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Interview with Lucy O’Connell, one of the greatest from Leeds

Today we have another interesting interview, this time, with Lucy O’Connell, from Leeds.

For us, she is one of the greatest tattoo artists in the UK. In fact, we do love her artwork, with tons of personality and definition and her opinion is really important for us.

On this interview you have the opportunity to know Lucy a little bit more, because we talked with her not only about her work, and we think you are going to enjoy it a lot.

And, if you don’t follow Lucy online, you must do it right now!

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We usually start our interviews the same: How is the moment when you decided “I want to be a tattoo artist”?

There wasn’t a stand out moment where I decided, it was more of a phased realisation it could be the avenue for me.

I was around 14ish when friends were asking to draw tattoos for them, and I think most artists are the same.

I wasn’t really around tattooing much when I was young living in the countryside in the UK. Now later in my career asking to tattoo clients friends designs makes me cringe, due to the lack of tattoo design knowledge usually that friend has. 

Perfect, and how is the process for being a tattoo artist now, how the people who wants to become one can be educated?

To become a tattooists isn’t much different to be honest but how to get noticed to be taken on has.

But I can only talk from how I would go about taking someone on (no plans to). So now you can use social media as a tool for showcasing a portfolio and an artist might find you and take you on.

A studio may advertise for an apprentice too, but a lot of the time (my experience included) its about getting tattooed on a shop, building a relationship then being taken on if they think you have what it takes.

Sometimes going round shops with a portfolio works too. Tattooists want to bring someone in who doesn’t just have art skills, it’s also having someone around you like and want to provide a career to

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You started with Home Bird Tattoo Studio back in 2020, what things are better and worst from tattooing at another person one?

I did open my own studio towards the end of 2020 but with the pandemic management in the UK I’ve only worked in it about 4 days in total.

So don’t feel I can confidently say the pros and cons yet.

Obviously the cons that are prevalent at the moment is financially keeping the shop running, and the pressure of making it a success.

I also worry all the time its going to burn down out of pure anxious tendencies (I’ve got security cams to ease that).  On pros I can listen to my awful music taste all day, decorate the space how I want and try explore how tattoo studios can improve their imprint on the environment. 

Well, we can say you had back luck there, and we do hope the lockdown be as short as possible. We have to say we are kind of music addict, so we want to know more about this awful music taste...

It gave me time to work on the place so trying to keep a positive attitude. 

I have a very varied taste so I can mask myself into the ‘cooler’ music categories. But really I just wanna listen to Beyonce, Gaga and musicals all day. If someone’s having a hard time and toxic by Britney comes on… you’re probably gonna have a laugh.

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We always want to know more not only about the work, about the person too, so please, tell us about what things you like to do outside tattoo world

Outside of tattooing I mostly still paint I’m draw,

I’m really terrible at separating my work from my free time.

Walking my dog, obsessing over my plants and trying to find the best coffee are pretty much my only other activities.

I’d really love to be an amazing gardener and I’m working on that. 

How is tattooing in Leeds? Is it an open-minded city for tattoo artists?

Leeds is an incredible city and tattooing is one of those reasons why. 

The standard of artist here is really high, so if anything it keeps your drive high. But also I’ve found we are a really amicable city too. Most artists are happy to recommend other local artists for the job and support each other work. I couldn’t ask for a better place. 

It’s fantastic, we need to go to Leeds as soon as we can!

Definitely make a trip, it’s not too hard to get to any other cities from Leeds either so you aren’t stuck just exploring here. As much as I think you’d have plenty to do.

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We do love your tattoo style, very harmonic and with a lot of colors, how do you define it? Did it evolve or it’s the same from the very beginning?

Its for sure evolved, I couldn’t say how I got there. 

My taste has changed and things I wanna do have changed. My work gets more complex if anything and that’s the only consistency. I think from the first to the last tattoo there is still a thread of something where you can tell its me. 

Maybe the last sentence it’s the more important to define the style of an artist.

