I’m so excited for today’s Tattoo Talk interview! I was first turned on to Grace Neutral’s work when a friend showed me her Instagram account. She was the first professional, Western artist I’d seen who doesn’t do any of her tattoos with a machine – they’re all handpoked. From her adorable cartoon characters to her mesmerizing mandalas, I love all of the tattoos Grace makes. Today she’s here answering a few questions about her journey with tattooing and her thoughts on her craft.
How old were you when you got your first tattoo & what was it?
I was 16 (don’t get tattooed at 16 I was silly) and its a heart with a banner on my leg … The banner is empty … Oh the silly things we do when we’re young!
How did you get started in tattooing?
I was I piercer for a few years before so I learnt about cross contamination and all that through piercing and then one day, with the advice of my tattoo artist friends, I started playing around with handpoking and just fell in love with it!
What was the first tattoo you made?
I think just under 2 years now, it was a prochoice symbol on my best friend Tamara.
What influences your work & how would you describe your aesthetic?
Lots of things influence me. My biggest would be nature I get a lot of the inspiration for my pattern work in simple things like leaves [and] flowers… Anything with a nice natural line and flow to it. Also, my other passion in life is anything cute! Anything that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (eg. Disney / Disney Princess / fantasy Japanese anime / baby animals / when inanimate objects come alive and dance around in unison. This influences me because it makes me smile and feel good, I try and get as much cute stuff packed into my day, everyday!
What led you to hand poke tattooing rather than using a tattoo machine?
I think handpoke is an obvious place for people to start, most people do a few and then get the tattoo buzz and want to pick up a machine and go for it. I don’t know why, but I never really wanted to do machine tattoos. I suppose it’s just one of those things I can’t explain exactly why I chose it, maybe it chose me.
Either way, since I started handpoking I know I want to stick with it and try and perfect my skill and hopefully bring something different to the table of tattooing with my designs, but still using my own handpoked ways. I want people to look at my work and not know it’s done by hand. I want people to be shocked when they find out my tattoos were done without a machine.
As for benefits and downfalls to handpoking, I guess it really jut depends on what you’re looking for. As long as the artist is capable, there is not reason your handpoke tattoo should be any different from a tattoo done with machine. I have seen some handpoke tattoos with lines just as clean and bold as what a good artist can obtain with a machine. This is what I try to get through in my work.
Some people also say it’s a lot more relaxing getting a handpoke tattoo, there is not heavy vibrating machine on top of you. It’s a lot quieter, which I think is good for the brain (less traumatic and no dentist flash backs ;)). I guess another reason I like this way of tattooing, is it just seems a lot more personal to be to be able to give people something special and knowing I have done it all by hand, makes me feel good and I hope it does the same for my customers.
Thank you so much, Grace!