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#CommunityInk Tattoo Artist Dom Holmes Talks Inspiration, Music And Whiskey

In association with Bulleit Whiskey.

This autumn, Bulleit Bourbon the Frontier Whiskey celebrates the art of tattooing across Europe. Launched this past Thursday in London, before touring different European cities, the Community Ink Project celebrates the rude health of the European tattoo community. It will bring together five of the continent’s most exciting artists to create Europe’s first tattooed leather billboard.

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Credit: Andy Ford

For the project, Bulleit commissioned Dom Holmes in London, Ross Nagle from Ireland, Chris Henriksen from Denmark, Valentin Hirsch from Berlin, and Amsterdam-based artist Sara Koning to put together a leather tattoo mural inspired by their local city and community. Each unique design will be combined to create one large collaborative piece of artwork, a 3mx2m leather tattoo billboard.

On Thursday, ahead of the London Tattoo Convention, of which Bulleit was an official partner, the completed leather tattoo billboard was unveiled at a launch event at Hoxton Arches, Shoreditch. Following this the billboard was showcased at the London Tattoo Convention at Tobacco Docks from 28th-30th September and is now travelling to various locations across Europe, including Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Dublin.

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Credit: Andy Ford

After a fun night with Bulleit at the launch event, this Friday Kerrang! went to the London Tattoo Convention to catch up with the woman flying the flag for London tattooing on the leather billboard, Dominique Holmes, to find out a bit more about her work, her passions and the Community Ink project as a whole. Here’s the chat we had:

Hi Dom! How did you get involved in Community Ink? Bulleit approached me and explained the project and what they wanted to do - that it would be about London and the tattoo community and what London meant to me. London inspires a lot of the work that I do. I love London and I am part of London. To be asked to create something about London - and being a Bourbon drinker - I was like, “Yes!”

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Credit: Kimberley Larmouth

How was tattooing leather for you? We heard it wasn’t as easy as skin…
It’s tricky! Not like tattooing a person at all! It was a challenge to adapt my way of working. I don’t think I found it as difficult as the other guys did, from what they said! They seemed to have some real issues, but I thought it was OK. Once I started it I realised I’d underestimated how big it was as a piece of leather though! Compared to skin, it feels thick and dense. You spend years learning to be gentle so you don’t damage skin, but you have to really get in there with leather! It was also really loud - I actually put my earplugs in at one point!

Let’s start from the beginning: how did you start tattooing?
I loved tattoos and tattooing, and as soon as I realised it was something you could actually do, I was like, that’s it. I started by tattooing my friends.

The first tattoo I did was colouring in something that had already been started, I thought there would be less pressure but it was still the most nerve-racking thing ever. None of the colour went up to the line because I was so worried about going over that I didn’t get close to it! I was that nervous for the first year. I was 21 when I started.

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Credit: Kimberley Larmouth

How come you work out of a private studio and not a shop?
I’d been working in shop-type studios for 13 years. I always quite liked small groups and peace and quiet, and I found working in busy places quite stressful and quite intense. I really like the peace and quiet and being able to be relaxed. Also, my clients probably prefer not to have 50 people around them while they’re getting tattooed. It makes people feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable - they can get through it (the pain) however they want to!

For me it’s also about being able to spend quality time with my clients, so things aren’t rushed. Even down to having the right music for that day and that vibe, I feel like that makes it a better environment.

You’ve said your work is inspired by traditional Eastern art, care to elaborate on that?
Most people looking at my art would see the Eastern influence - the mehndi, henna-style influence. It’s something I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, I’m fascinated by all the different Eastern traditional geometric designs. I was lucky to go to Istanbul a few years ago for a design job i was doing - we went for an inspirational trip really - just the tiles, the metalwork, the murals, the way the buildings are decorated there, that was a huge influence on my work. Anything that’s detailed and linear and a pattern I get very obsessed with.

It looks like it would be quite therapeutic to tattoo?
It is, there’s a lot of ideas behind using mandala as meditation. There’s this idea that if you don’t think about what you’re doing and you just create a repetitive pattern it’s like mindfulness.

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Credit: Kimberley Larmouth

Talking about inspiration, who do you listen to?
Growing up in the ‘90s, grunge and metal were huge. I probably got into it through Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Throughout my youth I was a metal kid and a hardcore kid.

My most memorable gig is Pressure Fest in Germany, one year Earth Crisis did a reunion show there, that was pretty special. I saw Machine Head in ‘99, that was my first big metal gig. I was straight in the mosh pit, that was incredible, and I also saw Ensign at CBGBs before it closed down, that was really special. When I’m at a gig I like to make sure other women are safe.

Which band would you like to have seen?
I’d have given anything to have seen Led Zep in the ‘70s - I don’t really have any interest in seeing them now, because it’s just not the same. I know that’s probably ageist and they’re probably still brilliant, but if I could go back in time and see them at their peak, that would be great.

What’s the best way to drink Bulleit?
I love an Old Fashioned! At the party I stuck to the Bulleit Old Fashioneds, I know I should have tried the others available but I know what I like.

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Pictures: Andy Ford / Kimberley Larmouth / Jade Nina Sarkhel

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