With years of experience in both tattooing and running her own tattoo studio, we’re excited to bring you Ting Thorne as our featured Tattoo Artist. We delve into the day-to-day life of Ting and her career in our interview below.
Brought to you by Zappa.
Full name: Kimberley Jane Thorne – Ting is a nickname I’ve had since I was born! (Thanks Mum and Dad)
Shop: Ting’s Tattoo Studio
Years tattooing: +- 8 – 9 years, and have been in the industry for about 10 years
Tattoo style: Fine lines, anything botanical, floral, pet portraits, watercolour
Hourly rate: R1100 ph
Give us some insight into your journey of becoming a tattoo artist?
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do when I left school, so at the age of 18 I hopped on a plane to England and did a basic course in nursing. I worked with people who had brain injuries and disabilities, and enjoyed helping others. However, the weather did get me down, I was tired of slipping on the ice on the walkways down to the bus stop at 4am, I missed home and my family, friends and pets.
I moved back to South Africa and I then started my degree in fashion design. I enjoyed pattern making and garment making and was having the best time until another interest of mine perked its head up…tattooing! I had my eyes on a shop called Iron Fist Ink and they happened to be looking for an apprentice. I sent some drawings and paintings through, snapped up an interview and basically moved in and got cracking the very next day. Had to honestly make a life decision in an afternoon and I put everything else going on in my life on hold, including my studies. Best decision ever, and after a lot of hard work and dedication, a passion had become my career.
You have successfully been running your own shop for 6 years now. What have been some of the highlights over this time?
Running your own business definitely isn’t easy. It’s a 24hr job and my day starts at 5:30am most days. The absolute best highlights have been the people we get to meet and the other artists we have worked with. I have lots of hilarious memories and trinkets gifted to me over the years, like “plank” from Ed, Edd & Eddy up on my wall. We sawed off a piece of a chair at the shop one day and Kyle from Buzz Tattoos, who was visiting at the time, proceeded to draw a face on it. It’s on my wall in my booth and everyone loves it, brings back great memories of the cartoons we used to watch.
How much has Ting’s Tattoo Studio evolved over the years, and where do you see it going in the future?
We have honestly come a long long way. It was the brainchild of an ex business partner and myself. We built up and started the shop back in 2013, it was great going but I felt restrained and felt there was no space for me to grow. There were so many opinions and everyone had a different idea of how they wanted the shop to look and feel, I felt like I had to break away from it in order to still enjoy my career without a constant grey cloud looming overhead. It was difficult to start up from scratch again – there’s a saying ‘no grit no pearl’, so you’ve got to put in some hard work to make something beautiful. I managed it, and I have spent the last 4 to 5 years building my beautiful studio in Blairgowrie. The future is not ours to see… but I hope to keep the shop going whilst I try spend some time on setting up another little business on the side.
If you could sum up Ting’s Tattoo Studio in one sentence, what would it be?
We have a very approachable shop filled with plants and paintings where you can enjoy good music, good people and cool tattoos!
What about the tattoo industry attracts you to it and inspires you?
I love the freedom of allowing people to express their feelings and emotions through a tattoo and it’s a really cool thing to be able to give someone. I continue to get inspired by the stories behind tattoos and the great ideas people come up with. Everyday it’s something new and exciting. It keeps the love alive.
What do you feel have been some of the best equipment, ink, design tool improvements in recent times?
I’d definitely say Rotary machines. I was always “loyal to the coil” and was a big fan of my old school machines and cutback liners, which I do still use on the occasion, however they’re really loud and I’m partially deaf in my right ear from all the years of tattooing [laughs]. Rotaries are so much quieter, lighter, more time efficient with the changing of cartridges between needle groupings. The ink over the years continues to improve and certain topical sprays like Bactine are a great antiseptic which soothes and disinfects the skin etc. So yes, all products and equipment that are tattoo related continue to improve with each and every year.
How do you like to make sure you keep progressing as an artist?
You need to push yourself everyday. You should strive to do better and set new goals to reach, and that goes for all aspects of your life. As artists we need to be open minded to everything around us, it’s a career which requires us to be on form every hour of the day, so having a healthy lifestyle and making sure you’re not up drawing until 3am every morning is a tough one as sleep is a necessity. Just having a balanced lifestyle will benefit one’s career. I also count my lucky stars that Nate was placed in my life as he is so tech savvy and ahead of his game that he alone has pushed me to be more confident in what I do and to try new things, as I was very much set in my old ways. He has built an online booking system for the shop, which is a massive help. Automated emails get sent to our clients three hours after their tattoo appointment ends reminding them how to look after their tattoos. So yes, without Nate I’d be terribly lost like someone in a bad old 80’s music video or something.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy creating the most, and why?
I love anything botanical or floral. I love pet portraits and basically anything with finer details. I also really enjoy tattoos that look more like paintings than anything else.
To date, which tattoo that you have created are you most proud of, and why?
Trying to pick a favourite tattoo would be like trying to pick a favourite child. They’re all special and unique in their own ways. But, I am working on a few big projects which have been really cool!
When not tattooing or running your shop, what do you like to do with your downtime?
I try and spend as much time in the garden as I can with my little man, Rocco. He is four now, and we enjoy gardening and building stuff, and are always keeping busy with something. The next project is building a big koi pond. I also have a pottery studio at home, so any spare time I have you will find me in there. I used the lockdown to experiment with different glazes and have been exploring different firing techniques with my kilns. Tattooing does consume a huge part of my everyday schedule, which I love, but it does leave me with very little time in my pottery studio. Currently, I have a bunch of orders for pots/ mugs etc but no time to get them done. I am trying to work towards tattooing for three weeks out of every month leaving me with a week to get stuck into the pottery side of things. If I could find that balance I’d be the happiest person alive!
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I can’t touch my shoulder. Here’s how that happened – I lived in Zimbabwe until I was about 15 or 16, and growing up there we’d get up to all kinds of things. When I was 10 years old I fell out of a really tall tree after my brothers had made a ‘swing’ out on an old moto-x bike’s handlebars and a long rope. It was a hot day and I remember my hands slipping off the grip on the handlebar and next minute I woke up to our gardener carrying me back up to the house. I broke my arm in like three places. It was gnarly. My elbow was pretty badly broken and I had to do a lot of physiotherapy to try get it to straighten and just be an elbow again. The worst part about it was that two of my best friends both broke their arms at my house on this same swing on the same day a month earlier. You think we would have learnt our lessons hey. Needless to say the swing was taken down when I went to hospital [laughs].
For anyone wanting to book an appointment with you, what’s the next step?
We have a great online booking system now, basically jump onto our website, hit the ‘Portfolio” tab and then click on your chosen artist, it will say “Click for booking”, you hit that and it will ask you to fill in your details, and ask you a quick couple of questions like what would you like to have done, where you want to get it, a rough estimate of size and just a brief description of what you are after, along with some reference pics. This gives us a much better idea of the tattoo and a consultation can be booked from there if necessary. Or you can email the shop directly on firstname.lastname@example.org with the info mentioned in the above.
Tattoos by Ting Thorne
Photos by Alexander Wolf Photography.