Apprentice Love: Lucy Alice

Posted by Admin in th-ink on 05 25th, 2019

Here at Things & Ink we like to share our love for finding new tattooists and support those who are making a name for themselves in the industry. Lucy Alice is a tattoo apprentice and true cat lady, who tattoos out of Cat’s Cradle Tattoo Studio in Rawtenstall, Lancashire UK. 

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How long have you been tattooing and how did you start your apprenticeship This is a super long story, so I’ll just attempt to keep it short and sweet. I’ve been tattooing just over a year now at Cat’s Cradle. I have had a few apprenticeships here and there before this one though. I started an apprenticeship when I was 18 and had another after that, but unfortunately both didn’t work out due to other commitments. I’m 24 now so it’s been a long journey but totally worth it. When you want something this much, you have to work for it and accept that it’ll take some time.

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What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? I’ve always been into art, since I can remember. I’d spend my Saturday job money on paints and sketchbooks every single week without fail. I never knew what career path I wanted to take until I was 17. We have two hair salons in the family so it was almost compulsory to go into the hair business. It was only until a customer asked what I’d like to do eventually, when my colleague said she could see me being a tattoo artist. So here we are!

How does it feel being a woman in the tattoo industry? To be honest, I haven’t had too much experience whilst tattooing. I’ve been extremely lucky with my clients, they’ve all been amazing. So that side has been great so far. Whilst apprenticing at other studios, I do believe woman are treated differently. I get told far too often that I’m too nice and therefore get taken advantage of frequently. I’m really lucky to be in a studio now in which I feel equal and taken care of. And let’s not leave out tattooed women in general! The looks we get, the amount of people that grab your arm to “take a closer look”. Not forgetting the “what about on your wedding day?” speeches from the older generation.

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How would you describe your style? This is always a difficult one for me. I’d say traditional with a little crazy spin. I love drawing faces on anything! Using wacky colours for animals that aren’t technically that colour (*ahem* pink). I draw a lot of cute bits and bobs but still love old school traditional. Muted colours mixed with brights are my favourite colour palettes.

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What inspires your tattoos? Are there any artists that you love? My cats. End of. I say every day that I just flipping love cats! I currently have five so they give me a lil’ inspiration now and again. My all time favourite artist is definitely Jemma Jones from Sacred Electric. I get tattooed by Jemma when I can and have followed her work for years. She inspires me on the daily and she’s just a lovely person in general. Some other artists I absolutely love are Harriet Heath, Gemma Carter and Kelly Smith.

What do you love to tattoo and what would you like to do more of? I absolutely LOVE tattooing cats. Big cats, small cats, they’ll all do. I also love tattooing cherubs, babies, moons, clowns, lady heads, any animals. Basically if it’s cute, I wanna tattoo it!

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How does tattooing make you feel? Including the tattoos you create and the tattoos you have on your own body. It’s a crazy feeling when you really think about it. The fact that people enjoy my work enough to have it on their skin forever. It’s incredible. The pieces that I have on my own body make me feel so much more confident. I’ve collected pieces by all of my favourite artists and couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I love that when I get tattooed, people recognise pieces by different artists. It’s nice to know that they have perfected their own styles enough to distinguish it amongst others. That’s what I’m aiming for.

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Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray: Tattooing for Mental Wellbeing

Posted by Admin in th-ink on 05 13th, 2019

In this post Dr Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray discusses the important relationship between her mental health and her tattoos…

Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that I speak only for myself and my own experiences. I do not generalise or speak for anyone else. I also do not prescribe or recommend things that I do. If others find some common ground or connection with things I say, it brings me no little joy.

Although I have been a writer for Things & Ink for years, in the printed issues and then occasionally online for the blog, I would like to introduce myself here in a more personal way and using three key existentially descriptive phrases. I am an academic: I have a PhD in philosophy, and I teach in Women’s & Gender Studies at a university. I am a tattoo scholar: I have written about and researched tattoo history, philosophy, and culture for about a decade, and I have been getting tattooed for roughly 24 years now. I live with depression and the lasting effects of PTSD: I have Dysthymia, what is also called high-functioning depression, and I was diagnosed in my 30s while being treated for PTSD.

