World Tattoo Day with Sona ft The Nike Air Max 1 ‘Wild Animal’ | Sold Out!

21.03.23 General

This week see’s two celebrations across the world. One is an obvious one, Air Max Day but the second is one you may not know we’re huge fans of at Footpatrol, World Tattoo Day.

To celebrate these two falling in the same week, we took the Women’s Air Max 1 ’87 ‘Wild Animal’ down to visit Sona, owner of Tattooma.

Footpatrol: Hi Sona, thank you so much for inviting us into your studio for world tattoo day. Firstly how are you?

Sona: It’s been an exciting last 12 months. Firstly getting planning permission for my new London studio, then getting all the work done to convert it from an old funeral parlour and then opening the doors at the end of 2022 – it’s been like a dream come true. 

FP: Who influenced or inspired you to become a tattoo artist?*

Sona: My Nan was nine when she snuck out of the house and came home with tattooed hands. She got into a lot of trouble! They are still there, very visible on her hands to this day 80 years later! My other Nan was the body piercer in her village in east Africa! My parents are pretty straight-laced, so maybe my non-conformist streak comes from my nans!

FP: It’s a very difficult skill to be able to do photo realistic tattoos, what made you choose this style and how did you find yourself specialising as a portrait tattoo artist?*

Sona: I think the style chose me, about ten years ago I experienced some trauma and drawing was my coping mechanism. Once I had perfected portraits on paper [and my portraits had been commissioned by clients in every continent of the globe!] I challenged myself to achieve the same results with a [tattoo] machine instead of a pencil, or paint brush. Hyperrealism is a style of art includes which feeling and emotion and this is what I aim to portray in all my work. I would do them for free if I could; for me the best payment is seeing the happiness of my client receiving the memorial portrait of their loved one. I often forget to charge them – luckily I have amazingly honest customers! My goal though is to eventually offer free portrait tattoos to parents of children who have passed away. 

FP: To own your own studio is a wonderful thing, and the styling of your space is extremely unique and contemporary, how did you come to this design?*

Sona: I am not your typical tattoo artist and so I didn’t want the studio to be stereotypically dark and gloomy; I wanted a more a unique, bright and inviting space.

I studied graphic design at Uni and was an art editor in Bath and London for many years before I started drawing, so I guess I’ve spent a lot of time creating feelings and emotion through design. Coming up with the studio look was a fun way to utilise my design background. I basically drew each wall/surface on my iPad and then set about getting those ideas turned into reality. It turned out better than I expected, so I’m really happy with the finished result. 

FP: On your socials you often mention your kids. How have they influenced your work and what do they think of their mum being a talented tattoo artist?*

Sona: They all think their mum is mental! I absolutely adore my kids and I’m so proud of the people they’re growing up to be. I hope I inspire them to know that if they work hard and put their mind to it, they can achieve ANYTHING! My daughter, Uma is just about to turn 18. She painted the skull on the studio wall, so she’s very artistic, although she’s actually going to Uni to study physiotherapy! The great thing about art and being artist is that it will always be there, so I love that she’s learning a completely new skillset while also doing creative things.

FP: What I found interesting is that you don’t have any tattoos yourself? What’s kept you back from getting one and if you could have one done, what would it be?*

Sona: Yeah, I guess that’s something of a taboo within the tattoo industry, I’m not sure why though. Anyway- do all midwives have to have their own children before they can deliver kids for others? And I’m sure a Lamborghini mechanic can be an expert without owning one him/herself?

When I first started visiting tattoo studios to ask about getting into the industry, I was told by several people that I’d never become a tattoo artist if I didn’t have my own tattoos. I’ve never really been one to conform or do things as I’m expected to, so I carried on studying and practicing and soon found myself well established and still not inked! My love for tattooing is more to share my portraits. I LOVE tattoos on other people, but haven’t decided whether they’d be right for me yet. Who knows what the future holds, I may change my mind. I’ve definitely missed out on the perk of working with some amazing artists and not having had them ink my body despite them trying very hard to convince me!

FP: So, not only is it world tattoo day but it’s also currently women’s history month. This month is dedicated to “Embracing Equity”. Female tattoo artists are fairly common place, but Asian females a lot less so. Can you tell us what challenges you’ve had to face being an Asian woman in this industry and how you’ve managed to overcome them?*

Sona: While things are getting more diverse, the tattoo industry in the UK is still very white, male dominated. And because it’s effectively entirely unregulated, it can be like the Wild West at times – there are pretty much zero employment contracts, zero sick pay, zero employee benefits… I know one super-talented female artist who turned up to work one day to find all her kit on the pavement and be told her station was now someone else’s – how’s that for a notice period?! I know multiple female artists who have been taken advantage of sexually by their male mentors too. Despite potentially brutal treatment, the number of people who want to get into the industry far out-weighs the entry opportunities, so a small minority of shop owners can take advantage of people at times – watch out for those!

Anyone, regardless of sex or skin colour, who wants to make it in this industry would benefit from being super-smart, highly motivated, mentally strong and above all, you need to be a great artist! If you’re also a female from a minority background, you just need to want it more than anyone else… let your art do the talking and don’t take any shit! Get a book full of your own drawings and make them so good that the right studio owner can’t turn you away! 

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