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Tattoo Industry is Transforming: A Melbourne Tattooist’s Perspective

Tattoo Industry Transformation

I have been working as a tattoo artist for 21 years, predominantly in Melbourne.

I have worked in all aspects of the business – as an apprentice; in large ‘parlours’; in a more intimate shop setting (that I owned and managed) and now in a private tattoo studio.

At the beginning of my career, I learnt the art of tattooing from the world’s-best tattoo artists. Having studied a BA in Visual Arts, I had – and still retain – a great passion for the art of tattooing. I have always applied the knowledge I gained from traditional art forms such as drawing and painting (and most recently lead lighting)

As a tattooist, I focus on the pursuit of achieving the finest detail that can be delicately applied to the skin – in its varying forms. Ultimately, I am to create a landscape of the highest quality.

Having the opportunity to create artwork on the human body is – to me – a great gift. To be given the opportunity to create and transform an idea into a tattoo masterpiece on someone’s body, where – presumably – it would remain forevermore has always been an honour.

In my career I began creating large tattoo pieces – full sleeves, full backs, chest and full sleeves; full legs; half legs and so on. My clients who choose large scale tattoos always come to me with a significant story in mind. They have purpose, meaning and symbolism that they want pieced together to tell a story that is very meaningful to them. Others just want beautiful images on their bodies.

Large scale tattoos, comprising great meaning, cannot be rushed!

Hannya mask back tattoo
Hannyamask Chest Tattoo
Hannyamask Chest Tattoo
Tibetan Back Tattoo
Tibetan Back Tattoo

Large pieces take a series of full days to complete. There are hours upon hours of work in sketching, stencilling and then tattooing these large pieces and they require a significant commitment from my clients. These clients know up front that work will need to be broken up and they willingly slot tattoo bookings into their calendar. Over the years, a lot of my clients have travelled interstate, sometimes overseas, to book these large pieces in with me.

Tattoo times are changing. It’s clear that people have become more budget focussed. Perhaps budgets are tighter and the luxury of getting a tattoo, or at least a large tattoo, is being put on hold.

There is less demand for larger pieces and significant growth in smaller, custom pieces and often in black and grayscale tones. I’m not the only tattoo artist in Melbourne to be noticing this change – it is certainly Melbourne and Australia wide.

So, what is a seasoned, tattoo artist with international training to do in this transforming tattoo climate?

Get on board of course!

In between the large-scale tattoos, I discussed above, I have also had the pleasure of completing a lot of smaller pieces. I have worked with many clients who have come to me specifically for a cover-up of a scar, stretch marks or unwanted tattoos and we have produced some amazing results that made a great difference to the client’s self-esteem.

I would love to do a lot more smaller pieces in the future. These tattoos are relatively easy to produce, require less commitment from my clients and are also budget friendly.

As I operate from a private studio, I can offer my clients a great deal of discretion while their tattoo work is being completed. Having worked in busy parlours, I am aware that it can often be uncomfortable for clients who are revealing their body while being tattooed. The private studio setting allows my clients to feel a great deal more relaxed and can enjoy the experience in a highly sanitised and peaceful setting.

If you haven’t followed me on Facebook or Instagram, jump on and take a look at some of my smaller tattoo pieces and the detail of some large pieces that can be modified to suit any smaller design.

I hope to put a lot more of my smaller tattoos up on the web gallery in the coming months so stay tuned.

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Clare Keton attends Inaugural Footscray Night Market

Clare Keton – a renowned Melbourne tattoo artist – runs a successful tattoo studio in Melbourne’s west. Clare offers high quality custom-designed tattoos for clients travelling far and wide.

While juggling her busy studio with other art commitments as well as raising her young daughter, Clare found setting up her own studio to be a significant career milestone.

“It was a natural career progression when I decided to go out on my own”, Clare explains. “I’ve travelled the world to build my tattooing knowledge. I’ve worked in some amazing locations, but setting up base in Footscray has been very rewarding”.

“The area itself is so diverse and there is a real buzz about Melbourne’s west. The close proximity we have to the CBD is also a great advantage for clients on the other side of town or those interstate.

