Jay Rose

Jay Rose contacted me on Instagram at the beginning of the year with a message that warmed my soul. She was busy with her degree and career as a tattoo artist, yet still took the time to inform me that the project had inspired and helped many of her clients. After pouring over her portfolio, filled with beautifully intricate botanical pieces, and reading her honest and heartfelt messages to her followers, I knew she had to be part of the project. Thankfully, she said yes.

Face tattoo: Johno 

When you first wrote to me about Women with Tattoos you described it as something you and some of your clients found inspiring (which I'm still so flattered by!). Do you think there's a need for a project like this and if so, why?

Honestly? Because it's not fabricated to make women out to be anything but themselves. It's not an overly sexualised version of women with tattoos on the cover of a tattoo publication. It's pure and honest. There is great solus in knowing the viewpoints you hold are shared with other similar souls, artists and tattoo collectors alike, who bare these artworks on their bodies for their own unique reasons. I think the most inspiring part of this project is hearing others share their experiences with their bodies and how tattooing has affected them directly. Tattooing isn't simply seen as an exclusive club for sailors and rock'n'rollers anymore - its spiritual and personal values come alive through talking and through what you do.

You've been influenced by Tibetan art and Buddhism. For those who are unfamiliar with this culture, can you describe the aspects that have influenced your work?

I was brought up with heavy influences of Buddhism through my mother. Tibetan symbols were something I had always been exposed to. The beauty within Buddhism is that it doesn't project negative energy. it takes great pride in trusting that, as beings, we will simply do the right thing. As I got older, I found myself drawn to Tibetan Buddhism and the symbolism within things. For example, the amount of petals present within a lotus bud/flower means something different to another. Flower symbolism is something I've always had an interest in both within botany and within spirituality, so I feel it’s natural to draw parallels with both within my work. However, though it’s something I adore and hold dear to my heart and adorn my body with, I learnt that it wasn't something I wanted to tattoo quite early on. I started drawing and creating Tibetan-style tattoos early in my apprenticeship and I felt like it was becoming more forced as opposed to how natural the more botanical tattoos are to draw for me.

Back piece: Hannah Pixie

Can you tell me about your incredible back tattoo? How did the design develop and what was the process of getting it done?

With any piece of work you get done, you step into a journey with your chosen artist. I wanted my back to be done by someone I trusted and knew would do it justice. After speaking with Hannah [instagram.com/hannahpixiesnow] about it briefly, we came to the conclusion this could be something magic. My back was and continues to be a very free-flowing process with a large amount of it being free-handed on. This is a manifestation of two minds collaborating to create something that flowed with my body. I am a rather small being and it was important for my back piece to be worn and not for it to wear me. Its evolution has been both a representation of my growth as an individual and Hannah’s growth as an artist, being the first back piece she'd started. As for getting it done, I’m not ashamed to say I have squirmed, cried, winced and in all honesty become my worst nightmare. My back was and continues to be the worst I've ever sat for a tattoo. Back pieces really do suck and hurt like nothing else i've ever experienced. I was naive and took the warnings perhaps too lightly but, to be honest, if I had realised how much it really would have hurt, I’m unsure whether I'd ventured into it as soon as I did.

Neck tattoo: Paige Davidson and Ryan Jessieman

A lot of people struggle to find tattoo apprenticeships and I wondered what your experience was like. Did you prepare a portfolio first?

This is a question I get asked a lot and an answer I’m always a little ashamed to give. Not because I'm embarrassed with how I started tattooing, but purely because I didn't have the struggle of really really pushing for it, building a portfolio and traipsing it around studios begging for a chance. I am incredibly lucky and Tom (the man who taught me everything I know) really did just take a complete chance on me one day during a tattoo I was sitting for. He saw some of my work and it all went from there. Tom was planning to open a new studio a few months later and told me if I could wait until then he would take me under his wing. I adored Tom's work and it was really important for me to learn from someone whose style I not only loved but wanted on my own body. I trusted him with mine, and as I learnt, he trusted me with his (no matter how badly it turned out). I am extremely grateful and forever indebted to Tom for taking a chance on me.

What were the most important things you learnt from your mentor during the apprenticeship?

• There are no shortcuts, things take time and there's a reason for that. Patience really is everything when you're learning.

• Everything is a learning curve and you are never done learning. Your apprenticeship never really ends because you are constantly soaking everything up around you. When that thirst stops it's time to re-evaluate what you're doing.

• If you don’t believe in yourself, how the fuck are other people going to believe in you?

• STENCIL GETS EVERYWHERE! And sucks to get off, so try not to touch your face.

Mandala and hand tattoo: Alex Bawn

What has been the most emotional experience you've had as a tattoo artist?

I've had a lot of emotional experiences as an artist, but the most recent one was last week, a lovely woman had emailed me wanting a tattoo with a little nod to her mother who had recently passed. Her mother had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and they had discovered a brain tumour within the same week. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in the September just gone and it's been a hard journey so this is something that really struck home. She was a really lovely girl who had been through something that I could empathise with.

Selection of work from Jay Rose's portfolio

How do your tattoos make you feel? Do you have a different relationship with individual tattoos or do you experience them holistically as a 'second skin'?

I find the idea of a 'second skin' a weird one. The minute a tattoo is on my skin it becomes a part of me and I often find it hard to remember what it was like to not have it. Looking back at old photos is becoming increasingly strange, especially since I've gotten quite heavily covered in the past two years. For me, getting tattooed isn't simply about decoration - every tattoo I have means something. This is not to say tattoos without meaning are anything less, but for me each tattoo is marking a journey and allowing me to become more secure within myself. I have tattoos with friends, for family and inside jokes. But for me it was getting my stomach, hand and back done that were the biggest steps in really bringing a vision to life, those were the big tattoos that started to really frame my body and connect the dots if you will. Watching myself become more comfortable in my own skin is something I started to notice after that.

If you could spend a month tattooing anywhere in the world where would you go?

I'd love to learn more tattooing in Thailand, Bali or Tibet exploring different approaches and methods.

Barbed wired: Rebecca Vincent, girl: Emily Malice, 'Death before dishonor': Curt Montgomary, knot and 'K': Jay Rose

❤ Featured artists ❤
Paige DavidsonRyan JessiemanJohno, Hannah PixieAlex BawnRebecca VincentEmily MaliceJay Rose,  Curt Montgomary

With thanks to Locke Hotels for providing the location for our shoot

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