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Women in Charge: Meet Tattoo Artist and Studio Founder Tanya Swemmer

Taking the leap to build a career in a creative field can be daunting for anyone, especially women trying to find their niche. The tattoo industry is a largely male-dominated space, but thanks to social media, societal shifts and clients wanting a different experience, we’re seeing a lot more women behind the helm. We spoke to tattooer and founder of Here Now, Tanya Swemmer about her career, interests and more.

What prompted you to start your own studio and what is the ethos behind Here Now?

Opening Here Now was kind of a serendipitous process that just happened naturally. I’ve been obsessed with the building in Cape Town for about 10 years and happened to see that the upstairs space was available. I jumped at the opportunity and I’m so glad that I did. Here Now is my ideal work environment, it’s friendly and loosely structured, artists who find that appealing have found their way to the studio.

How did you get started in this career and how would you describe your tattoo style?

As a young adult I spent quite a bit of time in tattoo studios, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do and that it was the right environment for me. After a few years of agonising over finding an apprenticeship, I managed to land one. That was almost a decade ago. My style has changed a lot over the decade, I think it’s taken a kind of folk art and traditional turn the past few years. Basically, I just want to do tattoos that I would get on my own body.

What has been a stand out moment in your tattoo career?

Opening Here Now has definitely been a stand out moment for me. Every day I go to work, and I’m just in awe that I get to spend time with such beautiful people, amazing clients, and it feels so fun and wholesome. Tattooing will always be number one for me, but I am trying to broaden my horizons, and look at work that tattooers can do alongside tattooing.

Are there any tattoo trends you’re not a fan of right now/ones you love?

I’m not very tuned in to trends, and I try not to look at too much tattoo content on social media, except for things that I really love. I guess the past few years have seen a resurgence of all kinds of tribal tattooing, which I do love, especially if there is some solid historical and cultural referencing and geekiness about it.

What advice do you have for any first-time clients coming to your shop or any other studio?

Figure out what you like, not what other people think you should like. Find artists who do this style. Do your research on the style and the artist/s. YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, these are all great sources of information and inspiration. Contact the artist and ask them how their booking process works if it isn’t very clear on their social media. Ask for a consultation if you have a lot of questions. Ask them for a quote, don’t rush, save up the money if you need to. And if you’ve chosen an artist, whose work you love, then trust them to do their thing, be creative and give you the best tattoo that they can.

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