It’s time for another “adventures in ink” ladies and gentlemen. This time it’s with a Brit abroad called Rhian. She is a make-up artists and occasional model who was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about her fascination with the art of tattooing. A well covered lady with an enchanting personality, and a passion for all aspects of life. It’s obvious from her success and enjoyment of so many disciplines, that Rhian is a both a dedicated family woman, and independently minded entrepreneur. Upon being introduced to this beautiful and intelligent lady’s work, I couldn’t help but be captivated by her blog, and the kindness on show in a multitude of advice posts. She’s a generous and genuine person, who has some wonderful tattoos about her person. I hope you’ll enjoy learning a little more.
Q: Hello there Rhian how are you doing? Welcome to the blog, it is a pleasure having you here.
Rhian: I’m great, thank you for having me!
Q: I’d like to jump straight in and talk tattoos if we may. You are an exquisitely inked lady, who obviously revels in the art of the tattoo. What were your impressions of tattoos before you had any of your own? Did you grown up admiring people you knew with tattoos?
Rhian: Thank you for saying so! I grew up obsessing over BMEzine.com and thought the tattoos were all so breathtaking and beautiful. I loved the idea of adorning bodies with tattoos and piercings, not to hide things or distract you from flaws, but to accentuate bodies and shape.
At around 15, one of my sister’s friends started tattooing from home and he let me tattoo him one day, I think that just fuelled my obsession even more.
Q: How old were you when you got your first tattoo? What was it of, and what can you remember about your thoughts and feelings leading up to the appointment?
Rhian: I got my first tattoo at 17. My boyfriend at the time was at uni in Brighton and I went to a local tattoo and piercing shop, lied about my age and got the “Siamese” guns on my lower stomach as a tribute of sorts to my favourite band at the time, The Blood Brothers.
I don’t remember the run up to the tattoo but found, after being told by every guy in there that I’d picked the most painful spot, it didn’t hurt at all. I just loved every minute of it and was so excited to see the result. Looking back, it’s not the best tattoo technically speaking but I love what it represents and that I remember a fun stage in my life when I think about it.
I also used it as a ploy to meet The Blood Brothers and get them to sign my stomach which seems a bit obsessive when I think about it, but whatever…
Q: When you got your first design, did you ever envisage getting as many as you have today, or have you just taken it one tattoo at a time, eventually building up the fantastic amount work you currently sport?
R: I really had no idea at all. I remember saying “no, I could never get a chest piece” but evidently that didn’t last long. I had left school in favour of a well paid government job when I was 18 and that’s when I started getting more coverage. I loved that people there realized it didn’t change me as a person and didn’t interfere with my job; they were just pretty pictures on my body.
Q: When planning a new tattoo, what comes first, placement or design?
R: I’m honestly not sure of my conscious process of deciding, I think it can go either way. I’ll let you know next time I get a new idea!
Q: What’s the longest you have waited between tattoos? You’re a very young woman but have so many, are you constantly in the tattoo shop all year round?
R: Not at all really. When I do get tattooed I usually do long sittings, like my back piece and left arm for example, I had to do long sittings because Diego lived so far away. I also probably went a year or two between my first few small tattoos before starting my left arm. I don’t think people realize I’ve been collecting them for 5-plus years and I travel a lot so there are always good opportunities to get a new souvenir.
Most recently I went about 9 months without getting tattooed before I got the lilies on my neck.
Q: What do tattoo shops mean to you? Is it just a place to get work done, or do you enjoy your time with the people who work on you, and sitting in the chair?
R: I don’t think I’ve ever put much thought into it really. Some artists talk a lot when you’re getting tattooed by them and some rarely say a word, so you have different relationships with each of them. I don’t really enjoy talking tattoos because there’s only so much you can say but it’s nice when you find something in common with the artists and spark up a friendship that way!
When I’d get tattooed by Diego we were both quite quiet because I found it so painful, but as soon as his wife Sol would come in, we’d chat and catch up which was a welcome distraction.
Q: Having had so many tattoos over the years, is the pain second nature to you now? Is there a desensitisation to the needle? What one word would you use to describe the sensation of being tattooed?
R: Instinctively I want to say the one word is “awful” because I’ve had extensive tattoo sessions on painful parts, but really, some are easy so I’ll go with “scratchy”! Pain is such a subjective thing, I’ve found certain areas awful when others have told me it was easy and vice versa. It usually is a case of mind over matter, I’ve seen people really psych themselves up for failure when it comes to tattoos and I’ve been guilty of that myself. As long as you go in calm, it’s usually tolerable.
