I got my first tattoo at 18, all wide eyed and excited about the permanence of my new body mod. It was a relatively simple design in between my shoulder blades, easily hidden by a singlet and unimpressive at best. Safe. Boring. The dream catcher/infinity symbol of its time. For years people didnt even know i had a tattoo. After all
most people don’t associate women of my background with tattoos. This despite the fact that its been part of Afghan culture since pagan times, before the advent of wahabbi islam (a really strict school of thought) caused the culture of facial tattooing to die out by the 1800s.
It took me nearly a decade to get back into the chair to get new work done. This was partly due to finances and hugely due to my own perfectionist nature. I grew to hate my first tattoo so much that I wanted to find the right style for me. I finally found this perfect style in traditional tattooing.
Traditional tattoos refer to a Western or traditional American tattoo style featuring bold black outlines and a limited color palette. The simplicity and the boldness of the design is exactly what drew me to this style. Like most classic things, it ages well and has a timeless charm. Adding modern elements and colour palettes while maintaining the bold lines and some traditional symbols such as roses, nautical elements etc can result in a fusion often referred to as neo traditional. This style would be my second love.
This particular style has seen a resurgence in the last five years and isn’t just limited to ink on skin! Clothing labels, stationery and even homewares have caught up on it though it seems that not everyone is a fan.
“I dislike how clunky and simplistic they look” one girl said to me at a social mixer, unaware of what I had hidden under my nice warm (full sleeved) cardigan. “They look like old men tattoos that my grandpa got and there is no variety in them. Definitely not my style. Not feminine enough for me”. It took a lot of my ladylike patience not to spill my rum and coke down her top for unassumingly insulting my taste. However, i remained calm and composed reminding myself that it is only ink and not people i should allow under my skin.
They say you can’t please everybody but gosh, how I wish I had a handy dandy little list of fantastic traditional artists to show these non believers. There is very little in the world of tattooing that pleases me as much as a nice thick line, a galaxy of star and dot fillers or a toungue in cheek innuendo accompanying a simple design. And as for variety and diversity? Well, i maintain that those of us who are truly lovers of the style can start seeing each artist’s flourish in their work so that even a piece of sailor jerry flash would look different each time its drawn by a different artist. There is a reason these tattoos have stood the test of time. You can’t go wrong with a classic.
I have decided to compile a small list of my favourite Perth artists who work primarily in this style of work, just in case you feel inclined to assume that there isn’t variety in this style.