I’m from a working class family and grew up in a small town, just north of London. I was close enough to the city but far enough away for it to be a nice place to grow up.
I learned to tattoo in North London. I actually never wanted to be a tattooist; I was just asked if I wanted to learn. It had never crossed my mind until then. I felt that I wasn’t doing anything with my life at that time, so I said yes. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, for sure. I have no idea where I’d be if I didn’t say yes. I was a piece of shit beforehand—tattooing saved my life and I’m eternally grateful.
Style comes with time—a long time, really. I think that style shouldn’t be forced; it should naturally evolve into whatever it becomes. I see so many people copying others’ work to the extent that a lot of tattoos produced today look almost identical.
I think my style developed naturally. I never tried to push it. It just formed around surrounding myself in and with stuff that inspires me—specifically, old photos of Western traditional bodysuits from the late 1800s to the late 1930s. The whole idea of using black and grey for these very classic images is based around black and white photography of the yester-years. I’m certainly not the first person to do Western traditional tattoos with no color—far from it—although I hadn’t seen many large-scale black pieces when I started doing them. Black and grey traditional work has become very popular as of the last few years. Prior to that, it wasn’t a typical style. Now there are dozens of online accounts and books dedicated to black tattooing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, only an observation. I’m unsure of others’ motives for using no colour in this kind of tattooing. Is there an aesthetic reason, or is it because it’s popular on Instagram at the moment?
Find our full interview with Rich Hardy (@rich_hardy) in TTTism Issue 2, available for purchase online and at retailers worldwide.