If you think tattoo parlours and getting inked is a male’s domain, think again. Modern women are lining up and using body art as a way to express their creativity, personality and style, according Aussie tattoo artists, Sarah Kate and Lauren Fox. And the creative duo are proud to be female tattoo artists helping the expressive cause…
Yep, tattoos are in vogue again. Lucky for me and my thigh fairy. In fact, according to the Sydney-based tattoo artists, Sarah Kate and Lauren Fox, they’ve become very fashionable, with modern women happy and confident to display their tattoos out loud and proud. From subtle and chic to the bold and beautiful, Lauren and Sarah Kate, who work at Authentink studio in Surry Hills, have been helping to spread the trend of female body art with their talent in designing original and beautifully feminine illustrations for their clients.
The female duo have been lauded for their designs, creating beautiful, elegant and amazing works of body art. But they each have a very unique style.
Sarah Kate redesigns tattoos with a more feminine theme and colour palette that are combined with the principals found in traditional tattooing. Her style of work ranges widely from hyper colour to illustrative with a retro, Kitschy vibe, but she says that “girly traditional” is her favourite to work with.
Lauren follows the traditional Japanese tattoo style with powerful imagery, creating timeless and classic designs that never go out of fashion. She believes that this is something that can be globally appealing, without limitations and this constantly keeps her life interesting.
Here, the artistic duo share their career highlights and journey …
Q. How did your love of tattoos develop?
Sarah Kate: “The first tattoo I ever saw up close was at an annual family Christmas gathering. My cousin had just had a huge outline of snake tattooed across his whole back. Coming from a conservative family, all the relatives were shocked and horrified… but I thought it was amazing! From there it just seemed like a natural progression. I started looking into the old Western traditional tattoo artists and repainting flash. At school I was always the arty girl, so when friends started to hit the legal age of 18, I was the one to draw up their tattoo designs. The only other exposure I had to tattoos was being involved in the Punk and Rockabilly scenes from quite a young age. All of the bands I listened, and looked up, to were heavily tattooed. I got my first ever tattoo done in a typical street shop in my hometown. From memory, I had just turned 19 and I was probably the last of my girlfriends to get tattooed. No one in my immediate family had tattoos, so in a way it was a sign of rebellion from my upper-middle class upbringing. I was always the black sheep, and I always embraced being different. Tattoos helped me express that.”
Lauren: “My love and appreciation for tattoos really started when I left home at 18. Having grown up in California, I had always seen tattooed people but didn’t find myself drawn to the idea until my late teens. From a very young child, I was always drawing and did art in school, but the idea of getting tattooed or later becoming a tattoo artist was never a thought.”
“I don’t come from a tattooing background at all, meaning that I am by far the most tattooed person on either side of my family and, as a child, I had very little exposure to tattoos and tattooing in a positive light. This of course is purely due to lack of knowledge and stigmas that society creates. Naturally, as we get older, the veil of childhood innocence and perceptions is lifted and we begin to question these stigmas.”
“I got my first tattoo in 2001 on my 18th birthday at Laguna Tattoo in Laguna Beach, California. Having already moved to Sydney, I got my second tattoo on my 19th birthday at Manly Tattoo. I was tattooed by rad chick, and at that point, I had never really seen any female tattoo artists.”
“I had an awesome experience and after chatting to her, it opened my eyes to the possibility becoming a tattoo artist. I started spending time looking at tattoo magazines, usually second hand. This was the only real source of tattoo reference at the time and well before tattoo references were available on the internet. I still didn’t think of becoming heavily tattooed; I wanted more but the jobs I had wouldn’t allow visible tattoos or piercings.”
“The more magazines I looked at, the more it became something I wanted to do. The first tattoo artist that inspired me to want to become a tattooer was a Japanese artist named Sabdo. I had never seen Asian and Western culture mixed like that before and tattooed so well in the skin. It opened up a whole world to me and I wanted to be a part of it!”
Q. How did you get into tattooing professionally?
Sarah Kate: “I started tattooing in 2012. At the time I was studying visual arts, English and teaching at University, but getting a tattoo apprenticeship meant having the opportunity to be creative every day. My apprenticeship was unconventional to say the least. I did my first tattoo about two weeks into the job. My boss at the time didn’t believe in the ‘pig skin’ approach, so I literally went straight in, needles to skin. Tattooing is a constant and changing adventure, and four years later, I’m still absolutely loving it.”
