As the cold nights grip us with their icy tendrils and Lockdown three begins to bite at the heels of UK tattooing, Yayo decided to look on the bright side and take stock of all the brilliant artists we have under our umbrella. This week we sent resident blog boy Matt Haddon-Reichardt, on a virtual plane to Copenhagen to interview the fantastically talented Jones N S Larsen. Check out his brilliant work below!
Like so many, my jobs rather odd under lockdown restrictions. I usually like to get out and meet the tattooists I interview. Even better I like to get tattooed by the tattooists I interview, but at the moment that just isn’t possible. Instead its email, Skype and WhatsApp that fill the void of face to face interaction.
“I started back in 2013 when I was having my back piece started up. My tattoo artist found my creative mindset interesting and saw my drawings and pushed me to try out tattooing; 6 months after I ended up getting some machines and decided to look for an apprenticeship. The first studio I went to took me in and that’s kinda where it all started.”
I always start at the start with interviews and it always surprises me the sheer variety of reasons why people take up tattooing. I always follow that one up by asking where people are working now and what they like about the place. It seems like a nice way to introduce the reader to the artist.
"Although before the whole Corona lockdown I travelled all over the world for guest spots."
“I opened up my second studio almost 3 years ago in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark. What's great about it? Everything! The location is unique as I decided to open as a private studio where I currently have 5 other artist working and a shop manager.”
“The location is placed on the 3rd floor and mostly for collectors or people who know of us, or heard of us; which makes the studio and the location one of a kind. Although before the whole Corona lockdown I travelled all over the world for guest spots and I'm in good collaborations with awesome studios in Cali, NY, Hawaii, USA, Israel, Greenland, Netherlands. Germany, plus many more.”
“No, I don't believe I served a traditional apprenticeship; I was mostly self taught and always searching and studying from different artists I felt I could learn from.”
"Would tattooing benefit from college and university courses; yes, I actually believe so."
Its surprising how many artists are self taught and dodged the traditional dogsbody apprenticeship. Another question I like to throw around, like an over inflated basketball, is the idea of formal education getting involved in the tattoo scene; like a degree in ink or the like.
“Would tattooing benefit from college and university courses; yes, I actually believe so. But I'm afraid of the idea as I've already seen a boom in artists just copying work. But on the other hand I'm sure those who would pop out could take the industry to an even higher level.”
Which brings me nicely onto question 4: is tattooing an art or just a bunch of people copying someone else’s tattoo of Iron Man?
“Copying is a thing that’s always gonna be around and be done. The focus is too high for sure. But take it as a complement when tattoo artists try to copy each other’s work. But when a artist gets to the level where the work being pushed out becomes unique then that breaks the cycle. I would love to see some custom work and less copying.”
“I love that I'm still learning and always pushing to become better."
If anything gets tattooist down more than no shows its red tape. It’s the same in Denmark as in the UK.
“I love that I'm still learning and always pushing to become better, I love that I get to travel the world and find inspiration, motivation and learn from other studios and artist and to give back. I dislike what the government in Denmark is trying to do to the tattoo industry; new mandatory hygiene courses done by the state with no tattoo experience. Plus the high taxes and costs to have the government approve the studio setup for the rights to tattoo; its kinda complicated to explain.”
Back to the artist and one question that often stumps them is to ask them to describe their style. Not the case for Mr Jones who slaps down a royal flush on the table.
“I would describe my style as, realism with a twist; with a bit of personality. It’s about fine lines and details. As I'm still learning, I'm not sure if I've have gotten to the point on having a "Jones Style". My style has developed throughout the years of finding artist that would inspire me and do work where I would feel comfortable and not locking myself down to a stencil, but to kinda just go for it. Currently I've started mashing up work with other artist, so my focus is currently on doing some big ass oversized back pieces.”
Back in 2019 I heard a lot of chatter that tattooing had peaked. I think Covid has put an end to that rumour and very soon, tattooing will be back with a vengeance. Jonesy agrees with me on this one.
“No I don’t think tattooing has peaked. I think the level of artists who are able to take tattooing and the art even further will increase. And to see the acceptance of a generation of people, who earlier were not able to see the art in tattooing is a real epiphany. So yeah, when Covid-19 is over and out, I think locals would look more to travel but that also means that collectors would look into artists abroad and still have their work done.”
Here in the UK we can often think that we invented the whole world and all its culture but tattooing has always been a global phenomenon with a rich history. I like to ask hip young artists how they feel about tattooing's heritage.
“As there is a lot of history of tattooing in Denmark I definitely see a good take on keeping traditions, but I also see the need and the curiosity of taking the past into the future. Personally I'm more focused on the art side of the tattooing and the future of tattooing, but at the same time I have traditional artists who's been working in the industry for over 3 decades.”
Despite being a middle aged tattoo collector who remembers the days when having a tattoo made you a rebel without a cause, I like to keep up on current affairs. One issue that’s really been in the press is equality and diversity; particularly the #metoo movement.
“I believe in some areas it’s an issue, but I see a lot of strong women taking their tattooing and their personality to at least just as high a level as a lot of the good "male artists" out there. So I don’t see it, but I've heard in from Women co-workers all over the world.”
And that is that; 9 questions, 9 fantastic answers. Hopefully next year I can do it all again; but this time in person and under the needle.
A final thought from the author: "Its my birthday this week. If anyone wants to get me anything I'd be happy to accept tattoo vouchers or Warhammer figures. I normally spend my birthday getting tattooed; but that won't be possible this year. Instead I'm going to focus on the positives and one of them is that when I finally do get back in the tattoo chair I will be healing that fresh ink with Yayo. If you want the best then use the best; use Yayo!"
Yayo, be part of the family!
Words by Matt Haddon-ReichardtImages by Jones N S larsen, Yayo and NHS England