British-born Cally-Jo, 28, has been taking the tattoo world by storm. A graduate of fine art from the Winchester School of Art, she’s swapped canvas for skin and now jets sets across the globe to ink A-list supermodels, actors and athletes…
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I always had a passion for creating things. My grandma taught me how to knit and sew from a really young age, and my dad used to let me help him with carpentry and woodwork. I loved learning new skills and crafts, so it always seemed inevitable I'd end up working in the arts somehow.
What was your plan B?
I can remember plenty of college lecturers and peers trying to put me off the idea of being a tattooist. They didn’t believe I’d be able to make a career out of my passion. So for a little while I thought about studying interior design.
What made you finally decide to create your fine art on people?
One day after school I stopped off at a little off license on my way home and bought every tattoo magazine on the shelf. I took them to a bench outside the pub and flicked through the pages one by one, in total awe of what could be achieved with just a needle. I was hooked from that moment.
Can you remember the first tattoo you did?
My brother was the first victim. He was so happy to lend me some of his skin to practice on and I can remember feeling very humbled by that. Poor Tom. The tattoo took forever! I had no idea how to set up the machine and I'm sure I used all the wrong needles. You’ve just reminded me, I must cover it up for him one of these days…
What truly inspires you?
There are a million things that inspire me. I love high fashion, photography, architecture, film, music. In fact anything brilliantly creative or unusual makes me want to pick up my pencil. But if I’m genuinely stuck for ideas, I’ll always head to the nearest art gallery. Nothing inspires me more than seeing a great masterpiece and losing myself in the hallways of a brilliant art museum.
What’s your signature tattoo style?
My artistic style definitely has elements of darkness and romance but I'm not really sure it fits into any particular genre. I do love black and grey designs and drawing in pencil though. I have issues with my back, so I prefer tattooing small, intricate designs that I can make super detailed.
What happens at one of your consultations?
Usually clients will come to me with a pretty solid idea of what they want so it’s usually straightforward. But occasionally they won’t have a clue. When this happens, I try to find out a bit about them; their personality, passions and lifestyle and will draw inspiration from those things.
What advice would you give to someone considering a tattoo?
Do your research. Browse portfolios, research online, and never ever select an artist based on cheap prices or a short waiting list. Your tattoo is a life long investment, so find someone whose work you admire and give them as much freedom as possible to create something you’ll adore.
What advice would you give to the budding tattooist?
Tattooing is becoming an increasingly popular career choice these days, so can be a difficult game to get into. Taking time to do lots of drawing would be my top piece of advice. Your tattoos are only ever as good as your drawing, so you must take as much time as possible to perfect your art.
What is the most challenging tattoo you have ever created?
I can't think of a tattoo that has been particularly challenging. But it can certainly be very nerve racking to work with a celebrity client. The pressure is particularly high to make the work look great, as the last thing you want is to see someone super famous wearing a tattoo you're not happy with.
If you could tattoo anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
Sarah Michelle Gellar. I'm a huge Buffy The Vampire Slayer nerd!
Have you ever said no to a client?
Yes. And I say it quite often. Sometimes people will have an idea in their head that isn't my specialty or is something I know won’t work as a tattoo. When this happens, I’ll always try and recommend them to another high quality artist better suited to the job.
Do you think tattoos have an age limit?
A lot of people ask me that question. No is my simple answer. I don't think it matters what (legal) age you get tattooed at. If you want one, go for it.
What will your next tattoo be?
Most of my tattoos have been very spontaneous creations. But I have wanted to get a tattoo of a scorpion for a little while now, so I think that will probably be my next one.
Who is your hero?
I'm obsessed with travelling and I adore animals and nature, so David Attenborough has always been big inspiration. In fact I can't think of anyone who has had quite the same impact on me as he has.
Ever been star struck?
Years ago, I was outside a burger bar in Notting Hill when Elijah Wood came over and lit my cigarette for me. That was pretty awesome! I also had a good chat with Kate Moss a couple of years ago. She was lovely.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
All the best advice usually comes from my mum. Do what makes you happy, follow your heart and go with your gut instinct - these are the words that resonate with me most.
What would you say to the teenage you?
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I'm travelling. It’s when I feel most free.
How would you describe your personal sense of style?
I'm forever changing my look. I think it comes with being an artist but can feel like a never-ending identity crisis sometimes. I have been travelling Asia a lot recently, so my current style is boho, with lots of patterns and unusual statement jewellery.
What do you love most about home?
Because my career has been sending me off all over the world for the past five years, I don’t feel like I have solid roots. Right now I am living in Australia, but England will always feel like home to me.
I'm heading off to Vietnam and Cambodia in a couple of weeks. They’ve both been on my bucket list for over 10 years, so I can’t wait! After that I'm going to Nepal. It’s been a very exciting start to the year for me.
Filling my online shopping cart with way too many things and then deleting them all. Am I the only one who does that?
Overdressed or under dressed?
Do what you always do, and you'll get what you always get.
Can’t live without?
1. Celeste Tie Top, £65
2. Bird Tee, £35
3. Layla Dress, £65
4. Diamond Sweat Top, £49
5. Printed Silk Shirt, £115
6. Diamond Shape Necklace, £35
Shop the full pre-spring collection here and follow Cally-Jo on Instragram @cally_world!