Pins and Needles

Browns Fashion celebrated the festive period in their East London boutique with a night of piercings, pizza, diamonds and tattoos. We grabbed a slice with Sang Bleu’s Ruby Quilter and LA based piercer Stephanie Anders.

Photography JOHN WILLIAM

Beauty Papers: What do you think is beautiful?
Ruby Quilter: To me beauty is authenticity. I think the most beautiful people in the world are the ones who are living truly as themselves, in whatever form or capacity that comes in. Personally, I have spent many years wasting time adhering to a fabricated idea of beauty; trying to look a certain way, and loathing myself for not achieving it. Some of the most enchanting people I’ve met are the ones who are unapologetically themselves.

BP: Tell me about the first tattoo you got?
RQ: I got my first tattoo at 15. Embarrassingly it’s a pink bow based on a picture I found on the internet. I thought it was so incredibly painful, it’s bewildering I ended up going into it as a career. I had it done in a small local shop and I was so conscious of my being under age that I wasn’t concerned with the quality of the tattoo. Luckily the pain did deter me from getting the myriad of terrible ideas I had as a teenager.

BP: What is the last tattoo you got?
RQ: I got a charm bracelet and rose tattooed on my wrist a few months ago by my friend Oscar which I love. We met when he came to get tattooed by me.

BP: Do you have a tattoo hero or muse?
RQ: I have so many heroes in tattooing, people I look up to who have helped shape the style of tattooing I do now. Scott Campbell, Nathan Kostechko and Jack Rudy to name a few of the many who inspire me. There are so many amazing artists who keep tattooing evolving and keep it exciting.

Tattoo artist Ruby Quilter

BP: What were your first steps into the industry?
RQ: I got an apprenticeship with a shop near where I’m from. It lasted about a year and a half and it was challenging but really exciting because I finally felt like I belonged to something… a community of people who were brought together by their shared love of one thing.

BP: How has it changed since you got started?
RQ: Well, Instagram was around at the time I was learning, but it wasn’t the overwhelming force it is now. There are a lot more tattooers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s done safely and respectably. Tattooing can only go so far on a digital platform. It’s physical… you have to sit with the customer, talk, tattoo. That grounding element is what keeps tattooing safe from getting lost in a world of influencers and adverts.

BP: Does it feel like a boys club?
RQ: There are times when you’re reminded of the outdated attitudes tattooing has somewhat left behind. You can find yourself in a male only shop, or listen to a misogynistic conversation about a female customer, which is a grotesque indication that, like a lot of industries, tattooing has a long way to go. I love being a woman within tattooing and although there are times when it may seem it’s predominantly male, it’s an industry which allows you to be and create whatever you want. It’s a safe place for creativity to flourish. Tattooing doesn’t care about who you are or what you look like, it’s about the artistry, and whatever interesting way that manifests.

BP: In your own words how do you think attitudes to tattooing and having tattoos has changed? Do you think our ideas of beauty have shifted?
RQ: I think attitudes towards tattooing have changed vastly. There has always been an element of recklessness to it, which I think still lingers, however it’s now more alluring than something demonised. I think people are taking ownership of their bodies, and learning to express themselves in ways they couldn’t… even 20 years ago. Especially for women, women have always been getting tattooed, but now it’s way more mainstream. Women are rejecting the idea that you must present yourself in a certain way for society to respect you, and embracing the freedom of choice. With tattooing you are electing to change your body, to be whatever you want to be. There is beauty in that idea.

Piercer Stephanie Anders

Beauty Papers: What do you think is beautiful?
Stephanie Anders: Haha so many things. I think individuality is beautiful, embracing your differences and your quirks, to be truly unique. To be beautiful to me has nothing to do with what society deems is beautiful, it’s kindness and confidence and what it looks like to love who you are entirely. That is beautiful.

BP: Tell me about the first piercing you got?
SA: My first piercings were my ears when I was just a baby… does that even count? Other than that, starting around eleven years old I began piercing myself. First it was my ears but then it quickly evolved into piercing myself in every place I could. I came from a very conservative family so I was never able to keep anything for long even though I tried my hardest to hide them. The first piercing I remember my mom actually agreeing to was at thirteen she and I went and got our navels pierced together.

BP: What is the last piercing you got?
SA: I haven’t been pierced in years [laughs]. My last piercing was in my ears – the small rose gold daggers I wear in each tragus. They were probably done 6 years ago. My apprentice is now piercing on her own so I may have to be pierced by her to celebrate, and it will most likely be something on my ears.

BP: Do you have a pierced/piercing hero or muse?
SA: I grew up in a small conservative community in Iowa where it was very taboo to have piercings or tattoos, but there were the people and piercers in the beginning who helped me realise that I wasn’t alone and that it wasn’t wrong of me to love what I loved. And there are the piercers who helped shape me and teach me. As far as a pierced muse, I highly highly admire anyone willing to rock their piercings without questioning what others may think. Just own that shit.

BP: What were your first steps into the industry?
SA: My Dad was such a helpful part of this. When I came to him at eleven years old and told him this is what I wanted to be, he decided to start taking me to Tattoo conventions and tattoo studios so that I could ask questions and watch, because even though this isn’t the path he would have chosen for me, it’s what I wanted to be so he wanted to make sure I was educated. Even still, my first steps were rocky ones [laughs]. I started out by researching and piercing myself and my friends – not advisable – and was hired to work in low quality studios because I knew it was an easy way into the industry. It allowed me to pierce with very little formal training and gain experience, but I knew I wanted so much more. I wanted to thrive and change the opinions people had of piercings and to do that I knew I had to get my shit together. Thankfully, not long after I started actually piercing professionally. I was hired into a much nicer studio and the piercer there really helped educate me and worked with me on technique and that is when I feel like my career truly began and that was a huge step towards where I am now.

BP: How has it changed since you got started?
SA: This industry is always changing and evolving and growing. I feel like the biggest change since I have been piercing is just how widely more accepted it is. Piercings aren’t just for rebellious teens any more, you aren’t immediately labeled  because you have piercings. And that’s how it should be. Not to mention our jewelry keeps getting better and better.

BP: Does it feel like a boys club?

SA: I think in the past for sure this was an intensely male dominated industry, but like I said as we grow and evolve, that is also changing.

BP: In your own words how do you think attitudes to piercing / having piercings has changed? Do you think our ideas of beauty have shifted?
SA: I think that people are changing how they view piercings. More and more people are seeing them as accessories or enhancements and more real-estate for beautiful jewelry rather than looking on it as being lower class or rebellious.

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