This week we met up with Ross Hallam from Handstyle Tattoos in Emmarentia for our Tattoo Artist of the Week feature. Check out some of Ross’s work as we chat to him about his tattoo style, how he got into it and his really awesome shop.
Full name: Ross Hallam
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Shop: Handstyle Tattoos
Years Tattooing: 5
Tattoo style: Neo Traditional, Japanese, colour and realism, Script.
Tattoo pricing: R750 an hour
You run Handstyle Tattoo Studio. Tell us how you got into tattooing and how it led you to opening your own shop?
I’ve always had a keen interest in sub cultures and art, and I think Graffiti, skateboarding and hardcore punk are a massive reason I got into tattooing and pursuing it as a craft and alternative medium to create art.
I started working at Legacy ink on my return to South Africa from the UK in 2009 with Paul Collocott, we later both moved on to pursue our own interests. Paul opened a studio in Pretoria and I had a small private studio in Newtown which I opened under the name Handstyle Tattoos. I had the private studio for a year but quickly outgrew it. I found a new premises to open a bigger studio in Emmarentia and joined forces with Matt Adams and Paul, both very talented artists, and good friends and I haven’t looked back since.
What are the pro’s and con’s of running you own Tattoo Studio?
I think one of the main advantages is you get to create an environment which you are comfortable to work in. I get to hang out with my best friends every day, learn from them and uphold a strict standard of practice. The only cons are the occasional bits of admin here and there that go with running any business, but for the most of it there is nothing that really bums me out about my ‘job’.
What do you look for in the type of artists you hire at your shops?
Well currently we are not hiring and won’t be for a while but if you did want to get into tattooing I’d say a diverse portfolio of artwork, good attitude and some solid research into various styles of tattooing will get you far.
What was the first tattoo you ever did on a person and how did it come out?
The first tattoo I ever did was on an old friend in the UK, he just got a simple outline of a Squirrel on his upper thigh, with a sign next to it saying ” this way to the nuts”, it came out a pretty decent as far as first tattoo goes.
What did you find was the best way for you to learn and improve your tattoo skills?
I think traveling and doing guest spots at different studios/ conventions here and abroad has helped me learn so much, from different tattoo techniques to interacting with people from different cultures. It’s a constant learning process and I think as long as you are open to some creative criticism from your peers, you’ll continue to grow as an artist. Drawing a lot is also crucial as well as painting, be it graffiti or water colour.
Tattoo machines as well as the inks have changes a lot over the past few years. What have you noticed has been the main advantages of these changes?
I think the standard of inks has improved vastly, there are a number of reputable companies producing amazing ranges of pigments for various styles of tattooing. Colours are brighter and hold up much better, although I’ve seen tattoos from the 40’s that still look great. There seems to be a lot of development with rotary machines, like the addition of an armature bar and the introduction of Pneumatic tattoo machines. I’m not personally a fan of rotaries and I haven’t tried out pneumatic or swash drives so I can’t really comment on those. I’m pretty happy to continue to use coil machines, the parts have improved over time but essentially the working components haven’t changed much since the 1920’s Percy Walters models.
What type of tattoo work do you enjoy doing and how much goes into that tattoo?
I treat every clients tattoo with the same amount of care and respect. I prefer to do larger scale, full colour work. A great deal of work goes into the tattoo from the initial consultation which helps me get a better idea of what the client wants, allows me to work out the size and positioning of the piece etc. I’ll research and get as much as possible reference relating to the design, then it’s a case of sorting out the drawing which can take anywhere from a couple of days to a month. Once we have both settled on a final design its just a case of making a booking and getting the tattoo started. Big pieces take a lot of commitment and many hours are spent working on them.
What would you say your expertise is?
I’d say full colour Japanese work with a western influence and bold colourful neo traditional.
You have quite a few tattoos yourself. Have any of them been done by a special artist or do any of them have any special meaning?
I have a gotten a couple rad mini tattoos from really good friends recently, to just remind me of my travels or to benchmark a certain time in my life or an event. I’m saving space as I’m planning on getting tattooed by some of my favourite artists in the near future. It also helps you I learn a lot more by getting tattooed by people you aspire to be like or look up to. That said, tattoos don’t always need to have a meaning behind them. if a design appeals to you, that should be a good enough reason to have it done.
For someone planning on getting a descent sized tattoo. What advice would you give them?
First research the style and type of tattoo you want to get, collect as much reference as possible. Do your research on studios, from social networking sites to checking out their portfolios and don’t just settle on the first place you walk into. Don’t let cost be the deciding factor, good tattoos are not cheap and cheap tattoos are not good. Make sure your artist lets you Know a time frame for how long your tattoo will take, larger pieces are a massive commitment and a lot of hours and often repeat sessions are necessary. Make sure you are getting the tattoo you want but be open to an artists interpretation and advice.
Some of Ross’s work: