As an avid tattoo consumer and publishing operative, Alice Snape had always felt that the magazines representing tattoo culture, with their half naked women sporting mediocre body art, catered more toward the loins of men than the art of ink.
So, naturally, she created her own.
Launched in 2012, Things&Ink’s unique blend of boutique lifestyle and tattoo subculture produced 12 beautifully curated female friendly issues. Although it has since made the transition from paper to digital, their dedicated community of tattoo lovers, both female and male, have remained loyal, populating their Facebook page and frequently visiting the blog.
I have a personal affinity with this magazine. While hauling through my master’s degree I was lucky enough to find solace in writing for Things&Ink. Both independent and niche, the magazine is undoubtedly a labor of love, and I enjoyed every interaction with Alice and the Things&Ink community. Needless to say, I was very excited to talk with Alice about the vicissitudes of starting a magazine and how her journey has been since.
So, how did you come to create Things&Ink?
I have worked in the publishing world since I graduated from my MA back in 2007. I did a degree in English Literature and Philosophy at Sheffield Uni, and didn’t know what the hell to do with it, so I did a Masters in Publishing in Oxford. I have always loved books and magazines. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, and magazines are a sort of commentary on the world, but in an inspirational format.
I actually created a prototype of a female friendly tattoo magazine for my MA major project, I think it might still even be in the library at Oxford Brookes University. At the time, I was looking to get my first tattoo, I was 21, and this was before the days of Instagram, and I bought a load of tattoo magazines for inspiration. Needless to say none of them appealed to me, they were very much aimed at men and none of them featured tattoos that I like or would suit me and my tastes. They were also all very much geared towards men, with half naked women legs apart with barely any tattoos on the cover.
My tutors all raved about my prototype magazine and thought it would work in a real world situation… however I was young and inexperienced and didn’t feel at all ready to launch my own magazine. So, I started work in the publishing world, first at an arts organisation, then as a writer and sub-editor, mainly on women’s lifestyle titles.
I launched Things&Ink back in 2012. As I still didn’t feel that tattoo magazines related to me, I was also disillusioned with women’s magazine – I didn’t want Photoshopped covers or the latest diet… Things&Ink was an answer to this.
Over the three years Things&Ink was in circulation we printed 12 issues. Each had a different theme, carefully curated content and a tattoo artist on the cover with a photo shoot created around them and their work. I also didn’t want to just showcase tattoos, as with the rise of Instagram and blogs, many people find tattoos online rather than in magazines. Which leads me onto your next questions, I guess…
We sold around 2,000 copies per issue, all over the world, but mainly in the UK. Most sales came from online orders, as it is very difficult and costly to get an independent magazine onto the shelves in shops.
Tell me more about Things&Ink’s unique point of difference?
I wanted the magazine to delve into tattoo culture, explore the reasons behind people getting their tattoos, from tattooing over scars to body confidence… I also wanted to feature tattoo artists and in-depth interviews about how their work has progressed, the ins and outs of their work, I also wanted to feature fashion, beauty and lifestyle that related to tattoo culture and also the history of tattoos – a mix I felt was missing from other mainstream tattoo mags. Fundamentally, I wanted to create a high-end magazine that wouldn’t look out of places on the shelves next to magazines such as Vogue and Dazed & Confused. Things&Ink reflected tattoos in the way I felt they should be – as art.
Things&Ink has evolved, it launched as a female tattoo magazine to give a voice for female tattoo artists and collectors, and although still a feminist title, it doesn’t only feature women. It was received mostly positively.
How was the transition from print to online?
Print is a very difficult and changing industry. People just don’t seem to buy magazines in the same way that they used to, and I am guilty of this too. There has been a rise in free magazines, which rely on advertising to run, yet a lot of advertisers are moving to online, as they can record click-throughs etc., so they know exactly how many hits / sales they have got from an advert. I thought about relaunching Things&Ink as a free, London-based title, giving it away at Tube stops etc., but I decided I wanted to concentrate on curating exhibitions and blog content – blogs and Instagram really work for tattoo culture.
Are there any tattoo subjects that you’re inordinately passionate about?
I believe that women with tattoos should not be objectified and fetishised. A tattoo on a woman’s skin is not an invitation to touch her. In the summer, when I wear less clothes, I can’t stand it if someone – male or female – touches me without my permission. That is never, ever, acceptable. I want tattoos to be described in a positive way in the media to combat this. I don’t want a woman to be described as slutty just because she has ink on her skin.
