Guen Douglas and Wendy Pham are big in the game. Creating instantly recognisable, technically radical tattoos, you can spot their work a mile off. Both joining us for the 9th edition of the Brighton Tattoo Convention, we convinced these German based powerhouses to take on the What’s App challenge for this, our second episode. Get ready for a trip down memory lane, as the girls reminisce on days gone by. Here’s what went down…
Guen: What should we talk about Wendo?
Guen, what made you get into tattooing? Harder than it seems to start a convo like this.
Guen: I wanted a job that was creative and that would enable me to travel. Plus I wanted to be my own boss so to speak. And you?
Wendy: Linkin Park. Haha. The dude with the arm flames. I was like dooooooope!
Wendy: I was 15
Wendy: Tell me about the first studio you worked in
Guen: It was a really busy street shop. Lots of artists. I have to say I think personality wise I was a bit of a pain in their asses. Girl with a lot of opinions. I think really dudely shops weren’t used to that yet. And I was really into MySpace. They just thought I was a total nerd. Weird place but I’m glad I started there. It was like being in a circus, pimps, strippers, gangsters
Guen: Let’s talk about old flash
What was your favourite Cherry Creek piece and what needle groupings were you forced to use?
Wendy: My favourite moment with a cherry creek flash was when a guy wanted a heart and tribal armband, and there was a banner with ‘Name’ in it, and he didn’t want a name he just wanted ‘Name’
Guen: Haha classic. I think that’s probably the best move he could have made, never need a cover up. I really liked the stick of butter with wings.
Guen: We talked about the redonk needles we started out using. I remember you saying you learned using what again?
Wendy: 3 round outline, then go over the entire thing with a 7 round, “etch it in, and ride the tube” haha, then 7 mag was the biggest mag we used hahaha. Fuck it used to take me a thousand years to do a sleeve.
Guen: Haha almost the same, though I wasn’t allowed to ride the tube, had to have my 3s hanging like a foot out of the tube. Only 3 rounds and 5 mags! Ughhh.
What was your apprenticeship like?
Wendy: Oh god it was shit. Haha. There was a lot of scrubbing floors and toilets and tubes, making needles, re-painting the walls of the shop, which was about 5 different shades of blue. I now can’t look at blue walls.
Guen: Hahaha blue so lucky. Our shop was like the joker’s lair. Purple and lime fucking green
Wendy: Hahaha wow that’s terrible. Did you make needles?
Guen: I did but not at the shop where I learned. They had a guy that was a failed apprentice but he made the most magical needles, so they just had him full time scrubbing tubes and making them. I went to my friends’ shop on the morning or after work and help him make his for the day/next day
Wendy: It was kinda therapeutic
Guen: I kinda wish I held learned more thoroughly
Wendy: Me too
Guen: Yeah I love mindless tasks like that. Meditative, like doing the dishes. I think that’s why I love lining so much. Get all zenned out.
Wendy: I feel like my apprenticeship was really fucking everything up because I was unsupervised a lot and being told I fucked it up later.
Guen: Aww man I had the opposite, so controlled.
Wendy: Thats good!
Guen: I did nothing but black and “stone work”, remember that shit, from July 2005 until May 2007
Wendy: Ooh stone! Bring that back
Guen: Then I was allowed to do colour for the first time. It was a Monday and a butterfly tribal tramp stamp came in and I think my boss couldn’t be fucked doing it so I was allowed.
Wendy: Did you do a good job of it?
Guen: Well good is subjective hahaha. I think at the time I was floating on air about it.
Wendy: You feel like such a star every time you get to do a ‘big ‘ tattoo, when you’re apprenticing.
Guen: Oh yeah I loved when I got to do something palm sized – that was big for me. The leash was very short, should have been shorter haha. I feel like kids now learn really fast!! I was a slow learner.
Wendy: I learned how to do grey shading watching Ami James on Miami ink. I was like “ah shit how do I do this tattoo…”
Guen: Wow. Well I learned that you shouldn’t copy tattoos reading Grimes interview in TAM. Seriously I thought it was common practice to just print and trace. I remember my boss printings a photo of a pinup on a guys arm, tracing it and placing it on another arm. She looked like sponge bob. So square.
Wendy: I unfortunately did my own designs…
Wendy: But I feel like you learn so much by really messing it up
Guen: Yeah definitely hammers the points home. The shame.
Wendy: There’s people who have been tattooing 5 years who are already better than me.
Guen: It’s sickening haha. But sometimes I wonder whether only doing your own stuff from the beginning gives you a proper set of tools to evolve with or whether I’m just jealous haha. Back to the Cherry Creek haha I’m really happy I was forced to use small groupings at first.
Wendy: I’m definitely jealous of all the people who have all this great reference so early on.
Guen: It’s nice to feel confident with the small stuff. It’s something I’m grateful for. Yeah also magazines were expensive.
Wendy: $7! Man I had to save that shit for tram tickets to school! Haha
Guen: Now you can google tattoo reference for everything. And (then) people didn’t want to share, you had to be trusted to get the info, or borrow books.
Wendy: Now people share every step every progression…
Guen: You can watch people tattoo live on live stream!!
Guen: Bananas!! Buy shit online. We were lucky in Canada the suppliers were easy to get at…
Wendy: Well luckily I had Miami Ink to at least have an idea for grey shading that day hahah
Guen: Bahaha. We must have started at the same time. I think I started the year Miami ink started, and TAM. You would have to spend a fortune printing out photos to send to magazines, now you can email.
