Bathing beauties, fringed flappers, and folk art florals are only some of the iconic imagery Helena Front focuses on, but throughout her portfolio is the graceful aesthetic of vintage visions. In this interview, Helena talks more about getting into tattooing, the artists who she adores, and how Corona quarantines have awakened a strong creative streak.
How did you get into tattooing and why was it something you were drawn to?
I first got into tattooing by getting tattooed. I was already drawing for a while. I was also working as a textile designer for fashion, making principally prints for fabric. I started tattooing with the help of friends and I directly fell in love.
For me, tattooing has this very rare aspect of working from A to Z, and I love working on the first sketch as much as actually tattooing: looking for your beloved color ink, trying new needles, machines…
Who are the tattooers, fine artists/movements, books, films, etc, that have inspired you over the years?
I really love the work of Ivan Antonyshev, Dongeko, Bobeus, Joe Ellis…but there are so many other ones that I cannot mention all of them! I am very sensitive to subtle color ranges.
I dig inspiration everywhere! I am very influenced by old stuff in general. I would say that the 1920-1940 area is my most important source of inspiration. The Art Deco movement, the fashion illustrations, details of fabric, old postcards are regular components of my work.
Traditional is an iconic style with decades upon decades of history. As a, mainly, Traditional tattooist, how do you evolve such a classic form to keep it always at such a high level? Why do you think it was the aesthetic you were most drawn to? How have you put your personal spin on it?
I like the simple lines of the traditional style, the reduced color range and the iconic topics. Traditional designs immediately catch my interest. I think I am adding a feminine and delicate aspect to traditional style. Probably my fashion background has influence on my work. I love working on fabric details, prints, pleats,...
What advice do you have for young artists trying to get into tattooing? What was the best advice you received when you first started?
Drawing a lot, searching, trying and always trying to develop new things on different material. Challenge yourself.
I feel very lucky to work in a stimulating and inspiring environment. With my coworkers, we share and talk a lot about what we are doing and we are always trying to get the best from each other. Our shop Perdu d’avance Tattoo Club is a very creative place.
How do you feel about the future of the tattoo industry? What things need to change, and what needs to stay the same?
People truly appreciate more and more the work of tattooers. They are more enlightened to the different styles and now they know that they can find the right person for their project, for their wishes. They are looking for the appropriate tattoo artist for the idea they have in mind. You are not going to the first tattoo shop at the corner of the street anymore.
Of course there are everyday more demands and everyday more tattooers, that is why is important to focus on the creative part and by developing a clean work.
Technology is everywhere. I think there are good aspects of it. We can save time, accelerate some steps of the process but nothing will replace drawing and painting on paper. I have been recently trying to combine the two of them. I think there is a good balance to find.
How has social media changed in the industry? Do you think that COVID-19 will create lasting changes for the industry as well?
I am not really into the "Instagram game" and the race of fame. I think it is a good way of showing our work, especially when you are traveling. But I also don’t really like the confusion between personal and professional life creating by this kind of media.
I think that during the period of quarantine, the majority of the tattoo artists spent a lot of time drawing, painting and working on creative projects. It was so exciting and stimulating to see. Personally I realized that I really needed this time. So at the end of the quarantine I have started a new rhythm of work where I save one full week each month only focusing on drawing, painting, going to the library, to exhibitions … It is like my own little quarantine each month!
Beyond tattooing, what are you passionate about? How do you spend your free time, and what do you do on your vacations?
I spend a lot of time in flea markets, and it is a huge source of inspiration for my work. I love old stuff in general, books, music, objects, furniture, clothes..
I love traveling, moving, meeting new people. I feel extremely lucky to have a job that permits me to travel and I am trying to enjoy it at best. It really feeds my work.
Otherwise, if I am not at the tattoo shop, I am probably in ballet class!
Any future goals, plans, collabs, etc. that you’d like to share?
I love working on different projects such as bandanas, scarfs, pin’s, big scale paintings… Currently I am working on a fan project and I am looking forward to showing it!
Also, I had to cancel a lot of travels because of Covid. So I hope, I will be able to rearrange most of them soon! In October I will be participating to the Prague Traditional and I am very excited about it!