I do think the older you get the more painful it is though, I don’t have the patience for it any more and even if I don’t find it too painful I usually get withdrawn and quiet if I’m sitting for a long time. I think that’s just my body’s response to pain.
Q: Is there a logical progression of your work across your body, or do you just get what you want where you want it, whenever you want it? Do you see your body as a work in progress, or are you getting near to a point where you are happy with your coverage?
R: There aren’t really any facets of my being that you could class as logical so I’m going to have to say no to that one. I really just get what I want when I want it, but it all works together because I stick to the same style which is very simple, dark old school. I don’t really have a plan as far as my body goes, I’m just enjoying the process.
Q: Would you say you are addicted to tattoos at all?
R: No. There is no “need” for them, I just think they look nice. If someone took all of the tattoos off my body and told me I couldn’t get more; I would be bummed sure, but I could live without them. I certainly think there are people who can’t stop because they will never be happy with themselves though, similar to people who can’t stop getting plastic surgery.
Q: I know there are not many places left on your body, but is there a position or placement that you would never consider getting a tattoo? Where has been the most painful place you’ve been tattooed?
R: I don’t think I would ever get anything facial and I would never get anything on my palms or soles of my feet. I’d have to say my back was the most painful tattoo because there are so many nerves along your spine and they were such long sittings.
Q: Who has done the majority of your work, and are there artists out there that you would love to be tattooed by?
R: The majority has been done by Diego Azaldegui and Matt Kolling. Right now I don’t have my eye on any new tattooists though.
Q: I love your intricate and beautiful back and stomach pieces in particular. Could you shed a little light on what inspired them, and are there any pieces on your body with significant meaning, or that were a long time in the planning/consideration for you?
R: Thank you! My stomach was inspired by a shrine of sorts in Westminster Abbey in London. It was two cherubs lifting a veil to reveal a skull underneath. I don’t know what that symbolized to its maker but I loved the juxtaposition of the heavenly cherubs and the deathly skull.
I decided on my back piece after being tattooed by Diego and seeing his traditional Japanese work. I knew I wanted a woman and a dragon but wanted to stay true to tradition so left a lot of it to Diego to decide. She is the goddess Benten!
I wouldn’t say many of my tattoos have taken much planning but the most meaningful is probably my chest which says “worse things happen at sea”: something my grandma used to tell my sisters and me as kids.
Q: What about tattoos on other people? Is there anyone out there whose tattoos you just love? Also, would you say you are more attracted to people or characters with tattoos? Not necessarily romantically, but do you find yourself more drawn to other people that have ink?
R: Honestly I rarely look at other peoples’ tattoos. Unless they are Nazi swastikas or gang tattoos, they rarely tell you much about a person. I’m more interested in faces, body language and personalities. I probably have equal amounts of friends with tattoos and without. It bums me out when people say they are looking for a “tattooed guy” or “more tattooed friends”, why ostracize an entire group of people purely because they have no tattoos? I can honestly say I have just as much of a crush on Ryan Gosling as I do on my heavily tattooed husband. I don’t discriminate ;)
Q: Why do you think tattoos are getting more and more popular in general culture?
R: I think in some cases it’s just like anything else, dying hair or wearing certain things…people see other people look different and want to be different too. A bit of an oxymoron but I think in a lot of cases it’s true! The other reason is that things are so much more accessible and accepted now. You can walk down the street and get a tattoo without breaking the bank and still have a successful career!
Q: Do you have plans for any more tattoos in the near future?
R: Nothing I want to share with the internet ;)
Q: Leaving tattoos for a moment now, could we speak about your work in the make-up industry. You are entirely self taught am I right? There must have been a true passion for the work to inspire you to make it your job. How long were you learning your craft, or would you say you’re always learning?
R: I am self-taught, that’s correct! I’ve used lots of different resources to learn techniques but I think a keen eye for aesthetics is key. I loved art in school and have always been able to find beauty in most things. I’d say its a constant learning process because there are always new trends and products, you have to be open to new things!
Q: How did it start? Was it a career that sprung from a love of hair and make-up in your personal life?
