This weekend the South African International Tattoo Convention is will be taking place in Cape Town.
It attracts 80 tattoo artists from around the world to contribute to this three-day big event. Showcasing, within a refined and intimate setting, the best of international tattoo art. Visitors can look forward to experiencing new cultures and people, world-class tattooing and generally just a good time! So in the spirit of all things ink, we sat down with Katie Gray — a tattoo artist based at New York Adorned Tattoo Parlour in New York City. She tells us the ins and out outs of the industry as well as the do’s and don’ts of tattoos!
How did you become a tattoo artist?
I became a tattoo artist in 2009, just a couple days after I graduated with my MFA from California College of The Arts, San Francisco. I had a dear friend from my undergraduate degree who had become a Tattoo artist. I called her a day after my graduation and she agreed to take me under her wing. The economic crisis in the USA was horrible in 2009 and many people were without jobs. So I figured, if I technically wasn’t going to be making good money at this point, I may as well take this time to learn a craft I adore.
Do you have to have a history of art or design?
I believe the above answer touches a bit on this, but I have always been a painter and sculptor with a heavy hand in performance art. I did my Undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, CA and my MFA in sculpture at CCA. My focus was on bronze work, metals, wood and large-scale fabric installations, and painting, and performance art. So yes, I’ve really run the gamut.
Would you say you need training in art or design to become a tattoo artist?
I would say having training in art and design will always put you a step ahead in becoming a Tattoo artist, though no medium compares to human skin. You don’t need this as a prerequisite and in some cases, tattooing can make you have to learn everything all over. So as long as you’ve not gotten too rigid in your ‘fine art’ practice and are open to learning, these two practices can be complementary.
What is your most memorable experience as an artist?
My most memorable experience as a Tattoo artist was doing work for the Healing Ink project in where we tattooed survivors of the 911 tragedy.
Your first-timers what is your advice?
First-timers should do their research first and make sure the work you’re looking for fits the aesthetic of your Tattoo artist. Set up a consultation, and as long as you feel good about them, trust them. A little trust and calm go a long way for us Tattoo artists, you will always get the best work that way.
Do you find being a female in the industry is a struggle or is it equal?
Being a female in the industry is a double-edged sword. While we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and things can feel unequal and a bit tougher for us, we have the benefit that a lot of clients are attracted to our approach. My hopes is that in the future it would no longer be about femaleness in the industry, and move toward a community that is driven to inspire and uplift one another, and your merit would lie solely in your work/work ethic and what you’re bringing to the table, no longer what you may or may not have under your trousers.
What are the biggest tattoo trends of 2018?
2018 has blown the lid for tattooing as it seems anything goes. I would say, however, geometric black work, American and Japanese traditional still hold the top.
What is your greatest achievement so far as an artist?
My greatest achievement as an artist so far was being able to live and work as a successful artist in New York City. It was a dream I never thought I’d attain.
Should you trust a tattoo artist with no tattoos?
No, do not trust a Tattoo artist without tattoos, they cannot fully empathize with what you’re going through. That’s just bad Karma.
Have you ever messed up a tattoo while doing one?
We don’t get paid to do mistakes 🙂 But yes, there’s a learning curve and we all must go through it.
What is your biggest fear when it comes to tattoos?
My biggest fear is that the client won’t be happy with the work. Worst nightmare!
Check out some of Katie’s work on her Instagram!
To find out more about the South African International Tattoo Convention, visit their website