Simultaneously honouring traditions and breathing new life into tired ideas, artists Dan Crowe and Jack Watts have been humbly producing clean and timeless work from the heart of London’s Sang Bleu, and in doing so, have joined a lineage of tattooists with an incredible passion for history, but a sharp vision for tomorrow. As part of our new on-going joint-interview series ‘Split-Sheet’, we paired them up to demystify their beginnings in tattooing, how they both came to work together and what they feel they owe to the tattooists of yesterday.
Embodying DIY culture and a heavy sense of Lynchian-like fantasy, London-based tattooist Clare Frances boldly experiments with typography and imagery embedded with romance and rebellion. Although every-moving, her rough designs and hyper-clean work continues to explore a world of darkness and digital-despair unseen to many. Here, Clare Frances speaks to her dream-like inclinations, the ways in-which tattoos exist between the external and the internal and how marking yourself is a way of creating your own reality.
Karma Yeshe Konchok is an Australia-hailing tattoo artist and owner of infamous London-based studio Dharma Tattoo who produces enveloping, "over-sized" Japanese tattoos, as well as soft, Tibetan-inspired offerings that reflect his Buddhist practice, and give second-life to the nameless works that litter his studies. Here, Yeshe speaks to his first tattoo - applied with a tool built from a sea-urchin's spine, how punk gifted him his fascination with his now-core art-form and to his religious beliefs that have allowed him to see the beauty in what he does.
Sourcing its strength from modesty and restraint, Paradise’s fine-line work holds life and death in an obsessive vice-grip – offering a window into the New Zealand-hailing artist's internal landscape. Working from the outside in, real-name-Rene O’Donnell-Gibson’s delicate and disarming markings infiltrated the industry in an incredibly natural and effortless way – as if his vision of love and loss was always destined for skin. Here, Rene demystifies his otherworldly influences, the importance of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and speaks to the benefits of being a multi-disciplinary creative.
The enigmatic Apollonia Saintclair is a self-taught, hyper-anonymous artist and illustrator with a fatal attraction to satirical fetish erotica and a strong, 6-figure army of obsessive fans that follow her ongoing exploration of desire. Acting as an engine for the infinite field of lust, Saintclair speaks to the beginnings of her relationship with eroticism, the importance of privacy in an ever-changing world and how sexuality will forever stand as a societal battlefield.
The incredibly prolific, Asiago-hailing Michele Servadio has been injecting lonely, expressionistic magic into the world of tattooing for just over a decade - pushing the boundaries of the craft through experimental "rituals" and textural illusions. Fascinated by tradition and the cultural phenomena of tattooing, Servadio quickly became a key figure in London's underground art and music scene upon moving to Hackney Wick. Here, he demystifies the influence of environment on his enigmatic work, his love for life-drawing and how reality constantly bleeds into his creations.
Shane Thomas Swift, better known as Swift Death Club, is an incredibly prolific painter and occasional tattoo artist – creating works that speak to an unseen and wondrous landscape that’s informed as much by 1980’s erotica as it is architecture. Here, Shane speaks to his relationship to the contemporary world of tattooing, how he doesn’t want to ever “hit the mark” with his work and how Colour Vision Deficiency has informed his ongoing love affair with black ink.
Simon Lice, better known as Lice 4 Life, is a wood-cut artist and print-maker creating morbid collages and striking one-of-a-kind works from the comfort of his home in Melbourne, Australia. Over the years, Lice’s work has developed a synonymous relationship with tattoo culture – drawing from the same skull-ridden well. Here, Lice demystifies this connection and speaks to the thinking behind his infamous wood-cut work – as well as his affairs with jewellery and hand-poked tattooing.
Kelly Violet’s world-renowned work is an incredible demonstration of craft, forward-thinking and hyper-creativity in an industry that too often leans on the past, or sees artists relying too heavily on ephemeral trends. Having gathered her dedicated following thanks to her commitment to pushing for pure and lasting work, the unforgiving Goliath-force speaks with Nine Mag about what it is to be a "terrible perfectionist", and how her concerns will always start and end with producing a tattoo that will stand the test of time - even if the sacrifices involve sanity.
Reflecting the towering, stone-grey steel of his beloved home-soil, Mark Judges' "violent, humorous and idiotic" work speaks to the chaotic and all-encompassing nature of London. Through hijacking suggestive mysticism and crude surrealism - effortlessly balancing the dramatic and the absurd, Mark flies the flag of brutal local tradition. In conversation with Nine Mag, the "recovering punk" demystifies the ways in-which his work co-opts old images to convey new messages, and walks us through the disarming nature of his tender, romantic and overly-honest warpaint.