With lush florals and filigree, color schemes that hark victorian velvets and twilight skies, Laet Tattoo produces poetic artworks that gracefully enrapture any canvas, be it skin or paper. The elegant swaths of illustrative ink have an undertow that reaps the depths of esotericism and symbolism. Laet's artworks have the ability to be akin to Memento Mori's but still retain a vibrancy that nods to the great beauty of a transient world.
In this interview with Laet, we talk about seeing tattoos for the first time, artistic heroes, as well as the link between illustration, fabric arts, and tattooing.
When did you first get interested in art and are there any moments from your childhood that hinted at the artist you would become?
I remember distinctly, the first time I saw a real tattoo on a person. It was the 90’s era of London, England, Outside the commonwealth institute on Kensington High Street. I saw a woman walking towards me on the street. She had a huge red mohawk, fully sleeved up, and Doc Martens. She owned that road with her presence, and her confidence shone. I was 4 years old. I decided right there and then that I would tattoo.
I love that you call yourself a “skin seamstress”. Can you talk about where this comes from and why you were drawn from art school into the tattoo art form?
I started using my mother’s sewing machine at around 5 years old. I would make quilts and clothes, little projects that grew into big projects. Fast forward 15 years, I was accepted into Central Saint Martins school of Art and Design, a place that celebrates courageous free-thinkers and creative innovators. Going to that art school for my degree was a game changer for me. I felt seen by the staff and inspired.
I realized, that I was into textiles and fabric as much as I was into the illustrative arts. Tattooing is a way that enables me to incorporate both. I feel as though I use any seamstress skills that my mother handed down to me, in my tattoo process all the time. And so, the term Skin Seamstress was born. It is the most basic explanation of what I do.
Who are your artistic heroes?
My artistic hero is undoubtedly the man that taught me how to tattoo when I was a teenager. Simon Sibs Sibley. I had a surprisingly traditional tattoo apprenticeship, given today’s standards. I am eternally grateful to Sibs.
Many of your pieces seem to have a deep connection to symbolism, esotericism, and mysticism. Why do you think these are aspects you are drawn to?
Yes I could see how that would be so. I connect with certain imagery for sure, and if others find connection to that imagery, then that’s great.
You’ve lived in many different spots and currently reside in Oakland, California. What do you love about the West Coast? How have your different geological locations influenced your work?
I am a gypsy at heart, and i knew I needed to travel and experience different cultures. I was in search of something that I found in Oakland. Oakland anchored me and my community quickly grew.
In California people want my color-work. They like the bright vibrant tones, whereas in Europe I found that people wanted my gothic black and grey work. I like to do both equally as they are both different interpretations of my style. I have found that they are both a part of my aesthetic identity equally.
Do you have an artistic philosophy? Do you believe that the artist has a responsibility to the world?
I think people should live their best lives, and be allowed to shine for who they are.
Beyond tattooing, what do you love to do? What are you passionate about? How do you spend your vacations? What do you wish you had more time for?
Aside from tattooing I am passionate about music and fashion. Culture in general. Politics. Satire. The ironies of life. I do work a lot. Tattooing consumes me, which is sometimes a good thing, and sometimes I need to learn when to take a break. But tattooing has always been there for me, and so I am there for tattooing.
Are there any upcoming projects, collabs, or future plans you’d like to share? Any particular hopes or goals that you see flourishing in 2020 and beyond?
I would like to collaborate with other artists more, do a few more album cover artworks, and sell more prints and merchandise through my Big Cartel store - https://laettattoo.bigcartel.com/products Selling merchandise has been such a fun thing for me lately. I put a lot of effort into the quality of the work, and it’s a satisfying process creating a tangible object, a piece of art, that can last in time, instead of perishing as it would in skin.