Ink Army Interview with Michelle Payne – Make-up Artist and Model, on tattoos, travels and stuff.
My interest in tattoos came about as a natural progression in art and self-expression. I have always found all forms of art inspiring and support the art of adornment, self decoration and body modification. Getting tattooed was a natural transition for me having always been involved in arts, be it traditional or contemporary or even dance (I did ballet for a number of years). It’s about not being afraid to take chances or to colour outside the lines. I’d like to believe that my tattoos tell a story about me but mostly that they signify that I own my body and I don’t have to conform to what society deems as normal.
Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, I’m a make-up and hair artist by profession and I’ve made a living painting faces for numerous international make-up companies, magazines, fashion shows, and even lectured in the subject for a while. My tattoos tend to be a good icebreaker or conversation starter for clients and they are often keen to show off their own work or ask questions about mine. My favorite question has to be one from an Arab client enquiring very politely whether my father was a sailor or in jail…I couldn’t help but laugh at that! Working in make-up and having tattoos definitely do ensure a series of strange questions. Apart from the run-of-the-mill questions about time and pain factors I also get asked if it’s all make-up or if it washes off. That said, my profession has granted me the opportunity to meet a few very famous people and work on very prestigious events. My favorite client HAS to be Patricia Quinn (Magenta) from one of my best-loved movies The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I recently became involved in the alternative modeling scene mainly due to the encouragement of friends, went to a London agency casting and actually was signed and taken on their books. Since then I have appeared in a few TV ads, done numerous shoots and have been in and on the cover of a few magazines. I’m of the opinion that if people want to give me money for displaying a few tattoos then who am I to stop them? If anything, the money goes straight back into my tattoo fund. My Facebook page can be found by clicking here where I try to regularly post about everything I get up to and it’s the best way to keep track of me or get in touch.
Regarding personal tattoo styles; I’d have to say that my tattoos echo my personality. I wanted very strongly opposing styles set in juxtapose. I’m not a great fan of symmetry and believe that imbalance is necessary for evolvement in most areas of life. That is another reason why I’ve made traveling and relocating such a big part of my life…I move cities every few years and find myself now located in Cape Town after a four year stint in London and Hamburg. I left South Africa almost four years ago because I always wanted to travel but it was never my intention to leave permanently though. At that point I had traveled in Southeast Asia and wanted to get to know Europe as well. London seemed like the most convenient location from which to explore that side of the world.
As far as interests are concerned…I’m a latex fanatic, chocoholic, coffee-dependant, shoe and shopping obsessed girl. Despite my often perceived as ‘’hard exterior’’, I love all things cute and furry and I enjoy nothing more than lazing about at home in leggings, oversized T-shirts and sneakers while listening to eighties music. My favorite past times would have to include eating sushi and baking cakes. I often get asked why I chose to look the way I do but to me it seems like the most natural thing on earth and I can in fact not imagine being ‘’normal looking’’. Thus far I haven’t really noticed any drawbacks to being a heavily tattooed girl, except that I won’t be able to pursue a conservative career. Oh no! I’ll have to give up on that ambition in life!
I had my first tattoo done aged 16 without ever imagining that I would have this much work in the end. It has since been covered by something larger and I’m very happy to say that the only thing I’ve ever regretted about my tattoos is that I didn’t make my first one bigger at the time…it was about the size of my palm.
I love all my tattoos. Aesthetically, my favorites are the ones I hesitated on getting the most i.e. the magpie in my neck and my knuckles, mainly because they are the most visible and I was aware of the fact that there would be no covering these up. Significantly, I would have to say my five bats which represent WuFu or the 5 blessings that stand for health, wealth, good fortune, longevity and tranquility is the most meaningful.
The writing on my leg is probably the one that is nearest to my heart as it’s simple yet striking. Garth Staunton, a South African tattoo artist and photographer, did it for me in exchange for posing for a shoot he wanted to do for Levis. It’s an Emily Dickinson poem titled You Left Me Sweet and it communicates the idea of an immense physical or emotional seperation between two people. I tend to still opt for soppy things when getting lettering done. The Latin phrase on my chest also deals with love and death.
Another one of my favoured South African tattoo artists has to be Danny Roodt, mainly because his colour work is fantastic. He did my right arm and my back. The tattoo industry is flourishing in South Africa with many new studios and conventions and an ever growing positive attitude on body art.
The rest of my work was all done in London. I have a lot of tattoos planned but have a lot of unfinished work and therefore I find it hard to commit to having them completed when I have so many other things I want!
Next on my bucket list – travelling to The States, living and working there for a while and seeing what their tattoo artists have to offer.