Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

27 Jul 2015


Well I suppose it's been a long time coming and Im not sure why I haven't talked much about it before but some things just hinted at me this week to talk about Tattoos and my personal story with them.

I only started to get tattoos a few years ago and I have no plans whatsoever to "stop there" as people say, I'm simply going to get what I want, where I want and when I want.

My first tattoo was on my 54th birthday, I just woke up that morning and thought 'its time to throw caution to the wind' and having made it into my fifties being a privilege that some are deprived of, I wanted to celebrate life by growing old disgracefully. In some respects the first tattoo just needs to be gotten out of the way otherwise you pontificate for too long.

The first one was not good, I won't say I regretted it because I never think you should say that about a tattoo, whether its good or bad it does say something.  Anyway I did everything that you read not to do and went to some dodgy bloke at the seaside who had no bookings (not surprisingly), but I thought that if I got him to do a bit of flash (what they call the designs on the wall or in a book) that we couldn't go wrong.  His work was shoddy and he only had four colours so it wasn't great and within a month I had researched and researched until I was blue in the face, to find what I wanted to do next and with whom.

I was going to just post photos of my tattoos but as it's quite hard to photograph them, let alone photograph your own, I decided to incorporate them in artwork, as they are works of art, so as a photographer I made these pictures using an overlay of two photos taken by me.

It was by complete luck that I found Amy Williams on Pinterest, I saw a piece of her work, tracked her down in Sheffield, and discovered that she worked in a style that completely suited me.

So heres rule number one : no matter how far you have to travel, even if its to another country, make the travel part of the plan for working with the right tattooist. It's not a cheap hobby, nor should it be, you are paying a skilled artist, one who has worked an apprenticeship and takes their work very seriously. 

Because of the distance between us we talked via email about what I wanted and I sent Amy photos and ideas for her to vibe on. I knew this was going to be a memorial to my father and a story of our lives together, showing all the opportunities he gave me of learning, knowledge and travel.

Starting with a pocket watch and watch key because my father collected them, (he repaired and rebuilt beautiful watches and clocks throughout his life, taking me to Camden Market before it was fashionable to look for old broken watches that could be returned to their former glory. I also like Victoriana and antiques so this seemed a good idea.

During my visits with Amy we talked about where to go next with the design, and I would give her a theme and tell her all the things I thought should be shown, travels to India being high on the list. We represented these travels to the sub-continent with peacock feathers.

By the time I returned for my next appointment Amy would have drawn the designs and we would play around with the placement and size. 

This Dala Horse is quite small and we squeezed it in to show my love of Sweden and because I have a collection of the wooden painted folk art horses.

During this time I did start to think more about what I was doing and to be perfectly honest it is a midlife crisis kinda thing, I can't say Im particularly enamoured with the ageing process, so rather than looking at my once lovely body and wondering where it all went wrong, I decided to re-invent myself with art and ink.

Lesson Two: it depends on your age. Im glad I didn't get inked when I was younger because I probably would have chosen themes that weren't so relevant and also because the tattoos themselves become blury with time, however, the tattooist can refresh and cover up old ones with such skill these days and I really don't judge anyone's choice for ink. So lesson Two is about choosing the right person again, it's my experience that the best tattooists are those that say 'no' to requests and stick to it. I think this level of responsibility is key.  They may say no for many reasons, because the design won't look good, may fade quickly or wear off, or perhaps because they just don't think its a good idea to get your boyfriends name on your face! Their advice is imperative for a good design and if you have a good relationship with them then you will know they are right.

I have several birds, I know a lot of other people who do as well, birds just look lovely so why not. The significance of the Swallow on sailors was to show their sailing experience, for me it was my years of travel by air in both my job in the music business which took me around the world, and with my parents, who from an early age took me to very interesting places. We rarely had conventional holidays, instead we explored Europe in the car and the most memorable of all my lifetime trips with my Dad was to the USSR in 1978.

Amy Williams now works in Newcastle despite me trying to bribe her to move closer to me!  After reading Things & Ink magazine I came across my next tattooist Tracy D at Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour. A little closer to home this time.  

Tracy has such incredible skills and loves a challenge so I knew she wouldn't let me down when I went to her with the idea to draw for me Russian dolls holding cameras, cats, squirrels and with folk art flowers. We have tied these all together with Rosary beads, butterflies and swallows. The Rosary beads being a nod towards my Convent school education and the butterflies, like my birdcage with open door, are my freedom to fly free with no ties. 

I really like working with lady tattooists, as I find it easier to communicate my ideas with them. Tracy D just seems to love her job and her enthusiasm is infectious for trying out ideas combining her clients interests and style. At the moment we are talking about some Indian patterns onto my hand maybe and perhaps an art nouveau stained glass window on my thigh. 

Im also making a pilgrimage to Salon Serpent in Amsterdam where Guen Douglas once worked (she has inked a little cottage on my leg which looks like my house). Salon Serpent is owned by the legendary Angelique Houtcamp. It will be on a walk-in day which means you don't get to pre-plan, however, if you have done your research right then you will have a good idea of the type of work they will have drawn up for the 'on the spot' walk-ins. Angelique has done so many things I love but just lately Ive seen some tribal and line-work hearts which would fit in a little space somewhere.

I feel rather like I did in the Brownies where you collect badges for doing things. After Amsterdam I wonder where next? 

this is a piece of art nouveau jewellery that I own, given to me by my Dad

I find a great place to look at tattoo art and artists is on Instagram, there you can find the style that suits your personality and track down the perfect partnership for your tattoo journey. I get a lot of strangers talking to me about my ink, marvelling at the colours and the workmanship and asking where they can go to get it. Then sometimes people say, "I don't like mine, I asked the bloke to do this and he did that", on further investigation its often been that they have just gone to the nearest tattoo parlour. What you need to remember is that like all artists, tattooists specialise in a certain style, don't assume, like I did for my first tattoo, that every tattooist will carry the full range of colours for instance.

Basically, do your homework and you won't be disappointed. If you feel intimidated then walk away and find someone else.  

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