To celebrate International Women’s Day we thought we’d put together a tribute to all the awesome inked women out there!
We’d love to hear your own stories and sources of inkspiration – and to see your glorious tattoos – get involved in the comments below!
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day “is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity”(1).
The campaign theme for 2019 is #BalanceforBetter: “Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue… Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”(2)
Over the last 20 years the tattoo industry has seen a massive rise in the number of women getting tattooed(3) and the number of female artists on the scene. With everything from online blogs, print magazines, studios and even entire tattoo conventions dedicated to showcasing female artists – it’s arguably one of the most progressive trades out there.
Here, at Sharp Art Studios, we have a balanced full-time team – with two female artists (one a joint company director and business owner) and two male artists (one being the other business owner / director.) We also have another woman currently in part-time training as an apprentice.
We have no gender pay gap and the majority of business decisions are discussed and put to a vote among all the artists. Go team!
So, what do tattoos mean to women – why do we get them? What is it like being an inked woman? A female tattoo artist?
We’ve spoken to some of the wonderful women we know and here are their thoughts along with some of our fave tattoos from the studio… (please note there are references to some potentially sensitive issues)
Why get inked?
Tattoos are a visual representation and reminder of what makes us who we are – they paint a picture of our likes, interests and beliefs, the places we’ve been, the people we love and the challenges we’ve overcome….
“Forever tags are a very special thing – they stay still when everything else moves on – a beautiful marker for our ever changing beings” – Kate
“I wanted a tattoo to not only represent my love of horses but also the positive changes I had made as a result of them being at the centre of my life. So naturally, with my sister being one of, if not the most, supportive, caring and dependable individuals helping me through my journey, I had her draw the design and tattoo me. I am proud to say that the artist who tattooed me is talented, female and fantastic.” – Casey
“…they all have a personal meaning to me. Some are from time spent travelling or time living in an area I want to remember and are important to me. Then I have those that are reminders of some significant time in my life. My most recent tattoo was done due to a miscarriage I had suffered… I now have an amazing tattoo that reminds me of my little one and reminds me how strong I am and what I have made it through.” – Anna
These stories can then be expressed in innumerable ways. With real artists behind the needles all manner of styles, colours, shapes and sizes are achievable…
“As I grew as a person and began to have my own interests my tattoos grew with me. A full Egyptian back piece now covers an old (‘temporary’) rose tattoo and Celtic band with a beautiful piece I created myself…. Over the last few years I’ve had my beautiful Jessica Rabbit and my Japanese-style full sleeve started. For me the bigger is most definitely better.” – Lisa
We’ve tattooed all manner of women – from different backgrounds, ages, abilities. We’ve seen scars, birthmarks, stretchmarks, freckles, curves…the whole beautiful lot. Tattoos can help heal and boost confidence.
“I loved having it done, the individuality I felt it gave me and having something I felt I could show off…” – Lisa
“I was never the most confident kid but I found getting tattoos made me feel better about myself – gave me confidence. Instead of hiding away I wanted to express myself and begin accepting my body for what it was.”– Lauren
Whether it’s long deliberated or more spur-of-the-moment, deep in meaning or strictly aesthetically pleasing, a tattoo is a decision and a commitment. We own our reasons and desires – to get them, to change them, to keep them.
“Growing up I never liked being told what I could and couldn’t wear – or that certain clothes, activities or behaviours weren’t ‘ladylike’. Getting my first (small and easy to hide) tattoo was a rebellious act for me – but the more (and bigger) tattoos I got the less it became about that. When I get tattooed now it’s about choice – my body, my decisions and staying true to myself regardless of what others might think.” – Finn
“It’s my body, my skin and I will decorate it how I want. What about when you get older? What about it? I will be able to show I lived my life for me and not to another’s guidelines. Will you? My beautiful skin will tell a story of who I am. Will yours? Inked and proud.” – Lisa
“I have never really understood why people, who would have otherwise liked to be tattooed, choose not to because of the fear that they’d change their mind or might regret them later. For me, the reason to be tattooed is about just that – the forever bit. The very essence of having a point in my life, an idea, a symbol of that time etched onto my skin forever. Yes, some of my tattoos are regrettable but I love them all as they remind me of the woman I was then.” – Kate
What is it like being an inked woman?
