Today we’d like to introduce you to Anneka High Bowers.
Hi Anneka, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’ve always joked that I was born between the paws of a lion- this slick line made it in to my college application essay and won me a ticket to the University of Texas Art History programme in 2016. Now as a twenty-something-year-old drop out my earliest memory of being offered to the great iron beast in London’s Trafalgar Square feels more like prophecy than a recollection.
I was born in Austin, Tx, brought home from a hospital which no longer exists by two career artists who adopted me into a life of wanderlust, creative hunger, and veracious hunt for meaning.
It’s no surprise that my first love and heart break would be creating works of art I hated once finished- there is nothing quite so pitiful and sincere as an artist’s illusion of grandeur shattering and after a lifetime of what felt like holding my head between lion’s jaws I found myself desperate to find the expressive niche I longed for.
I began my art history degree, encouraged by those who thought I would make a satisfactory curator, or museum director, but as it turns out I like making art more than I like moving it around or writing about it.
I began to despise the word potential- the potential for success, the potential for money, the potential to do something great, to BE someone great… the longer I sat in the Circus of it all the more I wanted out. I’m sure no matter who you are the feeling is mutual- like the teeth of something you thought you loved closing on your neck.
Three mental breakdowns, two years of college, and one marriage later I found myself in a much different place than was expected of me or that I expected of myself for that matter.
I left school, got a day job managing a coffee shop, and dove head first into a medium that was the combination of all my artistic passions- tattooing. I had been a long time tattoo collector at this point and my stack of designs, illustrations, and inspirations were endless. What had been a sewing needle, India ink mistake once-upon-a- teenage-crisis pipe dream blossomed into a passion that rewarded be with not only an incredible community but the ability to help people feel more like themselves through every piece I do.
It’s been three years and I have faced life’s typical trials both mentally, physically, and financially. I’m the first to admit to having the lion’s share of luck- to have gone from being a one-bedroom-sofa-scratcher to sharing a studio space with one of my dearest friends. I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to learn more every day about the rich and vibrant history and tradition of hand poking that exercises resilience of spirit but also uncovers a movement of artists like me who found themselves placed at the feet of beasts and bested them despite all odds.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Canonical backstory aside, the world of traditional tattooing is a leviathan in and of itself to break into. If we are talking road quality the “road” into the industry as a queer woman is more like a bouldering course that requires a 4×4 all-terrain vehicle with a substantial lift kit… I drive a yellow VW Beetle. Jokes aside, tattooing as a profession carries weight beyond artistic integrity and skill- there is a sub culture that requires you to have a lot of grit. Determination is a given but it’s more than that, you have to be bold, take risks, know your worth and confidently set boundaries.
While collecting tattoos I had a myriad of experiences ranging from heartwarming to insulting- there are so many unspoken rules just when GETTING tattoos, let alone doing them.
The first time I ever asked for advice from an artist I admired I was shaking so hard I almost dropped the casserole I brought them. I was just about prepared to die for an apprenticeship at this shop, ready to give up house and home and my partner’s famous Beef Roast recipe to get my foot in the door.
Just prior to the Covid outbreak I had mad rip my mind to pursue tattooing full time, and then the world shit down- and I had to reevaluate not only my career choice but my mental and financial health.
This harsh and sudden reality check meant that I could not afford to leave my day job, pandemic or not.
I had to start at square one- trying to see a path to my dreams that was accessible and sustainable.
So I started by tattooing myself by hand, no machine, just me and the needle. The rest is history.
I fell in love with the time, the care, and the intimacy of hand poking. I was introduced to so many artists like me who were self-taught, talented, and passionate about the medium. It opened my eyes to the way the tattoo world could be- inclusive, diverse, supportive, safe, clean, fun, and even lucrative!
It’s been a difficult journey, but one that has enriched my life tenfold. There is so much I have yet to learn and the perseverance through the pandemic has allowed me to reflect on my worth as an artist- anything you love doing will require sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean you have to be destitute. Know you’re value and don’t be afraid- just put one foot in front of the other and take a step closer to what you want to do every day.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have fallen in love with the history and cross cultural nature of hand poking as evidenced in my work- I draw inspiration from textiles, hand painted pottery, and vintage illustrations which all bring a fantastical and human element into my work. I love oddities, taxidermy, insects, flowers- anything that makes me feel grounded to the human experience and life cycle. I love being able to put a smile on people’s faces and help them express more of who they are through tattoos. To me tattoos are like save points that remind us of times in our life we wished to commemorate. I’m fascinated by the anthropological implications that maybe someday we will be archeological discoveries and the pictures on our skin will be talked about by historians- who knows 🙂
Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
Do it. Even if you’re knees shake, even if you aren’t confident in your art yet, just dedicate time every day to practice, to learn, to research and to get tattooed! Some of the best things you can do are to observe and ask questions, support local artists, and start building a portfolio! Tattooing in all forms is a challenging world to break into, but not impossible. It can be scary to put a foot out into a popular and sometimes “gate-kept” scene but Id encourage you to start drawing, start making connections, it’s never too late.
- Studio Minimum is $70
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @ahab_arts
Anneka High Bowers