OR DOES IT EXPLODE MAGAZINE INTERVIEW 2015
Interview with Lily Gloria: ‘Everything is Fine’ and Hand Poking Tattoos
October 25, 2015
Lily Gloria grew up in Southeast Melbourne with a sense of adventure and a passion for art & hip-hop. Captured by the simple charm of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods, she moved to New York in 2012 and has used the experience to expand her network and develop a talent in hand-poked tattoos. Her recent work has also included her first solo exhibition, “Everything is Fine,” the name of which originates from a personal mantra. It features the hands of musicians, chefs and artists. By taking solely excerpts from each of these artists (their hands alone), Lily creates beautifully detailed illustrations, showcasing the act of creation. Lily states, “I’ve always been fascinated by the in between moments, things that generally aren’t documented… You listen to the song, you eat the meal, you look at the painting, but what about everything that went behind that creation, that gets lost along the way, that’s what I’m interested in.”
In our interview with Lily, we asked her about her past, her inspirations, and her plans for 2016.
Tell us about Melbourne.
Melbourne is truly a great city and I feel so lucky to have grown up there. I moved around a lot as a kid, but mostly my brother and I grew up in the South East. When I’m in Melbourne, that area is where I tend to live and work. My friends back home are all pretty different from one another…In Melbourne, I work every Saturday at the best store in the entire city, Prime. So every Saturday morning in the last 5 years in Melbourne were spent there with my best friend and former boss, Josh, selling sneakers, drinking coffee and talking shit.
My favourite place to be is on the couch with my brother and dog watching Intervention.
How do you like Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is a lot of fun. The streets are full of people – it’s filthy, but it’s got a certain charm. When I first came here in 2012, I wanted to live like a scumbag. That was what I had fantasized about since I was a kid. It’s what I saw on TV; it was my dream and that’s what I did. I drank 40’s on my roof in Bushwick every night with my best mate who lived down the street. We legged it straight from work in the summer to the East Village to make happy hour at Benny’s Burritos so we could get a few bucks off our oversized frozen margaritas and I barely made rent every month. We lived off packet ramen and beer and I loved every second of it. Since coming back though things are a little different. I’m no longer interested in living that way. There are a million things to do in New York and so many people to do them with. As soon as I landed here this year, I linked up with all my old friends and most days I cop a bunch of invites to parties, exhibition openings or just drinks. It’s pretty hard to stay focused here.
You’re from Melbourne, attended school in Italy, moved to New York, and now you’ve set your sights on London. It seems like you’re really interested in traveling & exploring different cultures. When would you say you’re wanderlust began and how have the experiences you’ve had shaped your personal development?
It began when I was 16 and lucky enough to be taken to America and England by my dad and step mum. There was something about New York and London that resonated with me and since that trip. I’ve always known I would live in those two cities. I love film, I could watch movies all day, sometimes I do. Basically everything I watch is American. America is weird and wonderful and full of positivity. I think most Americans believe in themselves and have a strong sense of who they are, this is something I think we all aspire to and I just want to be closer to that.
Living in other cities tests me. When I feel too comfortable I know something has to change. I need to feel like I’m growing in some capacity. Even if I’m working a dead end job, if it’s in a different city then I’m learning and I’m happy. I used to think I wanted a 9-5 corporate kind of lifestyle, through travel and meeting a wide variety of creative souls I know that just isn’t for me. I’m searching for something out here and each day I find a small part of that something. I’ve always enjoyed being alone so that helps too. Living in different countries has shown me how other people live. My upbringing taught me that you should get an education, begin your career, find a partner, settle down and have a kid. My parents of course always put my happiness first and have supported everything I’ve done, but Australia isn’t very progressive in terms of living an alternative lifestyle. I’m just trying to experience as much joy as possible. That’s what I’ve found is the most important thing to me.
I love your exhibit “Everything Is Fine.” Why did you decide to create an exhibit based on solely the hands of each artist?
Thank you. Well this project began when I moved back to Melbourne from New York in 2013. I’ve always been fascinated by the in-between moments, things that generally aren’t documented. I wanted to capture the act of creation, rather than the finished product, which is what the focus is generally on. You listen to the song, you eat the meal, you look at the painting, but what about everything that went behind that creation, that gets lost along the way, that’s what I’m interested in.
Where did your fascination with hands come from?
