Interview with Tattoo Artist Jenny MY Dubet |

Tattooer, Jenny MY Dubet, who works at Gypsy Blood in London, may have have only just started working in the industry, but she’s already creating powerful work. Her illustrations are much like black lace: delicate but also dark. With a saturnine aura, Jenny takes classic iconography and makes it her own with a hint of ancient etching or esoteric engraving aesthetics. Like poetic tarot cards, or messages from the netherworld, Jenny’s tattoos have an exquisite evanescent quality that collectors clearly adore.

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Words: Justine Morrow for Tattoodo

When I stopped into Gyspy Blood to interview Jenny, I was also able to meet one of her clients, Elena from Los Angeles, who was only in London for a week. “I feel like her art is very dark but very feminine, and I love that. I’m so happy I found her.” Since this particular city is a hub for an immense amount of creative talent, it was no surprise to learn that Elena came to London specifically for her first tattoo. And although getting tattooed for the first time can be nerve-wracking, it was lovely to see Jenny show such care and kindness to someone who had travelled so far for such an intimate experience.

Before tattooing, however, Jenny was kind enough to sit down with me and share her story, her inspirations, and what it’s like being a tattoo artist in London.

Snake_tattoo

I’d love to know how you got into tattooing? It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I worked in fashion for a long time and about a year ago I decided to do tattoos and follow my dreams. I worked in fashion for 15 years, and I was like, “This is not what I wanted to do.” I wanted to go back to my roots…to what I always wanted to do. I love it!

Interesting! So, why did you get into fashion at first? Well, my parents didn’t want me to get tattoos! It was like 20 years ago, so it was a very very different time for tattooing, and I’m from the south of France so they were even more behind there. So, I moved to London and did fashion.

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How did you finally make the transition from fashion to tattooing? Because that’s a big deal! I started drawing again about three years ago…and then I started tattooing my friends, my legs, and then I just decided to take the plunge: I found an apprenticeship.

What was the apprenticeship experience like for you? I learned a lot. But I felt a bit used. It’s basically like an internship, so that almost always happens. It wasn’t horrible. They didn’t treat my horribly, but there was a point where I felt like I could learn more than what I was getting.

Do you think you’ll ever teach someone to tattoo yourself? Yeah, I’d love to! Once I feel like I’m fully confident. I’ve only been tattooing for three years; I still have so much to learn.

Heart_hand_tattoo

Do you have anything in mind that you’d change specifically about the way you would teach an apprentice, versus the way you were taught? I think I’d put more care into it because I’d really want them to get really good. Where I did mine, it was way too busy for them to look after me. It was too demanding. Like, we have an apprentice here and we’ve been teaching her to draw properly…that’s something that I wish I’d had.

I feel like sometimes part of why tattoo artists like tattooing is because there’s an education aspect, because you’re always trying to grow in your craft. Yeah, I’ve always been like that. I’ve always said my favourite job is being a student. I love learning so I did my Masters, all of that. It’s always moving forward. That was the thing with fashion, I felt…I’m not getting anything out of this anymore. I’m good at it, I’m doing well, but “eh.” In the end, it’s like…what’s the point?

skull_cards_tattoo

It’s interesting because France is so different when it comes to tattoos…the tattoo culture there is so different. Being heavily tattooed is like taboo. Yeah, they don’t like it. I’ve been tattooed for around ten years but I used to go back home and people would just stare so much! Especially when you’re a girl, for some reason. Maybe they think girls don’t get tattoos and then you show up and they’re like “Woah! Yes they do!” Even here, in London, it was like that for a time.

How did you deal with that? It’s my choice. I was fine. I accept that I want to be different. I used to dress really crazy too, so I’m used to it.

And your parents, have they come around? Yeah, they’re fine.

I’d love if you could talk about your style, actually…it’s a bit illustrative, but there’s still a traditional aspect to it. I think that’s the thing, I mean, I’ve always been influenced by tattooing to some level, but still had my style, which is more illustrative. But I’m very influenced by tattooing, and all those common themes like sacred hearts, skulls, burning stuff…you know! But I still developed my own style within it.

Skull_Tattoo

Do you look at anything in particular? Any favourite artists or movies? I’m really drawn to directors. Like Jim Jarmusch and things like this. I really like trad tattoos, I used to be so into them. There’s so many different styles now though! Also, people who have specific different techniques like Kelly Violet…I like people who’ve done that thing where they’ve kept it traditional but put their own twist on it. Otherwise, I look at a lot of old postcards, vintage graphics, Christian iconography…I look into that quite a lot.

And what is your process like creating a piece for one of your clients? I mean, if they come up with something, I try to follow it as much as I can with my style, so I’ll do research, pop up some pictures, and draw from that. But I’ve been experimenting with different styles, so I’ll try to do more shading…I feel like tattooing has really pushed my drawing, because sometimes the things I draw I don’t tattoo, or the things I tattoo I don’t necessarily draw, but I try to do things that I like more. I’m trying to mix it all up.

What is it like for you being a female tattoo artist? So far so good. There’s quite a lot of us now!

And why do you work in this specific shop? Well, I’ve been here for about a month, the shop I worked at before was less of a traditional shop, like less traditional tattoo shop, but this one is a nice environment to be in. Everyone’s really nice here, and works really well together. And I’m still learning, and everyone’s really supportive.

flash_tattoos

What do you do when you’re not tattooing? I still work in fashion a bit. I’m a pattern maker.

Do you have a specific philosophy behind your creative output? I think when I started it was very much an emotional outlet, now it’s become a creative language I can just use. So, it’s a bit less so emotional now, but I’m trying to find that again. I liked when it was like that. Now it’s more visual.

What is it about tattooing that attracted you? Was it just the visual? I think it was the whole culture. Like, I’ve always wanted tattoos…even when I was a teenager. I think I tattooed myself when I was like 13 with a sewing needle, but it was just this idea of ritual that I find quite interesting.

But I like the culture, the drawing, it’s really forever for the people you tattoo, but really ephemeral for the tattoo artist, so it’s this interesting relationship to the artwork that I quite like. I like creating for people too, and it’s really nice to make people happy.

Why did you come to London to do your work? I think when I was 18 it was just really cool to go to London! It was a big city, and I’m from the countryside…so I was like, this is really cool! I’ve always been eccentric, here nobody cares. It’s the complete opposite in France. It’s nice to be somewhere where I can be myself, and not get stared at!

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Why do you think London has such a huge tattoo community? It’s always had a history of the punks…it’s a pride here to be a different person, or super avant-garde. Also now, tattooing is so much more mainstream. There’s a culture of like tattoos for people who don’t like tattoos, you know what I mean? Small things, cute things. Which makes it accessible for more people, and even two years ago it wasn’t exactly like that. It’s good for artists, for business. But it’s changed a lot. Plus, you have Instagram. I remember when I started getting tattoos, you just had to go to a tattoo shop and get a tattoo by whoever. I feel sometimes the tattoo industry is a bit behind when it comes to all the things that are actually happening to it. I’m sometimes conflicted about it…but at the same time, it’s good. I’m wondering how long it’s going to be like that. I feel like it could be a fashion, but I guess we’ll just see how it plays out!

 

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