Interview: Tamar Karp

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A Bristol based tattoo artist, Tamar specialises in neo traditional design, where she is currently working as a full-time artist at The Black Lodge in Portishead – I am lucky enough to see her work in action most days, and I hope to one day be tattooed by her.

Hello Tamar, how are you today?

Hello, I’m very well, thank you!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up in a mid Wales, although I am originally from Liverpool. As a teen I lived in Llanidloes. After secondary school, I opted to live and study Fine Art at Liverpool Hope University. I returned to Llanidloes afterwards for a short while to do odd jobs in an attempt to recover from student life. I still love my rural home, but typically, I missed the excitement of a city. I have lived in Bristol for almost 3 years now, and I love it too!

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When did you realise you wanted to become a tattoo artist?

I would have to say when I was about 15 years old. I was given the chance to remain and work as an apprentice in a studio back in Wales after being there for work experience through school. The owners offered to teach me about tattooing after I realised what career opportunity it was. I then continued to learn with my friend John. Honestly, at that time, I was just very happy to have found at art related placement in such a small town, but I was still immensely grateful. 

I have never known a time where I have not drawn or created anything, so it was a big deal. Prior to then, tattooing had only just begun to be televised, and although I find tattoo shows to be incredibly negative and inaccurate, the shows I saw before I was 15 did admittedly spark my curiosity. It was the first time I realized that you could have anything put on your body. Not just a select few pieces of flash art.

What is the main equipment you use during a tattoo session? 

The main equipment would be rotary tattoo machines, needles, grips, a power supply and ink. Although there are so many other components; clip cords, foot pedal gloves, green soap, caps petroleum jelly, cling film, paper towels, etc. The set up is the same regardless of the job size.

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How long did it take to discover your own style?

I think I am still discovering it in a way. I have had so many different influences in the last few years, especially since working in the Black Lodge. It’s a brilliant environment to work and focus in. But I would say my own style has developed in the last couple of years. 

How often are you able to express your own style on clients?

Most clients feel comfortable with my design process; they feel it will have better outcome, otherwise, I will always do my best to ensure satisfaction. I will quite often refuse work if I don’t feel my style will suit the request.

What struggles have you faced since becoming a full-time tattooist?

Attempting to maintain a balance between work and leisure. You never really have time off from tattooing; there’s always something to work on, whether it be a design request or a potential tattoo design. Another challenge I would say, is never being satisfied. You constantly want to push yourself, which I believe, is a positive thing. 

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What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Helping those feel comfortable in their skin, especially for those who have experienced loss and for those who just love art. It is so rewarding to be a part of that experience, which can quite often be emotional or overwhelming.

What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

Be patient. Many aspiring tattooists these days just focus on making their own drawing style from day one. However, years ago when there aren’t as many tattooists as there are today, artists would achieve many styles. It is good to have achieved many techniques, but I believe it is just as good to specialise.

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What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

The best advice I’ve ever been given is simple; keep calm and don’t ever rush.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next 5 years?

By that time I’ll have hopefully worked with many different artists, exchanging knowledge and advice, and will be creating stronger and stronger work. I love working in a studio with multiple artists, but it’d be nice to have my own little set up; somewhere quiet, maybe rural, where my clients can have a more personal and serene experience. Tattoos will always hurt. So the more relaxed the environment, the better the experience.

You can find all of her work on Instagram 'https://www.instagram.com/tamar_karp.tattoo/'. 

Pollyanna ShawComment