Hazel runs an independent magazine called bedboat alongside her full-time job. She is also a tattoo maverick. Whether it's colour, design or placement, her input into her tattoo designs always results in something you haven't quite seen before.
Please note: this post contains nude photos
Back tattoo: Esther De Miguel
I see tattoos as a collaboration between myself and the artist (..) I’m not interested in being tattooed by someone who thinks I should sit down and shut up – it’s my body.
When did you get your first tattoo and what was the experience like?
I got my first tattoo four years ago. I was 16. Obviously I wasn’t of age, but I used a fake ID and went to a respectable place. The woman that did it made it easy and relaxed, even though I panicked and was clearly very scared. It’s just a tiny arrow, but it was the first time I was making very real decisions about what my body was going to look like. I think if I hadn’t had someone so caring and patient for my first piece, I may not have got any more.
What style of tattooing attracts you the most? Are there qualities you look for in a tattoo artist?
I love most styles of tattoos. My collection spans realism, traditional, blackwork and illustrative styles. In terms of what I love to look at, I really appreciate bold traditional pieces. I find so much beauty in pieces that are classic and beautifully applied. Check out Joe Ellis and Rich Hadley for examples of traditional tattoos I love. When I look for a tattoo artist, I always look for someone that has their own style and seems to love what they do. Until recently, I had only been tattooed by women. It wasn’t particularly a conscious decision, but I appreciate that women understand my body a little more, and I appreciate that solidarity. I see tattoos as a collaboration between myself and the artist, and I’m not interested in being tattooed by someone who thinks I should sit down and shut up – it’s my body.
Peony: Ella Bell
Do people ever touch your tattoos?
This is something I hear about quite frequently, but it doesn’t happen to me that often. When I was visiting London, it happened a few times and it frustrated me a little. I’m very proud of my body and I’m more than happy to show off my artwork, but once people start grabbing me and turning me without permission, I feel like they see me as an entertainment piece rather than a person. When I was in Croatia, I was wearing a bikini and a random man came over and started twisting my body so he could look at my tattoos. It was super disrespectful.
How long a period or how many tattoos did you get before you started getting visible tattoos? What were the considerations that went into that process and when did you feel ready?
It took me a little while. It wasn’t until my sixth tattoo that I moved on to my arms. It was scary and a part of me felt that I had taken the mystery away. It was sort of special to know that I had all this artwork hidden that people would so rarely see, and suddenly I felt like I’d given the game away. I don’t regret getting visible tattoos at all, but I’m glad I didn’t start there. The first visible tattoo I got was a hand holding a love letter on my arm by Just Jen. I thought I would keep it at that, but I felt like it had so much negative space around it and it looked quite random, so I’ve now got a half sleeve working towards a full sleeve. I’m not sure we’re ever fully ready to present our artwork to the world to be judged, but I’m happy with all my tattoos so I don’t mind sharing.
Pubic tattoo: Steven McKenzie
Tell me a little bit about the tattoo in your pubic area: what was the motivation behind it and how did people react when you told them about it?
I had the idea and booked the tattoo about two weeks later. When I come up with something that I haven’t seen anywhere else, that’s how I know I want it. I knew I wanted something simple and elegant, and I tentatively approached the artist, Steven Mckenzie. I have a mole in my pubic area and I’ve always hated it. Part of this tattoo was creating something that would change the way I see that area and be less ashamed of it. When I told people I was getting that area tattooed, I got only negative feedback. It’s so uncommon as an area and people are a bit scared of things they don’t know, so lots of people told me not to get it. More than one guy told me that if he took a girl home and found out she had a pubic tattoo, he wouldn’t sleep with her. I never saw that as disheartening. I trust my taste and I trust my body and I knew what I wanted. I suppose there’s an element of purity that’s connected to a vagina and people felt that I was destroying my femininity or something. I think that’s archaic. Sex is messy, vaginas aren’t supposed to be this perfectly hairless, ‘pure’ part of us. I feel like women are scared of their own private parts. I know I was, but now it’s exactly how I want it to be and that’s awesome and I feel more in touch with my body than ever. The people that have seen the tattoo have all been pleasantly surprised, as far as know.
If you could change one misconception people have about tattoos what would it be?
This is a tricky question. I generally I don’t think I experience anything more than a few tuts and “you’ll regret that one day”s. I guess what I don’t like is that we’re a ‘group’. I know plenty of terrible people with tattoos and I know plenty of terrible people without tattoos. It doesn’t define your personality or the things that you stand for and I don’t feel that I should apologise on behalf of other heavily tattooed people for the shit that they’ve done to people – that comes down to them, not their body ink.
Coffin: Esther De Miguel. Rose: Kate Rollinson
Have you ever regretted any of your tattoos?
I genuinely don’t think humans are built to feel regret – we just can’t handle it. There’s a few that I look at now and know that I wouldn’t choose that image if that space was empty. But it’s not, so I don’t think about it. Once they’re there you just get used to it and they become a part of your story. I’ve got a pair of pants on my ankle which were a bit of a quick decision. I think they’re ridiculous and silly and I sort of can’t believe they’re there, but they’re granny pants and I love them and I’m not about to get them covered up any time soon.
Have you ever received any negative comments or been subjected to sexism in relation to your tattoos?
It’s all water off a duck’s back to me. I’m sure I get negative comments, but I don’t intend to remember them. Mostly, people are very positive. People certainly see women with tattoos differently. I often get compared to the Suicide Girls, and I don’t have a problem with them at all, but I feel like the whole point of the Suicide Girls is that they’re there for men to look at and appreciate. I never altered my body for men to judge and look at and fetishise, so a flippant Suicide Girl comment makes me feel degraded to just a sexual object. I do think that tattoos are sexy, but that doesn’t mean that’s the point of them.
Do you think your tattoos have changed people's perception of you?
I’m not sure my tattoos have changed the perception of people who already know me, but I do think it changes the way new people see me. People will make assumptions based on the tattoos and the nose ring and I’ll be put in a premade box. People assume I’m a heavy smoker, that I do a lot of drugs, that I have strange sexual preferences. Most of my friends have no tattoos, so people will assume that I’m the ‘wild card’ of the bunch.
Rose: Kate Rollinson. Robot hand: Just Jen. Snake: Ella Bell. Deer: Amy Savage
Statues: Ella Bell
What words would you use to describe how you felt about your body image before and after getting tattooed?
I think some people are supposed to get tattooed and some aren’t. For some people, it accentuates your beauty, and I think that’s what it has done for me. I never had the body I wanted. I’m short and I have very broad shoulders and when I used to have short hair I was mistaken for a boy a lot. Partly, I’ve just grown into myself and my features, but tattoos also allow me to create the body that I love. I don’t want to pretend I have some incredible story about overcoming adversity or discovering body confidence, because I’ve always been fine. The way I like to describe it is that I have always had a healthy love for my body, but now I have a joyous love for my body, and I know I’m so lucky to have that.
What are your favourite elements about tattoo culture?
To be honest, I like that tattoo culture is changing. It’s not as exclusive as it used to be, and tattoo shops aren’t supposed to be intimidating places. Tattoo artists aren’t expected to know every style, and instead create their own place in the market by only doing the tattoos they love on the people that want them. There’s so much history with tattoos, which I believe deserves to be acknowledged, but I’m happy to see it grow and change as an industry. I love the relationships that people form with their artists, and that the artistry is coming to the forefront over anything else. People take the time to find the perfect artist for them, and I think that’s producing an all round better quality of tattoos.
❤ Featured tattoo artists ❤
Ella Bell, Steven McKenzie, Esther De Miguel, Kate Rollison, Amy Savage, Just Jen