My latest interview post is my first while I’m away in Australia, and as luck would have it, it is with a native to Perth, where I am staying at the moment. I started out this interview wanting to do a standard “adventures in ink” piece with the very intriguing Tahlia. However, as I researched her more and more I decided I had to make the feature more encompassing, and talk about the many other facets and traits this creative marvel has in her repertoire. I was first drawn to Tahlia through her posts and conversation on her blog about the art of tattooing. I am always interested in talking to people about the art form, and thought the chance to talk with a fledgling tattoo artist was too good to pass up. Tahlia was gracious enough to grant me this interview, and even indulged me as I went into greater detail about other aspects of her life and creativity. What we produced together was a triumph in my opinion, and it’s my pleasure to share it with you today. I hope Tahlia won’t mind me saying how much I enjoyed learning about her, and how impressed I was by her thoughts and attitude toward what she does and how she does it. Check out the interview and head on over to her blog for more information and insight.
May I take you back to a time before tattoos for you? A time when you had no artwork on display yourself. Were there any influential people around you that had tattoos when you were growing up? How did you feel about them before you had them?
There were no influential people around me that had tattoos when I was growing up, come to think of it, the only time I remember seeing a fresh tattoo was when I was about 5 or 6, my dad’s friend came over for a shower after an appointment, I don’t remember what it was though, a cross on his arm perhaps? I could have perhaps been somewhat influenced by my cultural background, I am half Maori and my mum had a few drawings and paintings of women and men with ta moko. I thought they were beautiful and my mum always told me that my ancestors had them, though I know ta moko itself wasn’t what held my interest in tattoos.
before I had tattoos I loved them, I used to spend all my pocket money on tattoo magazines when I was say, 12-13, I used to draw all over myself as a child as well as my brothers and all my friends, or I’d use a spray texta with a stencil or paint on them with body paint. There was never really an epiphany or a sudden realization for my love of tattoos.
What made you make that first appointment, what were the emotions you were going through in the lead up to getting your first design?
I’ve never booked myself in at a tattoo studio to get a tattoo before my apprenticeship at na8iv ink. I got my first tattoo during the first month of my apprenticeship there.
Can you remember the sensations you were experiencing as the tattoo artist began your first piece?
No I can’t really remember it, though it was only a year ago, I know I was really excited, it felt like a cat had scratched some sunburn.
What was your first tattoo of, where was it placed, and how did you feel following its completion?
My first tattoo was of a cupcake with a pink bow and it has a pink bunny sitting on it. I got it tattooed on my left hip. It was about 2 hours work and I was so happy and excited when it was finished!
How many tattoos have you got thus far? Could you give us a brief timeline for your body art, and what you have where?
I have a few tattoos now, I’d say 4 sets but they’re all part of 1 big plan. My first tattoo was my pink cupcake on my left hip, I had it done about a year ago. My second tattoo was of my puppy’s paw print on my ankle, I did that myself as a part of my apprenticeship about a month after I got my cupcake. Next was my blue cupcake on my right hip, so that little set is complete for now, I plan to expand the design with more sweets and candy around my hip and stomach area. I got my Howls Moving Castle sleeve started in March this year and it’s still not finished, I actually hate getting tattooed and avoid it at all costs, which is why it’s not finished I guess, it just needs to be coloured, which I find the worst part of any tattoo. Then at the end of July I bought myself my first tattoo machine, a dringenberg shader, and I tattooed myself the day it arrived. I had decided before I even bought the machine that I was going to tattoo a portrait of my puppy on my leg surrounding the paw print I did when I started my apprenticeship, so that’s what I did. For my 19th birthday one of the artists I work with tattooed a Snorlax Pokémon on my right leg, beginning my cartoon themed leg sleeve. I chose snorlax as a resemblance towards myself I guess, a grumpy, sleepy, hungry monster! But I can also be cute and happy on the right day ha-ha, so my Snorlax is I’d say the only tattoo I have that has some sort of symbolism to it.
When deciding on a new tattoo, what comes first, the position or the design?
For myself it’s the design, I still have a lot of area that hasn’t been tattooed so I’m fine with having a design I love and figuring out a place for it in the meantime. I guess that will change a bit as I get a bit more ink in me over the years.
Why do you think tattoos are becoming so popular at the moment?
