminine, and that’s what I can do for them. My husband, Nick, he does strong, masculine tattoos – we’re very different.”

On women in the industry…

“It’s definitely changed in the last few years. You can be yourself, you don’t feel like you have to pretend for anyone. If you want to that’s fine, but it’s easier for us now.

“I think the reason there are more female tattooists now who are getting good, is that it’s easy for us to get into it. It isn’t the same male-dominated industry that it used to be. It’s a lot more open to us. And who wouldn’t want to get tattooed by a pretty girl in a nice dress? There are definitely more options for people!”

 

Who's the Daddy? - Jak Connolly

To give a male perspective on parenthood, Chantale invited friend and fellow artist, Jak Connolly (Ink Studios), to write about his experiences of being a new dad.

“I became the proud father of Linkin Vincent last summer. Having a baby with my better-half, Kim, is ultimately the best and most rewarding thing I have done.

“Being a tattoo artist definitely has some perks when it comes to fatherhood. When Linkin was born there were a few complications and Kim was bedridden, but with my job being so flexible I was able to take extra time off. I was extremely lucky that my clients totally understood and were happy to be booked in at a later date.

“When I did eventually go back to work I was gutted to be leaving my family, but at the same time couldn’t wait to get back to my passion! Plus, the hours I work mean I can spend a lot of important time with my son and watch him grow; certainly more time than a 9-5 office job would allow! In fact the other half of my job, painting and designing, I do at home. I feel most inspired when I’m around my family.

“The first tattoo convention we attended as a family was in Cardiff at the Halloween Bash. Working while the baby was there was awesome, but I found myself looking at him every five minutes while I was tattooing. As I was walking around the show with Link on my shoulders, he had a babygrow with fake tattoo sleeves that got a lot of people asking if I had tattooed him! Not yet: I’ll wait until he’s at least eight months old (only joking).

“A good friend, Max Pniewski (Southmead Tattoo Studio), was working there too. When I took Link over to meet him, he stopped tattooing and started showing me photos of his kids. A few months before it would have been pictures of tattoos. You can imagine how funny it looked as two bald, tattooed men stood there going all mushy over their children. Linkin then met Ocean, Joel, and Chantale Coady’s little one – it’s nice to know that my son will have a tattoo convention buddy as they get a bit older.”

Credits

Text: Russ Thorne

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