We want to ask you for the colors, it’s not usual to tattoo with this type of colors (kind of pastel colors, at least in the photos), instead a brighter one. The result it’s fantastic, with tons of personality, but we want to ask you how you reached to them.

I get put into the neo traditional category for my work a lot which I’m happy to be associated with but don’t think my work sits in the definition.

It’s interesting to hear someone thinking I have a pastel colour palette as I wouldn’t say I actively put those kinds of tones into my work. But it could be subconscious.

I put a few punchy colours out when I start and then grab a few softer tones to mix with.

A little of colors I use aren’t right out of a bottle, its made up. How I’d decide to colour a piece would just be in order of how sure I am something should go somewhere, if I were doing an animal piece I’d reference that and then just decide what would compliment it.

Have you got an special routine before tattooing?

When someone gets tattooed by me they usually see a design a week or so before.

I like to get to the studio early so its clean, it smells nice, warm and just getting a nice vibe going.

So the only routine I have is being prepared in an attempt to not frustrate the process of getting a tattoo. I feel if you’re sat waiting to get tattooed for a long time it builds your nerves and may make it more uncomfortable. 

We can bet it is, maybe the moments before getting inked, specially the first one, are the nervous one.

People getting their first tattoo are certainly nervous and I try to make a lot of effort to make them comfortable

If someone is so nervous that I suspect they’re just not 100% sure they should get it, I’ll say just go and think because I’m not being responsible for their regret.

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How is being a tattoo woman in the UK? Have you or some of your colleagues ever felt discrimination for being a woman?

I find this question a tricky one.

I think when it comes to inequality with the sexes, we are learning all the time.

So something some women have been comfortable with years ago, is something that’s not acceptable now.

I can say being a female tattooists you come across more inappropriate behaviour from people who may be after more than a tattoo or some darker motives when choosing you.

Also think some find women weaker, so they can be more difficult and think your time isn’t as valuable.

So I would say any discrimination is something all women are dealing with all the time.

Some female artists are seen as more of a sexual object than an actual artistic professional, spoken to as if they’re only busy because they’re attractive, which is an insult to their craft.

Tattooing is very similar to music, if its part of someone’s appeal that their attractive and they choose to market themselves as such then thats their perogative regardless of their gender. 

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We love the tricky questions, but we do love more your answer!

Phew, they make me nervous. But I also don’t ever want to not discuss them.

Does a woman have to try harder to stand out on this business?

I think everyone’s situation is totally unique and everyone probably feels their working harder than anyone else.

I don’t personally feel I’ve had a difficult time over my male colleges to stand out. I’m sure some women feel they have had a harder time standing out.

We read a lot of news about UK and COVID’19, but please, tell us how is affecting the pandemic situation to the UK and, more specially, to tattoo business?

The pandemic has hit tattooing quite hard in terms of us not being able to work for about 6 months so far (maybe 3 months more).

However it appears clients are very keen to get tattooed once we are able.

Luckily prints and merchandise have done well it appears so people do want to support where they can.

I have a lot of faith we will bounce back stronger. Also within the UK there has been a lot of reflection on sexual assault and racism within tattooing which the pandemic made us all focus on, and see how we can do better.

There is a shift in how we want to be better in the future

At least in the UK you are having some reflection about something, here, in Spain, we passed the lockdown just looking out, watching over and lurking.

Hi Spain! Well how could you not, and better to watch than look away.

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Please, recommend us some women tattoo artist in the UK and in the world who inspire you.

This will be quite a list. 

Claudia De Sabe, UK.

Tiny Miss Becca, UK. 

Emily Rose Murray, Australia.

Moira Ramone, Netherlands.

Guen Douglas, Germany.

Sophia Baughan, Australia.

Rose Hardy, USA.

Teresa Sharpe, USA.

Savannah Colleen, USA.

Alis Ge, France.

I’m sure missed loads. 

Thanks a lot, Lucy, we have learned a lot with this interview!

Thanks a lot for thinking of me! I hope someone can find it useful. 

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