I guess there’s a lot of reasons. I’d say they’re more popular because it’s not seen as a threatening symbol anymore, celebrities get tattooed and there are even TV shows about tattoos now. There are so many new techniques now compared to 20, even 10 years ago! There are new machines, inks, needles and procedures now, so there are definitely many more options I suppose. I guess tattoos are just more accessible to the general public compared to how it used to be when only sailors, bikers and punks had ink.
Do you see the pieces you have at the moment as works in progress? Have you got any plans to link some together into bigger pieces, or are they all very individual stand alone designs?
I definitely do see the tattoos I have as work in progress, I like to theme my tattoos, I don’t like the look of having a lot of random designs splurged together. I have a theme for my legs, my left leg is where I will place and plan all my personal tattoos, family tattoos, etc. My right leg is for cartoons, anime, comics, story books, art that I have loved my whole life. I haven’t picked a design for every part of my leg, I’m only young and haven’t experienced much, I definitely don’t think it’s sensible for me to completely cover my body at 19 and to have only been tattooing for a measly year. Over time they will become more noticeably themed to others.
Have you got any plans for a new piece any time soon?
Not really, I have a Card Captor Sakura piece planned for the back of my right thigh but I don’t want to get any more tattoos until my sleeve is finished, I hate the idea of having a heap of unfinished work on me!
You are also a tattoo artist yourself, when did you make that transition towards the other side of the needle?
I knew I wanted to be covered in tattoos and piercings from a very young age. I used to give my dolls piercings and cut their hair into mohawks as a child, so I thought being a tattoo artist would allow me to live a lifestyle of my own choice as well as to give me the chance to be creative and artistic all the time, nothing makes me happier than to create something.
Everything is relative, and you are a relatively newcomer to the industry. What have you had to learn very quickly during your first forays into tattooing?
I’ve had to learn to keep myself organized, and to control my emotions. I get flustered fairly easily if there’s a lot going on so I’ve had to sort of organise the way I deal with things and people. I’m not really a ‘people person’ either, I hate talking and dealing with most people, so I guess I’ve had to learn to make other people feel comfortable in my company. Everything else I pretty much expected so I didn’t have to learn anything really. There is a lot of competition in the tattooing industry, there’s a lot of arrogant, stuck up, rude, snotty, two faced people. It helps to look at the big picture and to include yourself in it and be honest about yourself, in every aspect as an artist, as a tattooist, as a person, and to be able to see where you need improvement.
How did the first tattoo you did come out?
My first tattoo on myself was fine, no wobbly lines, no patchy colouring, it was a fairly easy design though, I just went a little deep so it was a slow healing process. My first tattoo on someone else was okay I guess, compared to other apprentice work. Not to put myself out there, but the tattooists at work kept asking me if I had tattooed before, they didn’t believe that I hadn’t ever.
As a tattoo artist, how important is research to what you do? Are you a student of the art form, or simply just enjoying working in the field and being creative?
Well in my opinion I don’t think I have nearly enough knowledge to call myself a tattoo artist, if I had it my way I would still be an apprentice. Yes I know how to tattoo and hygiene and cross contamination procedures etc, but I was taught nothing about the history of tattooing, or about other artists or styles of tattoo work. Everything I do know I have worked out myself or had researched prior to my apprenticeship. I don’t feel qualified in any way, I don’t feel like I have ‘earned the right’ to tattoo, because I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough and I don’t think I have worked long enough in the industry to claim such a name. It’s a personal opinion I guess, though I am definitely reminded by other tattoo artists in other studios about it anyway. But for now it’s just a job, I plan to move onwards artistically and find myself a new career as a tattoo artist, beginning again as an apprentice in a different studio, but I guess I’m still figuring it all out. For now it’s just some money in my pocket and having the chance to be creative while I do it.
What style of tattoo are you most fond of?
I am definitely most fond of realism and portrait tattoos, I think to me they’re the most eye catching tattoos to have, and many people can’t make a tattoo look like a photo, or a painting on someone’s body. It’s extremely challenging for the mind, being able to capture every colour and detail in an image and to replicate it on someone’s body.
Are you noticing any trends in the industry at the moment? Maybe a position or type of tattoo that is popular right now?
Yes, old skool/new skool/Americana/flash-art style tattoos are definitely the most popular style at the moment.
Here’s where you plug your shop and tell everyone how awesome it is there. Where can you be found working and designing, and what can future customers expect from the experience?
