We’d like to introduce you all to Léa Vendetta, a beautifully decorated lady who’s quite handy with some needles and a few pots of ink. Born in Paris, Léa crossed the pond in 1995 and is now residing in the sunnier climes of Florida’s Key West. She’s been creating art for most of her life and works out of Paradise Tattoo on Duval Street.
Where did you grow up and what were your interests as a child?
I grew up in France. I began drawing and painting at a pretty early age, and by 17 I was already having exhibitions, showing my work in local places, designing flyers for local nightclubs, album covers for friend’s bands, stuff like that... I knew that that was the only thing I wanted to do in life, some kind of artsy-oriented work.
When did you first become aware that you had an interest in tattoos and what was the first work you had done?
I’m not sure when I first become aware I had an interest for tattoos;’ I think my love for tattoos came from my taste in music and everything that goes with it, when I was beginning to find who I was and what I liked, so probably around 13-14 years old.
I got my first tattoo the day I turned 18; it was a little Celtic dragon on my butt and I thought that was the hottest thing ever! It’s now covered and lasered and ready to get covered again! Hahaha!
What is it about the style of work that you have chosen that is appealing to you?
I like classic tattoos, designs that look like tattoos…Japanese, traditional, etc. The only style I like that is not traditional is Aaron Cain’s. I got some Aaron Cain flash on my chest and I love it; I hope that one day I’ll have the chance to get a piece from Aaron.
Since the first tattoo, you have had a lot of tattoo work. How has that developed over the years?
I dunno… I just love it! If it were up to me I’d be way more covered than I am now; it just takes so much time to get good work!
Who are the tattooists who have worked on you and what was it about them that made you choose them for the job?
Wow! I’ve been getting tattooed over a long period of time so I’ve had the time to meet plenty of amazing artists! Mainly I like to work with great artists that don’t have an attitude and that are genuinely good people...it’s important as I will wear their art for the rest of my life so I would prefer for it to have good vibes to it. Let’s see who worked on me: Henning Jorgensen, Mike Cole, Dave Bastard, Mike Rubendall, Aaron Bell, Pooch, Greg James, P.L Serrano, Jay Pedro, Xed LeHead, Mr X, French Thomas, Jime Litwalk, Troy Denning, Hori Waka, Sicko, Rick Cosmo…I think that’s about it.
In what ways has your life changed since you have become heavily tattooed, either positively or negatively?
It’s great I love it! It closes the doors I wouldn’t want to open anyway and it opens the ones I dreamed of opening one day. It makes life much easier; I am reminded everyday of who I am!
>What kind of reactions do you get from the public because of your tattoos?
It’s either good or bad; there is no indifference, which is great ‘cause I’m a pretty extreme person myself.
Do you think that attitudes toward heavily tattooed people differ much between the United State and Europe?
Yes, definitely…but maybe not in England, ‘cause England has an existing tattoo history. France for example, where I’m originally from, is definitely a place where you can feel that the people have a hard time with accepting tattoos as an art form. The main tattoo history in France is from prison so it will take a while for the masses to embrace the art...unless if they come out with a “Paris Ink”, that would rock things around a bit! Hahaha!
Can you tell us more about the tattoos that you have? What are their significance, inspirations, and how did the designs evolve?
I’m pretty spontaneous; the design idea comes to me when I’m ready to get a new piece. I’m not the kind that thinks about something for years before I do it...I just like something and do it. I also believe in life TODAY, and that’s probably the main reason why I got my tattoos...life has to be lived today, so if I feel like getting tattooed then why shouldn’t I? I’ve had some regrets with tattoos I got when I was younger but none from my design choices, more from my artist choices. If you choose a good artist who’s right for you, you’ll be happy with your tattoo for the rest of your life.
You already have extensive tattoo coverage. Once you have run out of skin, do you think that you will miss the process of being tattooed or will you just be content that the work is complete?
No, it’s been 18 years since my first tattoo, that process takes a long time!! There is no way in this lifetime I’ll run out of space. I still have major real estate on my body. My back is pretty much blank, my legs are not done, I still have all kinds of projects...and when I’m done it’s probably gonna be time for another coat! Just like the Eiffel tower! Hahaha!
We met at the London convention; do you generally attend many conventions? If so, what do you most enjoy about them and what did you think of this year London convention?
I love conventions ‘cause I get to see friends, maybe get some work done, buy some sweet t-shirts and gear and stuff!
I like big city conventions so I get to visit the cities at the same time: N.Y, London, Milan, Berlin, L.A, Miami... You’re a tattooist, tell us how you first started in that industry and how you have established yourself since that time. I started 12 years ago, got a starter kit from Kaplan, fucked a couple of friends up, and then moved!
Well, not really, I didn’t move and I didn’t fuck my friends. It took me years and years to learn this really difficult trade. I am still learning and I will never stop learning. After 12 years I am just beginning to have fun with this where I can translate any crazy idea on skin in a tattooable style! Now, I love it! Until now it was so hard, many times I thought I was gonna quit! It’s time consuming too; it’s a 24hours job you know. There is no time off when you work custom, but for me it’s the best ever, I love to make people happy and when they love the work I give them it’s the best reward ever for me.
Do you feel that being a female in what is traditionally a male dominated industry is a positive or negative factor?
Ha! The classic question! It’s definitely harder ‘cause if you’re a chick you will be judged twice as hard so it did push me to work harder and now I’m beginning to see my work paying off next to my peers, where I get respect from lots of my friends it’s a great feeling, especially ‘cause the work to get where I’m at was tremendous.
As a tattooist, do you specialise in any particular style of work?
I didn’t have that luxury, and there is some weird thing inside me that cannot refuse people when they want to get something from me (even if I think their idea is not the best) so it ended up being that my specialty is trying to do the best tattoo for the subject and design that is given to me.
I do have my favourites, and it’s similar to what I like to get; I like traditional designs, the ones that look like they’re supposed to be tattoos like traditional and Japanese…I love doing black and grey and portraits too.
Which artists do you most admire for their abilities and demeanour toward tattooing?
The one I really look up to that has an unbelievable work ethic as well as being an unbelievable human being, I would say is Henning Jorgensen. I also really love the work and philosophy of Aaron Bell; I worked with him at his shop recently for 3 weeks and he’s just such an unbelievable artist and human being as well. There’s way more tattooists that I admire for different reasons and that are great friends: I admire Dave “Bastard” Archer for his old schoolness, Xed Le Head for his genius, Dan Dimattia for his artistry, and Bugs for his bad assness! I could go on and on…basically, I love and look up to every genuine artist. As genuine, I mean people that dedicate their life to it, not the one that do it to make a buck or ‘cause they’ve seen it on TV.
Apart from tattoos, what other interests do you have?
I love to paint but I’ve been so busy tattooing it doesn’t leave me much time to paint anymore, but I just moved and so hopefully I’ll be able to go back to painting there.
What plans do you have for the future in terms of tattoos and life in general?
I just moved to Key West where they just legalised tattooing and I’m working there in a gorgeous shop in the window of the main street, ‘Duval’. It’s really an amazing crazy little island packed with smart, loveable people and lots of tourists from all over the world - I love it!! A lot of British people live here too as a matter of fact - the British know what’s good!