“I have trained with some of the world’s best artists, but there is something personally rewarding about setting up your own studio and building your own brand”.

“Starting my business in Footscray has allowed me to establish a better work/life balance. I am able to pursue my passion while spending time with my young family.

“I also have full control over the tattooing experience for my clients. I’ve designed a studio space that is calm and serene and very private.”

“The western suburbs community has made me feel very welcome and have been great supporters of my business.”

Clare will be attendeding the Footscray night market which will be held every Thursday night in November. Clare will be present during each of the markets to showcase her tattoo work and talk to the public about tattoo designs and inspirations.

While she won’t be tattooing during the market, locals can make appointments at her studio.

“I am excited about being part of the market. So many exciting initiatives are being driven from the western suburbs at the moment and the rest of Melbourne needs to know about them”, Clare explained.

“The night market is perfect timing for me. I’ve had a really busy year and now I am planning for 2017. I tattoo by appointment only. So it’s really important that customers book in advance.

“I am looking forward to meeting some locals at the market and would love to welcome them back to my studio”, Clare explained.

Clare Keton is a female tattoo artists based in Melbourne’s western suburbs. To make an appointment with Clare, please find her contact details below.

Clare Keton Tattoos
FB: @ClareKetonTattoos


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Interview with The Animalist

It’s always so rewarding when I get to tattoo a client, make a new friend and learn something from them at the same time.

Vincent Berraud is author of The Animalist and founder of Friendly and Pragmatic Vegans and Vegetarians. I was fascinated by his approach to educating us humans about the rights of animals and how we can show them greater care in our every day life.

I choose to use vegan inks and also take steps in my personal life to follow an animal-friendly lifestyle. I wanted to take the opportunity to ask Vincent more about his work and thought I would share his thoughts with you.

Have you always been a vegan?
No, definitely not. I’m not even sure that I’m vegan right now – it’d depend on who you ask. I am an animalist: just like humanist but inclusive of animals. I care about animals because there is no rational and fair reason to systematically ignore their interests. So I eat a plant based diet and I avoid animal products such as leather or wool, and so on, as much as is practicable for my family and I.

I went vegetarian in 1992 when a friend of mine went vegetarian. I thought it was very silly of him and I was confident, in a typically arrogant fashion, that I could prove him wrong and make him realise how pointless vegetarianism was. To my surprise, his replies weren’t silly at all and actually made some sense. It was before the age of the Internet, and for weeks we had a back and forth conversation about not eating animals and about the way animals are treated. Needless to say: I failed dramatically at proving him wrong. The whole experience made me think things through and slowly but surely I became a vegetarian, and questioned the way we systematically ignore the animals interests and treat them like commodities.

Animals are used in a way that would clearly be unacceptable if the victims were dogs or other family animals we have learned to understand. About a year later I went “vegan”, then went back to vegetarian as I moved to various poorer countries, then back to vegan again. I do not care about the line between vegan and vegetarian, to be honest. I am opposed to the egg and dairy industries, for sure, they are inherently cruel and promote a vision of animals as commodities, but I am also opposed to exclusive, black and white thinking.

What can humans do better in support of our animal friends?
We can stop eating them for a start. We can also learn to be friendly and pragmatic. This in turn will help us convince others to look at animals in a fair and reasonable manner. Animals should not be seen as products and as unimportant beings that we can use and abuse because we grew up doing it and our parents did too. Just like with racism and sexism, we have to break the cycle of exploitation.

We must accept less than 100% and we must embrace grey – and not see things as black and white. It’s OK for people to disagree and it’s OK not to be vegan. We all learned to walk with baby steps. The foot in the door technique is an efficient strategy that has been proven to work more often than not. Most people aren’t anywhere near ready to go vegan but if we can help them take a few steps, we should – preferably by helping them stop eating chickens because eating chickens means having more animal individuals killed, and often “raised” in the harshest of ways. And honestly, the pretend chicken meat we find in supermarkets is alright!

I find that Animals Australia does tremendous work to reach a mainstream audience and help change our culture towards more compassion. I kindly encourage everyone to set up a regular donation to Animals Australia.

