Girls with Tattoos: “I really like it when complete strangers compliment and comment on my tattoos.”

I’ve started a new project interviewing girls about their tattoos. The project is a celebration of tattoo and female beauty, inspired by lots of things:

– a wish to share positive stories and images from tattoo owners/

– a love of illustration and admiration of the skill of top-notch tattooists /

– factors which affect female body image /

– questions I’ve been asked about my own tattoos and the wider questions these raise about expectations of female appearance /

I’m really excited that Jess agreed to be my first participant…


Name: Jess Sharp What I do: Self-employed designer maker / Live: Manchester / Age: 30

How many tattoos do you have?



How would you name each one of your tattoos? 

Small Rose, Key, Love Letter Envelope, Swallow, Compass, Ship, Padlock, JOY Heart, Manchester Bee, Girl with Kitty


What is the chronological order of your tattoos, by the age you were when you got them?

1 – Small Rose (26) from Studio 81, Preston

2 – Key (27) from MK Tattoo, Milton Keynes

3 – Envelope (27) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

4 – Swallow (27) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

5 – Compass (28) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

6 – Ship (28) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

7 – Padlock (28) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

8 – JOY Heart (29) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

9 – Manc Bee (29) @georgiamarshalltattoo – Next Generation Tattoo, MK

10 – Girl with Kitty (29) @sarahwhitehouse – Redwood Tattoo, Manchester



What inspires the subject matter of your tattoos? Is there a general theme?

I love traditional tattoos, so most of mine are in that style and come from traditional style designs – mainly just ones I like and tickle my fancy!


Do you have stories behind some of your tattoos, and if so, can you share them?

My foot tattoo (padlock) is a tattoo I got with my sister. We got them as matching sister tattoos – I have a padlock on my right foot and she has a key on her left foot.

My JOY Heart I got after my Grandpa passed away. JOY is my Grans (Mum’s side) name so I got it in memory of him and for her. My Gran is the main reason why I have a love of making and sewing. I spent so much time with her as a child and teenager so I wanted to get something for her. Especially as she was struggling with my Grandpa’s death. I must add though, she has never seen any of my tattoos and I will never show it to her as she’d KILL me! Her Dad was in the Navy and had lots of tattoos, as he got older he regretted them all. I think this has tainted her view on them.

My Nan (from my Dad’s side) died not long after my Grandpa. It was a tough time losing two grandparents within 6 months of each other. My Nan was a wonderful crazy French lady who loved animals so I got the Girl holding a Cat in memory of her.


What inspires you to get tattooed, and have your reasons for getting tattooed changed as time has passed?

Sometimes I just crave another one…I just get obsessed again looking at designs on Pinterest and have to go and get one. Interestingly…I have notice these times seem to be when I’m going through something difficult. I suffer from Anxiety and Depression and I think getting a tattoo is a way that helps me cope with those dark feelings. I’ve joked with my therapist that it’s kind of a form of self-harm…and I guess in a way there is some truth in that. The pain of getting them does feel like a release and gives me a focus for it. However I love getting tattoos. I love searching and finding new artists and how they look, so regardless of where I am in my life or how I’m feeling I would still have them!


Have your tattoos changed the way you view your body in any way?

I really feel my tattoos have given me so much more confidence. I don’t know why, but I guess I feel proud of them and as they are on my body and a part of me that feeling transfers itself to how I feel about myself.


What has been the reaction to your tattoos by your world around you?

Most people that comment only have lovely things to say. I don’t think I’ve ever had any negative comments…not to my face anyway!


If relevant, what have been the positive reactions, and what have been the negative?

I really like it when complete strangers compliment and comment on my tattoos. I feel like they don’t have to say anything as they don’t know me but they make the effort to, which is always nice!


Do you feel the reactions to your tattoos are different as you’re a woman, than they would be for a man?

I haven’t ever experienced anything that would suggest so…however I could understand how reactions might differ, especially from older generations who are still set in the stereotypical gender-roles mind set. I often think if I lived in a different city I might come across more negative reactions. Manchester is quite a diverse place and full of different characters…I think being ‘different’ is hard/impossible here – which is why I love it!


I’ve been asked some odd questions about my tattoos, including:

“What are you going to do on your wedding day?” / “How will you feel when you’re old?”

How would you answer these questions?

I saw a great post by RocknRoll Bride once that said something along the lines of ‘What are you going to do with all your tattoos on your wedding day’… ‘Look fucking amazing, that’s what!’ I whole heartedly agree with this.

As for when I’m old…I feel I would just say that I may get older but my personality is never going to change. I will love my tattoos just as much then as I do now…possibly more due to the fond memories and nostalgia I have attached to them.


Do you feel there are expectations regarding appearance and body type in society today? If so, could you describe how you see those expectations?

I think times have definitely changed and people are more open minded than they were. People are still people though and judging on appearance is still a strong human trait…and probably always will be. You can be the most open minded person ever but still look at someone and make a snap judgement about them from the way they look or dress. At the moment I feel there is quite a positive movement on allowing people to just be themselves, for instance the backlash on the #beachready adverts and the support shown for Caitlyn Jenner.

I do believe that women have it hard when it comes to issues like these. Those old fashioned values that state women should be pretty, feminine and soft are still held, whether conscious or subconsciously. For instance I have had so many men look at me and say ‘smile, love’ when I’m literally just going about my own business. Whether I smile or not is of no consequence to them but it goes back to that dated view that women are there for the pleasure of men and so should look nice and be happy. I get so angry about this. I’m going to stop now or I’ll get going on a feminist gender stereotypes rant.

Having said all this though, I had an interview the other day for a job I would really like to get. At my interview I made sure all my tattoos were covered, as I was worried it might hinder my chances of getting it. I couldn’t say whether I was right in thinking this…but the fact that I did shows that it was heavy on my mind that there might still be some underlying judgements towards tattoos there.


Are there any tattoo artists you love above others?

Most of my tattoos are done by Georgia Marshall (@georgiamarshalltattoo) at Next Generation in Milton Keynes – she is so lovely and very talented. I love Jemma Jones’ (@wolfspit) work, Harriet Tattoo (@harrietattoo) and Hannah Clark (@hlctattoo) from Rain City in Manchester. Sarah Whitehouse (@warahshitehouse) does some gorgeous work and Just Jen (@justjentattoos) who is based in Edinburgh is another favourite of mine.



Can you pinpoint the best tattoo you’ve ever seen?

Wow…I love too many artists and have seen too many lovely pieces to be able to narrow it down!


Are you planning to get any more tattoos? If so, can you share what?

Absolutely! I’d love to get my whole right arm covered so aim on filling that up. I’m also really keen on getting a sternum tattoo…this might be my next one!


Do you think there’ll be a point when you’ll stop getting tattoos?

I’m not sure. Maybe as I get older. Perhaps I’ll just slow down my pace and get one a year or something! I always say I just want to finish my arm and get a few more on my torso…but I know that I’m kidding myself! As long as there is space on my body I will keep getting them!


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

All this talk of tattoos has made me want to go get another one… 😉


Jess Sharp is a 30 year old self-employed designer/maker living in Manchester. You can find Jess on instagram, her soon to be revamped website, and very soon, Etsy.

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