I met @rigobelisa on Instagram, and I was immediately captured by her beautiful tattooed legs! I wanted her to share on I am Not a Tattoo Blog the love for tattoos and the experience behind that beautiful leg sleeve by Valerie Vargas.
Her name is Kimberley Neal and she is a manager in a University Library in England. She has been collecting tattoos for the past 15 years.
What does being tattooed mean to you?
Being tattooed is only a small fraction of who I am but it means everything to me. Getting tattooed began as an interest/hobby that has developed over the years to now fully encapsulate my life. I can’t imagine being without tattoos but it is not a subject I usually talk about. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding females with tattoos which I despise. Like most people with tattoos I receive comments, lots of comments, negative and positive comments, comments I never asked to receive but ones people readily put out there to feed there own insecurities and morbid curiosities. For a long time I covered up to avoid the discussions all together.
This was never to hide my own insecurities, if anything being tattooed has made me even more confident, but it was a way of avoiding the subject all together.
I just didn’t want to talk about it. Overtime I have come to accept that this is how it is and society will change in its own time. I smile, say thank you, and carry on with my day.
Do you have a favourite part of the whole tattoo experience?
Finding someone I want to get tattooed by is my favourite part of the experience. I’ve come to find that no artist is out of reach when you are prepared to pay the price and travel the distance. Over the years I’ve found my self amazed at the appointments I’ve been able to get with artists I’ve wanted to be tattooed by for so long. There’s a lot of speculation around waiting times but if you don’t pick up the phone and ask you never know. My most memorable booking was with Grez at Kings Avenue. For years I had wanted to one day get a tattoo from Grez, his work delivers every time. I had just booked my first trip to NYC and knew exactly who I wanted to get tattooed by. I e-mailed Kings Avenue in January 2015 to enquire about booking with Grez in December of that year. Within a matter of hours I received a response and 2 days later the appointment was booked. The whole process with Grez has been one of the highlights of my tattoo life so far.
When did you get your first tattoo?
At the ripe old age of 15! My friend at the time tattooed me in her flat. It was the first tattoo she ever did but in all honesty you wouldn’t have guessed. It wasn’t perfect by any means but I was happy with it. Unfortunately for the tattoo it was less than palm sized and in the middle of the right thigh so naturally it got blasted over by Valerie Vargas and is now lost in the waves of my witches hair. I only have a couple of tattoos which have been covered. The only reason they have is due to poor placement…lesson learnt!
Do you like travelling to get tattooed or you are more likely to look out/wait for a guest spot near you?
Combining traveling with getting tattooed makes the experience even more exciting. I have been fortunate to get tattooed all over the UK as well as several locations in the states. Most recently I was visiting a friend in San Francisco and booked appointments with Tim Lehi at Temple tattoo and Jeff Rassier at Black Heart tattoo. I had so much fun and the tattoos are some of my favourites. It has its down sides though as healing whilst travelling can be a nightmare and carrying supplies of cling film and surgical tape in my suitcase often looks suspicious! I plan my trips a lot better now and factor in healing time, placement etc before I book in. I also frequently get tattooed by artists doing guest spots. One of the good things about the UK is everywhere’s close in comparison to other countries and London hosts one of the best tattoo conventions and some of the best tattoo shops around which draws in the artists.
Can you relate to nowadays tattoo collectors?
Being in my early 30s I certainly see myself as a modern day tattoo collector. I think the desire to collect is differs for each individual. I didn’t set out to collect there’s just so many good artists and I find myself being spoilt for choice. I have a lot of friends who have found 1 person they like and feel comfortable with and as a result they don’t get tattooed by anyone else. I never understood this until I started getting tattooed by Valerie Vargas at Modern Classic. I longed to get tattooed by her and took a break from my norm and gave Valerie a whole limb to work with. The process of getting my leg tattooed by her has been one of the most amazing experiences and I can’t thank her enough.
I’ve only been tattooed by a handful of artists more than once but I’d happily go back to Valerie again and again.
Who did you get tattooed by?
I’ve been tattooed by…Valerie Vargas, Greggletron, Seth Wood, Grez, Tim Lehi, Jondix, Shaun Topper, Oliver Macintosh, Jeff Rassier, Xam, Heather Bailey, Sarah Carter, Simon Earl, Michele L’abbate, Craig Gardyan, Curt Baer, Steve Vinall and Sneaky Mitch to name a few.
Would you like to explain what’s behind one of your tattoos?
Most of my tattoos have no meaning but the triskle on my back is of huge significance. 6 years ago I was married in Brittany (France) by Druids in front of an ancient Menhir at my mother in laws house. During the ceremony this symbol was drawn on my forehead in a mixture of water and ash.
As soon as the ceremony was over I knew I wanted to have this image tattooed, and in between my shoulder blades seemed a good choice.
Andy Crystalz at Modern Body Art took the image to another level. Along with the marriage itself I was welcomed into the Druid community and blessed with the name Rigobelisa. I’ve gone on to have several ceremony related tattoos with more to come.
What are your future tattoo plans?
I’ll hopefully finish my leg with Valerie in the summer after this I’d like to move onto my left arm, also with Valerie. I’m getting tattooed by Dan Sinnes at London Tattoo Convention in September and hopefully rearranging an appointment with Luke Kempton soon. For the future I hope to be returning to the Bay Area again next year and Portland to get tattooed by Greggletron and Tim Lehi again. I’d also like to pay a visit to George Campise in Berkley as he’s currently working on a back piece I’ve seen which has blown my mind! Further ahead I hope to eventually get pieces by Steve Boltz, Marc Nava, Marius Meyer, Bart Bingham Scott Sylvia and many more.
Who are your tattoo history heroes?
I’ve never been one for heroes but I’d like to recognise the current wave of strong heavily tattooed females getting some incredible work. Social media for all its faults has exposed me to so many amazing people, whose dedication to art and specifically tattoos is inspiring.
In a society so vast and often detached it’s comforting to form friendships that may have previously not been possible.
Thank you again Ilaria for asking me to be on your blog!