Hailing from Durban, South Africa, Anna Travers' tattoos take inspiration from the lush nature that surrounded her upbringing. We spoke with Anna about her travels, art, and upcoming plans for her career.
Have you always been interested in tattoos?
I’ve been interested in tattoos and everything that it entails since I was 15! That’s when I went into a shop for the first time- I was watching an old ex boyfriend get tattooed and after watching the process from start to finish, I felt this magic and knew that tattooing was all I that wanted to do with my life. From 15-18, I was just trying to get my hands on any bit of tattoo related information I could and started drawing and painting and just exploring different mediums. When I was about 17, started trying to put together a mini portfolio which included some bloody disgusting designs, let me tell you! But they got me to where I am today so I’m grateful haha!
When did you first begin to pursue tattooing as a career?
As soon as I finished school at 18, I started my apprenticeship which lasted about two years. This was done back in Durban, South Africa (my hometown) under a lovely lady called Nicole, who I will always be grateful to for helping me and believing in me. I wasn’t really in the best space back then and was lacking some direction in my life. I think it was because I was young and partying a lot at the time haha! So I actually then had a 3 year break where I studied graphic design. My parents thought it would be a good idea for me and I’m so so grateful for this time because it allowed me to reevaluate certain things in my life and refocus. After I got my degree I was like “right, all I want to do is tattoo” and I had been getting tattooed a lot at the time and then pretty much jumped headfirst back into it and that was when I really started my career. I was 23 at the time.
What is the tattoo scene like in South Africa, where you're from?
It’s great! There are a lot of super talented tattooers and some lovely shops! I go back once a year and tattoo with my friends in Durban and Cape Town!
There’s also an amazing tattoo convention run by my friend Waldo that happens every March called the South African international tattoo convention. This convention has done so much for the South African tattoo scene, it brings tattooers from all over the world and is super inspiring to see how different people from around the globe work/paint/create merch, it for sure taught me a thing or two. I think it’s also helped introduce local South African talent to a wider international market too.
Do you feel like painting allows for a different kind of creativity to tattooing? Is there more freedom?
Yes for sure! Painting and tattooing go hand in hand. I started painting with watercolour before I actually started tattooing and that helped me plan out where/how I wanted to shade certain things and also taught me patience haha! There is a freedom that comes with painting, it’s a nice change of pace to work on something and not feeling pressurised with regards to time. I then started messing around with large scale acrylic painting during lockdown and it has honestly helped me so much with my tattooing. It’s helped me loosen up and stop overthinking! Its really cool being able to play around with a new medium which is so different to tattooing.
What inspires your designs?
I’m inspired largely by the place I grew up in in South Africa, Durban. It’s a small tropical coastal city with loads of lush plants, palm trees and florals! We have vervet monkeys in the back garden and lots of nature. I’ve always been inspired by American traditional tattooing, that’s what I aim for my tattoos to be based off of in terms of look but with my own spin! I’m heavily inspired by old Indian miniature paintings, the Kama sutra and old Japanese woodblock prints. I’m also very inspired by tribal tattooing throughout history. I also draw inspiration from my peers and people I work alongside with here in London at Cloak and Dagger and Seven Doors tattoo!
Where would you like to take your work next, any exciting projects or goals upcoming?
I really want to focus on painting more and having an exhibition next year. I’m also going to be travelling more of the world and tattooing in Asia again. I was in Sri Lanka earlier this year for The Island Tattoo Connection and it was so beautiful and really made me feel super inspired so I want to travel back that side of the world again! I’m also going to travel around Europe and do a little ‘tat tour’ as well as do as many conventions as I can! Other than that I will just be working with my pals and tattooing hard and trying to be the best possible tattooer I can be and give my clients a great experience!
To see more of Anna's work and keep up to date with travel plans, follow her on instagram @tigertitz.