We talked about a lot of things during this interview: her background, her inspirations (London amongst others), her own style, and her creative needs. Learn more about Grace Neutral, the tattoo artist who wants to “push creative boundaries as far as they will go”.
Hi Grace, thank you very much for this interview. Would you tell our readers something more about you? Who is Grace Neutral?
I’m a 29 year old artist / tattooer from London. I was born in Dubai and came to UK when I was 8. All the women on my mothers side where always very creative so I think that’s where I get it from!
How would you describe yourself as a tattoo artist?
Someone who is trying to create timeless pieces on the body and push creative boundaries as far as they will go.
Why have you chosen your style? Why did you choose to tattoo by hand?
Handpoke was something I saw in the tattoo world but not very often, then when I was younger I was lucky enough to get a hand poke tattoo by Xed when he had Divine Canvas and I just thought it was the most magical thing. The whole process bought this wave of calm over me and its hard to explain in words but I just fell in love with the whole process. My friends Poppy and Tamara agreed to let me hand poke them one day. So I got some needles from the tattoo shop me and Tamara where working in at the time and I tattooed some pro choice symbols on both of them…
it was a sure thing after that, I was obsessed with hand poke and I had this very prevalent thought in my mind that I wanted to become good at this.
I wanted to do something special with this technique, so from that day I have spent every moment trying to improve as an artist and get my technique down so that people who see my work are stunned when they find out it’s all done by hand.
When did you start tattooing and what is your background? What did you do before being a tattoo artist?
I have been tattooing for almost 8 years now and before that I was a body piercer for a few years but I lacked enthusiasm for piercing because it didn’t quench my creative thirst. I knew tattooing was something I always wanted to do but I was living in a time and place where nobody took me serious and nobody wanted to teach me how to tattoo… so I decided if nobody would teach me I would work it out on my own. Before that I did lots of random things from bar work to wax sculpting at Madame Tussauds, but nothing has kept my attention and focus like tattooing has.
Who is your mentor and where does your inspiration come from (in art, life and tattooing)?
I don’t really feel I have ever had a mentor, life art and tattooing is something I have worked out for myself BUT I do have some people in my life who have supported me especially in tattooing and I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do it if it wasn’t for them. There are a few but I have the biggest thanks to give too Sway and Jemma who own Sacred Electric up in Leeds. They both as individuals and together are so inspiring as artists and tattooers but also as friends they helped me so much throughout the years just with their kindness and making me feel part fo the tattoo community because I do think it is hard to find you ‘tattoo tribe’ but I feel so lucky to have people as inspiring and talented as them in my life.
Who would your reference points be in tattoo today?
Tattooers are always inspiring me with their art and tattoos but I tend to not draw any inspiration artistically from other artists because I’m trying to create my own style with textures and different tones in my work. My biggest reference points probably comes from everything directly around me, nature, my area, London in general is a great inspiration to me – even when it’s crushing me I take the weight of the city and let it penetrate the deepest corners of my mind and this can uncover some pretty wild shit I have been keeping locked up in the brain bank. That’s how a lot of my patterns get created.
Where are you working now?
In my own private studio Femme Fatale in East London.
Are you working on something specific at the moment?
Just working on bigger pieces mainly, it’s always been my goal to create large scale pieces (back pieces / body suits etc.) all done with hand poke, so that’s something I have been working more on over the past few years.
Let’s talk about your tattoos: tell us about the first one you got… And how did you fall in love with the art of body modification?
I had experimented with a few ‘home tattoos’ as a young teenager but when I was 15 I got a tattoo in my local tattoo shop by this old biker called Jeff, I went in to book in a tattoo for my boyfriend at the time but ended up in the chair on a Wim because I just got so excited in there and something inside me shouted GET ONE GET ONE! So I did, I got a traditional looking love heart with a scroll through it, which I picked off the wall of flash. I got it on my leg and still too this day it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I felt like such a bad ass.
Do you also draw and paint? What are your favourite things to do when you’re not working?
Yes, drawing and painting is a huge part of my life and also a big part of my tattooing. Working with different mediums gives me the opportunity to grow as a creative. It also keeps my mind fresh so none of my creativity gets a chance to go stagnant. My favourite creative pastime outside of tattooing at the moment is painting large scale patterns onto handmade Indian paper, its amazing to be able to play around with texture and colour.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Cold As Ice by Foreigner.
What are your plans for the future?
Just to keep evolving as an artist and create bigger and better work.
Is there something you want to add before we say goodbye?
Keep It Real.