Our tattoo artist for July is Amy Billing (@amybillingtattoo) – owner of Hobo Jack Tattoo in Bournemouth. Her beautiful animal and nature based designs really caught our attention. We caught up with her to ask a few questions…
How did you become a tattoo artist?
It’s not something I ever actually considered when I was younger, I knew I wanted to do something creative but wasn’t sure what. I went to uni and studied Fine Art for a year and realised that definitely was not what I wanted to do. My mum actually suggested looking for an apprenticeship, so I found a sick studio near home who were prepared to take me on the following week, so I quit uni and here we are! It’s hard work, I think I spent the first 6 months working 6 days a week for no money, doing all the horrible cleaning jobs, and learning how the studio ran, then eventually started tattooing and didn’t stop!
How important is aftercare?
Aftercare is SO important. You pay all that money for a beautiful tattoo, we put our heart and soul into creating a piece for you, and then it’s up to you to heal it perfectly. It’s such a big responsibility, which is why you should listen to your artists’ aftercare advice. Every artist will tell you something different, but that’s because every artist has a different style and tattoos in a different way, we all know how to heal our own style of tattoos. Once the 2-3 weeks are up and you think your tattoo is healed, this doesn’t mean you can just forget about it. It’s going to be there forever, it’s important to keep it looking fresh for as long as possible. You should always put a high factor sun-cream on your tattoos, even years after getting it done, and daily moisturising always helps keep it looking fresh.
How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Delicate, feminine, detailed
Out of all of the tatts you’ve designed, which is your favourite and why?
That’s such a hard question! Pretty much every new tattoo I do is my favourite, as you’re constantly learning and improving as an artist. At the moment though I’m really loving some of the super detailed mandala/pattern work sleeves I’ve started, I find it so therapeutic to tattoo, and I absolutely love the outcome.
Have you ever tattooed yourself?
Yep! My first ever tattoo was on myself, I never used fake skin or fruit or anything like that, when I was an apprentice I had to just give it a go on my own leg! To be fair it’s not actually that bad, it’s still there, I haven’t covered it and can’t imagine I will. I’ve done a few more since then too, when I was learning if I had a quiet day I’d rather tattoo my own leg than not tattoo at all, I was determined to learn.
Out of your own tattoos which is your favourite and why?
Probably my sleeve, the guy who taught me (@urbanvigilante) started it for my shortly after I moved on to another studio. I love it because he’s the one who taught me everything I know, I wouldn’t be where I am without him, so it’s extra special to me because of that. But of course I also love it for the artwork, a lot of my tattoos are just randomly dotted about, this is probably the only one that was actually thought out in advance so it all ties together and flows really nicely.
What’s the funniest tattoo you've ever done and what’s the story behind it?
I don’t really like doing ‘funny’ tattoos because I always think people will regret them! I do remember one tattoo in my apprentice days though that I cringe at every time I think about it. I’m pretty sure one of the other guys in the shop booked it in for me, so I rocked up to work without really thinking about it in advance. He was a young guy, only 18 I think, and it was an outline of a diamond with a crown on top. The placement started on the top of his thigh and he kept asking me to move the stencil higher and higher, to the point where I felt incredible awkward - like, dude I can’t put this any higher without this feeling incredibly inappropriate. I cracked on with the tattoo and at the end asked what the reason was, did he get it in that placement so he could hide it from his parents? He responded ‘nah, it’s the Crown Jewels init’. I was mortified, I literally just tattooed a symbol on this poor lad that’s probably going to ruin his sex life for the rest of his life, without that idea even crossing my mind!
What advice would you give for someone getting their first tattoo?
Really, really think about it, don’t just walk in somewhere on your 18th birthday. If you really want to get one on your birthday, do your research and book it in months in advance, it’s worth doing this and waiting for a good reputable studio. I think young people get so excited just to be able to get a tattoo, they don’t think about the fact it will be there forever. Just make sure it’s something original, not the trendy tattoo at the time that all your mates are getting, some unique and done really well by a really good artist. If not, it can ruin your experience of tattoos and can put you off getting them in the future.