As a hipster paradise, Cape Town has become a haven for many skilled tattoo artists. I took the time to find and interview a fresh face in the tattoo industry, but one whose reputation has skyrocketed in a very short time – Tanya Swemmer, aka Lady Luck.
Born and raised in Cape Town, Tanya quickly found her love for the creative, especially growing up with parents in the design industry. Currently nearing the end of a committed apprenticeship with tattoo master, Milo Marcer, Tanya has become a proud member of the Cape Town Tattoo Social Club as a full time tattoo artist.
What inspired you to become a tattoo artist?
I knew around 16 that I wanted to be a tattoo artist. I went with my friend to get his first tattoo at a shop in Cape Town and there was something very alluring about it. I just realised that it’s an environment I saw myself working in.
How did it feel when you worked on your very first tattoo?
That was the worst! I did my first piece on myself, it came out better than expected but it took me about 15 minutes to actually start, because I was shaking so much.
What 3 characteristics, in your opinion, make a good tattoo artist?
- Giving solid advice to your client and being in the know with what’s right and wrong, like if someone is a lawyer and comes to me and wants the word ‘FU%!TARD’ on their face, I’m not going to do it for the money because that’s probably a horrible idea for their career and mine.
- If you’re not passionate about it you’re not going to enjoy the job, tattooing takes over your life, so you need to want that life in the first place.
- Patience is a big one. I think sometimes tattoo artists lose the grip on how important tattoos are to their clients, especially people who are getting their first or a very meaningful tattoo. If you’re doing a couple tattoos every day, you don’t always understand how important it is, or you can easily lose track, so patience and understanding with people is important.
If you could travel back in time, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so lazy. Don’t take a nap after school. Don’t take a nap after university, because you already slept 8 hours that night! Instead, do more fun work that you actually want to be doing and getting out there…creating, not sleeping. Not that I don’t still take naps sometimes. (laughs)
Are you an animal lover, if yes, which one is your favourite and why?
Yes, oh my god of course! Dogs in general but mostly my dog Blue, she’s like my child.
What are your top 3 favourite spots in Cape Town?
- The Blue Café, my favourite restaurant, it’s a lovely local homey vibe and their food is amazing.
- I like walking around anywhere on Table Mountain with my dog. Since I got a dog, I’ve been outdoors a lot more.
- I like the Labia Theatre, because it’s small, you can drink beer in the cinema, and they play cool art films and foreign films that’s not extortionately priced like normal cinemas.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
Jean-Michel Basquiat, because I’ve recently become obsessed with his art, music and movies. He died when he was only 27. I think he’d be an interesting dinner guest.
What are your career plans for the future?
I need to finish my apprenticeship, and after that I’m going to keep working in Cape Town, building my client base. Then travel intermittently to wherever I can go for as long as possible in my career, before settling down…and getting like 30 dogs. (laughs)
Your vote: beer or wine?
You can book a consultation with Tanya by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Check out her Lady Luck Tattoo Artist Facebook page and Instagram account.
Or buy one of her flash designs on Lady Luck Tattoos’ Bigcartel store.
Text: Andy Moller
Answers: Tanya Swemmer
Photographs: Andy Moller