How do you view the growth and exposure of tattoo culture, and how does Things&Ink align in that vision?
I view it as a positive thing, although I know that many artists and purists preferred it when it was more “underground” and can get quite snobby about it. I think the bigger an industry gets, the more opportunity there is for “bad” work, scratchers if you will.
I hope that Things&Ink can continue to provide a platform for artists, and teach its readers how to choose the right artist for them. Some people will always just go to their nearest tattoo artist, as they see all “tattooists” as equal. Of course, as editors and experienced tattoo collectors, we know that isn’t the case. Artists and their work must be researched and you should go to an artist whose style you like. In my opinion, though, there will always be a place for tattoos that aren’t considered art – names, small symbols etc. – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some people do not want to be heavily tattooed or even get just one large tattoo.
What have been some of your best and worst moments as editor?
There have been so many highs and lows. Putting together that first issue was so difficult. I slept so little and was working every hour possible on top of a full-time job. But the first day it sent for sale and we sold 100 copies I felt incredible. I got 2,000 copies printed and we sold out in the end.
I love coming up with shoot ideas and collaborating with artists and photographers to create content that is truly unique. Things&Ink looks nothing like your typical tattoo mag.
What are some memorable articles that you’ve published?
My most memorable was written for the Guardian commenting on the ban on visible tattoos in the Met police while I was compiling the launch issue.
And ‘Indeilible Ink', my personal take on tattoos.
And some memorable tattoos?
Recently this tattoo blew me away, really beautiful and stood out to me:
I find mastectomy tattoos fascinating and think this is such an interesting amazing take on one:
On the blog, th-ink.co.uk: Diane @pieceocakedj shares her experience of #breastcancer and how getting a tattoo made her feel about her #mastectomy. Diane also works with P.Ink @personal.ink to connect other breast cancer survivors with tattoo artists. #mastectomytattoo and photo by @roxx_____ #pinktattooday #personalink
LOVE this one by Sadee Glover, it was the tattoo that made me want to get work from her:
On the blog, th-ink.co.uk: #LeedsTattooExpo our round-up of fave tattoos! We had a great time this weekend at @leedstattooexpo and there was some truly great work created at the event, we particularly love this piece by @sadeejohnston more on the blog th-ink.co.uk including @misterpaterson @jodydawber and more
This one stands out for the wrong reasons. I will never forget this flashing up on my Facebook news-feed. It was his first tattoo… it looks badly done and it is ON HIS FACE. But it throws up questions: if he is happy, who are we to judge?
Your top 5 tattooists and why:
Emily Rose Murray: I would love to get tattooed by her one day, the dream, her style has got that dreamy 1940s appeal that I love, I love her colour palette.
Cris Cleen: again this has a classic vintage appeal and he works in such a limited colour palette that his style is very recognisable and unique.
Claudia de Sabe: it was her work that made me realise I wanted to be heavily tattooed, just impeccable. (she was also the star for the cover of the first issue).
Aimee Cornwell: Her work blows me away. I have found it so interesting to watch her journey, her style has changed so much over the years and now she has such a magical artistic style.
And Rose Hardy.
And tattoo publications?
Total Tattoo: Good tattoo news and coverage of events.
Needlesandsins.com: editor Marisa Kakoulas is a lawyer and I find this to be a very insightful and trustworthy source.
I always use Instagram to discover new artists and follow artist’s work. You can’t get more up to date.
Some favourite artists:
Jack Vettriano: I have always adored his work, was one of my favourite artists. I am just drawn to his work and still love it even though it has now been mass produced.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti: I have a tattoo based on three of his paintings. I adore his pre raphaelite woman, flowing red hair.
Alphonse Maria Mucha: again, a classic.
Can you offer any tips for artists who want to get exposure?
NEVER email someone with no knowledge of who you are emailing, some people email me who have clearly never read the blog or magazine and have no idea what we are about. Why should a magazine publish your work if you have no idea what we do??
Also group emails are very annoying. We want to feel special too.
And for writers and photographers.
Again, it’s always good to show a knowledge of the publication and tailor your submission to it. Be chatty and be honest.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to get tattoos?
Yes, I wrote an article on advice for first timers!
In this second installment of the 'Interview with the Editor' series, where editors of some of the most influential tattoo publications share their two-cents, Alice Snape, editor of Things&Ink, talks about her journey as an independent publisher of a female friendly tattoo culture publication.
