In the Chair with Tattoo Artist Lou Williams

JUNE 21, 2022

We sat down with tattoo artist Lou Williams from London’s Old Habits Tattoo shop to hear what a day in her life as an apprentice is like.

Name? Lou Williams

Location? London, UK.

What studio are you at? Old Habits Tattoo

Instagram? @lu_illustrates

Tattoo artists you look up to? OG’s at the studio, Ryan, Elliot and Caleb.

How many tattoos do you have? 70!

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What’s a day in the life of a tattoo apprentice like?

A day as a tattoo apprentice depends on how far along you are during your apprenticeship and can vary from one studio to the next. For me, I have two responsibilities: supporting the studio artists and my own progression as an artist. For the artists, I make sure every station is stocked and set up throughout the day. Everything needs to be kept clean, tidy and hygienic across their stations. I also set up and break down for the artists and if they need anything else, I’m there for them. Sometimes I help out the owner or studio manager too. They have a lot going on with publishing books and other exciting projects, so I will work on reception so that they can focus on that when needed. For my personal progression, I tattoo every Wednesday and then when things are quiet I’ll find time to draw or go through books. There’s an endless amount of resources at the studio.

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How did you get into tattooing?

To be honest, I’m not sure exactly when I decided to get into tattooing but looking back, I sort of feel it was always on the cards. I got my first tattoo at Old Habits Tattoo eight years ago, and have been a regular of one of the artists, Ryan, ever since. The warmth of the studio and the kindness of Ryan kept me coming back. I had tattooed elsewhere, but have never been as fond of them as here.

It took me a long time to get an apprenticeship. Before, I wasn’t in the right circumstances to do it. Finally, I was in a position where I could support myself financially alongside it. I approached one of Old Habit’s artists Liam, and lucky the timing right that had space for an apprentice! I wanted to be part of a community, have a family that would teach me well and be surrounded by incredibly talented people who weren’t blinded by ego. Old Habits seemed the only logical place for me to be, and it was certainly worth the wait.

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How would you describe your tattoo style?

I would say there are elements of being quite graphics-based, but also fairly organic with the subject matter with a little traditional influence thrown in. I’m very drawn to patterns at the moment and playing around with a slightly weirder direction with things. It’s hard to balance when you’re an apprentice; to just draw what you really want to and hope people get it, or draw things more palatable so that you get more practice. I’m now at a point with enough experience that I can draw what I really like and what I would be more than happy to have tattooed myself. When you are confident in your own style and who you are, people will naturally eventually take notice.

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Top tattoo artists you look up to?

I would say some of the OG team at the studio like Ryan, Elliot and Caleb. They’re the three that gave me the most guidance with the experience they have between them, combined with their work ethic and approach to tattooing. I know I would not be where I am now without their influence.

How many tattoos do you have?

I’ve got 70. Some are big and some are small. Also some little filler tattoo bits that don’t really count. Weird to say that number because I do still have space [laughs].

You’re also having a few tattoos removed at NAAMA. What made you decide to opt for removal?

To be honest I’ve gone back and forth with getting these tattoos removed, because really they’re not so awful. They’re just little bits I’ve done on myself a very long time ago. Now that I have so many beautiful pieces, I feel like it almost makes the newer ones look worse in comparison. I also don’t want to run out of space on my body too young, so I’ve decided to have eight small pieces removed to then be covered up with some great new projects.

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What advice would you give to others trying to get into the tattoo industry?

I've worked for six days a week for two years to make this happen. It’s really not easy, but it’s so worth it - so don’t give up. Take your time, work on your portfolio and make sure you pick the right studio. Where you learn and who is there to guide you is important, so don’t worry if it takes a while to get there and find the right fit.

If our readers want to book in with you, which days do you work and how can they reach you?

Wednesday is my tattoo day at Old Habits for bookings, with sometimes flexibility for others.

It would be a pleasure and a privilege to tattoo any of you, so drop me a message on Instagram at lu_illustrates if you’re interested!