The idea of art is forever changing and adapting. It is something fluid that has its basis from the past, encouraged by the present and a future that is open to endless possibilities.
The idea of what is considered art and who creates it is also changing. The beauty of art and creativity is the multitude of perspectives, designs, approaches to colour, the chosen medium and the implement used to create works of arts also differ with every creative.
Giorgia Mae is a Sydney based creative who has found through hard work and perseverance that goals could be achieved and dreams do come true.
Two and a half years ago, Giorgia began a journey that now sees her working in a private studio in Surry Hills, called Hibernia Tattoos. She started an apprenticeship to become a tattoo artist on the Gold Coast, and has now hit her stride here in Sydney, tattooing full time for the past 18 months.
‘At first, I didn’t have the confidence in myself and my creative abilities but a tattoo artist friend of mine gave me a boot to actually get into it. I built up the courage to be able to walk into studios with my portfolio and I was prepared for the constructive criticism and being turned away. I got lucky and was offered an apprenticeship in one of the first shops I walked into.’
Giorgia considered going down different creative roads. She could have been a starving painter, she could have gone to university and studied animation, spending the next 10 years drawing somebody else’s concepts. That didn’t appeal to her creativity.
‘I thought tattooing is such a beautiful form of art and it is one of the hardest forms of art. It’s a huge challenge but it is something that you have total control over and total freedom to do whatever you want,’ Giorgia said.
With tattooing, you no longer have to stick to one style, the possibilities are endless. It is one of the most open art forms where you can go completely nuts with whatever you want to do.
Many creatives understand that the process of creation is a great emotional outlet. It’s also a really great way to connect with other like-minded individuals who share your passion.
‘You are putting your artwork on people that is permanent. It’s something that you go through together. Starting from scratch, you create something and at the end you accomplish something. You do this every day. It is the best feeling you can possibly get.’
Giorgia’s creative process begins with a consultation where the client comes in with a theme or idea of what they want done. Having an in depth conversation with her clients gives her the ability to map out the idea in her mind before taking it on.
‘Most of the time, it’s a matter of sitting down with the client and bouncing ideas off each other and at the end of the consult you both have this really cool idea of what is going to happen. That is when the creative process begins,’ Giorgia said.
From there, she likes to make sure she is a hundred percent organised. She will draw everything out a couple of times. A process she goes through with every tattoo – a way for her to remain sane and prepared.
‘When you first start tattooing, your creativity is tied to what the client wants. Like most apprenticeships, you are starting out, the clients don’t know you, they might have walked in off the streets, and sticking to what the client wants is important.’
‘I have now built up a clientele, where my clients really trust me. So these days, I really get to do whatever I want. When you have built a reputation and clients keep coming back, they just go, ‘Do whatever you want!’ I really love it, it’s been great,’ Giorgia said.
There is a misconception about tattoo studios that they are an all-boys club, masculine and rough with heavy music blasting through the speakers while you go through unspeakable amounts of pain.
Giorgia believes that times have changed. It might have once been an all-boys club, run by bikies, but now, more and more women are getting involved in tattooing. As an artist, as admirers or as a clients.
‘I don’t think gender really matters, it definitely doesn’t matter in tattooing. I feel strongly about that. I don’t want to be seen as just a girl, I don’t want my gender or how I dress to be what I am known for. I worked really hard on my art, and I want to be seen as a great artist.’
Giorgia believes that tattoos are no longer the same as what they used to be. They used to be rougher, bikie or gang related, often with brutal imagery like skulls. Things are changing and even the people who get them done have changed, becoming more savvy about what they want to have on their skin.
’70 percent of my clients are women. You see beautiful flowers and mandalas. I tattoo a lot of girls getting their first tattoo, and they are getting the coolest stuff. It’s just becoming more acceptable to have them,’ Giorgia said.
‘They all want different things. You never know what your client is going to want until you sit down and talk to them. That is really cool, I love that. Now, you are not allowed to discriminate against people with tattoos and that has opened up so many new possibilities without fear of consequences or losing a job.’
Everyone who has ever gotten a tattoo or knows someone who has, understands the pain involved. One doesn’t need to have tattoos to be a great tattoo artist or to have an appreciation for tatts.
‘The one thing I will say is that they [tattoo artists without tattoos] don’t know what they are doing to people. They have no idea how much they are hurting people,’ Giorgia said.
‘It is a mental thing, if you have mentally tapped out then there is no going back from that. You just have to kind of let them go. I don’t like putting people through pain, it stresses me out and affects me doing my job,’ Giorgia said.
She will start with getting the lines done and if the client can handle more, she will move onto shading and then colour. From here it is mapped out for her to complete in a couple of weeks.
It all depends, everyone is different and have varying pain thresholds. It also depends on where the tattoo is going on the body. One side of the body is more sensitive than the other, you might have a hard time on the right side, but find the left side isn’t too bad.
‘My palms were the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. But I felt it’s a rite of passage to get your palms tattooed when you’re a tattoo artist. They also look really beautiful.’
While it is well known the pain tattoo artists put their clients through, it’s rarely considered the pain tattooists themselves go through. Tattooing is a very physical job without being very physical.
Giorgia works long hours five days a week. Staring at the same spot for extended periods gives her migraines. She also gets a bad back and has had terrible sciatica as a result. A colleague of hers has terrible wrist problems and after each tattoo he has to sit there with heat packs on.
‘We risk terrible injuries and you wouldn’t think it because we are just sitting there. If you think about it, we are handling these heavy machines all day. We obviously risk our sight, our wrists, we constantly have back problems. You really have to take care of yourself,’ Giorgia said.
‘It takes a person with stamina, patience, determination and a creative mind to become a tattoo artist. You have to be a creative weirdo if you want to make it in an industry that is very competitive. You have to be a very hard worker and sacrifice a lot.’
Giorgia was an apprentice for years and got paid little to no money. To become a tattoo artist, you are looking at having two full time jobs to support yourself in the beginning, and a lot of people don’t make it.
‘I worked really hard, I have been in the tattoo industry since I was 20 and it’s only paying off now. You have to be determined and you have to stick to it for a very long time,’ Giorgia said.
‘You have to be willing to sacrifice your personal life, your social life, relationships, parties, money and food at the end of the week. It’s not an instant gratification, you have to really think about it if you want to do it or not.’
‘I work about five days a week but I really work seven days a week because every single night I have to go home and draw. I am lucky if I have an entire day where I don’t have to draw something,’ Giorgia said.
‘Tattoo shows make it look really fun, and it definitely is fun, but you deserve that fun because of how hard you have to work to get there.’
After moving away from family and all of her friends to move to Sydney to pursue this dream of becoming a tattoo artist, Giorgia is now reaping the rewards of all of the years of hard work that she has put it.
‘Now, I can do whatever I want with my life. I look into the future of my life and it’s so much brighter. I can see myself doing other things like traveling, and I have a job that I can take anywhere in the world,’ Giorgia said.
Giorgia has a busy year of tattooing and getting her artwork onto the skin of her clients. She can look into the future in a positive light, and hopes to be booked out to the point where she has the option to pick the people she wants to tattoo.
‘My hope is to go traveling overseas, which I have always put off my entire life because I wanted to get this down before I take off. My goal is to reconnect with my family all over the world and work along the way in as many countries as possible,’ Giorgia said.
Giorgia also has a great love for African animals and has created a couple of tattoos of animals that have become extinct like the white rhino and the Ethiopian wolf. She wants to continue to create works of these animals, and use her travels, experience and art to raise awareness highlight the reasons why they have become extinct.