Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Time for Another Crisis of the Candy Variety.

I'm almost six months in at this new tattoo studio. I get a little more flush in my niche every day. I'm more focused and I have more direction nowadays. Things aren't perfect, but it would be boring if it was.

I took on a second job. Not out of greed, boredom or anything like that. This one is a labour of love:

I got my first professional gig in the creative industries when I helped to develop a shareware Mac video game in the 90s. I got involved as the lead artist. I was 13. It was a Puyo Puyo clone. It was amazing! I loved the game, I loved working on it and I became fast friends with it's creator and programmer, who was thousands of miles away in California. We never met and, to this day, we have still never communicated outside of text. Never met, never called, never Facetimed or Skyped. Yet we have been friends for twenty years. We worked on different iterations of this game on and off until around the year 2000.

In the meantime, life happened. I became a tattooist and my friend became a high profile programmer at an internationally acclaimed videogame developer and publisher *coughcough*Blizzard*cough*. I watched him get married and have three children from another continent.

This winter, my friend asked me if I wanted to make a new version of the same game for Apple TV. I didn't have time for it, but how could I say no? I don't just owe it to my friend, but to the game itself and its loyal fans.

We've been working on this feverishly in between our full time careers and home lives for the last few months. We've been pulling 60 to 80 hour weeks, with no days off since, often working until the wee hours after our regular day jobs... and we are hurtling towards our first release.

Wish us luck please!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Sound of Settling

I just had a profound need to write about this.

I've been at the new studio for one month, it feels like a week. I'm still finding my feet socially, artistically and housework wise (we have an apprentice that does everything and I'm still not used to not doing chores).

I've invested in new equipment, new books and I'm making a flash book.

Today I find myself sitting at the PC scanning line-work in a leisurely manner for my flash book. I have the aroma of a Maruchan tanuki soba noodle bowl drifting upwards from he desk. Only a pot of sencha tea would make this any better.

Oh lord, I am so happy.

I just hope that I can knuckle down hard enough to get to the standard I need to be as a tattooist and an artist in this studio.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Last Ship

Something happened that I hoped never would.

I'm switching studios.

It didn't take me long to get too attached to Ned's little seafront biker tattoo studio. At first I was all about the tattooing, but after being treated so well by the biker community I felt like I finally had a home and a family after so many years of drifting between things, jobs, and lives that just didn't click. I was always a square peg in a round hole until Ned took a chance on me by taking me on as an apprentice tattooist.

I swore I'd never leave.
I swore fealty.
I was loyal.
I was a workhorse.
I pulled my weight.
I earned a shilling.
I knew I would be no more than that.
I accepted it.

For so many years I couldn't handle people or society as a whole. I had become somewhat of a hermit and I just figured that I wasn't meant to be the light of a party, I was only ever going to be a wallflower, but becoming a tattooist and an old lady gave me a lot of confidence. I finally looked forward to the parties and the socializing. It became something of an institution for me, for us. It's our lifestyle. I've been to enough parties to understand that when you put your glass down as your friend finishes telling you that same joke again, you still laugh anyway, shift your gaze awkwardly to notice that there's only two other people left at the bar and you have that weariness behind your eyes that warns you that you'll be staggering after the next double vodka... perhaps it's time to go home and sleep it off.

That's what happened at our studio.

It was a great ride with amazing people, it was the hub of the local seafront gossip, there were crazy stories that would begin with "Do you remember when"s that originated from this time in the studio's history. It was a family. It was a clan. Then Luke left. Luke was the real life of the party, he could have passed for Ned's son. Losing him destroyed Ned, who was our metaphorical glue. He lost his taste for the studio and ended up doing other things. Then Feenie went on maternity leave. Then it was just me and Jay. The studio was now just a shadow of it's former glory days. We lost the glue that bound us together as a little family and Jay and I found ourselves as custodians of an empty husk of a tattoo studio. It was time to go. I was no longer working at the same studio that I had started in. I couldn't watch my beloved first and only studio decay and rot away any more.

At this point, the only thing I knew to do was to go back to my original plan of learning to be the best damn tattooist I could ever be, but I had little access to other studios or artists' knowledge and experience. I knew that in order to move on I needed more brains to pick, friends to make, styles to imitate, designs to try out. So I asked for Ned's blessing to go to another studio. I got it.

I approached a studio that I had held in the highest of regards. I respected their work, their ethics and attitude. They were all about learning, bettering themselves and their studio. They were making a name for themselves and were garnering much respect and loyalty in the process. Every time I would see a post or announcement by them I would sigh to myself and think "wouldn't it be amazing to work somewhere like that!" So I approached them for some advice. How do I get another job? Where's a good place to start? How can I progress? What do I do now?

I never applied for the part time position... but I got it anyway.

I start tomorrow.