"I bought a load of tattoo magazines for inspiration. Needless to say none of them appealed to me, they were very much aimed at men and none of them featured tattoos that I like or would suit me and my tastes. They were also all very much geared towards men, with half naked women legs apart with barely any tattoos on the cover."
(Abridged version first published in DAZED & CONFUSED magazine, 03/03/17) Born into a female body in Iran Touka began experimenting with cross dressing after the Islamic revolution where she would pretend to be a boy to avoid wearing state enforced hijabs. Since then he has actively used body art and modification to transcend the notion of binaries. He preferred the pronoun He for this piece.
In this first installment of the Interview with an Editor series, head honcho of Skin Deep, Sion Smith, offers advice for writers, photographers, and tattooists looking get published, while discussing life at the helm of the UK's best selling tattoo magazine.
"For writers, be original, spell things correctly (I have better things to do than watch your back), be on time, be nice to work with and don’t be a dick."
Milo's comments embracing the positives of a legal, consenting relationship between a teenage boy and older man were labelled pedophilia. So I ask three male friends to share their teenage sexual encounters with older men.
Ahead of VICELAND’s 2017 series, Needles and Pins, Grace talks about her experiences in front of the lens, riding around LA on quad bikes with Venice Bad Boys, and what it’s like to be an ambassador for contemporary tattoo culture.
Currently in her third permutation of a body suit, New Zealand based artist Jak Nola talks about her psychedelic erotic art, tattoos, and what an orgasm can do for the mind.
(Abridged version first Published in The Guardian, 23/11/16) Lying in a satin-lined coffin or wearing a bondage hood may help you face up to your inevitable demise. I attend the inaugural Sydney Death and Dying Festival to get a taste of what's to come.
(Published in INKED issue 42) “That was Ricky’s right above Pinky’s. That’s because Pinky’s had a hepatitis scare and the American navy had banned them from going there, so he just opened upstairs and called it Ricky’s. It was two shops but it was the same. They just liked names that had that “icky” sound and I just happened to be there at the right time.”
(VICE online, 27/09/16) "Isaac Comer was heavily tattooed including on his cock. Henry Findlay was tattooed on his chest, arms, hands, fingers, calves and from his knees to his groin 'after the Burmese manner’. Henry was a soldier, court-martialled in Burma, so presumably he got some pretty wild tatts during service." Discover a rich history of colonial stick & poke tattoos and wild convict stories with Simon Barnard, author of the new book Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia.
(INKED magazine, issue 39) On February 26th, I presented an exhibition of tattooed silicone hands and sheets at Melbourne's Neon Parlour. All profits from the sale of these works went to SafeSteps and WIRE, two Melbourne based organisations dedicated to providing support to women and children experiencing domestic violence.
(INKED magazine, issue 35) 'Tattooing in the Islamic Republic (dictatorship) of Iran' is the culmination of furtive correspondence with four brave Iranian tattooists who risk imprisonment and torture on a daily basis all for the sake of their art.
(Things & Ink, issue 10) "Tattooing is conducted during the vigil. Beside the body the near family sing the deceased's history in a rhythm made of tears. While clusters of cousins drink and gamble in little pockets of light about the village, as the ancestors one by one arrive from their graves to receive the spirit of the newly dead, as the animals set aside to die in the morning shuffle blandly, a select few receive tattoos."
(Things & Ink, issue 12, abridged on VICE online) What began as an intellectual interest in body modification within the context of BDSM ended with 250mls of saline infused into my scrotum and 500mls infused into my girlfriend's breasts.
(Things & Ink, issue 11) "I think it’s a real big kick and liberation once you’ve put on a face and the costume and you go out in public. You become a character, a different person, and so people respond to you differently, and so I can take it on and enjoy whatever it is that could potentially serve me, which is completely different every time."
My scrotum is a thin sack of skin that contains part of my reproductive system. Insert a needle, add a litre of saline, and it is apparently transformed into a serious fun bag.
(Things & Ink, issue 10, republished in INKED magazine, issue 31) "Most people understand that taxidermy is done with the leftover skins, and so it is separate from the live-animal debate, and the leather/fur debate, which uses farming. Animals are not objects, but taxidermy pieces are objects. If taxidermy is made into art for art’s sake, there is still the beauty and appreciation of the animal and the art, so it really isn’t for nothing."
