This is a special entry and one that’s rather personal to me. I am lucky to know a lot of strong women, from women I have worked with, work in the same industry as, and women I’ve met along my career and stayed in touch with. However, I also know some pretty amazing women who I’m proud to call my friends. One of who is my latest #BossBabe.
I met Fiona Lewitt through my boyfriend, and I couldn’t be more thankful. She’s everything you’d want in a friend. A drinking buddy, a fellow Lush lover, a beauty aficionado, a solid source of advice when you need it, and an all round fantastic bloody person. She’s also an amazing tattoo artist. So if that doesn’t all qualify as being a badass #BossBabe, I don’t know what does! Without further ado, meet the wonderful Fi…
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I’m from Leicester/Loughborough and currently living in Narborough with my other half. My first experience of the tattoo industry was doing work experience at White Orchid in Melton Mowbray while I was at Longslade College. At the time I was around 16 and didn’t know anything about the industry but wanted to see what you could do with art that wasn’t go to uni/be an ‘artist’/fashion designer/graphic designer/photographer.
I instantly fell in love with the industry and continued to work there on the desk for the next two years. I studied fine art, textiles, photography and biology at A Level, and did a foundation in art and design at De Montfort university, but decided against a degree and went straight into an apprenticeship in tattooing.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your talents/company. What inspired you to start up, what was your work background leading up to it, etc?
My only other experience of work was working on the beauty counter at Boots, which I did from when I was 16-21. I loved it at times, the whole dressing up for work and making people feel good about themselves, and I prided myself on knowing the products inside out. But I didn’t enjoy working for a big company and not doing something creative. A lot of people ask how I got into tattooing and unfortunately it’s not a very interesting story, I just fell into it. After doing work experience at White Orchid I became good friends with the owner (and still am), worked there at the weekend/in the summer holidays.
I thought about doing a degree just because that’s what all my friends were doing and it was the done thing. But I realized that I’d always subconsciously planned to finish college/uni and work full time in the tattoo industry, I’d never considered actually doing tattoos because I never assumed I would be good enough, but something clicked and I realized that was what I’d always imagined I’d end up doing, so I started looking for an apprenticeship.
I worked at Ink Concepts in Enderby for nearly three years, which is where I met my partner, and then moved to Black Market Tattoos in Leicester when it opened in March 2015, where I currently work. Besides the obviously artistic side of things mainly I pride myself on being friendly and caring towards my customers, pretty much all of my customers become my friends and I’m a big believer in treating people that way, especially since it’s such a personal experience.
What’s the best thing about your job, and why?
I love being able to do something creative, and I love the people I meet through it. I have to say the customers are the best part of the job, obviously I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. It’s amazing for someone to trust you to do something so personal and permeant and I love the process of coming up with ideas and working on a concept with someone, and making their ideas come to life and giving them a piece of artwork that they’ll love for the rest of their life. I also really enjoy doing cover ups and reworks for the same reason, I love taking something someone hates and has completely given up on ever being happy with, and turning it into something they love and want to show off!
What’s the most difficult part about your job, and why?
The most difficult part of my job for me is keeping on top of my emails and drawings. Because I’m self employed and don’t get paid a basic wage, if I’m not physically tattooing I’m not earning. So when I’m in the shop I need to be tattooing to make money, so all of the admin work like emails, messages, drawing etc has to be done out of work hours, so it’s a very full on job. Although I very much pride myself on being extremely caring about my customers this does mean I take to heart making sure they’re replied to, have any questions answered and have seen their design before the appointment. So I somewhat stress myself out more than I should or more than others do, and over complicate things a bit. I guess you could say I care too much, which isn’t a bad thing but can be a bit overwhelming sometimes.
What do you think sets you aside from your competition?
I honestly don’t pay much attention to what other artists are doing. I can appreciate other people’s work but I don’t like to see anyone as competition. We’re all doing the same job, we should all support each other and be friendly and learn from eachother rather than see it as a rivalry. I have no interest in being Instagram famous and living the high life. I just want to do my job, make enough money to live comfortably, do something I enjoy and most importantly give my customers the best, most comfortable and pleasant experience I can. I like the simple things in life. If I can make people happy with my art work, constantly be learning and improving myself, and make enough money to live off I am more than happy.
What are you most proud of about your job?
