After happening upon Vagabond Tattoo Studio whilst walking down Hackney Road in East London last year I made a mental note to ﬁnd out more about it. I had been looking for a new tattooist and I wanted to ﬁnd somewhere comfortable and inspiring with a strong artistic team who I could come back to. Vagabond Tattoo Studio is the result of two different artists coming together to form a tenacious partnership, Paul Hill is an accomplished tattoo artist and Rebecca Morris a masterly graphic designer. Andrew Hulbert is another tattoo artist working at Vagabond and predominantly uses the hand-poked technique, tattooing without the use of electricity, two very distinct styles from Paul and Andrew equal instant recognition through their artwork which is very positive thing in such a growing industry. The result of this teamwork is the creation of an atmospheric space and a successful aesthetic union producing strong tattoos and a well-earned reputation.
My ﬁrst visit was for a small skull on my forefinger to add to my growing collection, I figured this was a good place to start a new tattoo relationship and scope out the place. Rebecca and Paul were so friendly and accommodating, I felt at home straight away and proceeded to drink a very well made cup of tea whilst getting my new tattoo. I wanted to draw attention to awesome creative types and therefore thought it was time to return to Vagabond for some more ink and a chat with Rebecca and Paul about their history, thoughts on the industry and their demiurgic future. So as I endure more exquisite pain in the name of all things splendid let’s chat to this cordial duo.
H: At the risk of humming an all too familiar tune and for those who haven’t heard of Vagabond, what do you think sets you aside from other tattoo studios?
V: Our approach is to ensure that everyone feels welcome into our studio. We designed the space to be light airy and open with hygiene at the forefront of our image. We pride ourselves on great service and work together with a customer on a design allowing them to view the custom artwork prior to the tattoo appointment.
V: I started off as an air-brush artist working with cars and motorcycles, the skill-set is quite similar so it felt like a natural progression. I’d been interested in tattooing from a young age and would hang out in my local studios a lot. I ended up being pretty heavily tattooed, the more I was around tattoos and tattooists the more I wanted to do it myself.
H: Rebecca do you think your graphic style has changed since you started working in the tattoo industry?
V: Previous to starting up the business with Paul, the only graphic design I was doing was computer based. It has been really refreshing to go back to pen and paper and hand-draw some of our smaller more illustrative pieces. The technique used to transfer an image into something tattooable requires good clean line work, so I’ve learnt how to adapt my drawing style from sketchy to solid.
H: What made you combine your talents?
V: Combining the skills we’d learnt felt like a really natural thing to do. Paul’s experience of working in a busy tattoo studio meant he knew the process and already had a good style established it was just a case of packaging it right and using an approach that would help us stand from other studios.
H: How did you meet Andrew and when did he join the team?
V: Paul met Andy through mutual friends, he was working in another studio and then apprenticed with us for just over a year and now works as our second artist.
H: Are you surprised at the rise in popularity and acceptance of tattoos in recent years?
V: Tattooing tends to have boom times and we’re definitely in one now. It has certainly been popularised by celebrities and fashion icons more recently.
H: That said, do you still encounter preconceptions because of your appearance and career choice?
V: Most people are generally quite inquisitive and interested to find out more, the only negativity we’ve ever encountered is from much older generations who perhaps still hold some old preconceptions.
H: What is the biggest obstacle facing tattoo artists?
V: Competition and originality.
H: Do you have an industry pet hate?
V: Scratchers, illegal tattooing.
V: Lots of people enquire about cover-ups and we really enjoy doing them. They are a challenge but it is satisfying to turn something a person has fallen out of love with back into something they are proud to show off.
H: Where do you see the future going for Vagabond Tattoo Studio?
V: We have some exciting collaborations coming up and with this who knows what doors it may open. We’re hoping to expand our team this year and welcome some great guest artists. As well as this we hope to keep attracting other creative businesses to the area helping to make Hackney Road a real destination for art and fashion.
Paul, Rebecca and Andy are very happy to discuss designs by phone or by email. Better still, pop in and have a chat with one of the team who will aim to give you some creative guidance with your tattoo idea. Vagabond is open Mon-Thurs 11am-7pm, Friday 11am-5.30pm and Saturday 12pm-5pm. Vagabond work on an appointment basis for most pieces, however they often have availability for small walk-in slots too. ♠
Please contact the studio for more details:
Vagabond Tattoo Studio, 471 Hackney Road, London, E2 9ED.
Article & photography by Stephen Turner & Helen S Stanley.