My grandmother Gloria (my middle name) used to collect ornamental hands holding vessels and whenever I was in her house I would marvel at them. They were beautiful. She had the most incredible taste and was a talented creative who very much inspired me. I feel that this is probably where the seed was planted.
What I found interesting is that on one hand you have an exhibit that’s about people that accomplish so much with their hands and on the other hand the name of the exhibit is “Everything is Fine.
The exhibition was two years in the making before I released the work. Five of the pieces were of other peoples’ hands, which were originally the entire idea – just portraits of others. I wasn’t sure that I was even going to release the work, but 6 months before the exhibition, I went through some pretty heavy personal shit. I began to document my journey through illustrations of my own hands which to me can capture an emotion beautifully. These portraits were my way of releasing part of my pain so exhibiting them was the next logical step for me. The title is based around the self-portraits that were drawn when I was at a real low point. “Everything is fine” is sort of a mantra I tell myself when I’m feeling negative in any way. I titled my exhibition that because even through all my pain I found that everything was fine and I have a million things to be grateful for.
What is beauty to you?
A full tracksuit and fresh pair of Nike TN’s.
How did you get involved in Tattooing and What is Handpoking?
When I was living in New York I started toying with the idea of tattooing because I’ve always been interested in making marks on places outside of a gallery and not on a canvas. This also relates to my love of graffiti. I’ve always dwelled on the outskirts of the art world. I fought a lot with every art teacher I’ve ever encountered and there has been a lot of them. Doing tattoos makes me nervous, more nervous than I have ever been and that’s why I keep doing it. Hand poking is just as it’s described. I use a proper tattoo needle, bind it to a pencil and use my hand to apply pressure and make individual dots to make up the design.
At a friend’s studio one night in Brooklyn in 2012 I mentioned to all my friends there that I wanted to start doing stick and pokes. Tone Tank, my super talented friend, with no hesitation said “Let’s do it, give me one!”. I got all shy and said no. I was scared to death. He persisted, pulled a push pin out of the wall, handed me a ball point pen for ink and pointed to a drawing of a dagger on the wall. We used tequila as a disinfectant and I poked a really sketchy looking dagger on his forearm. He loved it and so did I. If it weren’t for Tone giving me that chance and believing in me then I probably wouldn’t be tattooing today.
Why are you specifically interested in Handpoking – do you think your interest in Handpoking and interest in Illustration came from the same place?
Hand poking again is an outsider’s form of tattooing generally. I’m seeing more and more hand poke artist in tattoo shops now which is great, but generally the tattoo world isn’t very fond of the way I do tattoos. I prefer it to using a gun because it’s more personal. Each individual dot is placed into the skin and there are imperfections, this is something I embrace as imperfections show character. The story with each tattoo therefore becomes richer. Every single person I tattoo I become closer to. The fact that they have trusted to mark them gives us an immediate connection. Illustration is something I’ve always done and it is definitely a big part of tattooing. When doing photorealistic work I draw with a mechanical pencil which makes the process very laborious and when I tattoo I do it by hand rather than using a gun, I always choose the hard road. In that aspect yes there is something to be said for my interest in both of these things and the way that I do them, I can’t tell you where that interest came from though, I have no idea why I feel the need to make art.
We have to ask, do you have any Tattoos?
Before I started tattooing, when I had just decided that I wanted to get into it, a girl who was crashing on my couch in Bushwick at the time told me that you can’t become a tattoo artist if you don’t have tattoos. So a big “fuck you” goes out to Noni right now.
No I don’t have any.
I haven’t met a tattoo artist that I’ve really gotten to know and like on a personal level yet. To me tattoos aren’t about the aesthetics or the way you want to portray yourself to the world. They’re about an exchange, an experience, a moment in time. I don’t care if an artist has been around forever and can do mind blowing work. If there’s no connection between us then I wouldn’t fuck with them. It’s a very intimate thing for me. You never know though… Sean from Texas is my favourite tattoo artist right now and if we hit it off then I’d probably come out of that experience with a face tat.
What do you plan to achieve in the next year, while you’re in London?
In London I want to meet and work with tattoo artists on my wave length. London is an artistically progressive city and it holds some of the most well known and most talented handpoke artists in the world. I want to explore Europe, go and spend time with my mate in Berlin, get involved with some weird shit and tattoo as many humans as possible. I love UK hip hop, so I plan on going to a lot of shows too.
More of Lily Gloria’s work can be seen on her site at www.lilygloria.com