Nature by Needle | Sophia Baughan

The same way art collectors decorate their walls with pieces by their favorite artists, some opt to collect art on their bodies, seeking out pieces that are truly unique by artists who are taking tattooing to new heights - from Dr. Woo’s wispy, muted lines, to Jun Cha’s laborious black and grey masterpieces, to Shige Iwasaki’s highly sought-after traditional Japanese work.

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Oh and of course, there’s Sophia Baughan. If you had to put a label on it, the 27-year-old tattoo artist’s style is neo-traditional, but with a feminine, gentle, enchanting touch that has become distinctly hers.

Turning to nature as her muse, and using hushed tones reminiscent of whimsical childhood fairytale books - titles like Graeme Base’s Animalia and The Eleventh Hour, or May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie come to mind - Baughan has established a niche painterly style that brings clients from around the world to her chair at Tattoo Rosie’s in Sydney, Australia.

As the saying goes, humble beginnings make humble people. Another trait that makes Baughan stand out is her genuine gratitude and respect for her clients.

“People not only put their trust in you with the art going on their body forever, but they also open up to you about very personal things. Maybe it has something to do with the tattoo, maybe it’s because you spend so many hours with them, or the fact that they're in quite a vulnerable position. I like to treat every client like a friend coming into my house, ease the nerves, and make them comfortable. They're only going to love their tattoo more if they have a good experience.”

Even on her Instagram, Baughan regularly posts her latest pieces with heartfelt notes thanking each client for their trust, patience, and for the opportunity to place her art on their skin.

“The satisfaction of having a happy customer is great, but the best thing is when they're so proud and excited to show off their new tattoo. Sometimes it heals some wounds and closes some chapters for them, and sometimes they just get a piece of art on them that they’ve wanted for a while.”

Looking at the quality and caliber of pieces by artists such as Baughan, it’s hard to believe that some people continue to argue that tattoos are not a legitimate form of art. “What else is it?” she asks. “A picture on a different canvas to paper - skin - that's the only difference.”

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As well as creating art to decorate living canvases, Baughan is an avid collector of artwork by fellow tattoo artists. She and her husband recently collected a stash of prints and original pieces by the likes of Peter Lagergren, Claudia De Sabe, and Yutaro, to name a few.

“I like to collect artwork from people I look up to and admire.I like to think that it shows them that I love what they're doing and support their artistic career,” says Baughan. “We are a community, one that inspires and supports each other, and without other tattooers we wouldn't learn and be able to grow ourselves. An artistic career isn't always easy, so if you can pay some money for something you love anyway, then you both win.”

Photographer: Alice Wint

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