When did you first become interested in tattoos? Is it something that built up slowly?
Probably when we had a lodger living with us from when I was about seven years old. She had colourful and very pretty tattoos of unicorns, which I was fascinated with. My older cousin also had tattoos when I was in my early teens that were also really colourful, so they were always beautiful things to me. I never had the traditional associations with anchors and “I Love Mum” tattoos.
Am I right in thinking that your tattoo is what we would normally consider a 'sleeve' only with more white/negative space than usual, as opposed to separate, individual tattoos? Can you explain the creative decision behind this approach?
It has been described as a sleeve, but it just evolved as several tattoos all on one arm, so I don’t tend to think of it that way. It was designed specifically for my arm, so each flows into the other, and there is a continuity to it, but the cleverness in that is entirely to Saira’s credit rather than mine! When I realised that I would always want to have more tattoos, I thought about how they would look on the body and also how each would relate to the other. Keeping them all on one arm is a way to bring them together, and I like knowing that I can add to it, which is why the blank spaces of skin are important! If it was all filled in, there’d be a sense that it was finished, and for me, I don’t feel that this piece ever will be as I’ll always want to add more to it. Also, because the whole arm hasn’t been coloured in, the tattoos each stand out more, which was incidental and unplanned, but another thing I really like about them.
Can you talk us through the story behind the individual elements of your tattoo?
Each element represents people in my life. The bluebells are for my mum, for example. The lemon trees are for the Italian side of my family. The caterpillar is my godson. Picking the right thing for each person or people was either an instinctive thing or I had a conversation with the person about it. We’re all affected by the important relationships in our lives, good or bad, and this is a way of acknowledging their importance in making me who I am.
Some people talk about their tattoos as a source of confidence. When you look at your tattoo how does it make you feel?
I think it’s beautiful. When Saira was tattooing me, it was as though the needle was uncovering these images on my arm, rather than adding them. They are an essential expression of myself – though there is always so much more I want to add!
What was it that attracted you to Saira Hunjan's work?
Saira wasn’t a well-known tattooist when I first went to her. I met someone at a party who had a beautiful tattoo that she had done and they gave me her details. After that first time there was no question that she would be the person I would go back to for any more tattoos. She’s an absolutely lovely woman – really gentle, kind, interesting and inspiring to spend time with and easy to trust 100%.
How long does it usually take you to decide on a tattoo? Do you do lots of research beforehand?
I will look at a lot of different images once I’ve decided on the plant or creature, and usually at photographs rather than illustrations, but I tend to get a feeling about something quite strongly. It takes me a long time to get around to booking the sessions, but not long at all to decide to get another one. Right now, I have a wishlist of ones to be done!
Have you got any plans for future tattoos?
I haven’t got plans as much as desires. There are quite a few more that I have been daydreaming about for a couple of years now. My niece and nephew have since been born and need to find their way on there… as bumblebees! There are also other people from my life who I’d like to have represented. But I’ll get to having them done eventually, and as time passes, there’ll always end up being more to add! It is permanently unfinished.