I came across Anna in a Things & Ink article about tattooed librarians. I was drawn in by the mixture of dark tribal patterns and softer, more colourful Japanese-inspired designs that wrapped around her arms.
When did you start thinking about getting a tattoo? In retrospect, did it coincide with any other changes or developments in your life?
I got my first tattoo together with my sister. I hadn't seriously considered getting one before. She asked me to go with her to her appointment and suggested that I get one too. Before then, I'd only had vague ideas about perhaps wanting something, some day. There had been some significant changes in my life in the year before I got my first tattoo, but in hindsight I think it was a coincidence rather than a catalyst. It was very much a spur of the moment decision.
Do you feel differently about your body or a particular part of your body after having it tattooed?
I used to feel quite uncomfortable about exposing a lot of skin. For example, I would always wear tights with skirts - even in summer. Since getting leg tattoos I'm much more comfortable showing them off. Having a lot of tattoos has added to my self-confidence in general. I used to feel very self-conscious about people looking at me. Now I can tell myself that they're just looking at my ink! I didn't get the tattoos to become noticeable, but it has made me care less about being looked at.
None of my tattoos are specific reminders of events or people, but some of them do have some significance. For example, I have a Star Trek tattoo, which means a lot to me, although it's a design that probably only hardcore fans would recognise. I also have two tattoos with cats, but not any cat that I've known.
How would you describe the experience of getting tattooed to someone who has never experienced it?
I tell people that it’s painful, but probably not as bad as they imagine. When the needle first hits, I'll think "here we go" then "ouch" and then "oh, it's not that bad". Usually endorphins kick in and I'll be fine for a while until I get hungry and then I can't wait for it to be finished. I enjoy the whole experience - the pain is part of the process and when I see the finished piece I know it's all worth it. I always enjoy seeing my tattooist and the other artists in the studio. Saying hello to other regulars, listening to music while I'm lying there, perhaps having a coffee and chat afterwards. It's like visiting a good friend.
How I describe the experience depends on who is asking and why. For example, I was once asked which colours were best to get if you wanted to be able to remove the tattoo with laser treatment later. I do know the answer, but I thought it was entirely the wrong attitude to have when getting a tattoo so I made that clear and told them laser tattoo removal doesn't always work. My nieces used to ask about my ink when they were much younger. I wanted to be a responsible aunty so I convinced them that tattoos weren't allowed until you were 30!
Did it take time to get used to having full sleeves?
I did my sleeves gradually. I had a short sleeve on my right arm for a few years before making it into a full sleeve. My left arm was built up over time with the shading done last. In other words, I had time to get used to it. It did take a while to get used to the short sleeve, because that was the largest and most visible tattoo that I had. I don't think about it at all now - this is just how I look. Recently I found an old photo from before I had any tattoos and it was so strange to see my plain, bare arms without any adornment. It just seemed wrong!
You've been getting tattoos since the 90s. What are the main differences you've noticed in the way that people talk about and perceive tattoos?
I got my first tattoo in 1999, when tattoos were just beginning to become more mainstream. They've become so much more common in the years since then, so I've definitely noticed a difference. Not quite as many stares these days.
Featured tattoo artists: Richie Clarke, Tommy Lompad