Lauren: “I was extremely naïve – I hit up a couple of shops asking what I needed to do! Needless to say I was laughed at. After almost giving up on the idea, it wasn’t until some years later that, through my ex- boyfriend, I was exposed to people that were heavily tattooed – both within the party and music scene. It was through him that I met the man who taught me to tattoo, Lance Daly. I packed up my life and moved down to Wollongong where I did my apprenticeship. The rest is history.”
Q. Describe your artistic style?
Sarah Kate: “I’ve heard a lot of different descriptions for my style of tattoo work, from hyper colour to neotrad and illustrative, but I think ‘girly traditional’ is my favourite. Although the tattoos I design are primarily quite feminine in theme and colour palette, the principals of traditional tattooing are still there. Bold line, solid shading and vibrant colour. As they say, ‘bold will hold’. Artistically, I come from a fine arts background, specialising in large scale portrait painting in oils and acrylics. I view my art and tattoo practices as completely separate entities.”
Lauren: “I like my work to be bold and defined, but balanced with soft blends, high colour saturation and blended gradient transitions, and black… Ladies, there must be an element of black! It can be as simple as a black outline. The black will provide contrast and definition, two very necessary elements of a tattoo that will withstand the test of time. Your skin is paper and works and ages in different ways!”
Q. How does female body art challenging the beauty myth?
Sarah Kate: “As a woman who primarily tattoos other women, I love how getting tattooed gives us another way to feel good about our physicality and be in control of our bodies. Particularly living in an age where women are under such intense pressure to look a certain way. Tattooed women are taking back the power and redefining what is considered ‘beautiful’. I feel lucky to be able to help empower them, even just a little bit.”
“There is something very special about being a tattooed woman in today’s world. It definitely attracts both positive and negative attention from outsiders. Being a tattooed woman is a signifier of strength, and you just have to learn to take the good with the bad. The older generation may never change their opinions on what it means to be ‘feminine’ or ‘ladylike’. A client said to me once, ‘if my body is a temple, why wouldn’t I put art on the walls?’”
Lauren: “What is beauty? Everyone has different ideas when it comes to what is considered beautiful and until recently, tattoos on women wasn’t one of them – no matter where you came from.”
“Women are getting tattooed more and more and also becoming heavily tattooed. Women generally get their tattoos in different shapes and sizes than men, however, I believe that is changing as well, and the act of putting a piece of art on their skin is often a shared experience.”
“The number of tattooed celebrities and TV shows have increased cultural acceptance and spurred more people to not only get them, but display them openly. It definitely gives us a sense of empowerment and identity.”
“However, it’s important to remember that there are many women out there that got tattooed well before it was popular and helped pave the way to this rule. Some did for empowerment, or pure love of the art, or even just giving a big old ‘F** YOU’ to those who told us we can’t do that. Whether they be a tattoo artist or avid collector, these ladies shouldn’t be looked down upon or forgotten. Without them, progress wouldn’t have been made.”
Q. What tattoo designs are people asking for?
Sarah Kate: “The majority of the requests I receive focus on colour. Bright, bold, girly colours that look vibrant in the skin. This is primarily attributed to the style of work I do, that looks much more dramatic when made with colour rather than black and grey. The Disney/pop culture tattoo phenomena is also very popular at the moment. I think it’s a way to capture a little bit of a person’s childhood and the special memories associated with that. I think that in a world that can be quite ugly and aggressive at times, it’s a nice sentiment to mark your body with imagery that is innocent and nostalgic. Gone are the days of tattoos being limited to skulls, spiders, snakes and scorpions…”
Lauren: “Popular culture, celebrities, and social media trends have a lot to do with what people ask for these days. It changes all the time.”
“Trends are forever prevalent and can certainly dictate what people get tattooed. Geometric, dot work, and botanical imagery are super popular at the moment as well as water colour tattoos. I really love all the geometric and black work that is going around at the moment. I think it’s important to not get caught up in trends; pick something that will stand the test of time.”
Q. What are some of your favourite artworks?
Sarah Kate: “Currently I’m really trying to challenge myself with more large scale work; sleeves, leg sleeves etc. There are a lot of challenges involved in putting together a cohesive design that spans and flows with a large surface area of skin. Working closely with my clients to achieve a successful tattoo is extremely rewarding, and every tattoo I do is equally as important as the next.”
“All kinds of people get tattooed now, from all different walks of life and everyone brings their own story. I love getting to know my customers and I always try to capture a little bit of their personality in the tattoo. I believe getting tattooed is 80% the experience and I always try to make the process as enjoyable as possible.”
“At the end of the day, tattooing is a trade, and customer service is so important. Because of my incredible clients who commit to wear my work, I get to do what I love every day; I am so grateful for that.”