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I’ve had depression since I was a teenager. It went undiagnosed because my outward behaviour didn’t fit the accepted stereotype of ‘depression’ in the 1990s. It was difficult for medical professionals to see it in my 20s and early 30s since I had completed successfully grad and postgrad education, I had a busy teaching schedule, tons of side projects, friends, and a smile on my face. What they needed to understand was that the overachieving, the grueling workaholic attitude, the hyper perfectionist punishing mentality, the desire to be constantly busy with work or to never sit in silence, was in fact the evidence of my struggle. Away from public eyes, I barely slept, I drank to quiet the chaos and darkness in my head, and I was emotionally numb and yet utterly raw. I thought about dying all the time, and then felt guilty about it because that would mean I’d fail to get my work done and as a result let others down. I was very good at hiding what I was, I had perfected it over years, that is until PTSD knocked my legs out from under me. That’s when my façade cracked and my issues came oozing out. The therapist I was sent to saw through me immediately, she helped me get my diagnosis and begin the process of sorting out the mess I was.

While going through all that old, heavy baggage, the buried trauma, and my bad habits, one of my older coping strategies became a focus for our discussions: tattooing.

Over 24 years I have been asked many times by friends, colleagues, and passersby on the sidewalk why I get tattooed. Most of the time, especially with strangers, the answer ends up being something like: “Well because I like it,” or “It’s a meaningful experience and empowering act of self-expression for me,” or sometimes when I feel cheeky I say “I really liked colouring books as a kid, and I wanted to be one when I grew up”. These are all casual answers that move the conversation along and don’t get too deep. For Things & Ink I’ve written articles on the relationship between tattooing and positive body image and the quest to redefine beauty for myself, and these can get pretty personal, but the truth is I can go deeper.

I’ve never spoken about the other reason I get tattooed, that it’s a part of my mental health strategy.

I will openly admit as a teen I was a cutter and I engaged in activities that damaged my body physically or put me at great risk to. When reflecting on this many years later in therapy, I came to realise that I was doing these things to myself because the pain I caused allowed me to stop thinking about the pain inside of me that I couldn’t shut up, escape, or exorcise. I got my first tattoo at 17 and I remember feeling different afterwards. Like I found a new sense of energy.

With each new tattoo I would look at my body differently, with a sense of love and belonging that pleased me.

It also pissed my mother off, so that was just a bonus! Best of all, I stopped cutting and hurting myself. I took this relationship with pain, something dark and potentially ugly, and developed it into something much more aesthetically pleasing and a lot less bone breaking.

The most important thing tattooing does is help me focus, reset, and train my mind. One of my biggest triggers happens when things in my life get really out of control, when I feel swept up and carried off in a current of chaos that every coping strategy I have fails to assist with. Death, disease, job instability, chronic illness, death, death, death, etc., all happening at once will do it. All that pain and anger takes me so long to let go of, I fixate and obsess night and day, and then I can start to engage in unhealthy and destructive habits, and the spiraling goes further down. When I get tattooed it gives me a chance to focus on pain that I am causing myself, and that pain has a start and a finish. I am in control of the pain, I can control my response to it, I can stop the session when I can’t take it anymore, and that pain has a result that is empowering physically and psychologically.

With tattooing the pain produces a beautiful scar on my body, which is so much nicer than the emotional and psychological scars depression leaves and the physical ones I give myself if I enter into self-damage mode.

Through tattooing I have gained better coping skills when life throws horrible shit at me: I have more confidence that I am strong enough and I can find my way through it; I am able to process things easier and I can reach some kind of acceptance with what is happening. Sometimes I go get tattooed when I feel like my mind is sinking into repetitive trauma patterns or it’s stuck in dark mode, because it allows me to fixate on a different type of pain and this jump starts my brain, so to speak. It’s a kind of cognitive behavioural therapy. I still have a therapist that I see, but tattooing is a way for me to seek support within myself, and a trusted artist along for the ride.

