We sat down with Lizzie De La Force, a tattoo artist from Cardiff to find out more about who she is how, what she does and the about the part Dyspraxia plays in her life.
When were you diagnosed and how did you feel about it? Did it come as a shock?
When i was diagnosed with dyspraxia, i had a mixed reaction with myself, as it was incomprehensible to begin with as i had achieved well at school. It also came as no surprise to myself that something was wrong because of the help that i did receive at school to achieve higher. I think that to begin with anytime some-one told me they didn’t believe me, especially those closest to me; in the beginning i used to get upset about it and almost adamant to prove to them that i did have something up because people would often try to get myself to admit to not having a problem and now i just feel as though this is their problem and not mine to let it drag me down.
What would you say are the main traits you have?
The main traits that i have are repetition after another person in body movement, speaking and also accent i have noticed. My other traits are that my gross motor does not coordinate well with my brain and it can become easily tiring and mentally frustrating to learn something new; however this just makes me as equally determined to achieve what i would like to in life. Memory is also a big factor, body language and facial expressions, this may mean a small thing to some people, but to others after a while they get tired of understanding that they may have misread you especially explaining to them it causes more crossed wires amongst peers. Trying to coordinate a conversation is one of the biggest issues that i have found because you often can’t keep up and don’t understand the context is that some one meant, so often it is easier to say nothing and so i can be very quiet at times.
There are some Dyspraxics who struggle with holding a pen and handwriting so the idea of a Dyspraxic tattoo artist might surprise some. Was handwriting ever a problem for you?
It was a massive problem to myself, but this was more to do with the chronology of a story for example, because my hands would get tired and i used to often take rests to get along with this, and then i may forget what i am writing. Now i tend to type a lot to get around this if i need to write a long thing down, as it’s easier to see it written. I don’t find the drawing difficult and this is because my fine motor is much better that my gross motor. In fact my imagination means i can draw a lot better than writing.
How did you get into the tattoo scene and can you remember the first tattoo you did?
I got into the tattoo scene and intrigued from a really young age and i would often want to go to the tattoo shop when i was little as i was brought up around a lot of different walks in life when i was little. The first tattoo that i did was on myself, before i went off to uni to begin my first year i made some prison ink out of some charcoal and a prison tattoo pen. I just wanted to see if the ink would work and so i decided to do a small unnoticeable line in my cleavage as no one can see there anyway !! haha Most Tattoos that i have done have been practice based so far because i have taken my time to work into the industry as i don’t want to rush to be ready.
Dyspraxics tend to be a creative bunch. Have you always been artistic and do you design the tattoos for clients? Must be a dream job!
It is definitely a dream job, my nursery teacher ‘Mrs Brooks’ was the first person to notice that i had a gift and told me i would be an artist one day, because even in nursery i was drawing properly and so it has stuck ever since. Hence my company name being ‘Mrs Brooks Tattoo Emporium’, as it also pays homage to the way in which she died and raises suicide awareness. My teacher committed suicide a year after her husband’s death and took her life by hanging herself in there favourite spot in the folly and she was very much like a nan to me, so i felt it only right that i name it after the same lady, who told me to keep going all those years ago and to do what i love. I am currently building towards my own studio at the moment and so i felt it important to mention why i chose the name, because we are creative bunch but also caring as we do alot in our lives to help others.
Tattoos can hold a lot of personal meaning and can represent something important in people’s lives. Do you find you’re an emotional character and do you have a philosophical outlook
I think i am an emotional character definitely, but i wouldnt change it for the world because i can read people well and help people that are often stuck in life even though i may never have met them before. One of the main reasons i would like my own space to tattoo in is because i want people to come not only for the artwork but for the chats too because you get to know some one when they are in the ‘hotseat’ as it were and you can also make an impact on there lives in a positive way through this. People often get a tattoo for healing and that is what i would like to do.
I’m a massive over-thinker so would struggle to decide on a design I wanted. Any tips on sticking to you guns and being decisive?