(Things & Ink, issue 11, republished in INKED magazine, issue 32) A short review of Ricky Luder, a book complied and published by Done With Electricity. The book is an illustrative historical treat!
(Things & Ink, issue 9. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) ‘Since putting the photo on Instagram, I was like, “Wow; I didn’t realise it would become such a thing”. Someone put it on Facebook, and it turned into this big thing with over 200 comments, and everyone was thinking I was a total freak. I guess I took it a bit lightly and didn’t explain myself, it was just like “RAAAAAHHH; I’m eating my own head!”
(Things & Ink issue 4. Republished in INKED, issue 29) I speak to 5 awesome artists from varying disciplines about their work, tattoos, and meaning.
(Things & Ink blog, 23/12/14. Republished in INKED magazine, issue 30) I talk with the Bangkok based Knowing Buddha Organisation about it's objection to Buddha tattoos, and discover that it may pay to think twice before tattooing a deity on your body.
(Things & Ink blog, 14/12/14. Republished in INKED issue 32) ‘Yeah man, vultures on the streets shaking down people for payouts. I was headed back from a ju-jitsu session and I was told I’m a Russian selling coke around the red-light areas, [the officer] greedily stuck his hands into my gym bag to find a sweaty ju-jitsu gi! These guys’ other rackets are being squeezed by the military so they need to find other ways to buy Christmas goodies this time of year.’
(Things & Ink, issue 8. Republished in INKED, issue 27) ‘The first hit, your mind is full of so many thoughts; mostly you’re thinking, “Shit, what have I done; what am I doing; I can’t do this”. After a few days, I couldn’t feel my body: the pain had reached a different level. I was in another world; I was literally looking over my own body. I was simply not there.’
(Things & Ink, issue 7. Republished in INKED, issue 28) In April of 1990, an Australian toddler had just finished unwrapping his birthday gift. Ecstatically, he began shouting ‘Lollilog! Lollilog!’ Clutched between his two white hands was his first Golliwogg doll. Twenty-four years later, that same little boy sits before me in a cluster of Golliwoggs, discussing the red lipped, bow-tied, black-skinned doll tattoo on his leg.
(Things & Ink, issue 7. Republished in INKED, issue 28) ‘It’s another world in prison, there’s dos and don’ts out here, and then there’s dos and don’ts in there. The prison officers have control, but the prisoners are trying to have control, so there’s constant friction. You could fight it or just go with the flow. I used to just go with the flow, and do tattoos.’
(Things & Ink, issue 6. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) "When you’re getting them pierced, it feels pretty brutal. So you can understand the heightened response your body and mind are having to the pain. This automatically triggers a reaction within your brain, and it compensates by flooding your body with adrenaline and all kinds of delicious endorphins. At this point I’m very happy, welcoming the old feeling of this incredible buzz within my system..."
(Modern Farmer, 01/05/2014. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) "Suffering through a tattooing is humiliating enough, but having the operation photographed and videotaped is outright overkill. The slippery plastic flooring compounded Little Minnesota’s embarrassment as he tried in vain to maintain his footing at Saturday night’s debut…Maybe it was Little Minnesota, the Texas Tattooed Pig, who finally made the most sincere statement of the night when he urinated in his plastic pigsty."
(Things & Ink, issue 6) "I wanted a truer representation of the broadness and diversity of female bodies, such as older women or tattooed women being visible as ‘girl next door’ and not stereotyped as painted harlots or bad girls. Tattoos have become a niche in porn. Porn tends to do that to humans. Well, humans generally do that to themselves."
(The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, 09/09/14) I became synesthetic—inhaling my visions, exhaling what was heard, psychoacoustics gone awry. It was as though I had inhaled the canvas, yet the painting still stood before me—inside my body lay the very foundation of existence, a manifestation of the whole rather than an isolated organism. The shaman’s throat singing tasted like centuries of atavistic dance, movement, and gyration.
(Things & Ink, issue 3) "The motor wasn’t fast enough so I really had to stab it into the skin hard, I didn’t even have proper ink, I think I was using Balinese stamp pad ink. Anyway, we were all getting pissed and I said to them all, ‘look, this isn’t the right ink, I don’t want you all getting infected from it,’ but they were all like UGHRAAAAA, TATTOO US TATTOO US WE DON’T CARE. I had like seven people lined up."