I’m proud that people want to wear my art work on them forever. I’m also very proud that most of my customers come back to me and consider me a friend. I guess looking back I’m proud of how my works come on and improved over the five years since I did my first ever tattoo at White orchid, on my best friend. I’m proud that I’ve stuck it out and got through the shitty times to be in what I would consider a good place!
Who or what inspires you?
Lots of things and lots of people! I am very inspired by Victorian postcards and botanical illustration, as well as typography. I’m also very inspired by my ‘boss’ Alex Candela, how hard he works and what he’s done with the shop and for all of us, as well as how incredibly talented he is. I remember following him on Instagram when I was an apprentice, he was one of the first ‘tattoo names’ in Leicester that I knew. And being uber excited when he liked one of my pictures of a tattoo I’d done, and now I work alongside him. It does make you think how far you’ve come looking back on things like that.
What trends are you loving this season, and why?
I’m not very good at keeping up with fashion. I’ve learnt to live in black and leggings/jeans because if I don’t I just ruin all my clothes with ink and carbon stains. I’m very into super fancy jewellery in my facial piercings and weights for my ears. Everything I wear is supplied by a shop in Shrewsbury called Adorn, where I do regular guest spots, and are from brands such as BVLA, Maya jewellery and T.A.W.A.P.A. I’ve recently gone for a lot of rose gold and Amythest pieces. Jewellery can be expensive but if you wouldn’t wear earrings that weren’t gold why would you put anything less through your face! My current everyday favorite are yellow gold lotus eyelets by T.A.W.A.P.A as they look luxurious and go with everything and are super comfy!
If you could impart some wisdom to your fifteen year old self, what would you say?
Here’s where things get deep! I would definitely want to say it DOES get better and you will be so happy in the future. But most importantly I would tell myself to appreciate and spend as much time as I could with my dad, as he died when I was 18. Not to take people for granted because they won’t always be there.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you, and who gave it to you?
One of my favorite sayings has come from Alex and become a bit of a joke in the shop. It’s simply “not my problem.” I’m a huge worrier so it’s nice to apply to all the silly little things that I get myself into a state about which arent really important.
If someone wanted to follow in your career path, what advice would you give to them?
Be patient, don’t try to move too fast or run before you can walk. Stick with it. An apprenticeship is hard work and rubbish money but it will be worth it. ALWAYS appreciate your clients because you’d be nowhere without them. Ask for help if you’re not sure. Don’t get sucked into the rockstar tattooist trend that’s fashionable at the moment because it won’t always be around.
Describe to me your perfect work day!
Get into the shop for 9:30, have a coffee, do my emails, clean up and get set up. Have maybe two or three palm sized tattoos in, something you can get stuck into but be able to finish in one session. Nice people you can have a good chat with or friends to have a catch up with! Enough time for a lunch break in between and no worries about getting one finished before the next one is in! Probably finish tattooing around 6:00-6:30, clean up and go for sushi with my workmates!
When you’re not busy working, how do you relax?
I very much enjoy sleeping. I also love reading, embroidery and crochet, and have got very into bullet journaling recently. I love going for dinner with my friends or having people over, and lazing around with my other half being stupid! I’m also very partial to a bit of retail therapy. I do try to draw a few things ‘for fun’ each week as it’s easy to get caught up in drawing things because you have to and not because you want to, or feeling like you can’t draw anything that’s not for a client because there’s always something to do.
What’s your favourite drink/cocktail?
I drink a lot of coffee. Alcohol wise at the moment either red wine or gin. I would say my favorite cocktail is a martini.
What music do you listen to when you really need to get stuff done!?
Who would you like to work with, if anyone, and why?
I’m extremely happy with the people I do work with, both at Black Market and at Adorn when I guest there! I would very much like to run a pub/restaurant with my other half later in life at some point though, preferably in St Ives in Cornwall.
What’s coming up for you/your company?
Personally my next upcoming *event* is a convention I’m working in Sweden in June called the Chill Out Tattoo Art Show, which I’m doing with Anna Garvey and Rachelle Downs of Adorn. I plan to do some conventions around the UK later in the year with Black Market too!
You can follow Fiona on Instagram @fionalewitttattoo
You can also book in a slot with her at Black Market in St Martin’s Square, Leicester.