Last month we had our first ever Inkluded meet up, here in Leamington Spa.
It was great to see new and familiar faces, one of the former being the lovely Angharad (aka ‘Lady’) Chappelle. She’s been tattooing for 7 months in Birmingham after leaving a steady corporate job for the wonderful world of tattoos. We’ve all been there.
This is her story.
Where to begin…
I started my apprenticeship at Steele and Ink Tattoos in Birmingham in June 2015 and have been tattooing since October 2015.
It all started back in the summer of 2013 when I got my second tattoo. It sounds cliché but whilst I was being tattooed, a light bulb went on in my head and I knew right then what it was I wanted to do with my life.
At the time, I had a steady job as store manager for Starbucks Coffee and since leaving university I had done some great jobs including working for Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew. But nothing really excited me or allowed me to be creative. I felt depressed and trapped and was fast approaching thirty.
After talking it through with my parents they encouraged me to go for it and at that point I had begun looking for an apprenticeship.
I spent every spare moment I had working on my portfolio and trekking all over the Midlands going for interviews… but nothing became of it. I spent time in a couple of tattoo shops in Coventry where I got to help out, draw and watch but it didn’t materialise into any official apprenticeship.
Finally in January 2015 I was offered an apprenticeship in Birmingham but soon left as the the place didn’t feel right for me. I had nowhere to go but always trusted my gut feelings and had faith something would materialise for me. Sure enough, two weeks later, I came across Rob Steele on Instagram, met him the following week and have been there ever since, happy as Larry.
Right now, I couldn’t be happier with where my work seems to be going. At the start of my apprenticeship, Rob encouraged me to draw in a variety of styles so that when I began to tattoo, I wasn’t pigeon-holing myself too early on. It is a really valuable thing to teach any new apprentices and I am so glad that he did.
As I became more confident with straight lines, solid and saturated colour, and felt I could do those things to a fair standard, I challenged myself to try new stuff. I noticed more and more tattoos being done in a watercolour style and decided this was something I wanted to try. As a child and teenager I was always fascinated by the sketchy Disney animator concept drawings so decided to combine looser, sketchy lines with watercolour.
I quickly became obsessed with painting this way and felt it was more me, so was gagging to try and tattoo like it, even though I had no clue how to. I have done a few watercolour/sketchy style tattoos now but am still very much a novice. I have only been tattooing a few months so it’s far too early for me to just stick to one style.
For all I know, I may end up loving realism or black and grey – I always want to push and challenge myself. For now though, I am truly loving this way of working and believe that, when you love and enjoy something so much, the passion shows in the tattoo.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a tattoo artists is developing a client base of people that come back to you time after time. It is so thrilling when someone choses you to do their tattoo because they trust you and believe in you and your ability. My favourite moment is seeing their face when they look in the mirror, it gives me goose-pimples! I feel very privileged to do this for a living.
On the other end of the spectrum, there have been challenges too. The biggest challenge for me so far hasn’t been the tattooing itself but more finding the right place and environment to learn and grow, both as a person and as an artist.
Coming into the industry as older than the average apprentice presented both challenges and benefits… I am grateful for even the rough times. I have always felt like I had more to prove to myself and less time to do it, but equally could recognise when I was being taken advantage of or mistreated, and I was able to walk away from those situations. I realise now that if I had come into the industry before I was meant to, then perhaps I wouldn’t have survived or persevered with it.
Relationships are paramount in any workplace and make for a happier working environment. I have the upmost respect for Rob as my mentor, artist and as a person and it very much works both ways. Being in an environment surrounded by uplifting and positive people who believe in me, encourage me and applaud victories… it’s just awesome and I am very lucky.
If there’s one thing that I wanted to say over all else, it would be to encourage others. Anyone that has a wish to do something but is afraid to, my advice would be… just do it!
There will always be obstacles. There will always be people that will try and discourage you. But if there is something that you really want to do and can’t go a day without thinking about it… then chances are you are meant to be doing it.
The power of the mind is amazing and trust me, when you think positive and believe in yourself then awesome things can and will happen.
Thank you to everyone that has helped and encouraged me so far with my tattooing, it means the world. To anyone looking to get into tattooing… work hard, commit and don’t give up.
It’ll be worth it all in the end. The thing I love most about what I do now is the fact that I get to be happy every single day.