With the surge in tattoo popularity has come a greater acceptance of them – but make no mistake there are still plenty of prejudices that tattooed people and especially tattooed women face. Studies have shown that “men and women both had more negative attitudes toward a woman with a visible tattoo”(3)…and that ”Women with tattoos were viewed as less intelligent, less honest, less generous, less athletic…they were however viewed as being more promiscuous and more sexual – but in an unattractive way.”(4)
“Being a woman, in what is still very much a man’s world, I think it takes great strength of character to get such a statement piece…’You look manly’, ‘they make you unattractive’, ‘you’ll look awful in a wedding dress’, ‘how embarrassing for your children to have such a tattooed mother’…All things I’ve been told just because of my ink. Never once have I listened to a single second of it. I love my tattoos. They are a part of who I am, a massive part, and if anyone has a problem it is exactly that – their problem. I will never be ashamed of them.”– Lisa
By celebrating inked women we can challenge the bias and stereotypes that linger in society. We can champion the work of female artists by getting tattooed by them – wearing their designs with unapologetic pride – and sharing their stunning art across the platforms available to us…
Loz and Finn – between the two of you you’ve been tattooing for over a decade –what do you love most about the job?
L: I love helping people feel better about themselves. It gives people confidence – we do change lives. You will wear that sexy Bikini on holiday! You will wear a sleeveless shirt! You can do whatever you like! That, and that I get to meet and work with amazing people. The scope that tattooing gives you is so fulfilling – every day is different.
F: I love watching a client look in the mirror and seeing the finished piece. All the discussions, drawings and time that goes into tattooing the design – it’s all completely worth it to see their face light up. Especially if it’s a tattoo with a lot of meaning for them. I like that the reasons and stories for getting them are so varied – whether it’s just for the way they look or if it’s a symbol for something (or someone) they love.
What’s it like being a female tattoo artist? Do you think gender plays a part at or in your work at all?
L: It’s a pretty cool job being a tattoo artist but like any job there are days when it’s shit too. With all the awesome way-out-there cool ideas we have and want to put on peoples’ skin – sometimes there just aren’t enough takers or they just want the same things… That’s the hardest thing – being an artist but not being totally free. I know plenty of female customers who just feel more comfortable with us – especially if you’re tattooing a more private area. I know that both the guys at the studio understand this.
F: If you put quality work out there and you treat your clients well then you’ll succeed – it’s refreshing – I don’t think gender plays too big a part in that regard. I’ve got a pretty even client base of men and women – I do find that women tend to want smaller / prettier designs but I don’t feel pigeon-holed and still get to do lots of big, bold work too. There is a bit of typical laddish ‘banter’ about but if you hold your own and speak up they usually respect that – I don’t think that’s exclusive to the tattooing industry at all. I’ve hardly had any uncomfortable experiences with clients at work – people aren’t inclined to overstep boundaries when you’re digging needles into their skin! I’ve worked as a waitress/barmaid in the past and as a woman you definitely get treated differently in those jobs…
Do you think the industry has changed or is changing for women?
L: I started collecting tattoos back in the 90s. All the tattoo shops I’d ever been in just had men in. I’d never met a female tattoo artist until I went to my first convention when I was about 25. There were loads! Seeing all them women tattooing under one roof was a very moving and powerful experience. It instilled in me that I could do it. I was going to do it. It was going to happen.
F: There are so many women involved in the industry now – it’s great. It feels like a real community and there is so much talent out there it’s unbelievable.
Who are your favourite fellow female tattoo artists?
L: One of my friend’s sisters is an artist who specialises in black work – Lauren Shaw. She’s an awesome person and really doing well in the industry. I love Teresa Sharp she’s got a distinctive beautiful Neo Traditional kinda style. There’s so many I admire! Instagram’s great for that.
F: Hannah Flowers, Kelly Violence, Sasha Nicole, Just Jen Tattoos, Sophia Baughan, Flo Nuttall, Dzo Lama, Emily Malice, Sophie Brown, Lorena Morato, Aimee Cornwell, Jessica Penfold, Becky Pope, Kaitlin Greenwood, Sammie Jones, Lauren Evans, Tati Compton…there are so many!
What do your parents think of your ink? Of your career path?
F: My mum used to absolutely hate tattoos. I still think she struggles a bit with me having / continuing to get them – but she accepts now that they’re a big part of my identity. Over the years she’s become way more supportive of my actual work – even liking my stuff on Instagram! She’s glad that I do something creative and that I care about what I do. My dad’s not keen on neck or face tattoos (on anyone) but otherwise he’s not fussed.
L: My dad used to joke “The only women with tattoos in my day were circus folk and ladies of the night!” but times are changing. He might not like them on me but I know he’s proud of me and loves me for who I am and where I am today.
What’s your personal experience of being an inked woman?