Guen: Or you don’t bother because IG is so easy
Wendy: I remember the Sabine Gaffron cover, so nice
Guen: Yeah I have them all still. That and the old machine gun magazines from Eikon
Wendy: I wish I collected them but I wasn’t so clever
Guen: I bought the Grime issue for so many apprentices. It was such a game changer for me. I wrote to him years later to thank him
Wendy: That’s super nice 🙂
Guen: I was pleased as punch he wrote back
Wendy: I think I was introduced to Grimes work 4 years ago, I was like ‘whoa’
Guen: So when I finally got tattooed by him it was such a big moment for me. Yeah that guy can do everything
Guen: What was the scene like in Australia when you started?
Wendy: I was such a noob, I didn’t know who anyone was. I got tattooed by Shige at a convention with no clue how amazing he was
Guen: Haha that’s awesome!! Canada was all graf influenced Art Nouveau, all the big names, it was difficult for a newbie. Lots of pink and mint double lighting haha.
Wendy: In Australia, I think biomechanical was really big, and kanjis and armbands haha
Guen: Ok so same same. Lots of chrome?
Wendy: So much chrome. I love chrome
Guen: Haha I really want that shit to come back. We need to do some chrome sheets for the shop
Wendy: Or stuff that ‘looked like it was carved into your skin’
Guen: Haha. Yes! Although I never mastered that. And when it’s bad it’s REALLY BAD,
Wendy: The shadowing is hard.
Guen: I’ve never been good at realism. I’m too stubborn. Just can’t do what’s right in front of me. I want to but my brain just goes into a tailspin
Wendy: Nah its not for me either. I’d get bored. Can’t go crazy. I respect people that have the patience for realism. Did we say enough stuff already?
Guen: So you think your personal style came naturally or was it a conscious decision to start doing your own thing? Too bad this thread isn’t as funny as our usual convos haha. We should have talked about snacks
Wendy: It definitely came naturally. In the earlier years I wanted to be like Paul Booth (still do) or Guy Aitchison…then Shige…
Wendy: What about you? Your style is really ‘you’, what or who were your influences
Guen: I wanted to be like Dave Knight and Steve Moore
Wendy: Excellent choices
Guen: But the best advice I ever got was to draw like me. I had to draw a sheet of dragons for homework and I was really struggling to make them look mean. One of my co-workers came over and was like given you have a really feminine drawing style, don’t fight it, embrace it. Another game changer, everything got easier when I surrendered to what came naturally
Wendy: I’m imagining a dragon with a cup of tea and beautiful hair
Guen: Haha ooooh. I just stopped trying to draw medieval dragons. One had to have my bosses face, so I drew him as a kid in a dragon outfit
Guen: He used to give me the weirdest homework
Wendy: Yeah that’s pretty weird
Guen: Once I had to draw an alligator fucking a frog with a banner that read “skeet skeet skeet”… And one of the tattooers was like that’s never gonna come in handy this kind of weird homework. Then I look at my portfolio and I think, yes it did.
Wendy: Remember the book “Tattooing A-Z”
Guen: I never had it!
Wendy: There was a book. It was expensive for my 15 year old self. Wish I bought it
Guen: Was it an instructional book or a book with many tattooers?
Wendy: Instructions! I’m just thinking back to before – imagine if we had apprentices who ten years later laughed at what needles we told them to use.
Guen: You ever think now, WTF? About your life? Haha. I do. Haha are they even made to run the gauntlet the same way now?
Wendy: Yeah, tonight I looked up ‘dead babies’ on google for reference. My life is wtf.
Guen: Haha love it
Guen: I hated every second of my apprenticeship, but I am forever grateful it was so hard
Wendy: Same. We earned it
Guen: Yeah I think I wouldn’t have believed where it’s taken me
Wendy: People just think if you’re a girl people hand shit to you on a silver platter
Guen: Maybe I didn’t get punched in the face like the dudes but endured my own shit. Oh I’m about to launch into… “I really like your work… Didn’t realise you were a girl”
Wendy: Thinking back to every asshole that said “so where’s the REAL tattooer?”
Guen: “But you were fucking the guy that taught you right?”, “Yeah I wanna get tattooed” me explain everything “yeah I’d rather talk to the tattooer”
Wendy: I still get asked, and have to confirm that yes I am the artist and yes its my shop, yes, really.
Guen: So many amazing female tattooers now!!
Guen: So Wendo what are your next plans?
Wendy: More guest spots!
Guen: Yes! The world wants more of you!! I wanna do some fun flash days at the shop
Wendy: I look forward to that
Guen: Keep travelling but maybe not as much as last year
Wendy: You travel a LOT dude
Guen: Yeah I’m a bit tired haha
Guen: Paint more. Still wanna do the lady/monster collab with you once my stuff arrives
Wendy: Hells yeah!! Then we can sign it Guendy Phamlas
Guen: Or just GUENDO
Wendy Pham and Guen Douglas are both based at Taiko Tattoo Studio in Berlin. They will be joining us for the 9th Edition of the Brighton Tattoo Convention which takes place Apil 30th – 1st May 2016 at The Brighton Centre. Tickets are available to purchase from our website HERE.