“To me tattooing will always be an art form, first and foremost. I am here for the art not just money or the job title of a tattooist.”
I have always been a fan of tattooing as an art form and a culture. The rise of social media such as Instagram, facebook and pintrest has meant that even someone like myself with no ties to the industry is easily able to identify different styles and artists. Social media has made this art form accessible, available and (according to some) acceptable. What has intrigued me about tattooing entering the world of social media is the opportunity it has afforded female artists who have, for the longest time, remained in the shadows of their male counterparts. That’s not to say that there aren’t any barriers left to be broken as Jess Von Holmes from Ellenbrook Ink explains:
Midcentury Mermaid: What drew you to becoming a tattoo artist?
Jess von Holmes: Growing up I always said i wanted to be a tattooist. The idea that people would choose my artwork to adorn their skin for the rest of their life has always been something that has drawn me to this line of work.
MM: How would you describe your style?
JvH: I’m not sure how to describe it. Obviously my Disney and Cartoon work is a thing on its own but my Portraits I would best describe as Neo-Traditional. Bold solid colour with heavy outlining.
MM: What/who inspires your work?
JvH: A few people inspire me actually! Brendan Boz, From Frontyard Tattoo in Adelaide is a big one of mine, and I love getting tattooed by him! Alex Dorfler from Kessel in Germany is another one of my inspirations.
MM: What is your favorite piece you have done so far?
JvH: Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. I would have to say the George Constanza portrait I did recently!
MM: Who would you like to get tattooed by and why?
JvH: *laughs* I HATE getting tattooed. I’m gonna have to say Brendan Boz, from Frontyard in Adelaide. I’ve been tattooed by him plenty of times now but every time I see his work or get something tattooed by him it blows me away.
MM: Do you think there is negativity and discrimination surrounding tattoo culture?
JvH: Oh absolutely. What’s the first thing everyone thinks of when you say tattoo? Bikers. Though truth be told I have no problem with them but it’s the public perception of tattooing being seen as a criminal venture rather than an artform. To me tattooing will always be an artform. I am here for the art not just money or the job title of a tattooist
MM: What is it like being a female tattooer in an industry that is predominantly male? Is it harder to be taken seriously by clients? Is it harder to find work?
JvH: It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. A lot of the times the guys you work with have their own little club going on and as a female tattooer I struggle to fit into that and make conversation. So I usually do things on my own and hang by myself. It hasn’t really made it harder to get clients. Being a woman in the industry, I feel that it’s often the case that some clients will only go see a female artist if she’s “attractive” or “sexy”. Therefore if you are a conventionally attractive or sexy artist you will get more work and a higher paying clientele. I find this quite disgusting. It’s already so competitive in the industry but with women there seems to be this extra layer of competition that is unreasonable. I am very grateful to my clients who come to me for my style of work. They are always lovely.
MM: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue tattooing as a career?
JvH: Do it the right way PLEASE! We are professionals and have done the hard yards to get where we are. Build an amazing portfolio and show it to Tattoo Studios in your area. You’ll get shut down a lot but do not take it to heart! Build upon the advice they give you and keep trying. It helps a lot if you already have artistic skills! Listen to your teacher or the person who is mentoring you, and don’t rush into tattooing huge pieces. Be patient and start small. Have a back up plan. Tattooing is an amazing job, but doesn’t always go to plan.
Remember, becoming a tattoo artist is a labour of love. You won’t get paid during your apprenticeship. I went 1 ½ years without pay and working a second job at a pub. It was tough, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come!
To find out more about Jess Von Holmes visit her FB page: www.facebook.com/vonholmestattooing