Why is using vegan tattoo inks important to you?
Because it exists! It’s not a hassle to google for a tattoo artist who uses vegan ink, and it’s a quality tool to boot. I am not one to look for the next 0.1% I can do to further reduce my personal consumption of animal products but clearly, when there is such a good and easily accessible alternative, I think we need to go for it!

In your experience are there many vegan tattooists in Melbourne?
I don’t know. I could easily find a few with a quick google search but they weren’t necessarily super central. I’m just super happy I heard of Clare Keton because she’s immensely talented, has a lot of experience and she’s a lovely and caring person.

Obviously you maintain a holistic vegan lifestyle, what tips would you give a person wanting to consider becoming vegan?
Don’t delay any more! Do what seems possible now and don’t worry too much about what seems too difficult. There is no point in delaying just because you feel you can’t do it 100%. For example, if you want to try being vegan at home but have more flexibility when going out, do it! Be flexible and do what works best for you. Enjoy yourself and the positive changes you are making for yourself, the animals and the environment.

If you are looking for dietary advice, mainstream organisations such as Animals Australia or the Vegan Society have got great resources. When it comes to nutritional advice, it is worth consulting a registered, adequately qualified professional. There are many vegan registered dieticians. If you are just looking for some information, here are a few sites I recommend:

VEGAN HEALTH, By Jack Norris from Vegan Outreach:
The Vegan R.D., By Ginny Kisch Messina:
The Human Herbivore by Amanda Benham:
Vegetarian Nutrition:
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:
Dr Malcolm Mackay:
Michael Klaper, M.D.:

How did you find Clare’s tattooing work?
I now have five tattoos. Two of them were done by Clare and they are the best in terms of how well they were done. I am stoked. Couldn’t be happier.


Vincent Berraud, animal advocate, dad, teacher, gamer, footy fan and science enthusiast, author of The Animalist and founder of Friendly and Pragmatic Vegans and Vegetarians.

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Painted Ladies: An Interview with Clare Keton

I was honored to be featured in Clare November Miles’ book: Painted Ladies: History of Female Tattoo Artists in Australia.

Clare spent three years writing her book  – the first of its kind – which showcases the accomplishments of outstanding Australian female tattoo artists past and present.

Clare uncovered the various reasons for successes as well as the overwhelming obstacles that preclude most women from achieving greatness.

Clare asked me a variety of questions about my tattooing style, inspirations and what it is like being a female in this industry.

She asked: ‘What inspires you in life and art?’

My reply: My daughter and Mother Earth are my biggest inspirations. My life passion aside from tattooing is trying to help this earth and the animals that inhibit it, live on and be healthy in as many ways as I possibly can.

Zoom in on the images below to view my interview in full.

The book can be purchased on Amazon in either hard cover or paper back and has been requested by The National Library of Australia and is now available in art galleries and bookshops nationwide.

To purchase via Amazon please click on this link:



Painted Lady: An Interview with Clare Keton
Painted Lady: An Interview with Clare Keton
Painted Lady Page 117
Painted Lady Page 117
Painted Lady Page 118_119
Painted Lady Page 118_119
Painted Lady_Pg120
Painted Lady Page 120
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New work – Tibetan back tattoo


I recently completed this back tattoo, a Tibetan inspired piece with peony and lotus flowers, waves, clouds and the Himalaya Mountains!  Healed photos to come!


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Work in progress – dragon Koi tattoo


Another session completed on this dragon Koi tattoo that wraps over the client’s shoulder and down the back, progressing well!


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Hannya mask back tattoo

Hannya mask back tattoo

A full half back Hannya mask tattoo with maple leaves I recently completed, thanks Sid!

Detail of Hannya mask back tattoo





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Back in the studio!


I’ve had an awesome break and happy to be back in the studio!  I’ve only got a few days available for the remainder of 2016 and taking bookings for 2017.  Please contact me with your tattoo ideas!


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New work – full sleeve tattoo


New work!  A full sleeve completed. An eagle, Zeus, Pantheon with roses and maple leaves!

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WIP – Warrior sleeve tattoo

Another large sleeve tattoo that I’m currently working on, looking forward to the next session!

Work in progress - warrior sleeve tattoo