Lauren Winzer says getting inked is like collecting art. If you haven’t come across her work, be prepared to fall a little bit in love because we have.
The pink-haired Sydney painter turned tattoo queen’s portfolio includes glow in the dark clam shells, pups and fluffy cats, ice cream cones, iconic Disney characters, Nike Air Max sneakers, even Fran Drescher. She switches from intricate, fine red roses to bold, loud pop art, cartoons and glittery UFOs with ease. She’s Miley Cyrus’ artist of choice, and has needled other super famous bodies like Katy Perry, Hayley Williams, and Sophie Turner AKA Sansa Stark.
I sat in Hyde Park with Lauren earlier this week and talked partying with Miley and Snoop Dogg, tattooing Van Gough paintings. and tattoo adventures in Mexico.
How did you make the switch from artist to tattoo artist?
I was always drawing and everything and I’d keep all my artworks online on a blog, and random people would find it and ask me to design them tattoos and then I’d do it and I’d be stoked. My husband was already tattooing at the time, and he was like why don’t you make money off it and let me teach you how to tattoo. I was kind of nervous to do it, I didn’t want to do it just because he was, you know what I mean? But he apprenticed me, and I guess that’s how it all started. That was about seven and a half years ago.
With tattoos you get one go and that's it. Were you scared the first time you tattooed someone?
It was on my husband, and I’m pretty sure I cried like three times because I was so stressed out!
There are so many things that you learn along the way, like certain colours will look patchy when you’re doing it, but it’s because of—this is really gross—it’s because of the blood coming through. And those things, I didn’t know so I would find it super stressful.
Is it still scary even now?
Yeah, I get anxious every single time because I care—not because I don’t think I could do a good job.
Your style is really distinctive—it's cute and fun, but also refined. What are your favourite things to tattoo?
I like so many things! Pop culture, dogs, flowers.
Anything you would never tattoo?
I wouldn’t tattoo anything offensive on anyone. I’m all for doing humorous, silly tattoos, but anything hateful—I don’t want to put that on someone, you know.
How many tattoos do you think you've done now, like ballpark?
That’s such a good question, I did try and count them as I was going, but I just lost track… Let me just use my calculator, for a rough estimate. It'd be roughly like around 10,000 tattoos so far.
What's the most difficult design you've done?
Reworks of Van Gough paintings. Because they’re done with brush strokes, you have to tattoo every brush stroke. And I just wonder when I tattoo them, how long did it take to paint the original? It takes so long to tattoo them, like five hours for something that’s palm-sized!
Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own?
I like the rose on the side of my neck, my husband did that for me. I also like the ‘Mum’ on my leg—my mum actually tattooed that. It’s not the best job, but she hated tattoos for so long, so it’s really sentimental I guess as a sign that she’s ok with my work.
I know you’re really passionate about breaking down the stigma and shame around tattoos. Why is that important to you?
I have clients that come in with their parents, and even though they’re there with them, they’re still saying they don’t understand why their kid is doing it. I try to explain it’s more like collecting art than to look tough or anything like that. I think parents worry it’s going to stop their kids from doing something that they want to do, and it’s just not like that anymore.
Ok, so how did you meet Miley?
I think it was about four years ago when she was on tour here. Her assistant wanted to get tattooed and asked about who was good in Sydney, and some of my followers recommended me. He hit me up and I was like yep, definitely. Then [Miley] saw my stuff through him and it kind of just went from there. It was pretty crazy!
Instagram must be so important for you.
It’s so good. I feel like I would still have enough work without it, but at the same time, a lot of my work comes through the internet. It’s just an amazing online visual portfolio for anyone that does anything creative like that. It’s free, so why wouldn’t you use it? And for tattooing, you don’t have to go into a shop anymore and feel intimidated, you can check everything out online and feel safer that you know whoever you’re going to is going to do a good job.
Who do you follow on Instagram?
I like to follow art accounts that post random art, there’s one @ifyouhigh, which has all these satisfying things to look at. I do follow a lot of tattooists too, but then I try my hardest not to follow too many because I don’t want to be influenced by their work by accident.
What are some of your craziest tattoo stories?
I tattooed at one of Miley’s parties, which was pretty crazy. Snoop Dogg sponsored it, there was $50,000 worth of weed and then me and [my husband] tattooing. It was NWA-themed, at her house in LA.
There are so many random stories. Another time, we bought some tattoo stuff from a guy in Mexico behind an ice cream store and did stick and poke tattoos there.
Favourite Sydney spots?
For anyone out there who, like me, is keen to make like Miley and make your love of Lauren Winzer’s art real and permanent, she’ll be inking shoppers at the Dr Marten’s store at Westfield Sydney for Taste.Shop.Play from Thursday 6 September to Sunday 9 September. Get all the details right here.
Image credit: Bob Barrett.