Sunday, November 18

Art and inking spaces

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From her warehouse space, tattoo artist Tamar Thorn offers clients portraiture and neo-traditional body designs

Tattoo artist and tattoo shop owner Tamar Thorn has been in the industry for 10 years. She opened The Body Architects in 2010 and now works exclusively from her second shop, Good Things Tattoo Co in Woodstock.

Thorn specialises in portraiture and neo-traditional tattoos and is heavily influenced by art styles such as Art Nouveau and Baroque. She will be joining dozens of local and international artists at the South African Tattoo Convention March 23 25 at The LookOut, V&A Waterfront.

The artistic environment of a tattoo shop is on a par with the work that is done there, and Thorn shares her story with us.

What made you choose the location, and how did it realise your vision?

The Body Architects is a tiny shop located in a busy shopping district in Claremont, and after seven years of the hustle and bustle and craziness, I started to crave a space I could expand to that would be big enough to decorate with all the art I’ve collected over the years, and in an area that wasn’t quite as chaotic as the shopping mall to breathe and concentrate.

During a working overseas trip I received an email notification for properties to let, and when I saw the current space I just knew it was right for me.

When I got back home, I dropped my bags at the house and went to look at it straight away. I instantly fell in love. It was huge – no scrap that, cavernous – and filled with Victorian details from when it was first built.

Being a bit of a typical Gemini I was also looking at open warehouse spaces at the time. Lo and behold, the recently added back room had the exact style I was looking for to draw and paint. Skylights and space.

What did you want to achieve in this space?

When I opened The Body Architects, I had business partners who had input into the look and feel and although I did decorate and design everything myself, it was never just my baby. Good Things is all mine so I wanted to imprint myself on it completely.

I have never hired anyone to decorate or design for me and it was no different this time.

Everything I love is in this shop – gifts from special friends and family, art and objects I’ve collected over the years from all over the world, furniture I have hand-picked – most of it from second-hand and vintage shops – and pieces I had made with love by my partner, Pete.

The space needed to be not only an inspiring and calm space for myself, my team of six tattoo artists and my shop manager also have to be comfy and happy so everyone has decorated their own workspace with their own art.

Now we are a year old and the shop is filled with people and things. It all works beautifully, like a house that became a home with a happy and busy family in it.

Tamar Thorn’s decor advice is to fill your space with things you adore. Picture: Good Things Tattoo Co

How do you think your clients relate to the surroundings you have created?

Everyone who comes in to get tattooed comments on how spacious and comfortable it is. There are different areas to sit and relax while you wait, or take a break, and the individual stations are all unique to the artist and filled with pretty art to ogle while you’re having your tattoo done.

What are your favourite things about your shop?

The people, followed closely by the amount of space we have. At almost 200m² there is space for everyone to focus on their work and get away from the crowds when things get really busy.

Our drawing area at the back of the shop, where we all end up having drinks on the old hospital fire door trestle table on Saturday evenings, is my favourite.

What tips or advice can you offer readers who would like to create a similar gorgeous style?

Collect things you adore. Even if you don’t have a space for it yet, you will one day. Only buy things you absolutely love. If it reminds you of a happy time in your life or it just makes you happy, buy it because it will make you feel that way every time you see it or you see it being used.

Just because it’s second-hand and a bit scruffy doesn’t make it junk. I love things that are a bit worn and weathered with some history.

I have an old laboratory chest of drawers that still has the original hand-written labels on it and I use it for my drawings and prints. A lot of the second-hand furniture in the shop comes from hospitals or laboratories. Maybe I should start collecting that stuff now.

The second South African Tattoo Convention is at The Lookout, V&A Waterfront, March 23-25.

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