It's been a long couple of weeks organising the move. I am still devastated that Ned is no longer my boss, that this studio is no longer my home, my key has been handed back over... but it's not my fault that the place changed to a point where I knew that if I had stayed, I would have become miserable, I would have stopped caring, I too would rot inside. In retrospect the wheels had already been set in motion by others and my eventual, reticent exit stage left was inevitable.

The party stopped a while ago.

I owe it to myself and my customers to be better.

To shine brighter.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Geisha and Samurai

I've been tattooing for almost three years now.
My other half, let's call him "Hal", and I celebrated our second anniversary this year.
I am now fully sleeved. Hal says he could never be with anyone without tattoos now. I agree.
I tattooed his hands last weekend.
His identity should be kept out of this blog as he is a member of a well known, international MC.
My backpiece is being started next March; I'm really excited about the idea, but also dreading the pain.
I get tattooed by the illustrious Luca Ortis in London.
Our studio has a new apprentice, "Feenie", we get along well, I recently gave her a tattoo for her dog who passed away.
Feenie says I'm like a mother to her in the studio. She's only ten years my junior, but by Essex standards that makes me old enough to be her mother. Unprompted, people say "It's nice to see you and your big sister" to Feenie when they see us at parties. The word "Onesan" always crosses my mind when I hear that.
I am a keyholder at the studio, I am trusted to open and manage the studio every weekend.
My boss, "Ned", is still like a father to me. My mentor, "Jay", an older brother.
I go to a lot of biker parties; I sit at bars in clubhouses and look pretty for Hal and to network for business.
I keep finding parallels between what we do with ancient Japan; Hal and the other MC members are like samurai who have traded their horses and katanas for motorcycles and ball peen hammers. I am his geisha, I entertain my clients and our friends with my art and witty banter... but my heart belongs to him.
He and his brothers protect me from anything and everything untoward. I've never had a level of confidence, comfort and security like this.

We are untouchable, living in our perfect little world of warriors and artists.

A mysterious, impenetrable world that only those who need know, know well.

Invited guests only.

What you see there, what you do there, stays there.

Love, honour and respect to my new family and our lifestyle.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Karashishi Kat

My name is Kat.
I live in the crow's nest on a hill by the sea.
I am a tattooist now.
You'll know me by my lions and peonies.
I lost a brother and replaced a mentor.
I am someone's old lady.
I dance with angels... and I don't mean the heavenly type.
I am a known face of the underbelly.
Indie's ashes are all that remain from the life before this.
I am a lion hearted girl and I'm ready for the fight.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Other Kind of Rutting

I have now been back in England for four months and, quite undeniably, hit the ground running. Start playing this song:

Sometimes life it takes you by the hand.

I have done more living in the last four months than I have in the last four years.

Within one week of coming back I had a job.
By week three I had an apprenticeship.
After two months I started dating someone special.
Around the same time I got poached for a different, better part-time job and took it.
This week I tattooed my best friend, my mentor and the shop's tea boy.
Tomorrow I'm going to the London Tattoo Convention with one of my mentors.
By the end of the year I will be a full-time tattooist and have my own place.

As you may have read previously, when I lived in Belgium I struggled to find work. I spent most of my time indoors, entertaining myself with the dogs, the internet, books, video games and cannabis. I often found myself halway through the fifth joint of the day thinking to myself, "I should make the most of this freedom, I won't have this sort of time to waste for long".

I was right.

I now work seven days a week. I've had three days off since I started working and on only one of those days I spent a portion of the day doing fuck all due to exhaustion. My working week is anywhere between 50 to 70 hours, depending on my rota. I've lost more than ten kilos in weight and I haven't smoked a single joint for over a month because I just don't have time. Many people say that I've been thrown in at the deep end in many different contexts. They're not wrong. I'm swimming rather merrily.

In May I wandered into the first tattoo shop I'd seen in the area with my sketchbook just on the offchance. I was offered an apprenticeship that day. After scoping out the rest of Southend's tattooing scene, I accepted the offer.

The shop that I apprentice at is run by the president of a local bike and trike club and my mentors are also full members. The club itself is like an oversized close-knit family that I not only work with but also live with, frequently go out drinking with and, occasionally, go out riding with. I've been a fan of Sons of Anarchy since it came out, now I feel like I'm living on the set. I've got my own Chibs and everything. What can I say, I'm a sucker for older men with sexy accents, beards and tattoos. We can't get enough of each other.


Here's our song. It sorta picked us rather than the other way around:

Nowadays it is a rare occurance to walk along the seafront without being recognised and greeted by a familar face. I frequently get honked at by vehicles driven or ridden by friends. Sometimes people walk up to me and talk as though they've known me for years but, for the life of me, I don't remember who they are because I've met so many people!

The friends who are quickly becoming my family often chastise me for selling myself short, for biting my tongue and for not having enough confidence. What can I say? I've had it metaphorically beaten out of me over the years and my stay in Belgium put a few nails in that coffin. This lot are building me back up to where I should have been all along and replacing a lot of things that have been taken away from me or left behind.

