Few art forms have benefited from the rise in social media quite like tattoos. With Instagram turning hustling shop artists into superstars with thousands upon thousands of followers, it’s been a wonderful place to see the medium flourish. Tattoo artist Makkala Rose received her own slice of worldwide recognition in late June, after a tattoo she inked to cover scars from breast cancer-related surgery went viral. The tattoo, which fully covers her client’s breast and features flowing ribbons and blooming flowers, shows off just some of the New Zealand-based tattoo artist’s skill and style. The Creators Project spoke to Makkala Rose about how she first got into tattooing, the process of working on her most famous tattoo, and what life’s like now, post-internet fame.
Rose says she first got into tattooing while in getting an art degree. She was with a friend getting a tattoo, “and wanted to learn more about it,” explains Rose. “I was incredibly lucky to be allowed into the studio. Eventually I tattooed a bunch of potatoes and bananas, followed by a guy who worked at the shop that offered his achilles up for a torturous two-and-a-half hour diamond tattoo. [Laughs] Most stressful two-and-a-half hours of my life.” From there, she kept working. Her career really picked up when she met the artist Godfrey Atlantis, “who inspired, mentored and supported me through from the initial stages of my career.”
Rose describes her work as “illustrative and stylized, a happy balance of soft blended colors held inside bold lines. I really enjoy medium- to large-scale work, anything with natural elements, I especially love fauna and flora, animals, people, crystals and birds are my current favorite!” She notes that some of the biggest challenges in tattooing come from “working with cover-ups, scarring, stretch marks, clients who can't sit well, and losing a stencil mid-tattoo... Really every day is a challenge in tattooing, I like to set myself up for continual improvement so I'm always learning.”
As for cover-ups and scarring, Rose reflects on her famous tattoo for her client Alison Habbal. “Alison’s tattoo was an honour to do, she was so excited. And that energy really fueled our 13-hour session. It was my first tattoo working with a breast so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect the texture of the skin to be like, and I hadn't anticipated how long it would take to work around the curves. I feel like I got into all the yoga positions tattooing that day [Laughs]. It was painful for Alison but she sat so incredibly well. I felt so proud of her.” The tattoo made headlines, and received thousands of likes and comments on social media, and the results were obvious: “I have a lot more requests for scar covering now. My workflow seems to grow and become more demanding steadily, so I'm continually figuring out ways to manage that. I have a hard time keeping up with requests, my books haven't been open for new appointments the last 12 months but I still get a bunch of messages every day.”
Makkala Rose’s books open again in New Zealand in early October, but until then, check out her Instagram for an ever-updating stream of gorgeous tattoos.