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The Girl with the Mandala Tattoo

8 January 2016
The Girl with the Mandala Tattoo
Just turned 24, Olivia-Fayne not only owns her own house, but also her own business, a rather unique venture as not strictly a tattoo artist, needle to skin, but rather a tattoo designer, drawing up unique designs for customers to then take to their tattooist. She is a great example of the way millennial business is now grown from and even managed via social media. With over 49,000 Instagram followers, Olivia-Fayne manages an incredibly successful business. Her designs and aesthetic are typically very feminine, drawing influences from traditional mandala and henna designs, and present a whole other niche of the increasingly popular tattoo trend. We chat to her about her business, and plans for the future.

The Girl with the Mandala Tattoo Article 1

How did you get into your career?

Well I got my first ever tattoo on a girly holiday - but decided when I returned that I wanted a nicer one, and so I just designed one for myself, and as you do, posted it on Instagram to a couple of hundred followers. People started showing interest and asking if I could design for them. At first I was doing it for free, alongside my job, until I got quite a lot of interest and it dawned on me that I could make money out of it.

I had always wanted an art-related career but this just seemed to happen quite naturally and out of the blue.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Probably registering my business. It just started out as a hobby; I never really pictured myself as being a business owner; I’m not really that sort- I was even told at GCSE that I would fail…but so many years down the line, I’m still doing it!

You have a lovely studio (Olivia is based in Yorkshire, and works from a studio in her house). What made you decide to pitch up business in your home?

Mainly the dog! (Darwin the English Bulldog puppy, a solid, enthusiastic chap). I could work from a studio but it would mean I’d have to rent and I own the house so I may as well make use of the room.

Olivia owns and rents out her lower rooms to various tenants who also happen to be friends, meaning that the exquisitely decorated but pretty sprawling terrace isn’t just home to her and Darwin.

You’re obviously very into your interiors (her house is soft and opulent, with plenty of wall etchings, period features and lots and lots of cushions); how did you get into this element of design?

That’s actually what I’ve always wanted to do, but really it was something I never thought I’d be able to do; I’m not good at maths or measurements, I’m not put together in that way – even tattoo design I go by hand and eye. But when my success with the tattoo design started to unravel I got various people asking about how I decorated my house, and where I got certain things. So now I’ve set up a sort of virtual home design service, in the same way that my tattoo designs are virtual.

So talk us through your creative process.

Basically, people will email me, telling me where they’re from, which can be anywhere across the globe and then they’ll give me a loose idea with the kinds of things they’d like incorporated, and I get back to them with suggestions, draw up a pencil version and see if they’re happy with the initial design – all by snapchat!

Here Olivia explains the very modern way in which snapchat ensures she has no issues with her work being stolen, with the temporary images allowing the customer a sneak peek of their design without having any theft problems. They also pay a deposit to ensure that Olivia’s work is paid for, as she explains how she often encounters copywriting issues, whether that be people trying to rip her work off for free, or simply not understanding simple copyright laws.

Then once they are happy they pay the final fee and I send off a copy of the finished piece, which is drawn up properly in pen.

The Girl with the Mandala Tattoo

Where does your inspiration come from in your designs?

I don’t do much outside research but, for example, I do a lot of mandalas (spiritual Indian drawings and inscriptions), which are used as a form of meditation, which I learned recently, and it's true, the slowness and repetition of drawing them can be very soothing. I also look at a lot of henna too; a lot of people think my tattoos are actually henna.

Can you see your style - which is pretty distinctive - changing or developing in any way or have you found your niche?

I think this is it really. I do get a lot of requests for different things, which I don't mind, especially men’s tattoos. I’m not really used to the more masculine stuff, but that’s something I definitely want more experience in. It really does differ though. I’d love to maybe experiment with colour a bit more, maybe not in my tattooing as I’ve developed a style there but maybe more water colouring on the side.

What’s the best part of what you do?

I think when one of my customers actually sends me a picture of my work finished upon them in real life, and they come out amazing. It’s great because I can also give a little shout out to the tattooist and give them some recognition.

What are you favourite kinds of pieces to do?

I really like doing the side-boob pieces; they just flow really nicely, and lotus flowers too. They’re lovely to do.

And what about your own tattoos?

Well I’m the sort of person that can’t stop! I keep getting more. And it's really great for business too. Every time I go out I can hand out business cards because I’m advertising what I do!

At first my own tattoos looked quite a lot different from my designs because they couldn’t be half as intricate but the guy who has done my most recent ones, he’s from Hong Kong and he’s amazing. So detailed; he’s done my fingers as well. The worst one I had done was my side because it tickled so much! I would have rather been in pain because I couldn’t move but obviously it’d be terrible if I did.

I’m planning on more though; I’d like my back a little more covered to carry on one that I had done before I developed my style.

Obviously a lot of your designs are shipped internationally, but how does it work more locally for you?

One of the things I’m working on, is a bit of a recommendations list, of people and good contacts to go to for maybe a small fee. It’s definitely not about the money for me, but obviously it’s so difficult nowadays to be an artist as you have to be so much more than that, finding new ways to reach people. My main aim is to get my work in a gallery, but it’s not the sort of thing that is regarded as appropriate in a gallery, as obviously it’s on skin but that’s the dream.

Where would you ideally be in five years time?

I think I just want my fingers in all sorts of pies really; I want to be able to do interiors, the tattoo design, my interior products but also eventually I want my own tattoo studio; someone to be able to teach on the side. I don’t want it to be your traditional tattoo parlour though. I have a few ideas but I’d like to it be more of an experience.

Any new projects coming up at the minute?

Well there’s a lovely girl called Georgina Verity who owns a clothing company called MXCI UK and she wants me to collaborate with her on a top range, and also I’ve got an adult colouring book in the pipeline so I'm in talks with Lawrence King Publishing. They’re going down really well at the minute so I was so down for that!

The Girl with a Mandela Tattoo Article 3

Moving onto your interiors collection, can you tell us a little more about that?

I’ve got a few products at the moment; including the wooden coasters and the glasses. These are going to be retailed at Lamberts Yard in the New Year.

The products are respectively etched and laser cut with Olivia’s intricate and Mandala-inspired designs, and will be available from the increasingly expansive Lambert’s Yard, as they foray further into interiors. Olivia’s collection will be available to buy amongst various other wares from local designers.

It’s certainly safe to say that Olivia already has her fingers in many pies, so check out all her work here or check out her Instagram.

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.
Images provided by and copyright credits to Olivia-Fayne Lamb, Photography by Mark Wheelwright