I owe them so much for giving me a real chance at life where I (and others) have squandered it.

I am where I belong and I'm happy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stopped Ruttin'!

"I'm infinitely frustrated at the limbo I'm still hanging in after three years of living in Belgium. I know I'm at a point where I just need to stick it out just a little while longer and I can't force things to change any quicker... but god damn, I'm tired of this rut." 

Oh boy. If words ever did come back to haunt me, these are they. Haha! I laugh but my eyes quickly widen with disbelief. Oh god. Where do I start?

Things hadn't been going well between me and my now ex for a couple of years. I've always tried to make things work out and always tried my best. Sometimes your best just isn't good enough and some things can't be fixed. The final straw came when I found out that he was hitting on some other girl. Some other girl on the internet. She's already engaged to someone else. Yeah. Awesome. Good luck with that. There's also a fuckton of other juicy gossips there, but I'll save that for later. I suddenly realised that even if I could fix it, I didn't want to anymore. Only took me six years. BWAHAHA! I'm slow, don't laugh. Loyal too. Loyal to the point of a fault. That much has been proven.

So, I'm getting the hell out of dodge. Only there's one snag: my passport expired while I was living over here. I have to renew it in order to be guaranteed that I can enter my home country. That takes "a week to ten days if you're lucky" according to the embassy and "at least six weeks" according to their website. Not sure which one I should take heed of, but I'm planning for worst case scenario.

I'm not going to lie, I never used to be good at dealing with drama. I used to be a real overreact now, regret it later kind of girl. Now it's a lot more like this, as a visual metaphor:

Not to imply that I've caused an explosion, but I am walking away from an inevitable one. I'll be laughing from a great distance later on, trust me.
Now play these songs while you read if you want to hear something that's a) ultra cool b) a window into my soul at this current moment in time.

Alright, I yelled at first. Choice words like "cunt", "twat", "arsehole" and "retard" were used repeatedly that Sunday which shall be henceforth known as "Bloody Sunday".  Since then I have risen to the occasion, sorted out my passport renewal application, found a new home in England, relentlessly tied up loose ends and not had one sleepless night.

A friend of mine took me out for a drink as soon as she heard the news. After four or so rounds she said "I was expecting carnage and tears, Kat... what the fuck?". I laughed, supped my beer and started rolling another cigarette as I explained that, despite the fact that I had always reacted badly to stress in the past, I've always been good in a crisis. I think this whole thing has really shocked and slapped me into growing up and being less of a pussy when things go south. I feel invincible. Hell, I think I could handle anything you could throw at me right now, but please lawd, please don't fling any more of your shit at me just until I get this one sorted, okay? 'Kay.

I drank a lot that night and oddly didn't even feel tipsy. I really enjoyed my first night out as a single girl with another single girl. We had to tell at least three guys we were lesbians. Some of them took that as a challenge instead of a brush off. I think I'll be staying independent for the forseeable future. I'm enjoying it too much and I really need this time to be myself and not worry about some moody cocksucker back at home.

An enormous source of frustration was realising I would have to leave Belgium without my apprenticeship. My once in a lifetime opportunity of an apprenticeship that had fallen out of the fucking sky. Oh boy, I was angry. I've wanted to be a tattooist for fifteen years and I was finally getting somewhere.

I got in contact with a few tattoo shops in the area I'm moving to and asked them their advice. I was and still am determined to make it. An artist that I greatly admire and respect replied expressing an interest in maybe mentoring me, but can't make promises yet. He's been following my progress for months. Say what now? It's almost too good to be true. To top it off, I'll be living with my best friends, all creative and social, just a stone's throw from the beach in southern England. I can't fucking wait.

People have been using a wide array of unfamiliar words to describe me lately. Words like "badass", "cool", "independent" and "strong". I would have told you to sling yer hook a few years ago for taking the piss. It's weird, but I think they're right and I can actually see it now. Would it be conceited to say that I'm proud of myself? Proud that I'm not meddling, causing drama or making life difficult for others? How I've restrained myself when other people have done it to me? How I've just kept things simple and I'm just walking away, tying up loose ends as I go? Proud that I just don't give a fuck anymore and moving onto the next big thing in my life? Proud that I finally have my shit together? Because I am proud of that. I'm proud that I've grown out of retaliating. I'm proud that I don't need to go ballistic to get my point across. I'm just getting on with it. No bullshit, just getting the fuck on with what I need to do.

You know, I was ruminating the other week about how I wish I knew someone that would smoke, drink red wine and listen to Bob Dylan with me whilst putting the world to rights. It's funny because that's where I'm actually heading. Praise the lord.

Here's another Bill Hicks portrait. I have a newfound love and respect for comedy as an art form now. I also have a slight obsession with him, not that I agree with everything he came out with and I don't hold him up on a messianic pedestal, but seriously, goatboy. Rawr. I would have hit that so hard.

TL:DR, I'm single and liberated because of it. Here's Bill and some tunes.