My name is Heleena Mistry, I’m 21 years old I’m a Tattoo Apprentice. I’m a South Asian Female based in Leicester, and I specialise in traditional Indian inspired tattoos. As well as that I create illustrations of strong female figures bare breasted in protest to sexualising women’s bodies and a way to support feminism.
Could you describe your path to becoming an Tattoo Artist?
I first decided to become a tattoo artist when I was 18, I was lost after finishing college but I wanted a tattoo at the time, my Mum was the person who suggested me to become a tattoo artist and from then on I’ve been drawing everyday and worked in multiple tattoo studios and I’m currently coming towards the end of my training to be a fully qualified tattoo artist.
How does identity impact our lives as creative people and how does yours impact your creative work?
Identity and heritage have a huge impact on the lives of creative people, it’s what fuels our artwork and adds uniqueness to our style of artwork. I specialise in tattoos inspired by my South Asian culture, however it’s frowned upon to be an Indian girl and have tattoos, let alone be a tattoo artist. For me it’s a constant battle between my identity in this industry and what is considered the “norm”.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is everything, it’s the backbone behind and building, appliance, invention, anything. Without creativity we would have nothing and I’m so proud to be able to express my creativity in my career.
How do you nurture your creativity?
I nurture my creativity by keeping myself inspired, trying not to compare myself with other artists and being grateful for being able to draw and tattoo. Overall just keeping positive towards the things I create.
What cultural barriers have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Growing up as a South Asian Female, I was always told I couldn’t do things because I’m Indian, or because I’m a girl, better yet because I’m an Indian girl. Tattoos have become a taboo and are now associated with criminals, when in fact they were a huge tradition in South Asian culture as they represented spirituality, a way to recognise faces in the afterlife, a defence against the evil eye, and many more. I get a lot of negativity from the older generation for having tattoos, and I’m often told I won’t be accepted as a wife because of the way I’ve marked my skin. However I know my self worth and I’ve just learned to disregard negativity and be true to myself in this skin.
What has been an important lesson you’ve learned so far?
I have learned to be more resilient, it’s impossible to please everyone and you lose yourself in the process. You being yourself has nothing to do with anyone else, and you are the only one that is going to live in your skin; So overall I’ve learned to not let other people’s perceptions shape me.
How has social media and the internet helped you as a creative?
Social media is the reason I’m living my dream job, it has allowed me to showcase my artwork, connect with other artists and also build a clientele within tattooing. Social media is a great way to get your work across the globe without having the means to go there yourself, it’s allowed me to gain support and motivation from random strangers who connected with my artwork.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a project portraying South Asian couples within the LGBT community through a traditional style of artwork called Love is Love. I wanted to break the norm of couples always being depicted as heterosexual, and show it was normal then and it’s normal now.
How would you describe your artistic style in three words?
Traditional, not traditional and colourful.