Lauren: “I’ve been pretty lucky and had some excellent clients! There are many favourites, but this year, I really had so much fun with a Fear and Loathing Las Vegas piece. I was given complete artistic control to do what I wanted. I couldn’t be happier with the result! I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying tattooing a lot of neo-traditional animals and girls!”
Q. What advice would you give women wanting to pursue a career in body art?
Sarah Kate: “I’d say that needing to have a thick skin is essential! Although changing slowly, the tattoo industry is, and always has been, a male dominated industry and a bit of a boy’s club.”
“Sometimes it feels like just because you’re a woman, you need to work twice as hard to earn the same respect as men feel they are entitled to. Thankfully, there are many female tattooers, particularly in Australia, who are putting out phenomenal and inspiring work every single day. Through social media, Instagram, Facebook and the like, it’s easy to get in touch with fellow female tattoo artists. This creates a great support network, to encourage each other and ask for advice.”
“Women supporting women is a movement for this generation, and it is definitely very prevalent in the tattoo world.”
Lauren: “Just because you can draw, it doesn’t mean you can tattoo. There’s much more involved than you think. The world of tattoos is something you have to eat, live, and breathe. You have to be passionate! People who are just in it for ‘the scene’ or to ‘be seen’ or have seen it on TV and think it looks cool, don’t last. Your apprenticeship is no easy path, nor is the road to becoming a tattoo artist. Once there, it’s constant sacrifice, dedication – blood, sweat, and tears!”
“I read a great article, 13 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Tattoo Artist, and while I don’t necessarily think I would have changed my mind to become a tattoo artist if I had read this article prior, it has some very valid points.”
“Don’t get me wrong, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. But tattooing is not for the faint hearted. The tattoo industry is still heavily male-dominated. For me, I’ve never been really bothered by that, and have always been considered ‘one of the boys’, but there certainly are times when I’ve definitely felt weak or vulnerable and outnumbered.”
“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been humiliated on multiple occasions. How you deal with these situations are what defines you. You need to know how to roll with the punches and dish out just as much as is dished on you on a daily basis. Respect is earned not given. If you want to be taken seriously as a female tattooer, you really have to carve out space for yourself.”
“Work hard, respect the industry, respect yourself, and you’ll succeed. I’ve been very lucky to have met, and been surrounded by, some amazing people. Most of them have been male, and whom I’d consider to be family. I have also been fortunate to have met amazing women, and I find myself constantly being blown away more and more each day by amazingly talented and strong women in this industry, setting the bar higher and higher.”
“I absolutely love what I do for a living, and wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
Q. What advice do you have for women considering having a tattoo?
Sarah Kate: “My biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you’re getting tattooed for the right reasons – not because your friend got one done, or you saw it on Pinterest. Research your artist, make sure that they are professional and working out of a reputable studio. Always meet with your potential artist for a consultation and ensure you’re both on the same wavelength and that they are the right person for the job. A tattoo is forever. The process of getting tattooed shouldn’t be something to be rushed or taken lightly.”
Lauren: “Whether you are female or male, especially for young people, the best piece of advice I can give is make an informed decision! Do your research! Looking at portfolios and actually visiting a shop is a great place to start.”
“Social media is an excellent platform to find an artist or a shop that you love, but nothing beats actually speaking to someone in person. Consults are great for that! This process enables all parties or address questions, concerns, design concepts, price, best body placement, etc.”
“Talking to an artist will quickly reveal whether or not you’re on the same page and if the information you’re receiving is valid.”
“Remember, most professional tattoo artists have your best interest in mind, so if your original idea isn’t tattoo-able in the way you envisioned, BE OPEN MINDED about alternatives. We want you to have an awesome tattoo that will heal well, look good, be properly placed on the body, and ultimately make you happy.”
“Sometimes people are so focused on an image or idea that when told that what they want won’t work as a tattoo, they become completely disillusioned and shut down.”
“Be patient! If the artist that you really want to tattoo you isn’t available straight away, remember, good things come to those who wait.”
“Don’t get caught up in trends. Get something because YOU like it. Just because your favourite celebrity has got a tattoo or you’ve seen something on Pinterest, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good tattoo. In a world of recycled imagery on Google, social media, and Pinterest, it’s very hard to be completely original, but you can always improve on an idea and make it your own.”
“Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, if you want a small tattoo, just remember the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid! Don’t try to combine ALL of your four or more ideas into one tattoo – trying to keep the size small – because it’s your first tattoo and you don’t know what you want. Pick one thing. The more detail and compositional elements you add, the bigger the tattoo will have to be.”
For bookings with Sarah Kate and Lauren, visit Authentink Tattoo Studio.