Tattoo in the making - Woody Hills

Issue 27

French tattoo artist Woody Hills creates tattoos that look like jewellery, using the method of hand poke tattooing. HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine chose a beautiful chest-piece and discussed with him the whole process, design and execution.

Interview: Ino Mei.

This tattoo looks like a jewel. How would you describe it?

In the last eight years, I have had a project; I wanted to create some “jewellery- tattoos”. The idea is to turn my tattoos into a timeless piece of work. First, I think about the tattoo’s adaptability on the body - depending on the morphology - and then I enhance the tattoo in order to suit the client the most. 

My final goal is to make my tattoos a permanent jewel.

When did you do this particular tattoo?

This tattoo was realized two years ago. It is my first necklace chest tattoo! It was very important for me to be ready and sure about the shape and how to perform it. I had a specific idea and I wanted to create a special visual impact. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It was a success by the way! Hahaha. I’m very proud about this one.

How did you come up with the idea for the chest-piece?

For me, a necklace is a wonderful jewel. It coats a beautiful part of the body: the neck. It is very feminine. Moreover, this “accessory” is in no case around to dress an outfit. A necklace is a very personal jewel.

What techniques did you use? 

This is a hand poked tattoo. Hand poke is a way to tattoo with only a needle and ink. It’s been ten years since I’ve started tattooing with the hand poke method. It is not due to the current “trend” but for the pleasure. Hand poke is a different approach of tattooing. It is a whole other experience because energy and concentration are very different. It’s more traditional.

How did you design it? Is it freehand?

I took a picture of the person’s chest and drew on it. This is my method to adapt the tattoo with the morphology of the client’s body. Each body is different and this criterion is the most important in order to succeed a tattoo. Every tattoo is custom- made. I am a very meticulous person. Hahaha

How many sessions did it take in order to complete it? Is it true that hand poke tattooing takes longer?

I had to do two sessions of four hours each, in other words eight hours in total. Hand poke takes two to three times longer than when I’m working with machines. In fact, I need to pop by again on my dot to get it as black as I want. Nevertheless, time isn’t of such great importance for me, all that counts is the final result.

What led you into doing only hand poked tattoos, such as this one? 

Hand poked tattoos had always an impact on me. I discovered them due to my uncle because he had one made by himself. I still find his tattoo wonderful and the story behind it, it’s just beautiful.

I find hand poke to be the best way to tame the skin. Taking time, respecting the depths… When you touch these two things, it’s easier to pass on the tattoo machine.

How did the client react when you finished her tattoo? 

She cried and she took me in her arms. I think she didn’t realized it immediately. It’s a huge body modification but she was over the moon. She asked me to book her other appointments to tattoo her feet and hands.

What inspired you in order to create this piece? 

Nothing in particular. A good vinyl, a smoke and I let my mind and ideas going on… I have a favorite sentence: “the tattoo has to be understandable from three meters in three seconds”. That’s my golden rule!

What was it that first attracted you to ethnic tattoo and what kept you going?

The thing I love in ethnic culture is the symbolism. Every tattoo has to be distinctive and personal. I am inspired by tribes’ behaviour. Nonetheless, I am always very careful and I have read lots of books, because I don’t want to claim ownership of a culture that isn’t mine. This is a matter of respect.


Tattoo Studio: La Galerie Botan
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @woodytattooer