Artist Interview: Martha Smith

Aside from designing and making jewellery, there's nothing we love more than sharing the work of other independent brands, makers and artists. This week, we spoke to London based illustrator and tattoo artist Martha Smith about working as a creative during COVID-19 and her design process.

Throughout October, we'll be sending a postcard print by Martha in all our Wolf & Moon packages. We love reusing these postcards for bookmarks, creative collages or even framing and decorating our desks with. Look out for yours in your order!

Read the interview below.

What originally drew you to natural elements and botanicals?

I've always had a fascination with artists' interpretations of these subjects. I was brought up with my dad's passion for old encyclopaedias which lead me onto botanists and naturalists illustrations. I've always liked the idea of art for a purpose or art with a function, so illustrating specimens for textbooks as a way of communication before photography I think is very cool!

Being a tattoo artist in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic must be difficult. How has it affected you and your work?

Yes, very difficult, and for me it has meant a dramatic change in career altogether! Due to my husband having a heart condition, we decided early on that we would self isolate for his safety. This meant we both have temporarily given up our jobs, left our London flat and are living with parents. This has forced me to think of other ways to make money. I began asking my Instagram followers if they would like commissioned paintings, then started selling prints, and now we have an online shop, it's quite a whirlwind!

Has focussing more on prints and illustrations renewed a love for that side of your work?

Absolutely! As my workload was very intense as a tattooist, my creativity had somewhat left the job. For efficiency, I mainly did custom tattoos dictated by the client. Since getting back into illustrations and prints I make the work I want to make, I try things for the first time, I teach myself new techniques and I make mistakes, all incredibly rewarding.

Who/what are your biggest inspirations?

Illustrators like John James Audubon and Ernst Haeckel (both naturalists) definitely inspired the way I tattoo and the imagery I've tried to create on skin. As for my print work, I respect and admire prolific artists, Picasso and Hockney for example, just constantly have to make work. Its a job for them, it gives them purpose, they need to conquer that new medium…i think that's incredibly inspiring.

What is something you do to get yourself out of a creative rut?

I always watch the same documentary, 'Beautiful Losers'. At art school every time i was stuck i would put that same film on and 5 minutes later i would think, 'wow, i wish i was like them' and I could begin work again.

Any advice for someone getting a tattoo for the first time?

I think the first tattoo is the hardest one. It’s either going to be your only one or the first of many! Make sure it’s a timeless image or a special memory so it’ll always work for you!

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey as a creative?

I would say picking myself up after big setbacks. Whilst in my tattoo apprenticeship i had a bad experience with bullying, where my mentor basically told me to leave the shop. I went to my folks for 2 weeks and was completely devastated, it was my biggest dream, I was over a year into my training ,and it was all falling apart. I decided as a 'fuck you' to not quit, as i knew that was what she wanted me to do. I couldn't have been more proud of myself walking back into that studio. My other biggest set back has been COVID. I was 7 years into my career as a tattooist, I was saving for a flat, I had created my own private studio, I was working my arse off. Then, within a few weeks everything changed. I admit I struggled at first, but then I picked myself up, started making work, started selling work, and my whole outlook has changed, and definitely improved me as a person!

Check out Martha's work and online shop over on her website, and keep up to date with her on Instagram @marthasmithtattoo