Artists: Kat Abdy
Cloak and Dagger
34 Cheshire St. London, UK
What year did you start tattooing?
I started working in shops when I was 19. I started tattooing infrequently when I was 20. I was tattooing full time by the time I was 21. So I think it was in 2008 I started tattooing full time!
How did you come to work at Cloak and Dagger in London?
I decided I wanted to work in London after traveling around Europe last year (2014). I was booked out in Perth until the end of the year so I decided as soon as I’d worked out my prior commitments I would give London a shot! I looked up a few shops, and I decided to contact Cloak and Dagger and their response was so warm and accommodating. I usually just go with my gut feeling and they made me feel really at ease and comfortable with the whole move. I picked them because they had good artists and variation in styles. The shop is run very efficiently so I’m able to just come in and get to work.
How was the move from Australia to London?
I was quite overwhelmed coming to London from Perth. Perth is kind of a quiet “city country town,” we are the most isolated capital in the world! The tattooing politics are very different. We don’t have shops down the street from each other. Times have changed a bit, but when I started tattooing I was discouraged to interact with “rival” shops, it’s all very competitive and each shop keeps to themselves and are spread further apart. It’s unheard of to have an artist work at 2 different shops. Coming to London, I was blown away at the community the tattooists have. Artists can work at 2 shops, there are shops on every street in Shoreditch, sometimes 2 on 1 street! We don’t have that close proximity in Perth. Artists travel a lot more in London which is enabled further by the fact travel within Europe is so accessible. It’s a big mission to travel within Australia from Perth, let alone other countries! I’ve been in such a structured routine with work for so long, I was taken aback by the freedom of the industry in London. It took me a while to get out of the mind frame that you have to stay in one shop or it would cause drama. I’m loving it here!
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t think I’m doing anything cutting edge or totally unique. I can see how I’ve made it my own, but it’s only subtle things that set my work apart. I think maybe my color palette? I prefer to use a lot of black/heavy contrast and preferably more earthy/muted colors; people have called them “weird” colors. I prefer to keep a limited color palette, which I’m pushing to limit more all the time. Clients always tell me it’s the colors they like and the way I do faces, so I guess that’s what sets me apart!
How has tattooing changed your life?
Tattooing created the life I have today. I’ve been in this industry since I was 19. I worked a bunch of shitty jobs for a year or so before hand, so I can appreciate, even from that short period of soul destroying work, how privileged I am to be in a career that I love and that allows me to grow as an artist with no boundaries, no one dictating what direction my art needs to go in. I am essentially my own boss, I have freedom of expression, I don’t have a uniform, I have relatively flexible hours. As great as all that is, I’d like to point out the relentless hours I spend at work, tattooing, getting home late, having an hour or so to myself before getting down to drawing again for another 3-4 hrs until I can’t keep my eyes open and retire to bed with a cup of tea. It’s consuming, it requires dedication, I work hard. I’m part of an industry that supports its people around the world, enabling me to travel with ease. Not many people get to do what they love for work. I don’t take it for granted. I’ve had my rough patches in my relationship with tattooing, like any long-term relationship. But I wouldn’t swap it for anything. I’ve met the most interesting people. It’s a career that has endless possibilities and you never stop learning from it. It’s constantly moving forward and there’s always room for growth, it’s given me the freedom to explore myself and find what I’m passionate about.