Art is about expression. When we opened our vegan tattoo and piercing studio, Fifth Dimension (www.fifthdimensiontattoo.co.uk), we created new opportunities for vegans to express themselves in a not-yet vegan world. Tattooists facilitate aesthetic and meaningful artistic dreams on the skin of the wearer, for life. As vegans, we also strive to create a liberated space to share with other non-human beings as a commitment for life. The combination of veganism and body art can cross any boundaries imposed by the expectations of Western societies.
We don’t demand that all our tattooists should be committed vegans, but we see it as our responsibility to ensure that our clients get a 100% vegan service, and we have our own vegan ‘code of conduct’. That means we use only vegan inks, stencil creams, and aftercare products – we never use anything that has animal ingredients or has been tested on animals. Many vegans are not aware that traditional coloured inks usually contain animal glycerin and black inks contain bone char. Other non-vegan ingredients include animal fats, shellac in colours and beeswax in after-care creams. We have sought out specialist products that are vegan, and we currently use Kuro Sumi, Intenze and Eternalinks, some of the most respected brands in the UK. Interestingly, the variety of vegan inks has grown rapidly in recent years as companies have responded to demand and adjusted their ingredients to suit the growing vegan market. It’s vital to get it right – a tattoo is not returnable or exchangeable, and no vegan wants a tattoo that inserts non-vegan ingredients under their skin.
The recipe for a vibrant piece of skin art is the technique, patience and know-how of the artists who represent our brand. When our clients select designs, or bring in their own artwork, we allocate the job to the tattooist who is most experienced in that particular style. It’s important to feel confident that you’ll get exactly what you want. We make sure our clients are confident that their tattoo is in the hands of a specialist and they can communicate fluently together about their artistic wishes. All dot-work, sacred geometry, mandalas and tribal designs are undertaken by Phred, who has been a tattooist for twelve years. Realistic designs, portraits and watercolour-type work is handled by Alex Alvarado, a tattoo artist with a graphic design background.
Around 50% of our clients are vegans, and they come to us from all over the country. Last week, vegan husband and wife James Holz and Lily Kahn were tattooed in our place by Phred. Lily wanted symbology all over her body and stuck with him for a full day – seven hours of stencilling and tattooing with a few tea and vegan sandwich breaks. Lily’s tattoos represent her interest as a lecturer in Hebrew and are closely connected with her veganism. She told me:
“One of them is an extract from an Ugaritic (an ancient Semitic language closely related to Hebrew) mythological epic meaning ‘words of tree and whispers of stone’. I picked this because I love the image that it conjures up, of nature interacting and communicating with us. Another one is a symbol of the Tree of Life with the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, representing the beginning and end of Creation. I also got a tattoo of the new Vegan Society logo on my wrist; I chose this both because I think it’s a beautiful symbol that reflects my commitment to veganism. It will be very visible in my daily life, and because it is easy to understand and recognise, I hope it will help to spread the vegan message.”
James got inked with what we call blackwork, the purest pure black tattoo filled in without shading or other elements.
“For me, tattooing is an expression of freedom and I don’t want that expression to be built on the torture and suffering of other beings. My tattoo is based on a picture of Morrissey. I follow his archetype of being in opposition to an uncaring status quo.”
“What’s veganism about, for you?” I asked him.
“Once the realisation dawned upon me that our species (and, by extension, me as an individual) was involved in one of the worst atrocities this planet has ever seen, my life path became simple. Keep funding cruelty and murder, or start choosing alternatives.”
Lily chimed in, “When James and I discovered what really goes on in these barbaric industries, we were absolutely horrified and went vegan straight away. Although we immediately knew that veganism was the only option for us from an ethical perspective, our devotion to this amazing lifestyle just kept growing stronger and stronger…”
As we chatted, I realised that time after time, the vegans we meet are talking about how easy it is to follow a vegan lifestyle in London. Lily summed it up: “Living a vegan lifestyle in London is fantastic, and incredibly easy! There’s so much available – shops with vegan supplies and cruelty-free products, a wide variety of vegan-friendly restaurants, and even a vegan tattoo studio!”
Happy vegan inking.