Spotlight: Cally-Jo

We don’t often write about the real newbies in the business, but I had to make an exception. Cally-Jo is a one of a kind gal, with amazing talent. She’s gathered a following already, and is putting her pencil talent to skin. This is a girl who is swapping her drawings for hand built tattoo machines from some of the greatest in the industry. She’s one to watch out for, and I for one can not wait to get a tattoo from her!

1. How long is your apprenticeship at Dragstrip?

There isn’t really a time-scale for an apprenticeship, I guess average time is a couple of years? I know of apprenticeships lasting up to 10 years. I don’t really think an apprenticeship ever fully ends as we are all always learning and improving.

2. How did you get it?

Pete Belson (who I apprentice under) wrote to me and pretty much asked me of I’d be interested in being taught by him, I know that black and grey realism is the style I hope to tattoo in mostly so I figured Pete would be a great person to learn from as that’s generally the style he works in.

3. Favourite part?

Freedom, having artistic freedom, having the freedom to come to work and not worry about covering my tattoos, meeting really great people who come from all different backgrounds, being able to do a job entirely based on art and individuality. The list goes on and on! I guess just being able to draw and create on a daily basis, I think the best part is when people are genuinely so happy with their new tattoo, it’s a good feeling.

4. Worst part?

There isn’t really a whole lot I don’t like about tattooing, probably the strain on my body more than anything. I get a lot of back ache, shoulder ache and hand ache. It’s a little frustrating when I get an awkward customer who isn’t willing to compromise on a design or change it slightly to make it more ‘tattooable’ but it doesn’t happen too often.
5. Describe your style.

Good question! I guess my style is realistic with a stylised element. I think my style is quite dark, I draw a hell of a lot of skulls, I love drawing beautiful women with tears running down their faces, roses, pearls. I’d say romantic with a dark twist.

6. What do you want to do in the future? A particular studio you want to work in? Open your own?

I’m not really sure where I’m headed, I think most artists probably have aspirations of opening their own shop eventually. I have a few ideas. As for the near future I just want to learn, I have a real thirst for knowledge and art and I just want to improve and draw and tattoo and generally create art. I wouldn’t mind taking some drawing classes too.

7. Who is your favourite artist?

Tough question, in terms of tattooing I have a few favourites, Nikko Hurtado will probably always be my biggest influence and inspiration in tattooing. I love Shige’s japanese work, Robert Hernandez is great too. In terms of art, there are far too many to name.

8. Favourite tattoo so far?
Aesthetically speaking probably an eye that I recently tattooed on my boss, as far as the overall experience I recently tattooed slimming worlds ‘woman of the year’ which was a really great experience she was very inspiring and the tattoo came out great.

9. Describe a day in the life of Cally?
Wake up, almost miss my train, get to work and set up my station ready to tattoo for the day, tattoo, try and find time to eat, draw, tattoo some more, go home and draw some more and eventually go to bed!

10. Best experience so far from tattooing?

I’ve had some great opportunities thrown my way since tattooing, I’ve had some machines built for me in exchange for drawings, I’m going to America in a few weeks to take part in a big art exhibition, been offered several jobs in some really great tattoo shops. I’ve tattooed some really great people so far and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

11. Advice for others wanting to do an apprenticeship?

Learn to draw, draw every day without fail, make a great port folio with a range of work, ask around tattoo shops, and just generally work really bloody hard! It’s almost impossible to get an apprenticeship these days and I know I got really lucky with mine, tattooing isn’t your average 9-5 job, you need to have a natural artistic flare, a passion for art, and the motivation to work really hard.

12. Tell me about your machine from Tim Hendricks and how that came about.

Tim contacted me a few months ago showing an interest in my drawings, originally he asked if he could buy one off me. Another artist had already built me a machine in exchange for a drawing so I put the idea to Tim and he agreed. I had only just started my apprenticeship and only had one tattoo machine of my own so far so it’d been a great way of me building up a collection of machines. I wasn’t too specific with what I asked for, I told him I like antiques and old objects, I just let him do what he wanted, and of course it looks beautiful.
Check out Cally’s work here:
Or check out her studio Dragstrip Tattoo, Bitterne, Southampton


Rachel spends her day chasing other people round the office, weekends shaking cocktails and the rest of the time looking at tattoos, reading and playing with the cat. 

One Response to “Spotlight: Cally-Jo”
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  1. […] We didn’t just take the piss out of news stories and tell you about what great shops are up to this year- we also sat down with some great tattooers for a chat! Your favourite of 2012 was Cally-Jo, after we interviewed her in July. Click here for the full post. […]

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