'Tattoos have a transformative power'
We absolutely love the bold and colourful tattoos that Abbie Williams creates. She's just opened up a new tattoo studio in Leeds, so we had a chat to find out more about her work, her customers and what inspires her. Make yourself a cuppa and settle in for the ride...
How long have you been tattooing for? And what first inspired you to start?
From a young age, I was drawn to alternative things, bold colour and music. Seeing tattooed punks and rock ‘n’ roll posters as a teen always made getting tattoos seem like the next stage, but I never thought I’d be a tattooer.
It’s funny, an old tutor asked what I imagine doing for a living – she said close your eyes and imagine opening them in the future, what do you see? I was drawing a colourful design for a brief set by a customer. And now I've made that happen.
Tattoo design by Abbie Williams
Tattooing each day has a perfect mix of routine and randomness to keep me interested, and I genuinely love it.
I’ve been tattooing for over 10 years now, I started my apprenticeship in 2011. After uni, my best friend Lydia and I would get tattooed with whatever spare money we had, and eventually one of those studios offered me an apprenticeship because they specifically wanted a female presence.
At this point, I’d only ever seen a few females tattooers work and I wanted to be a part of that. I think Dawnii’s work (The Painted Lady) had the biggest impact on me – and still does.
How would you describe your style of tattooing? Have you always been attracted to colour?
My colour palette is something that gives me a certain style. I absolutely adore colour. It’s a sensory haven when I get all my colours out and create and mix and make a mess. I often take photos of the post-tattoo ink mess on my station as it’s a little art piece in itself.
Others have described my style as girly neo-trad or nouveau inspired. I personally feel that what I create has the base of traditional tattoo: bold graphic lines, black contrast and solid colour – as these tattoos will hold well in the skin – however I can't resist adding two or three other line weights for detail and playing with colour blends that go way beyond the traditional five bold colours.
Tattoo design by Abbie Williams
How do you like to work with customers? Do people mostly come to you for custom pieces?
All my customers tend to come to me with a rough brief and allow me to take it from there – I'm very lucky to have so much trust and freedom. Custom work is such a preference for me as I feel like I’m truly giving someone something unique.
What's your fave tattoo you've ever done? And why?
That's hard. Each tattoo is a new favourite. Recently I made a very intricate floral vase and I loved everything about it – it was technically challenging making it extra fun to create – but also it’s so high in contrast, both in colours and design. It’s very visually pleasing to me.
Floral vase tattoo by Abbie Williams
Spaghetti jellyfish tattoo by Abbie Williams
Tell us about your new studio? Where is it? What's it like?
Tora is our new studio. My partner Sam Rivers and I chose Leeds city centre. As the middle of the country, it's a perfect set up as we have people travel.
The actual building was a derelict old rag and paper merchants, it’s been restored and feels like a little NYC brick apartment. We’ve tried to create a studio with real emphasis on who we are as creatives, something that feels authentic to both of us. My half is filled with colour and flowers, Sam’s half has a tribal woodwork feel.
Tattoo artist Abbie Williams in her studio
What do you love most about tattoos / being a tattoo artist?
Tattoos have such a transformative power. Personally, tattoos have helped with my own body image, and so many of my customers feel the same. They make me appreciate my form and the colours bring me joy so I love being able to do this for other people. It’s a way to express and decorate yourself and I love it.
I love setting up my coil machines, choosing needles, I love the process, the routine, the calm before the storm, then the noise, and the hyper-focused mindful state of zen that I usually achieve while creating the actual tattoo. I love the marks made by the machines, the blending of colours, wiping all the mess away and seeing a shiny fresh tattoo.
Also the human connection of tattooing customers is rather unique. I’m introverted but can be such a chatty person so sharing stories and life experiences all feels wholesome and positive for me. I seem to attract so many like-minded people through my work, I feel lucky.
Any advice for first timers?
Everyone always asks what was your first tattoo so pick a good one, because you’ll always have to retell the same story for the rest of your tattooed life! So many people get a small tiny thing to ‘test the water’, but then next get the bigger tattoo they actually wanted – so just go for the one you actually want.
Always research an artist, look at their fresh and healed work, imagine it in natural lighting and how it might look in a few years' time too – if that person feels right, ask them if they are up for your project.
What about the tattoos on your own body?
My fave tattoo is a Wayne’s World tattoo by Joe Ellis. Sneaky Mitch has been working on a big project on my back/ribs/bum/hip, it’s nearly done, then I’ll be able to continue collecting. I plan to get pieces by Olivia Chell, Rich Wells and TJ Fairfax – all amazing people and artists – I can see the love in their craft.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Princess Cat design by Abbie Williams
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to personally progress – this could be by working with themes that I believe in more… Using shapes and designs that work with the body preferably on a larger scale. I want to expand on the floral flow I usually create to more of a Japanese inspired direction. Using themes with elemental origins, wind, smoke, water, fire, nature-based tattoos that can flow organically on the body. I also like that natural tattoos can be both grounding and freeing. I’m hoping to combine fantastical, mythological, concepts too, things that keep us inspired and our imaginations happy. So that’s my little dreamy intentions set out there now...
Give Abbie a follow on Insta @abbiewilliamstattoo