Tattooing has also helped me heal old, deep psychological and physical wounds. In addition to depression I have an autoimmune disease, and it’s an unpredictable fucking asshole. It seems to baffle the medical community from time to time (I love feeling like an experiment or a freakshow specimen so much!) When it decides to flare up, it kicks my ass making me so sick I can barely move. I try to learn what triggers it so I can prevent these instances, but you never figure them all out and learning is always the hard way. I was diagnosed as a teenager and it sent my life into hell for a while. I came out of the hospital utterly fragile, and feeling beaten, frustrated, and very angry. I hated my body and when combined with my depression and self-worth issues I sunk low and into the destructive tendencies I described.

Tattooing has allowed me to love my body, to bond with it and find ways to make it beautifully mine. It has become MY body, the one that I care for and nurture and protect. I can cover all those old destructive scars and angry cutting marks with beautiful colours and symbols of my personal battles. I can heal the tattoos carved into my skin, and with them also my bad feelings about my body.

I should also add, that because I have been lucky to find so many wonderful artists, that getting tattooed has allowed me to trust others again. When you’ve been traumatized and/or struggle with mental health issues, it is hard to be vulnerable and comfortable with people. To feel any sense of safety in this world and to trust others in a situation that is emotionally and physically vulnerable is really a huge step forward. While I would never say a tattoo artist is on par with a therapist, I will say the services they provide can be more than just aesthetic beauty via needles and ink. The good ones become a friend and confidant. The wonderful artists who work on my body have become valuable parts of my journey to wellbeing and a better self.

Kimberly’s stomach tattoo

Over the last few years I have gone through traumatic things that really tested my abilities to cope. What I’ve lost and survived my mind is not so easily processing at times and letting go of. I’m struggling and sinking but I am not defeated. As an act to refocus my mind and remind me that I can persevere, I decided late last year to tattoo my stomach with imagery that is symbolic of a phrase I often say to myself: a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. It’s a battered looking ship, flanked by beautifully vicious sirens, and a kraken underneath attempting to pull it below. In the background is a beautiful bright red and orange sunset. When I see it every day in the mirror it reminds me that I’ve survived what the universe has thrown at me thus far, and I can be strong enough to take on whatever comes. I might be damaged but I am not completely broken. I can battle onward, or at least try my best to with what I have. Plus, I sat still through 4 sessions of stomach tattooing (roughly 3 hours each), which was NOT fun at all, and I did it without surgical drugs or screaming. So, if I can do that then I can handle a lot of things.

I’m not fixed or cured, not by any sense of the word, but I am better. I am psychologically, emotionally, and aesthetically a work in progress.

Tattoo by Dustin Barnhart, Berlin Tattoo in Kitchener, Ontario. Photo taken by Rob Faucher. 



CBC Arts: Art Hurts

Posted by Admin in th-ink on 05 5th, 2019

CBC Arts is part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s home to the most surprising, relevant and provocative stories featuring artists from diverse communities across Canada. In light of this, producer Lise Hosein, recently launched a digital series on their feed called Art Hurts. The series features some of the most innovative tattoo artists in Canada, who are also all female-identifying or gender non-binary.

In many cultures, tattooing was traditionally done by women and worn by women, and Art Hurts wants to show how these tradition has survived in an often male-heavy industry. The eight artists chosen for the video series, include; Hilary Jane, Liz Kim, Ilona Fiddy, Tee Fergus, Marigold Santos, Jessica Coffey, Amy Malbeuf and Nomi Chi.

Producer Lise Hosein explains the inspiration behind the series: 

This series came about mainly because I’m fascinated by tattoos and wanted to focus on some who had a compelling and really recognisable aesthetic, to really shine a light on the art and design that goes into tattoos. And along the way, I happily realised that there’s a growing community of female and non binary artists who are changing the landscape. So we decided to focus exlusively on them! And I hope we’ll get to do more.

These tattoo artists had been chosen because they have written meaning and symbology in their tattoos that is created in a way that it resonates with the people who get them, they are also doing new things with the craft, helping to bring it into a new era of tattooing.

Watch the first episode here, featuring Toronto based Ilona Fiddy, then head to the CBC Arts channel for more in the series. 










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