F: If there’s one thing having tattoos has taught me it’s that if someone’s going to judge you for them they’re rarely going to keep quiet about it! I’ve had shopkeepers, colleagues/bosses, taxi drivers, family, doctors, complete strangers – all tell me they think they’re “disgusting”, “awful” or “not feminine” or “not attractive”. I’ve had people randomly just walk up, grab me and inspect me without so much as a hello. I’ve had to hide them for past jobs. But for every negative there’s a positive. It sparks something in people – a joyous and genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for your art – your choices – and for their own too. You’re connected to so many through a love of tattooing.
L: Mine’s been positive, mostly. I love having tattoos. I’m never fazed by the staring or the odd negative comment – with most people I find it a great conversation starter. My portraits on my arms get a lot of attention and it’s awesome when people recognise them. They’re all around us – tattoos – bare skin is going to be rare in the next couple of decades I’m sure!
We all know it hurts…how do you get through your tattoos?
L: If you really want it you can find the strength from somewhere to get through…I find myself in an almost meditative state sometimes, peacefully accepting the pain. After 4/5 hours though there’s definitely a right mental battle going on inside!
F: Yeah. You’ve got to get in the zone. Surrender to it! And breathe, breathe, breathe… I find music helps me a lot. I can be a bit of a crier too though – depends where I’m getting tattooed!
Why do you get tattoos? And have you got any favourites?
F: I started off by only getting things with a real meaningful significance – for my family, travels or hobbies. But now I just get whatever I want. Loz is currently working on my back piece which I love. I’ve got a skull and gorseflower sleeve by Nick which was my first big tattoo. Alex has done quite a few for me – the inflatable T-rex suit one in particular always puts a big grin on my face.
L: I really don’t know sometimes….when I’m getting my shin shovelled for 6 hours I start thinking what the fuck am I doing here again!? But it’s all about the end result isn’t it – having a piece of art on your skin. My favourite is a black and grey portrait of Lauren Bacall by Nick.
What would you like to see in future?
F: I think things are heading a good way – and quickly. Generally just a bit more open-mindedness and less discrimination against anyone with tattoos would be cool.
L: I’d like to see more Crazy ass customers who want something special – like a Ninja Space Otter with spinning nunchucks. Or just the odd Unicorn here and there will do…
On that magical note, we bring to a close our piece for International Women’s Day 2019. Thanks for reading – for trusting us with your ideas and your skin – love to all the Inked Women rocking their art out there!
EAT. SLEEP. INK. REPEAT.
Dedicated to the ULTIMATE art form.
References / Links:
(3)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:SERS.0000027564.83353.06“23% of women but only 12% of men were tattooed, which supports recent claims that women may be more than 50% of the individuals currently obtaining tattoos”, “men and women both had more negative attitudes toward a woman with a visible tattoo” Hawkes, D., Senn, C.Y. & Thorn, C. Sex Roles (2004) 50: 593. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:SERS.0000027564.83353.06
(4)https://www.speakertv.com/arts/arts-culture/ladies-tattoos-inadvertent-symbol-feminism/Paragraph 11. Linked with Psychology Today – https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/head-games/201305/how-do-people-view-women-tattoos Paragraph 3.
Tattoo / Creative Related:
Women with Tattoos– “Exploring the stories & art behind inked skin.” http://www.womenwithtattoos.co.uk
We Are Waiting– Ladies Tattoo Convention https://ladiestattooconvention.thestorm.lu/en/home/
The Other Side of Ink– Female Artist Tattoo Convention https://www.facebook.com/theothersideoftheink/
SheSays– “The only global creative network for women.” https://weareshesays.com
Manchester and Stockport Women:
The Womens Organisation – “When a woman is empowered, women are empowered. Each new achievement reinforces us all.” http://www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk
The Women’s Centre (Stockport)– “provider of innovative support services and therapeutic treatments for women.” https://www.thewomenscentre.uk.net
Sister Circle– “A community of awakening women. Valuable and insightful free resources. For beautiful women who are working towards more conscious awareness who feel the need for magic, ritual and sacredness of a circle of women.” https://www.facebook.com/sistercircleuk/
The Pankhurst Trust / Manchester Women’s Aid– “Working together to empower and inspire.” https://www.pankhursttrust.org
LGBT Foundation– an inclusive service for all “who identify as lesbian, bisexual or questioning their sexual orientation”. https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/women
Inspiration women from Greater Manchester– https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/greater-manchester-100-inspirational-women-12698813
Manchester Mind– “Supporting better mental health for everyone.” https://www.manchestermind.org
Manchester Rape Crisis– “Listening. Believing. Supporting.” https://www.manchesterrapecrisis.co.uk