Artist Spotlight: Holly Dosdale [Namaste Tattoo]

If you walk down Hull’s Prince’s Avenue, you’ll stumble across a lilac-fronted shop with gold lettering that reads, ‘Namaste Tattoo’. Far more than just a tattoo studio, it is a […]

If you walk down Hull’s Prince’s Avenue, you’ll stumble across a lilac-fronted shop with gold lettering that reads, ‘Namaste Tattoo’. Far more than just a tattoo studio, it is a dream realised.

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Seven years ago, Namaste Tattoo was only a far-flung aspiration, as Holly Dosdale had only just started to hone her craft as an artist. Yet here it stands: the product of what a young woman can achieve with passion, skill and dedication. What were the challenges of taking that step toward aligning the dream of a self-made business with the reality of one? “I did art at university and I wanted to get involved in tattooing. I think it’s a hard industry to get into; there’s a lot of people wanting to do it. There’s a lot of creative people and it’s very rare for someone to get a job in the creative industry because there’s so much competition out there – I am very lucky. I started taking my portfolio around places, just trying to get my foot in the door. For a while I worked at a place in town, but it was the kind of place where you walk in and pick something off the wall – I just didn’t feel creatively challenged. I felt like I wasn’t providing as good a service as I would have preferred. I wanted to open up a shop, and it’s scary at first getting your money set up, especially when being creatively-minded you’re not always financially-minded. There’s plenty of help for people out there. It’s scary at first but I’d encourage people to live their dream and just do it.

Naturally, Holly’s career as a tattoo artist has been an illustrious one, her intricate designs and flawless portraiture being inked on people, not just from Hull, but from far beyond. What are the highlights of her career thus far? “The Manchester Bees was great,” she said. The worker bee is emblematic of Manchester, with many committing to having one tattooed in solidarity against the devastating Manchester Arena attack, for charity. “I had a couple people come that came from Hull who live in Manchester who couldn’t get in any of the shops there. It felt really nice that there was something I could do. Working in a creative field, it’s amazing if what you do can be used to help others. I think the starting a business aspect of it is another thing. When you start out you don’t know how your journey is going to go, but when you start building up a client base, and your reputation builds through word of mouth it the most rewarding thing.

The word ‘namaste’ relates to ‘namaskar’: a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing. It’s precisely this quality of welcoming that Holly attributes to the success of her business: “I think when people come in they say it’s a good atmosphere and it feels quite homely and accommodating rather than intimidating. Getting a tattoo is such a personal thing in terms of what it means to a person but also what it involves, like getting in a state of undress and so on. Another thing is that a tattoo is there forever, and naturally people get quite nervous when they come in. We try to be the type of shop where you’re always feeling welcome: they help with the design and give their own creative input. It does make a difference for people to feel comfortable.

Since Hull garnered the title of City of Culture, it has finally had the funding to allow the creative talent that has always been rife in its streets to truly thrive, to national respect and acknowledgement. As a woman native to Hull and having lived there almost her entire life, what changes has Holly seen within Hull’s creative community? “I think, not just in Hull but around the world, art forms like tattooing and graffiti have often been considered to be low-brow – now they’re being seen as legitimate art. After Banksy left his work on Hull’s Scott Street Bridge, it’s been helping to put Hull on the map. It’s been really nice that it’s been embraced; the council are helping too. There’s been more galleries open, like Humber Street Gallery: that’s been particularly good for displaying local artists. One exhibition I went to see was just photographs of people working in the food industry in Hull, putting them into the forefront and giving them some exposure. Everyone’s helping each other. My industry has certainly changed over the last 10 years. I think it’s seen more as an art form. Even with music venues, they’re constantly opening, developing and changing, inviting not just local artists but bigger ones that would usually never come here. I’ve always travelled to go and see bands. Hull’s finally on the map, and people are seeing the value in its creativity.

Tattoo artistry, though idiosyncratic to some, has become a coveted career that enables artistic expression. What would Holly’s advice be to someone aspiring to become one? “Keep your feet on the ground, be really humble and never stop learning. If someone came into my shop and said they wanted to be a tattoo artist, I would say “really get your drawing skills down, try and do your own designs, draw influences from others but do not copy, have a little imagination and keep practicing”. A lot of people think this sort of job is a rock star job – you still have to work really hard. It’s cool but you still have to come in in the morning, you have to clean up, and really pay attention and listen to your customer. The happiness you bring a customer is how you should measure your success.

Small businesses are the foundations upon which great communities are built. We should all want to be a part of diversifying our high streets and supporting those who are trying to make that happen. What would Holly advise someone who wants to create their own business, regardless of what it is? “Just work hard and really hone what you want to do. Just be realistic. Write a plan out: what you can afford, what you can give up. You aren’t going to make any money for a little while; you have to take a really small wage at first, or none. There’s so much funding accessible to people wanting to start their own business – there’s a lot of help for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help.

So, what’s next for Holly Dosdale and Namaste Tattoo? “We’ve got a couple of new artists recently, we always have apprentices and we’re always trying to help it grow and teach other people our craft. It’s always good to travel with it, do a couple of conventions. You get to meet other artists and learn so much from them, like doing different styles and things. I like to not limit myself to a niche, because the industry is constantly growing and you should grow with it.

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/namastetattooltd

Sophie Walker

About Sophie Walker

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