Artist Interview: rakhee_shah

November 30th, 2020

Iynk: Hi Rakhee. So I bet you haven't experienced a time like this before in your career?

Rakhee: "Yes!! In my 15 years as a tattoo artist, this is the longest break that I have taken [because of COVID]

Rakhee business card

I: So how have you kept yourself busy?

R: "Well for me the main struggle is the lack of using my hands - for me tattooing is not just about the artwork it’s one of the few trades left that require your hands.... for me that’s where I get the satisfaction.... so I’ve been painting a fair bit to occupy my hands and it goes a little way to fill the void.... that and having a 5 year old!!"

I: Haha yes, that will keep you busy. So did you study art? Or what were you doing before you were an artist?

R: "Yes, I have BA hons in illustration and animation"

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I: So why did you decide to use your talent to become a tattoo artist?

R: "It wasn’t really a conscious decision, I feel it sort of found me really. I started working at a tattoo studio after Uni as a body piercer and I slowly starting investigating the profession..... tattooing however was very different when I first started; It was all about bikers, flash sheets and men hanging out. Very strange environment for a women from an ethnic background.

I: You said about being an ethnic woman in the industry was challenging. Do you think the industry has caught up now and is a more liberal environment

R: "It’s better but women still face discrimination in every job.... Tattooing is no different.Women have to be exceptional to be noticed whereas as men still get the same attention even being average..... you only need to see the ratios of sponsored artists to know it doesn’t reflect reality Sadly it doesn’t help that high profile women artists also sexualise themselves for more attention.... It’s a bit of a catch22.

As for the minorities it’s getting better but we are still very far behind but I think that’s more of a cultural upbringing issue than anything else."

Rakhee design arm

I: So how did you get in to the industry?

R: " I started my apprenticeship then the lady left midway so I was kinda left high and dry. I am very much self taught in that respect - I was on my own for many years... my inspiration was just buying DVDs from great artists and going to conventions to watch them work.

I: It certainly looks like however you learned, the end result is some absolutely stunning desgins. Where do you look for inspiration?

R: "I’ve always been drawn to faces for a reason; The reason I use a face - specifically a womens face is to represent ‘Maya’ which is the egoic self - it’s the mask that is presented to the outside world, it’s the face you want society to see and the one that is void on any soul or colour and usually has closed or no eyes. - this is why it’s always tattooed in black and white and is societies representation of what is accepted . To quote - ‘power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality’. The other parts of the tattoo are a representation of your subconscious - it’s your true self, your alter essentially, the one that represents you truly and the one that is more connected to the spiritual self.

This is why this part is nearly always tattooed in colour. - it’s the part underneath the mask and the part that is your true or aspired inner self. Depending on the subject this could be anything from shapes and patterns like in nature, an animal, mind/death, heart, a samurai, books denoting knowledge or the even the galaxies and stars, the possibilities are endless as a person is unique."

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I: I think the tattoo world is richer having you in it, and I for one am glad you decided to use your BA to tattoo. How has the decision [to tattoo] changed your life?

R: "Tattooing saved my life in reality.... I got into some bad trouble/problems when I was younger and my motivation to tattoo is what saved me.... so I guess in some ways I owe it my life...."

Rakhee Selfie

You can see all of Rakhee's work here.