Tattoo Artist at India Street Tattoo, Stefanie Lee, gives us an insight into her style, social media growth and how she took her first steps into the tattoo world...
Stefanie Lee (SL): I’m a Tattoo Artist / Instagram influencer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I only started taking on paying tattoo clients in February 2020. Unfortunately, then of course, Covid-19 came along and we had to close the business at the end of March. So only a number of weeks into my career, it was paused! Over the past six months my personal Instagram grew massively, so while the studio is closed I'm really focusing on my Instagram, as so many opportunities have come along from it!
GCC: How do you describe your style?
SL: I’m not sure its easy to describe! I love comfy casual wear - joggers, hoodies and live in my Vans. But also I love to get dressed up and glam. Generally whatever it is, it's likely to be black / grey / neutral in colour. I love band tees, denim, leather jackets and Vans are staples of my wardrobe!
GCC: What can't you live without?
SL: I think it would have to be sun. I love travelling more than anything else and have to have at least two holidays a year.
GCC: How did you get into tattooing?
SL: I've always loved tattoos and got my first one at 17. I went to university, got a degree in Media, travelled a bit, eventually came home and got a ‘real job’ and bought my first house. At this stage I already had a full sleeve of tattoos, my ribs and thighs tattooed. I then I started dating my, now husband, who owned a tattoo studio in Belfast. I had left a job I didn’t enjoy and was working part-time in the studio where I created the studio website, got it set up on google and an appointment system sorted etc. as well as working another part time job. After six months or so of this, I expressed an interest in tattooing to my (then boyfriend) and he just outright said no. So I ended up going full time at the other job and stopped working in the studio. I worked full-time for over a year until I started trying to practice drawing tattoo designs at home. After a while I went back to my partner and told him I was serious about learning, showed him I had been working on designs and was ready to quit my job. So he agreed to apprentice me, but warned me I wasn’t getting it any easier just because we were together! I spent two years of learning and watching before I tattooed a single paying customer. I was extremely fortunate to learn from him as he is an incredibly talented tattoo artist, with thirteen years of experience.
GCC: What are you currently obsessed with and how is it feeding into your work?
SL: I really love Italian traditional tattoo styles and am using it as inspiration for my designs. I love the vintage aesthetic and simple colour scheme.
GCC: What does a typical day look like for you?
SL: Currently (Covid lockdown) I’m spending days making content for Instagram, facetiming friends and family and generally pestering my husband and cat.
Typically it would include being in the studio 11am - 6pm where I would do maybe two tattoos in a day. I would reply to emails, book in appointments as well as draw designs for upcoming appointments or for my flash sheets. Our studio is a custom studio, everything is drawn custom so each client gets a unique tattoo. Pre-covid, I would use my days off to create Instagram content.
GCC: How did you grow your following on Instagram?
SL: I made the decision I wanted to grow it last year as I saw it as an opportunity to reach more potential tattoo customers. So I started making more of an effort with my pictures and trying to get cool shots and it just kind of blew up. I gained 60,000 followers in six months. I researched hashtags and best times to post online and it just worked really well! It's obviously now gone beyond what I ever expected!
GCC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to build a following online?
SL: Be authentic, post what you enjoy. Instagram can become a chore if you aren't passionate about what you're posting or at least interested. A genuine and engaged follower base is more important than a huge non-engaged one. Engage with other people online too!
GCC: What are your views on social media?
SL: It's great for so many reasons - keeping in touch with friends and family easily, allowing you to feel like you're keeping up with peoples lives without having to speak to them directly and gives us a connection. It can also be incredibly useful tool for marketing, businesses etc. I love using Instagram to look at amazing tattoo artists work and get inspired. But on the other hand it can be incredibly damaging and hurtful for some people. People need to remember that everything isn't as perfect as they see on Instagram and try not to compare themselves to other people.
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