A Spiritual Connection: Interview with Tattoo Artist Kat Abdy

A Spiritual Connection: Interview with Tattoo Artist Kat Abdy

In this interview with tattoo artist Kat Abdy she talks about her inspirations, how she got into tattooing and the loves of her life.

Justine: What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?

Kat Abdy aka katabdy: I’ve always been creatively inclined. My mum was a kindergarten teacher and was very passionate about encouraging creativity in children, so growing up I always had paints, pens, pencils, building blocks, box’s to makes things... anything and everything to make art and create was available to me! I was lucky to have that side very nurtured. I did art as an elective subject for a year in high school, but didn’t get anything out of it so I dropped it. 

I had never really considered being a tattoo artist as when I was growing up the industry was very different- it certainly wasn’t on tv, there was no social media, I didn’t even know if females even worked in the industry. It wasn’t really in my awareness as a viable option for work. I always wanted to do something artistic, then one day I came across an add in the paper hiring tattoo apprentices. It sounded like my dream job so I went for it, got the job, and never really looked back!

Your artwork definitely feels infused with a dark and esoteric Art Nouveau, but with your own indelible twists. What artists, movements, places, films, or literature inspires you? How has your aesthetic changed over the years?

That’s a better description than I would’ve managed to describe my work! You’ve summed it up perfectly.

I’ve had so many inspirations that have changed over the years... Alphonse Mucha has always been a consistent inspiration- as he’s pretty much the father of art nouveau. I’ve made a few visits to Prague (Mucha's home town) to immerse myself in his work, I loved the architecture and colour palettes used in the city. I draw more inspiration from non-tattoo artists to try bring something different than what artists in the industry are already doing. Roberto Ferri, Dan Hillier, Dan Quintana, Henrik Aa. Uldalen, and Beth Cavener Sticher have been some of the main artists I've followed over the last few years. I love Greek and Roman sculpture for the classic and timeless way they depict people, especially faces. I visited the Louvre in Paris and spent about 5hrs just in the sculpture part. 

Tattoo artists I admire are Emily Rose Murray, Eckel, Lars, Glendale bully, Aimee Cornwell, Hannah Flowers, Raph Cemo, Dan Molloy, Chris Rigoni, Justin Hartman and my husband Jorge Becerra... there’s so many more I’ve recently discovered and who’s work I adore but these have been the longest standing. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some of these artists, and have been tattooed by a few of them, which helped me learn a lot.

Nature inspires me, clears my mind and helps me get creative. Trips into forests, road trips or long train rides through open country give me creative energy. I loved driving through Scotland, catching trains between countries, Barcelona is architecturally inspiring, the mountains in Spain... basically anywhere that’s relatively remote and full of nature.

My aesthetic has changed over the years from my experiences of travel, meeting and working with other artists and doing conventions, social media was a big game changer. When I started tattooing the only source of seeing others work was a magazine. Now we’re flooded with unlimited art right at our fingertips!

The portraits you create have such details in what the women look like, are wearing, and even down to what they are surrounded by. They each seem to have their own history or story. What is your process like in building these characters before you tattoo them?

I’ve always felt each art piece I create has its own story. I feel it develops as I design it- I don’t always start with a clear intension, it’s something that grows as I draw. The elements have to “make sense” to me, as in following a theme or be consistent with what I’m trying to represent. My work often somehow reflects my beliefs at the time- for example at the moment the symbols that tend to appear in my work kind of represent my belief system- I find myself representing darkness and light a lot, the sun and the moon. I’m fascinated by the concept of “the shadow self” and the battle within between dark/light, good/evil, and ultimately finding that balance to exist in harmony with both.

When designing a tattoo, clients often give me a theme/concept to work with. I start with researching the concept and collecting references im drawn to, which I then study and visualize a way for them to all work together- which is part of the story development, trying to find a way to balance and harmonize all the elements I’ve collected to form a cohesive piece. It’s a very intense, exciting, stimulating process I delve into, where I’ll spend a day or 2 in a creative tunnel building the sketch. I’m not a quick designer! I agonize over tiny things for way longer than necessary sometimes.

