Now this is what we call work! In our continuing series of investigating the feminine form in all its tattooed glory, this issue, we bring you Alicia along with her amazing sleeves and back piece.
When did you first become interested in tattoos and what was it that initiated your interest?
"It wasn’t until my sister got her first couple of tattoos that I actually started looking at the artistic quality that could be achieved with tattoo work, and I started to appreciate how there were so many more styles of tattoos then I had previously seen or imagined. This opened my mind to what could be achieved and my interest in tattoos began to develop."
How and why did you choose the style of ink you have and how did you source the tattooist?
"I have always been interested in a particular style of illustration, and I have a habit of collecting imagery that I like. I knew when I first considered getting tattooed that I wanted to use images from this collection as references for the tattoos, and that the tattoo style best suited to convey the qualities I like in this imagery was black and grey.
I was extremely lucky in finding the tattooist who has done all the work on me – I got talking to someone who was in the process of getting full sleeves tattooed at New Wave Tattoo. Impressed with the quality of the work I saw, I visited the shop and explained what I wanted to get done. I was shown some of the black and grey work by the artist Adam Collins and knew immediately that his particular style, with the amount of attention to detail he puts into his work, was exactly how I wanted my tattoos to look."
When starting out with the theme, did you ever imagine that you would eventually have this much work done?
"Initially, I had the intention of just getting a couple of tattoos done on my arms, but I was so pleased with the way they looked when they were finished that I wanted to extend the work into full sleeves. The back piece then followed, joining onto and in the same style as the sleeves. Whilst I didn’t expect to get so much done when I first started out, I prefer how the design appears to flow better with greater narrative qualities in the complete pieces on my arms and back, as opposed to the somewhat disjointed nature of separate, unconnected tattoos."
How much input into the design concept did your tattooist have?
"Apart from providing Adam with the images that I wanted him to use as references and stating where on my body I wanted the particular images to be tattooed, the design of how the imagery fitted together was largely under Adam’s control. With all his experience he has the best knowledge in terms of the techniques and design elements that both work and look good, so I was very happy for him to use his creativity with this."
Who were your role models or other influences?
"I can’t say I had any role models, but clearly a predominant influence in my choice of imagery was the work of H.R.Giger. Other influences came from the artwork of music bands, including illustrations of Eddie from Iron Maiden. I basically selected images that I really liked and also thought would translate well as tattoos. Before getting my back tattooed, it was very inspiring to look at some of the beautifully tattooed back pieces of other people who were also heavily influenced by the work of Giger."
Since you have become increasingly tattooed, has your sense of self esteem and body image altered noticeably? If so, in what way?
"Since becoming increasingly tattooed, my sense of self-esteem and body image hasn’t changed simply because I have tattoos. However, I have understandably received more looks and judgements from people in the general public, and I think that through dealing with this I am able to care less about what other people think about my body or appearance – which in turn probably increases my confidence and sense of self-esteem."
What kind of reactions does you ink attract if and when it is seen in public?
"The reactions from people towards my tattoos vary quite dramatically. Mostly I find people are just curious since the style and amount of tattoo work I have is not particularly usual for women. I get compliments from people expressing respect and admiration for both the style of imagery and the quality of the tattoos. At the same time, there are also people who make it quite apparent through their body language that they do not want any association with it or to be seen as supportive of it in case, in my opinion, they risk any form of social exclusion by association. Often theses people view tattoos as a destruction of the body and don’t understand why I would want to do that to myself."
Do you think that attitudes towards heavily tattooed women are becoming more accepting or do you feel that there is still much of a stigma attached?
"There is the view that since tattoos have been traditionally associated with men, women who have tattoos, particularly heavily tattooed women, challenge social constructs of femininity. There is still very much an uncomfortable attitude towards women redefining themselves in this way. Whilst women who have only a few small, easily hidden tattoos are more socially accepted since they can ‘pass’ for being non-tattooed, I think there is still a stigma attached to heavily tattooed women.
It’s not so straightforward however, since a further view is that women with characteristics less conforming to society’s ideals of beauty (for example less feminine women) can be more accepted as heavily tattooed, and in addition, also more accepted as being beautiful with the tattoos. Another view, which has no correlation with any notion of femininity, is that if the tattoos compliment an overall image in supporting a stereotypical form of appearance then they seem to be more accepted, and in some cases almost expected."
Your tattoos are pretty extreme and not necessarily of a style chosen by a girl as pretty and feminine as you are. Were you ever worried that you would not be able to carry off such a bold design?
"At the beginning I never actually put too much thought into whether the style of my tattoos would suit me, given that it may be seen as too extreme or bold for women to carry off. I chose the style simply because I like it, and not because it fitted into the popular opinion of what was deemed appropriate for women. I would not have had flowers and butterflies tattooed on me just because it is more usual for women to choose this type of imagery. The emphasis was not on getting tattoos for the sake of being seen as a ‘tattooed person’ - if I had not been able to use the imagery that I like then I certainly would not have chosen to be tattooed.
At the same time, I didn’t choose this style to be in any way shocking or subversive. Regardless of how other people may judge it, I am very happy with the way my tattoos look and given the chance to start again I wouldn’t change it."
In terms of the future, are you planning more?
"I’m not planning any more work in the immediate future, however some long-term plans may include extending the back piece downwards probably in the same style as my other tattoos – as to how much of my legs I would want to cover, I am still undecided."