At home with a tattoo artist

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Kojin the bearded dragon is four years old.  He lives in a heated tank in the studio and gets a salad and bugs to eat every day.

Vivienne Haldane

Kojin the bearded dragon is four years old. He lives in a heated tank in the studio and gets a salad and bugs to eat every day.

Sam Carter is a tattoo artist who owns El Vardo Tattoo. She lives and works in Waimarama, sharing her workspace with clients and Kojin, a bearded dragon. She and her partner Phillip Griffiths live in a house behind the studio.

The space here had been an empty building for years. It was just an empty shell and we put the wall in and did everything from scratch. Most things are handmade by me or by friends. All the wood is made by my father. These are old macrocarp slabs from my grandfather’s farm. Everyone asks: is this what he does for a living? I’m like, no, he drives a backhoe but he’s just good at everything.

We had a really super creative upbringing. Everything was outside. Mom always told us we had to have something done for our day, something we could show off. I’ve been an artist since I can remember.

Some works, like the feathered macrame wall hanging, are by artists Carter is connected to on Instagram.

Vivienne Haldane

Some works, like the feathered macrame wall hanging, are by artists Carter is connected to on Instagram.

Most of the artwork is made by my friends. They have a piece of me and we made trades. The large black and white prints are by Ruben Ireland.

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I have always had a very strong vision of the store. You’ll have people thinking “it’s a bit crowded here”. It’s never enough for me.

Black cat Atlas Moon does not live at the studio, she lives in the house behind the shop but came to visit and would not leave on picture day.

Vivienne Haldane

Black cat Atlas Moon does not live at the studio, she lives in the house behind the shop but came to visit and would not leave on picture day.

We live here behind the shop. My partner had a serious spinal injury; it took eight months of recovery. I ditched the shop in town and we decided to open here.

I spend more time here than at home. I’m here at seven in the morning and I’m here until seven in the evening. For me, it’s a creative space. It must therefore be inspiring and also unique and warm. My clients love it. Everyone says ‘I want to live here’.

The lizard, his name is Kojin, he’s lived his whole life in a tattoo parlor since he was little. He’s our little store buddy.

The black and white prints of women's faces are by artist Ruben Ireland.

Vivienne Haldane

The black and white prints of women’s faces are by artist Ruben Ireland.

The view is amazing. I am constantly inspired by what is outside my window. I don’t even have to search online for inspiration. I just look outside.

The framed drawing of a woman with tattoos and flowers was made by Auckland tattoo artist Steve Wood. "He does traditional tattooing and I really love the colors he uses.  It uses the most beautiful muted tones and the most stunning color palette."Home of the Sunday August 26 magazine

Vivienne Haldane

The framed drawing of a woman with tattoos and flowers was made by Auckland tattoo artist Steve Wood. “He does traditional tattooing and I really love the colors he uses. He uses the most beautiful muted tones and the most amazing color palette.” Home of the Sunday August 26 magazine

Carter's father, Paul, made the coffee table, counter, and shelves out of wood.  The wood is macrocarpa slabs from his grandfather's farm.

Vivienne Haldane

Carter’s father, Paul, made the coffee table, counter, and shelves out of wood. The wood is macrocarpa slabs from his grandfather’s farm.

"All insects are real.  I just admire their beauty.  They are such beautiful colors and shapes."

Vivienne Haldane

“All insects are real. I admire their beauty. They have such beautiful colors and shapes.”

Most of the studio's artwork is by Carter's friends and the majority is done by New Zealand tattoo artists.

Vivienne Haldane

Most of the studio’s artwork is by Carter’s friends and the majority is done by New Zealand tattoo artists.

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