Tattoo World n°2: Antony Flemming

For this second edition of Tattoo World we have the pleasure to unveil the first collaboration between a tattoo artist and Inspired. The result : a print in very limited edition and its original made for us by Antony Flemming and sold exclusively here.

It is during a trip across the Channel that we spent a few days with Antony Flemming, young 24 year old Londoner, based in Ruislip Manor. Antony Flemming has already participated at two London and Brighton tattoo conventions with a style clearly recognisable as his own. The only thing that we could reproach him for is not visiting France more often. Luckily for us he has planned to attend the Rennes tattoo convention on the 17th and 18th of May.

It’s funny to see how you got into tattooing when you were on the path of becoming a professional soccer player. It seems like tattooing has come to you and not the opposite. Could you tell me more about the story behind it?

Haha! I never normally talk about this because every time I bring it up I feel like one of those old dudes in a pub going on about what could have been! But as you have asked, I played professional football when I was a lot younger before I even thought about being a tattooist. I think when I was young that’s what I and I’m guessing most kids at that age wanted to be. Unfortunately I managed to injure myself pretty bad and that dream was taken away from me. And I’m pretty glad it was, as I wouldn’t be here talking to you… I’d be buying Lamborghinis, Ferraris and admiring my religious themed sleeves (laugh).

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Tattooing came pretty late for me, like when you read most interviews you see every artist talk about how they were interested in tattoos from a really young age, because their granddad had a tattoo from Derek Campbell or George Bone for £4 and from then on they knew that’s what they wanted to do. I only really became interested in tattooing after I started my apprenticeship. I am quite embarrassed to admit it, but I had no clue about anything. I thought Sailor Jerry was some sort of alcohol and that was it! I was at college studying art when we did a project on Japanese wood block printing, looking at artists like Hokusai, you know the dude that did « The great wave » I really liked it, more than anything I’d ever really looked at before. That sparked an interest in that sort of artwork for me, I then kept noticing these designs in Japanese style tattooing and became fixated by it.

Antony Flemming Orignal PaintingLimited Edition Prints & Original Painting sold exclusively here

Soon after I decided I wanted a Japanese sleeve and went to my local shop, World of Tattoos where I now work, I had sketched a few things for the artist to kind of see what I had in mind. Half way through getting my sleeve my artist Emily Hansom asked if I would be interested in tattooing. I dismissed it straight away as I thought I was going to university and you know do a “real” job. I was so naive at first. I thought there is no way you could make a living out of this, it’s just a hobby surely! But Emily persisted and showed Glyn our boss my drawings. He then asked me down to the shop just to see what it was like. I thought, ahh why not! As soon as I was there I fell in love with it. It was just a really great atmosphere, and everyone at the shop was nice. I felt like I couldn’t pass this opportunity up. After I started that’s when I fell in love with it. The more I learnt from everyone about the industry and tattooing the more I wanted to find out about it. It snowballed into an obsession and I’m so glad it did.

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You’ve been in Ruislip Manor since the beginning. What made you decide to stay at World of Tattoos?

I have stayed here because I am happy. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys to be around, they are all talented; all have good morals and a brilliant work ethic. I have had offers from other shops but I really don’t see the point of moving. With the Internet it is easy for people to find out where I am, I don’t need a “big named shop” to further my career, I guest and work at conventions where I can learn from others but I have all the support I need from the guys here. I can try and explain it further but it’s quite simple. I love it at World of Tattoos.

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Could you tell me about your relationship with Glyn the owner of the shop?

I think everyone in the shop would agree with me when I say this, but he really is like a second dad and also your best friend. His moral compass is better than anyone that I have ever met; he is selfless, extremely humble and excels at everything. He is the first person I go to when I need advice because I know what he says will always be the right thing to do. There have been many situations where I have needed help and Glyn will always be there, without question, without judgement, and always with a shit joke and a smile on his face.

Glyn was the guy that made my tattooing what it is today, not necessarily the style but my whole approach. The way I see things and the way I tackle certain problems. If it wasn’t for his guidance, his advice and his lessons about respect I would probably be stacking shelves. I really do owe him everything.  I also think it is really nice that Jo, Glyn’s wife works at World Of Tattoos too as a laser removal technician as it gives the shop a real family feel, with a mother/father figure then us idiots having to be looked after by them (laugh)!