I am a massively indecisive person and it is infact one of my better traits because i like being able to take my time to make decisions and often there is an end goal, when it comes to deciding what to get as a tattoo. It either isn’t the right one yet or you need to see it on paper to say yes or no to a design as we don’t see a design in the same way as another person.
What’s the longest tattoo session you’ve done? It must take A LOT of focus. Are you good at hyper-focussing on the task at hand? When you’re with a client do you have to manage your time effectively?
I tend to not do long sessions at the table because its not good for you to be tattooing longer than 4 hours at a time anyway, it can cause carpal tunnel and a shorter career as a tattooist as a result. Nowadays you find a lot of people trying to compete on the timing spent on a tattoo to process more funding for the shop, when it’s really a medical procedure and a lot of people forget that it’s not a competition, it’s supposed to be enjoyed by the client and the Tattoo Artist. The longest i have tattooed anyone having said that is around 9 hours with breaks.
What’s your short-term memory like? How many things are there to remember while doing a tattoo and have you ever forgotten a step in the process?
My short term memory is shot, so i often forget names and little things that need to go out such as vaseline sticks, but this happens all the time so i’m not worried about it as its easy to sort out and to change gloves over so that things are set up. I am thinking about writing a wipeboard list having said that just to make sure as it would be a great way of attempting to not forget.
One of the positive traits Dyspraxics can have is seeing the bigger picture. Does this help when doing something like a sleeve where its done in multiple sittings over the years and starts out with a little bit and then spreads up the arm?
In all honesty having a larger imagination to create something from nothing and do cover ups is incredibly useful. It means that you can see more to the design than the person necessarily can and add more to something that they want to. I am currently working towards a back piece of a chinese dragon and to begin with the client just wanted the dragon but i have now convinced them to agree to more details in the design to tell a story.
Has anyone come to you with a tattoo they’ve regretted and needed covering up? Is there any creative ways you’ve managed to fix or cover up a ‘regretted’ tattoo?
I have had one particular person come to me that i feel is worth mentioning as a cover up as i did this by hand poking the tattoo due to him being epileptic, his ex girlfriend was beginning to learn to tattoo and did a pikachu on his arm. As he couldn’t cope with the vibrations of the machine so we opted for the longer route and took our time in fixing the tattoo.
How’s your pain threshold? Are you empathetic. I’d imagine having tattoos yourself means you know what the person in the chair is going through?
I have a high pain threshold some days and then others days i dont, it really depends on my mood, im quite an empathetic person and i prefer to take my time and clue in the client on how i am working with the tattoo so they have an option to book another day and to take their time with their tattoo.
Is your Dyspraxia something you are happy to ‘wear’ or is it something you try to hide? I’d be rubbish at the small talk when a client is in the seat. Has this ever been an issue or is it something you’ve found you’ve got better at?
I dont feel the need to hide it because it makes me who i am, so i don’t feel the need to change around others that don’t understand it, sometimes you do need to concentrate alot and if a client doesnt get an answer straight away then they tend to understand because they dont want a messed up tattoo, also i tend to just let them them know i need to concentrate on a bit of the design.
How many tattoos do you have on your own body and any with any particular meaning?
I have 7 tattoos and the majority of them have not been finished yet but due to myself preferring to take my time with the process, as im happy to rebook and some of them are my own tattoos that i have needed to come back to as it takes more energy to tattoo yourself. My tattoo on my ribs reads ‘Memento Mori’, Memento Vevere, Carpe Diem’ and this means; remember we die, remember to live, seize the day. This means to me to keep moving forwards and to remember what you have learned from the past so dont let it become your future.
What tattoo that you’ve inked are you most proud of?
The tattoo that i am most proud of has to be the mermaid on my leg as i love the design and i have plans with it to develop further.
Any advice for anyone wanting to get their first tattoo?
Make sure that you get one because you want one and dont base it on another persons decision and life experiences, et it because you want and take the time you need to decide what it is that you want. Also the tattoo doesn’t have to mean anything, it could just be because you like it.