Welcome to The Dollhouse ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ’

Ultimately, getting a tattoo is an act of creative defiance, but also a reclamation of our bodies . . . the Dollhouse was always intended to be more than a tattoo studio.

๐Ÿ’– Tell us about your journey into tattooing. What first inspired you to take it up as a career & how has it progressed over the past few years?

As soon as I could, getting tattooed became a huge part of my self expression.

I found inspiration & a sense of homecoming at the iconic studios I first visited – In2U, Frith Street in London, & what is now 1770 in Brighton.

Seeing the artistsโ€™ work, especially the talented women I met there, & how personal the creative process was. That all appealed to my sense of independence. I wanted a life where I could have a genuine human experience every day, & tattooing definitely provides that. 

๐Ÿ’– What advice do you have for others who are just starting out?

Be willing to work very, very hard!

Tattooing is a mentally & physically challenging job, but it is also very rewarding & inspiring. 

๐Ÿ’– What have been the highlights & lowlights of being a womxn in tattooing?

I know initially tattooing was such a male dominated space. These days we are blessed with tonnes of ridiculously talented femme artists who are taking the world by storm.

One of the biggest challenges I faced, apprenticing as a 30-year-old feminist with a strong sense of ethics, is that unfortunately, not everyone you come across in tattooing – artists, shop owners, or clients – are going to share that code.

I had some difficult experiences of sexism & misogyny, but as an apprentice, your position is precarious, so I had to bite my tongue – which is something I will never do again, & have worked damn hard to be free of in my work life! 

The highlights are boundless. Iโ€™m grateful for the women, & the LGBTQI+ artists who have gone before me, who opened up doors for the next generation & who showed the world how we could defy the stereotypes.

As with any other creative industry, I donโ€™t think being a woman is directly linked to how somebody operates as a tattoo artist, but I am appreciative of the women who, with their attitude & artistry, have created a whole new community within the industry. 

Iโ€™m grateful for the women, & the LGBTQI+ artists who have gone before me, who opened up doors for the next generation & who showed the world how we could defy the stereotypes.

๐Ÿ’– You both have very wonderful unique styles. What/who inspires your artwork?

G: I am visually inspired by Victorian botanical illustration, & the natural beauty of unusual plants! I really enjoy how they interact with the body.

The creative spark in me is tied to feminist self expression, in any form, & Iโ€™m also inspired by the brilliant people I meet in tattooing, other artists & my clients, who are brave & bold & generally badass. 

Dollyโ€™s work is rooted in iconic pop culture, especially of the 90s/2000s.

One of the things I love most about Dolly is that sheโ€™s the biggest X-Files fan & is fascinated by serial killers, but also has a fundamental appreciation for glitter. 

@dollytattoos

๐Ÿ’– Tell us about the Dollhouse! What lead to you making the decision to setup?

Dolly & I have been friends for a very long time, & have been working together the past few years.

We share the same feminist & personal ethics when it comes to life & work, so the decision to create a place of our own came about very naturally (after several gins . . . )

๐Ÿ’– Was it easy or hard to get launched? What were the roses & thorns so to speak?

It was relatively easy in that we had nearly four months where we couldnโ€™t tattoo, thanks to Miss Rona. So we had plenty of time to plan, execute & do a hell of a lot of DIY!

It was extremely surreal setting up a studio that we had no idea when we would be able to work in, but also gave us both something positive to look forward to in the midst of the madness.

Having that shared project with a friend I love & trust was something I was very grateful for during the toughest moments this year – we would take it in turns to encourage each other when one of us was feeling low.

We spoke every day of lockdown.

Female friendship! Nothing comes close.  

@lexflemingphoto

๐Ÿ’– What makes the Dollhouse different?

Our intention with the Dollhouse was to amplify all the things we love about tattooing; the freedom, creativity, & sense of empowerment, whilst also hopefully providing a safe, comfortable & inspiring tattoo experience; where people can be their true selves without fear of judgement or discrimination.

Tattooing is a vulnerable experience on multiple levels; everyone brave enough to get tattooed deserves to feel protected & respected whilst going through the process (& in real life, too).