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You also do yoga, which is awesome! I feel like tattoo artists don’t often talk about how stressful their job is, or how important self care is. What advice do you have for others trying to get into yoga, or who are trying to work on their inner peace?

I do love yoga. I love it because it gets me into my own body and creates a space for mental peace and connection. There are many different types of yoga, some more physical and intense, some slow and flowing, restorative, or more on the meditation side. It depends what you want to get out of it.

I’ve found that going to the gym to do strengthening exercises has been the most beneficial thing for my tattoo related injuries. I have a bad neck and lower back, and if I don’t build proper muscle around the joints, then I’m in a lot of pain, and sometimes unable to work if my neck completely locks up. I’ve had no choice but to balance my lifestyle with self care because I’m at an age where the accumulative effects of tattooing have broken me down on a physical level, so I just can’t tattoo as much as I used to. Regular breaks are important, stretching, and strength building. A good diet helps the mental energy too. 

I’ve found inner peace when I’m maintaining a balanced life- doing things for others, time for family friends and my relationship, exercise , time to relax, to create my own art outside of tattooing, to learn something new (trying to learn Spanish at the moment!) and having some discipline/structure in my daily routines. I try to live along spiritual principles as best I can, and work quite hard at keeping that balance. It’s not easy as I can be quite obsessive and neurotic and just drown myself in work which inevitably effects my mental health. If I make my life bigger than just work then I don’t get as stressed out by it.

If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to have dinner with, who would you choose?

Honestly, to sit down and have dinner the first person that pops into my head is my husband Jorge Becerra! I adore spending time with him, he’s the most interesting, stimulating person I know, and I love having dinner with him! We always talk for ages through and after dinner, we cook for each other or he takes me out, I look forward to it everyday.

I’m assuming this question is asking me about who I’d like to meet but there’s no one I’d rather spend time with than the people I already know as my friends and family.

Beyond tattoos, what are you really passionate about? What can you not live without? How do you spend your days off?

Well, at the moment I’m obsessed with Lyra (Aerial hoop). It’s Something I always wanted to do, but could never find the time commitment in the first 7yrs of tattooing or because I was traveling. The last thing I was this passionate about was probably tattooing! I’m also pretty passionate about food, I’ve recently switched to vegan- I wasn’t too far off that type of diet before, but I’ve started to apply those principles in the rest of my life. It feels good to have some integrity about where I get my food from, what companies I choose to promote through what I buy, what I’m putting into my body, and my general footprint left on the planet. It’s not something I preach about excessively, but something I do in my actions, I believe that is the best way to promote an idea.

If I’m at home alone on a day off I usually try to see a friend, call family (I’m living on the opposite side of the world to my family and close friends) do something physical (usually Lyra atm) paint or design. If my husband is having the day off with me we do things together, go to the park, go on an adventure somewhere, go on a date, get creative or just spend quality time at home with each other.

I can’t live without connection- to others and a spiritual concept of a higher power in my life. 

Do you have any travel plans, projects, collabs, merch, etc. coming up that you’d like to share? Any hopes for this year or the next?

This year I am trying to keep it pretty quiet. I’ve spent the last 5ish years traveling, doing conventions and not really having a home. The last 2yrs I’ve been battling with getting a uk visa to start building a home with my husband. We’ve had to do a lot of traveling across the world just to see each other, we are both pretty exhausted by it all! Now I finally have the first part of the visa, I just want to stay put for a while and find some grounding.

I plan to paint more, I’m currently exploring oil painting, I’d love to eventually do an exhibition. I’m doing the London convention this year, and have hopes to design some shirts and hoodies, finish my oil painting and make prints- hopefully I’ll find the time to make it happen!

My hopes for this year is for my settlement visa to go through so I can establish myself in the uk. Then I’ll be able to focus on other things!

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