I work better at home, design-wise. I’d rather draw my designs at home where I can listen to my own music and be away from all the annoyances and stresses at the shop. You can’t relax or think properly there and there’s no time to sit down and complete a full design. At home I can lay down and talk to molly puppy, eat dinner, research all I want and design something properly.
Moving away from tattoos for a moment, Japan is obviously a massive part of your life. Can you explain your love of the Japanese aesthetic, and the characters/influences the country has brought us visually?
Well as an artist, I am drawn to unusual, unique, creative, inventive, beautiful things. Everyone knows Japan as the most creatively, unusual, unique country in the world. I am in love with Japanese culture. The people of Japan are so different to the western world. They live to completely different standards, there is still tradition, and respect within the people. Being a visual person, inspired by fashion, I fell in love with harajuku styles when I was 12-13. I used to go to the library every day after school and use the computers to look up images of harajuku boys and girls, I’d spend days and weeks finding sites and shops online where I could eventually buy the things they wore. I’d never seen anybody wear anything like what they were wearing here in Perth before! I was completely consumed and inspired! It was so unique and perfect for me. I also grew up playing Nintendo and Playstation, watching digimon, card captors, sailor moon, and other Americanised anime’s so the love for the animation started young too.
Your corsetry work is sublime, and the images you’ve released are stunning. Can you tell me about the appeal of the discipline, and are there any negative aspects of this practice?
Thank you! To me it’s not really a practice. It’s just like wearing shoes I guess, it’s a part of my outfit sometimes. I obviously love the look, but as far as waist training goes I never even gave it a thought, I wear my corset purely for a daily outfit. The only negative thing about wearing a corset would have to be picking something up off the floor! Ha-ha! they’re not uncomfortable, you just can’t bend in them.
How long does it take you to prepare your body for getting into a corset? What precautions do you have to take while wearing it (if any)?
Well if I decide I want to wear my corset I just don’t eat beforehand otherwise it sometimes comes up if I burp ha-ha! But eating a small meal after I have put it on is fine. It’s pretty straight forward with the risks of wearing a corset, obviously if you’re having trouble breathing, take it off, if it’s uncomfortable, take it off or even loosen it. Make sure you plan your day before you decide to lace it up e.g. if you’re clothes shopping or hiking or climbing trees or something it’s best not to wear one. All common sense really.
I couldn’t interview you without talking about wigs Tahlia. When did your fascination with them begin?
I bought my first wig last Christmas to match a cute loli dress my boyfriend bought for me. At first I felt a little silly but when I decided to wear it out no one could tell it was a wig! I love to dye my hair different colours all the time but sometimes I just didn’t have the money to fix my re-growth or re-dye my faded purple hair so I just wore my wig instead. It was the best thing to do on a bad hair day!
What keeps you coming back to them? Is it merely the different style options? Or is there a sense of hiding, or becoming a character whilst wearing the hair pieces?
I just like having an option of what colour hair I want for the day to match whatever outfit I choose. Some days I can wear pastel colours, some days I can wear blacks, some days when I don’t want to be stared at I wear a natural coloured wig. It’s just so much easier and cheaper for me, and my real hair can stay healthy without having to bleach it all the time. I don’t have one sort of stereotypical look, I guess, and being able to change on a daily basis is really fun for me.
Where do you get your wigs from, and which is your favourite piece at the moment?
I buy my wigs online at mintymix.com and cosplaywigsusa. My favourite wig is probably my plain, black, wavy wig because it goes with any outfit!
You are a multifaceted alternative woman (if I may use the term). What aspects or avenues of creativity would you like to exploit next?
I really don’t know to be honest. I’m fairly content with myself for now.
Could we please finish with the famous questionnaire by Bernard Pivot?
What is your favourite word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on?
Hentai? ha-ha um my boyfriend if he catches me on a rarely good day
What turns you off?
Pretty much everything, I don’t consider myself to be very sexual
What sound or noise do you love?
I love the sound of the wind
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favourite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
I would not like to be a vet or a doctor
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I got you a genie!
Massive thanks and praise to Tahlia. She really went above and beyond in her efforts with the interview. I thank her for her time, and wish her nothing but success in every aspect of her life. Thanks to you for reading also, and I hope I have introduced some of you to yet interesting and entertaining young artist.
Tahlia’s blog can be found at:
All images used were provided by Tahlia. I hope she likes my choices and approves of the piece as a whole.