R: It really came about because I got bored of solely being a housewife. People have told me for years that I should do makeup and have asked me to do theirs, so with a bit of research and help from friends in the industry, it was a natural progression.
Q: Where would you like your make-up work to take you? Is there any interest in setting up your own brand of products?
R: I’m really not one for having a set plan or exact goal, I just enjoy the process and if something great comes out of it that’s a plus! Who knows what might happen.
Q: You’ve modelled for some terrific photographers in the past, do you do your own hair and make-up for those shoots?
R: I always have, yes! Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have my hair and makeup done, it just was never an option at the shoots I’ve done. I like it because I get to feel twice as accomplished in that sense.
Q: Speaking of your modelling, you definitely have a flair for it, and have produced some tremendous stuff. Is it something you’d like to do more of?
R: Thank you so much! I do enjoy it but I think it started as a way to boost my confidence and self image and went on from there. I’ve always had a good body image but I think its even better now so I don’t feel the need to put myself out there as much, plus my life is going in different directions so I’m just letting it happen. I love that I could be creative as a model but that moved into wanting to direct shoots and even dabble in photography myself. I’ve made some friends along the way that I’d never turn down a shoot with but I’m not actively looking like I was before.
Q: Being an English woman living with your husband in the US, do you miss the UK much? Do you have many opportunities to visit these shores regularly?
R: I do miss the UK, not just my family and friends but the entire way of life, but I think there has been a shift in where I class as home now. I’d have to say I love them both equally for different reasons, you really can’t compare the countries. I make it back a few times a year which is nice because I adore my family and friends there.
Q: In the course of researching this interview I couldn’t help but notice that you have become something of an agony aunt via your tumblr blog, giving advice and suggestions on all kinds of queries from your followers. Does it mean a lot that your advice is sought out on so many different topics? Do you enjoy trying to help out those who follow your blog?
R: Ha-ha, that’s so true! I guess I’ve always been a bit of an agony aunt, even in school I was the one that sat back and watched other people make mistakes, only to pick up the pieces for them when it all went wrong. I love listening and I don’t think people do that enough, next time you have a conversation try and keep track of how much you’re talking vs how much the other person is. Sometimes its nice to sit and listen and actually help someone!
I am constantly flattered, if not slightly confused that people share very personal information with me or ask me for advice, but I completely understand that sometimes its easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know and often easier to get an unbiased opinion. To me its not an option to ignore someone that’s asking for help, no matter what it is.
Q: I couldn’t interview you without talking about yet another of her passions, that being your dogs. How are your canine cuties, and do you have any plans for more pups?
R: Aww I’m missing them a lot right now as I’ve been in the UK for a few weeks but I get to see them very soon. I would be so lost without them! They are so unconditionally loving and often hilarious. I often crave another dog so I can baby something but I can’t imagine changing what we have now.
Q: What projects are you working on at the moment, and what are you hoping for in 2012?
R: I’m hoping to expand on the makeup side of things, like offering group lessons etc. I also want to look into the possibility of getting certified in other aspects of the beauty industry whether its semi-permanent makeup, nails or other treatments.
My husband drives in the rally America national circuit so I’m hoping he comes out in one piece and places well. We travel a lot for rally so preparing for all of the trips can be a lot of work.
I also just became a first-time aunty a week ago so I want to come back to the UK as often as possible since I found it so hard even thinking about leaving for the US.
Lastly I want to continue with my latest obsession which is healthy living, I’d love to see how far I can take the weight training and try out different diet options and different split routines.
Q: Could we please finish with Bernard Pivot’s famous questionnaire?
R: mais oui!
What is your favourite word? Succinct.
What is your least favourite word? Used.
What turns you on? Blue eyes, dilated pupils and chivalry.
What turns you off? Unnecessarily large egos.
What sound or noise do you love? I used to love the sound of my mum’s necklace she kept her wedding ring on hit her nightstand every night when I was in bed. It was comforting in the sense that I knew where she was.
What sound or noise do you hate? Snoring and loud eaters.
What is your favourite curse word? Fuck.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Female body building.
What profession would you not like to do? Cold-calling or working in a slaughter house.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “Welcome home.”
I can’t thank Rhian enough for her time in answering my questions. She was so enthusiastic about the project, and so helpful during the process. I hope you’ll all head on over to her blog to get a glimpse into her remarkable world.
All images were used with Rhian’s consent, and I think you’ll agree are fantastic!