Apprentice Love: Hannah Elizabeth Gehrke |

We just can’t get enough of new tattoo artists, and this is what fuels our Apprentice Love series. A selection of posts and interviews in which we like to showcase new talent in the industry. Hannah Gehrke is a tattoo apprentice at Broadside Tattoo in Swansea, UK, who our editor Rosalie was lucky enough to be tattooed by too. 

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How long have you been tattooing and how did you get into the industry? I’ve been tattooing for a little over two years and apprenticing at my shop, Broadside, for three years so far! I’m part of the herd; I did the normal thing of doing my A Levels and going to University where I studied counselling and psychology with the aim of being an art therapist, but it wasn’t panning out how I wanted it to. Art was still a big hobby of mine though, and half way through my final year of university when I was writing my dissertation and preparing my final exams, I saw Broadside advertising for an apprenticeship position and I just went for it!

Scott allowed me to apprentice at the shop whilst doing my university work which worked out well, and now I both have a degree and a job that I absolutely adore (I didn’t get the first in my degree I was hoping for, but we won’t talk about that). I wouldn’t change it for the world now. This is basically a form of art therapy anyway so I have the best of both worlds!

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What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? I’m going to say it: Miami Ink. It was always on the TV at home and it had a big impression on me. In my tweens I was watching it and just thinking, this is so cool! I love it! I didn’t know any people with tattoos then, so this TV show was really my only source of knowledge. As I grew, tattoos were slowly introduced to me by friends, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My mum booked her first tattoo in her 40s before I booked my first at 18, and I wasn’t having that so I snuck in an appointment before her. Sorry Mum!

I’ve always been creative and loved art at school, even though l ended up packing it in because I lost my spark and I didn’t think that pursuing any career in art was doable, let alone tattooing, or more so that I wasn’t capable enough, but here I am! Living my dream. Sometimes I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact I actually do this for a living and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. A little determination and perseverance goes a long way. I’ve had a lot of support from my family, friends and my boyfriend, and without them I don’t think I’d have done this and got to where I am today.

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How does it feel being a woman in the tattoo industry? It feels great and I’m honoured to be a part of it. I’m very much aware that tattooing is quite the male dominated industry, but times are changing and I’m very happy to be involved.

There are so many fantastic female artists out there who’re a huge source of inspiration to me, such as Lucy O’connell, Sadee Glover, Natalie Gardiner, Debbie Jones: I want to be like them one day! I also like to think that in 10 or so years time, maybe a young girl my age now will think, if she can do it, so can I. It’s all about supporting each other and holding each other up, and as much as I’m here for all my girls, I’m here for all my boys too.

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How would you describe your style? Has this changed since you started, what direction would you like it to go in? I’d say my style leans more towards colour neotraditional, but I bring a lot of illustrative, “organic” elements into my work too. Dotwork is also something I do a lot of. Generally, I just draw, and what comes out… comes out.

I’ve noticed big changes in style since I started tattooing, and it’s only been two years! I can’t wait to see what I’m working like in another two. As I’m still an apprentice, I’m still learning and adapting to different styles too. I’m happy to do traditional, black work, I’ve tried black and grey, script, Japanese and Maori… it’s adding more strings to my bow and I love learning new methods, however I would like to purely work in my own style one day, and the demand is growing which is amazing! But if someone wants something which isn’t my usual style, I’m more than happy to do it and I think being able to do a little bit of everything is important. I want to have my fingers in all the pies!

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What inspires your tattoos? Happiness! I love making people happy! Whether that happiness is derived from a majorly colourful Kewpie dressed as Dolly Parton, or a blackwork tombstone commemorating the death of your diet, if it makes you happy I’m all about it.

I work with some fantastic artists and Swansea has a lovely little hub of us who all to different styles, so there’s endless inspiration. I’m also a really big fan of vintage Hallmark designs and botany books, and I reference them throughout my work frequently. I take a lot of my own reference photos too, whether that be wildlife, plants or myself (I have nice hands, OK?!)

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What do you love to tattoo and what would you like to do more of? The list of things I love tattooing is endless! I really enjoy doing florals and botanicals, they’re always my go to, however I also absolutely adore tattooing the more obscure and personal. Does your nana have a brooch that you’ve always wanted to get your hands on? Did you really enjoy that hotdog you ate in New York back in 2011 and haven’t stopped thinking about it since? I want to tattoo it! I want you to have a memory to wear forever, and it’s such a wonderful feeling being part of the process and making it happen; I get to share and cherish your memories with you. Meaningful or meaningless (and it’s ok to get a tattoo with no meaning just because it looks cool!), I’ll work with whatever you want and do my best to turn it into a tattoo for you, and generally the more detail I can get into something, the better!

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How does tattooing make you feel? Including the tattoos you create and the tattoos you have on your own body. When I’m tattooing, I don’t think about anything else. I’m completely engrossed in what I’m doing and don’t have the time to think about anything but the tattoo; I’m in my own little bubble! Don’t get me wrong, throughout this learning process there have been tears and tribulations, but thankfully they’ve just made me work harder, and my will to succeed is huge. I really, really want to do well and there is absolutely nothing that can stop me. I’ll have my ups and downs, but that’s all part of it and I respect that.

I don’t think there’s any better feeling than completing a tattoo and not only being proud of it, but your client being proud of it too. I’m not in it just for myself, and I’m aware how much of an impact a tattoo can have on a client regardless of how big or small, simple or intricate, and I want them to walk away from the experience fulfilled because that’s how my own tattoos make me feel.

Tattoos have allowed me to accept and love the parts of my body I didn’t, show off my interests and memories… they’re more than just tattoos; they are my own personal accessories and I wear them all proudly, old and new. Tattoos and tattooing are a major source of joy in my life, and I want to share that with as many people as I can.

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