'Ouroboros means self creation and self acceptance – that is the foundation of my shop'
Before doing her A-levels, Ashley Tyson imagined she might become a chef – "then I watched one season of MasterChef and was like I don't think I could handle getting screamed at relentlessly," Ashley chuckles.
We're thankful she didn't, it would have been a huge loss for the tattoo world. And we've been following her journey since she started tattooing eight ago years.
Settle in for our chat, which covers how she developed her style, her client-affirming tattoo studio and why she feels that representation is so important.
When did you realise that tattooing was the right route for you?
I got my first tattoo at 17 and that was kind of it for me. I was like yeah, I want to do this. It's a dream to be able to draw every day. This is my thing – much to my parents' joy.
Are they not into tattoos?
My dad was just like, oh my god, are you for real? My mum was like, ah, three out of four kids going to uni, that's a good innings, do what you want to do.
My mum's my studio manager now. She's amazing, super efficient at organisation, that's who you'll be emailing if you book in with me.
You've got a very distinctive style – black-work nature and florals – when did you start to develop that?
I originally got into tattooing to be a portrait artist. But through tattooing, I realised there's so many other subject matters out there.
I got into florals maybe a few years into my apprenticeship, and it shook my world. Maybe around five years in was when I'd say I could pinpoint okay, that's my actual style.
Rebecca Vincent has been such a huge inspiration, I was so starstruck when I first got tattooed by her.
What are you working on now? What keeps you motivated?
I never want to get to the point where I am just churning stuff out, I need to keep on changing and pushing what I am creating. I've started doing more freehand stuff and I want to take on some bigger, large-scale pieces.
When I first started tattooing freehand on customers I already knew, it felt so liberating. Drawing onto paper is never going to replicate the form of a body.
So it's like an exchange between you and them, I draw onto their body as they tell me what they are feeling. That's how I've created some of my best work.
You've got your own studio now in west London, The Ouroboros, tell us about it...
Ouroboros means self creation and self acceptance. That is the foundation of my shop.
The deeper meaning of it spoke to my soul – I am self made, and people come here to assert themselves and to grow as people and to accept their bodies.
Mentally, getting tattooed helps people so much – it's such a privileged position and I'll never forget that, I'll never become complacent of how privileged I am to do what I do.
Any thoughts on the tattoo world itself?
There's a serious cognitive dissonance, in terms of tattooing and what's acceptable.
People will literally jump down someone's throats for stealing a design, then pile on that person for being a poor artist who didn't have time to draw their design properly.
But then you call out someone for being predator or a racist, and it's just brushed off because some celebrity or reality star got tattooed by them.
But since the big me tattoo too movement in 2020, there are so many places that are opening up to fuck the status-quo. We can be so much better. I do feel like it's balancing out slowly.
Anything else you've been thinking about that you'd like to add?
All skin types, all body types, they're all featured on my Instagram page. You know, when people come in, and they apologise, like, oh, I've got bingo wings or stomach rolls. I'm like, don't depreciate yourself in my shop. The last thing I want is to think that you feel like you have to apologise to me.
I really do care about showcasing everyone's body, everybody's skin, all of that. That's so important to me, I just hope that comes through.