We strongly reject the old-school power dynamic of tattooists acting like rockstars, treating clients like trash to serve their own ego. We are not about that.

We also cannot wait to use the studio for some fundraising & creative feminist events, zine workshops, charity flash days & more once it is safe to do so – the Dollhouse was always intended to be more than a tattoo studio. 

Tattooing is a vulnerable experience on multiple levels; everyone brave enough to get tattooed deserves to feel protected & respected whilst going through the process (& in real life, too).

We strongly reject the old-school power dynamic of tattooists acting like rockstars, treating clients like trash to serve their own ego.

 ๐Ÿ’– Tell us about the interior design because omg!!!!

@lexflemingphoto

Sheโ€™s a riot grrrl, Grand Budapest Hotel, Virgin Suicides-inspired, kitsch, camp, retro extravaganza & we L.O.V.E. IT.

Luckily, Dolly & I have exactly the same taste in interiors . . . if we could fit a peacock chair in the corner, we would.  

@lexflemingphoto

๐Ÿ’– What can we expect from a visit to the Dollhouse?

A fun time to be had by all!

That youโ€™ll be respected!

An abundance of leopard-print PPE & the risk of spending an afternoon listening to some terrible pop music (with zero shame).

๐Ÿ’– In my mind, Hole enthusiast that I am, Iโ€™m imagining the shop to be a living incarnation of Doll Parts era Hole videos.

To what extent is this true & do you feel like the grrrls with the most cake now youโ€™ve set up?

We DO feel like that!

In my book itโ€™s never a bad thing to be channelling the spirit of Courtney, in that she doesnโ€™t compromise what she believes in, & stands the fuck up for what is right, whilst also making art. That ainโ€™t a bad way to live . . .

@dollytattoos

๐Ÿ’– Whilst we’re on the subject. In Doll Parts, Courtney Love does a great job of illuminating the fragmentation of womenโ€™s bodies that happens through externalities like the media.

How do you feel that tattooing helps womxn to empower themselves & take back ownership of their bodies?

Itโ€™s such an amazing thing to witness someone walking into the studio, with issues they are seeking to confront, either physical or otherwise, & to watch them leave feeling stronger, more confident, & proud of their bodies.

To be part of that process is something Iโ€™m forever humbled by & honoured that people trust me with. 

Ultimately, getting a tattoo is an act of creative defiance, but also a reclamation of our bodies – the same bodies the patriarchy tries to take away from us. & that whole concept of fuckery, in a frequently-used Dollhouse saying, can get in the bin.ย 

Ultimately, getting a tattoo is an act of creative defiance, but also a reclamation of our bodies – the same bodies the patriarchy tries to take away from us

๐Ÿ’– In recent years, callout culture has become common place within the punk scene & in the last 6 months weโ€™ve seen it take on new life in the tattoo arena.

What are your thoughts on callouts & what can we all be doing to make the world a safer place?

Callout & cancel culture is something Iโ€™m constantly evaluating this year.

Both definitely have their place, for removing predators, but the priority has to be re-educating towards a fairer, safer, more equal existence for everyone, in the hope that we might activate bigger social change, rather than just dealing with individuals.

Itโ€™s about having conversations about feminism, gender, sexuality & race with everyone, opening up these subjects so that people treat others with respect. 

๐Ÿ’– On a lighter note! Weโ€™ve seen you both profess that if this doesnโ€™t work out youโ€™re going to start an emo folk glam rock riot grrrl (every other reputable genre) covers band.

What 3 songs would you cover on your debut EP & why?

Dancing On My Own, by Robyn

Edge of Seventeen, by Stevie 

& probably something by Hanson, because Dolly is their NO.1 FAN & has their logo tattooed on her arm. True story. 

๐Ÿ“ธ : All photos used in this article outside of artwork by Georgina Belladonna & Dolly were most beautifully taken by @lexflemingphoto

Go follow the Dollhouse for more ๐ŸŒน๐Ÿ’ž

@lexflemingphoto

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