Where Flowers Never Perish: Interview with Alice Kendall

Where Flowers Never Perish: Interview with Alice Kendall

In this interview with Alice Kendall, she talks about the Portland tattoo community, and how being a mom made her fearless.

In a veritable lush and lavish Secret Garden is where you'll find Alice Kendall and her botanical illustrations on skin. Here flowers never perish, but rather flourish, marked upon collectors around the globe...springing up in all corners of the world...vast blooms in Victorian tones everywhere. 

In this interview, Alice gives us a behind the scenes look at her process, her studio, and even her personal life as a superhero, also known as "mom". 

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

I’ve always been drawing and creating since my earliest memory. I’ve taken many different art classes through middle school, high school and college but never pursued a degree. I purchased my first “tattoo kit” from Spaulding and Rogers, via mail order from the back of a tattoo magazine, in 1993 in San Francisco. Until then I hadn’t considered the possibility that my art could be applied to tattoos. I didn’t start my professional tattooing career until 2000/2001 when I began my apprenticeship at Infinity Tattoo here in Portland.

Who are your artistic heroes, tattooists or not? Are there any films, books, visuals, that inspire you?

My artistic heroes and earliest inspirations were Salvador Dalí and Georgia O’Keeffe. I’ve been inspired through my life by various children’s book illustrators. I, of course, love the Alice in Wonderland illustrators (both  Sir John Tenniel and Peter Newell, as well as Arthur Rackham and many versions since!) I love vintage botanical illustrations and vintage tattoo art. I’m very drawn to old, stained paper and the earthy colors of the original paint formulas. I love movies like Liquid Sky that are filled with colors and textures and light play. And, I’m obsessed with weeds and wildflowers that grow along the side of the road and throughout the neighborhood. 

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Many tattooists, I think, have a specific idea or philosophy behind their work. What would you say yours is? What would be your advice to artists who are struggling to find their voice?

I tattooed almost anything that walked through the door in the first 10years of my career. Then, I began to promote the tattoo style I wanted to do more. I took on more projects that involved flowers (which, by the way, I had little interest in before I started tattooing) and illustrative style art. My path to where I am now was long. I feel that people can move more quickly into a style that suits them these days. However, knowing I have the skills to tattoo a dragon or a Japanese sleeve or tribal, Celtic, traditional, script, cartoon characters, or abstract tattoos helps me so much when I’m exploring creative possibilities in new work. Trying a little of everything can open your mind to new ideas.

Can you talk about the tattoo community in Portland and why you decided to open a shop there? What do you feel the mission is behind Wonderland Tattoo? What makes a good shop?

The tattoo community in Portland is amazing! It’s really buzzing with creativity and filled with artists who love their craft and  are pushing themselves to become more dynamic every day. At Wonderland we work with and support each other. Our shop is filled with plants & artifacts and art that inspires us and/or that we’ve created. It’s important that our space is comfortable for us and clients and also creates an ambiance that’s conducive to our artistic sensibilities. Heavy on the nature/science and vintage tattoo aesthetic. Most importantly we respect each other and our clients, we maintain a healthy work space and we laugh a lot and have a good time.... and we network with other artists regularly. We love having a string of guest artists from all over the world coming through as well as traveling and guest spotting at other shops!

Your IG bio says you’re a mother, wife, and believe in magic...can you talk a little bit about how these aspects of self influence your artwork? How has being a mother changed the way you view the world?

I’m a mother of 2 and I’ve been married for 21 years. I was actually pregnant with my 2nd child during my apprenticeship. Certainly being mom makes you more fearless and determined. I feel like the more I had on my plate the more I pushed myself to accomplish goals and succeed in my endeavors. Starting out in the tattoo field is scary and it entails facing your fears and taking on difficult situations at times. Being a parent can teach you things about yourself that are easily transferable to these situations. Overall, I believe in magic because it’s the combination of focus and determination and the support of my family and magic that’s gotten me here and that keeps me moving towards what I feel is an enchanted and magical existence where anything is possible! 

Do you have any plans for 2019 that you’d like to share? Travel plans, collabs, projects, merch releases, etc?

I’m looking foreword to many new projects and some travel in 2019 (possibly a London trip).  I will have more art for sale on my Etsy page and Wonderland merch available! We will have a couple of new artists coming to wonderland this year which we will announce probably sometime this summer. I recommend following all of our artists at Wonderland Tattoo to see all the different projects and adventures our individual artists are sharing: Kirsten HollidaySavannah Treviño, Sean Wright, and Cecelia Wingate. Wonderland is also celebrating it’s 5 year anniversary this year and we are planning a large fundraiser for the Portland Audubon, where we will be tattooing bird and botanical tattoos all day (date to be announced). Also, our bookings are in constant rotation and available on our Wonderland website!

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