Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Harriet Hapgood

harriet1Harriet Hapgood,  31, Good Times Tattoo, London

We’ve chatted with many talented tattoo artists, tattooed collectors, and a laser tattoo removal technician, but I’m especially excited for the perspective that Harriet brings to this ongoing conversation. While she’s no stranger to the industry, as she’s a collector herself and has worked in it for several years, but Harriet only started tattooing relatively recently as she’s completely her apprenticeship. Here’s what she has to say:

What were you doing before you got started in the tattoo industry?
I used to be an exhibition co-ordination for a company called Momart. I organised shipping, storage, and installation of art work for exhibitions at museums and galleries around the world.

How long have you been an apprentice?
It was a slow process. The transition from being full-time shop manager to apprentice is a bit of a blur, but I would guess I started tattooing people around a year ago.

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
I was 18 and I went to Angelic Hell, Soho (now Frith Street). Nikole Lowe did a small blue star on my hip which is now all covered up with a huge peacock.

Why did you decide to make tattooing your career? 
I first decided I wanted to tattoo at around 19. I went to see Nikole Lowe at Angelic Hell with a sketch of a lotus flower that I had drawn for myself. Nikole re-drew it completely and turned it into an amazing design she had done based on my terrible drawing (which I was very pleased with at the time!) It made me realise the potential creativity that tattooing offers.

Did you have a background in art before you started tattooing?
I’ve always drawn, ever since I was little; it was the only subject I really loved at school. I went to art college and studied art at uni too.

harriet4Was it difficult to find an apprenticeship?
I wasn’t actively looking; I really thought my chance to do it had passed. I always knew it was what I wanted to do, but didn’t think it would ever happen. When I got the position as manager at Good Times I threw myself into that job and worked really hard,  and in turn, working there inspired me to draw more. This eventually led me to getting the apprenticeship 3 years later.

What has your experience been so far?
Its been really hard, exhausting mainly! Working full-time and learning in the evenings was tough, and I battled with my self-confidence for a long time, as I didn’t think I was good enough. I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away, to be honest.

How long will it be before you’re a full-fledged tattooist?
It will be a gradual transition I think. At the moment I work one full day a week tattooing, as well as in the evenings. Currently, I still manage the studio 4 days, then it will go to 3 and so on. I’m not really concerned about how long it will take (I’ve waited long enough!), I just want to do it right.

harriet3How would you describe your aesthetic? 
I want to tattoo designs that are delicate and feminine, and that will age well. I love botanical drawings and would really like to push my work in that direction .

Who or what influences your work?
In tattooing it will always be Nikole Lowe. She was the first tattooist that ever inspired me and I’m lucky to work with her and see her tattoos every day – they really are amazing. There is a lot of good tattooing going on at the moment but I try not to be influenced too much by other people’s work, preferring to use old botanical prints of plants and flowers, as well as Japanese art, for my reference. They are perfect for translating to tattoos, the movement and compositions are beautiful.

What’s your creative process when you’re creating a tattoo design?
Normally I’m working from a brief from a client, so I sit down and look through books, take photocopies, and start some really loose sketching. I usually leave it at that point and come back to it a bit later, then work on refining the image. Once I have a result I’m happy with, I will always try and do a colour study, this massively helps when I’m tattooing.

harriet4What advice would you give someone who wants to start tattooing?
I would say draw everyday and get tattooed (by good tattooists). In my eyes that’s the best way to know if it really is for you, and a great way to build relationships with studios. I see so many people come in asking for apprenticeships and they don’t have a tattoo on them, which is strange in my eyes. I think there’s a general feeling that the time of learning to tattoo on your own at home has passed. There is a lot of negative views towards it, so I would say a shop apprenticeship is always the way to go, or to be mentored by someone who actually knows what they are doing.

Thank you so much, Harriet! It’s clear from your beautiful paintings and tattoos what a dedicated, talented, and passionate person you are. And it’s really inspiring to hear from someone who is chasing their dream, even when they didn’t think it was possible anymore. I look forward to following your journey and hope to one day wear your artwork permanently upon my skin.

You can follow Harriet’s work and adventures as a tattoo apprentice on Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook, and if you like what you see, drop her a line and ask about having her make you a beautiful tattoo.

And I’d love to hear: what questions would you like answered in future interviews?

Wearing my heart on my sleeve & my stories on my skin,





  1. Such lovely feminine work. I love the colours she uses and attention to detail.


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