I’ve been following Carly’s work for a while now and was even meant to be tattooed by her when I was in Berlin last year. Unfortunately she ended up being off work with an injury, but hopefully I’ll get to reschedule for later this year when she’s in the UK. Not only is Carly a talented tattooist, she’s also the owner of the only vegan tattoo shop in Berlin. In case you’re wondering why tattoos are not usually vegan (it’s not just the inks) and why they should be, read on for all of the details.
How long have you been tattooing? Started tattooing in 2012
How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
I got my first tattoo when I was 18, I was going through a tough time at home and was keen to rebel in any way. It was some mandarin kanji, it was the ‘in’ thing at the time, basically there wasn’t much thought put into it. The shop was pretty unwelcoming, full of biker guys (who I was kinda scared of) and the whole experience left me with the feeling that I wasn’t interested in tattoos.
How did you get started in tattooing? What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
I actually didn’t get another tattoo for about 6-7 years after. As my first experience was very underwhelming and didn’t see any further beyond that. My next ‘Tattoo experience’ grew from going with a friend while he was getting tattooed, the shop was completely different, there was lots of original art and artists drawing and creating work. I was really inspired by the whole experience and got me thinking, wow there is a lot more to this than I thought.
Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
I studied art, and was always making something or being creative in some way. I worked a little in design but found all the hours sitting at the computer really un-motivating. People are usually pretty surprised when I tell them I was a flight attendant for about 8 years before I started Tattoooing.
How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
The only person I even knew that had a tattoo when I was growing up was a truck driver friend of my dad’s. So it’s safe to say I had little to no understanding of tattooing in my youth.. I just never thought I would end up being a tattooist and also having this many myself..!
How would you describe your style of tattooing?
Well, I’m pretty young in my tattooing career, so that’s something I feel is still evolving. I guess I would say neo-Traditional, maybe modern feminine.. but definitely bold and full of colour… although that’s not to say that’s all I do. I like to think I’m a good all-rounder. There isn’t much that I say no to, I always try and think about what someone wants and find a way to make it work.
Who or what influences your work?
I like pretty or funny and cute things, a client will come in with an idea and I try and have a good think about how to do it, how to make it ‘carly’ – what will make the tattoo special and not just go for the obvious choice. I have so many influences from other tattoo artists aswell, especially all the amazing female artist based in the UK right now, it’s like there is this little bubble of really fantastic feminie artists that how just blossomed in the last few years. I also love watching other artists work. Nikko Hurtado (Portrait/Realism Tattoo Artist from LA) has this theory that tattoos are just a string of choices and in the end the final tattoo is the sum of all the choices.. It’s a really cool theory and it’s always cool to see how a piece evolves.
I understand that you own the only vegan tattoo shop in Berlin. What about tattooing is usually not vegan?
That’s a really good question! People just assume it’s just the Tattoo ink that is vegan. (or not). But there is so much more to it than just the ink. A lot of the big ink companies have been making their colours vegan friendly (using plant based glycerine) for a few years now, which is awesome but the biggest ‘Badie’ is the black ink. Many tattooers are still using a drawing or Indian ink (which, works great for tattoos) but contains animal by-products like burnt animal bone char, shellac (from beetles) and glycerine (also made from animal fats). Inks are really just the start of it, from other products used in tattooing for lubrication (like Vaseline, or petroleum products), cleaning and sterilisation products (which are all animal product based, or produced by huge pharmaceutical firms that are testing on animals) to even the stencil paper (regular stencil paper contains Lanolin and sometimes shellac). We source all our products to make sure everything that goes into the skin and applying the design and sourcing and using disinfection mediums that are animal (and planet) friendly.
Were there any challenges to setting up a vegan shop?
I was in the mindset that everything about the shop should be as green as possible, which includes the products we use to clean and sterilize the shop, to our tea, coffee and snacks aswell as the products we have in the bathroom. We also found most of our furniture and shopfitting second hand or upcycled..
It has been a lot of work and challenging (and often expensive) to find vegan and green products. It would have been so easy to just purchase things mainstream or from the regular stores but it’s something that is really important for me. Living vegan, not just about what I eat and buy but also supporting a sustainable lifestyle, and bringing that to the shop and is something I’m really proud of.
Thank you, Carly! As a vegetarian and animal lover, this has given me a lot to think about and will make me think carefully about choosing tattoo studios. And as you, I’m itching to get a piece done by you soon!