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By seeing you evolving in your environment I can tell your whole life revolves around tattooing. Did tattooing become a need?

Yeah, I really honestly don’t know what I would do without tattooing, as I said before. From the start it has snowballed into a real obsession. Everywhere I go I’ll always take something out of the situation and apply it to tattooing. My conversations with everyone always and willingly end up about tattooing no matter what. That’s what is supposed to happen right? I mean if you have no interest in tattooing then I am a very boring person. I can’t help it, I always catch myself thinking about how I would tattoo this random object in front of me, as in what sort of colours I would use or what size needle I would use to get that certain effect. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if suddenly tattooing no longer existed. With my qualifications I reckon I’d be a good shoe salesman… At least then there would be nothing to worry about. I wouldn’t beat myself up about my work. I could just go in and pick out a nice shoe for someone and go home.

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Tattooing for me I think is the best thing in the world, and also the worst thing in the world. One day it would give me the highest of highs, where I’ll be in the middle of a tattoo and have a huge smug grin on my face, yet the next day I want to throw my pencil and machines, whatever at the wall and cry in a dark corner somewhere. But that’s just why I love it. It’s challenging, it’s rewarding, it’s sometimes a fucking pain in the arse, but yes, I need tattooing.

Your style is unique. It’s a mix between neo-traditional with a tint of realism and fantastic imagery. The characters and animals you draw are very charismactic and always seem to hold powers. What in your opinion makes a good design?

I really want my work to be timeless, or at least something that can be appreciated for its artistic and aesthetic qualities and not the in thing at the time. I think a good measure of that, is if the customer’s mum likes the tattoo. Because she hasn’t got a clue what is hip and cool in the tattoo world, she just sees it for what it is. If she can appreciate it then I think I’ve done a good job. If mum likes the tattoo it’s more than likely going to look relevant forever.

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When I draw things I always try and put the animal in position that gives the piece movement, without doing those lines like you did when you where 10, you know like the zoom lines you see in a cartoon or comic (laugh) ! I really hate it when you see a tattoo that looks like a sticker. Like, awesome if you can tattoo like that but to me it’s boring. There is nothing personal from the artist that has done it. I hate to sound cliché but there is no emotion in tattooing like that. It’s just like burr burr burr (that’s the noise a tattoo machine makes by the way) and done, see ya. I’m really not sure if my tattooing has that feel to it yet, but one day that’s how I want it to look. I want people to understand it in that way. It’s something a little more than just sitting down and getting tattooed.

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Tattooing for a lot of people is not just the tattoo. I think some tattooists forget this is a big deal to some people. I want them to have a nice experience from the first contact to me wrapping the tattoo up and actually for the rest of that tattoos life. I try and think about that when I’m drawing. I don’t have any specific reason why my work looks the way it does, obviously we are all influenced by our friends, peers and people in the industry but my work looks like that simply because it does. I’m just extremely lucky that people seem to like it!

© CŽline Aieta

You seem to put a lot of pressure on yourself. I know that you are very critic with your work, rarely satisfied and sometimes in doubt.

The day you think everything has fallen into place and you are 100% happy with your work. Give up. You will never get any better. I guess for some that’s ok. But that has never been my thought process. I am naturally very competitive and that makes me want to improve all the time and that gets me down, because sometimes you just can’t, but I can’t just sit there and accept that I can’t do better. That is why I always do my drawings the evening before I tattoo it, because I know if I do it 2 weeks before the appointment I will change it every single night, because there is always something I could have drawn better or placed better or whatever.

print detail

http://inspiredtattooportraits.bigcartel.com/

This always then sets me up for personal failure when I tattoo it, because by the time I finish the tattoo I think to myself I could have done it better. My customers always seem happy, and I am happy that they are happy, but really I just want to start all over again. I will never get over that I don’t think. It has caused me many sleepless nights and will continue to do so. It also doesn’t help that I have surrounded myself with extremely talented people that put out work that blows my mind. A friend and talented tattooist said to me once « That’s just part of the package, get used to it. When you lose that feeling, you have lost the ball. You will see that there is a rhythm in your creativity, you can’t always be building…. You also need repetition and refinement. Frustration is a great motivator. Pussy! » So maybe I’ll try and lighten up? Haha!

Interview and pictures by Céline Aieta

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