Sister Meets...Harriet Heath


Sister meets Harriet Heath, the Manchester based tattoo artist. Following the accusations of sexual assault against lead singer of band Brand New Jesse Lacey, Harriet decided to use her skills to help people forget and heal by covering up their Brand New tattoos for a donation to Rape Crisis. We catch up with her after the event she held on December 2nd.

 

First of all, what gave you the amazing idea to do this? 

A couple of days after the news broke I received an email from somebody asking if I could cover the lyrics “I am heaven sent” on a tattoo she had on her arm. She mentioned how the meaning had completely changed for her and how desperately she wanted rid of it. It got me thinking how many other people out there were feeling sick to their stomachs about this and the tattoos they have, so I posted on my Instagram story saying I’d like to help and would try to figure something out. I had an overwhelming response from people reaching out and decided the best thing to do would be to try and raise money for victims of sexual assault. 

What does it mean to you?
I feel like a lot of women I know have been manipulated by older men when we were young. They seem like the 'cool older guy' but the reality is that young teenage girls aren’t emotionally ready and are often vulnerable and can be easily preyed on. As someone who was bullied a lot at school, any male attention I got I felt so grateful for because I felt like nobody would ever like me, and it meant I put up with a lot of things I shouldn’t have. It’s only in hindsight that I can see how these people took advantage of my fragile state and I wish I had the strength to stand up for myself at the time. I took solace in the music I loved, my musical heroes got me through these hard times with their words and to think later in life, finding out that they have been doing everything awful that was done to you, it’s heartbreaking. So many people feel so personally betrayed by this news, and I empathise with this a lot. 
"I took solace in the music I loved, my musical heroes got me through these hard times with their words and to think later in life, finding out that they have been doing everything awful that was done to you, it’s heartbreaking."
Have you tattooed many Brand New lyrics in your career?
Not that many to be honest, but one that I did do , I am covering up next week. I know a lot of people with them though. 
Do you have a Brand New tattoo and were you personally a fan of the band?
I don’t have any myself thankfully! But I do have a lot of lyrics by other bands on me and on very visible places like my hands arms and middle of my chest. Hopefully I’ll never have to try and cover them as they’d be very hard to do. I was a fan of Brand New, I saw them play on my 16th birthday and even though they were never my favourite band I definitely loved them and listened to them a lot for pretty much half of my life. 

I'd love to know about the day! What was the atmosphere like?

It was kind of quiet to be honest. I booked people in two hour slots to allow plenty of time with each person and not make them feel rushed. With it being prebooked appointments and not walk ins, it meant there wasn’t a big rush of people or anything, just nice and relaxed. I had a lot of interesting conversations with everyone about their experiences and what the band meant to them. It was quite emotional at times, but very positive. I tried to keep the conversations lighter because I didn’t want to dwell too much on the past or make the day feel too negative for people. 

Can you share any stories from people that really stuck with you?

I had one client who was overall pretty quiet but at the end made it clear how much it meant to her and that she was trying not to cry. I said she’s welcome to and to let it out. Reactions like that are why I wanted to do this. Nobody should have to feel bad about any part of their body and being able to transform something bad into something good is a great gift to give people. It’s also the one I’ve had the biggest reaction to on social media and I feel like the power in the change shows through, especially as we replaced the old tattoo with the words “I belong to me”.

"Nobody should have to feel bad about any part of their body and being able to transform something bad into something good is a great gift to give people."
Was there a Brand New lyric that really stood out for you on the day?
To be honest the main one was “I am heaven sent” from the original email that started the idea. But on the day, probably “Through still and storm” that the client had gotten only eight days before the news broke, and was meant to be something to give her strength to get through her own troubles in life. 
Brand New lyrics are lyrics that have often kept me going when I've been in a very dark place - I know many other people can relate to that. How did it feel speaking to so many people who felt so betrayed?

It was really tough. Especially as I gave priority to customers who have had their own experiences with sexual assault, all of whom said that Brand New’s music has helped them through it. I really feel a lot of empathy for how hard this has been for everyone.  

Would you now warn people off getting band tattoos?

It’s a tricky one really! As I said, I have a lot on myself and plan to have more but it definitely makes me think a little harder. Even though it seems like so many people we put on pedestals are letting us down at the moment, it doesn’t make everyone bad. We have to have hope. If we limit what we do and how we express ourselves because we’re all afraid that everybody will disappoint us, that’s just a sad world to live in. I think we need to look up to more women but also have these conversations and create a world where men who have power know that it’s wrong to take advantage of anyone. Some people I tattooed said they’d never get band tattoos again whereas others said they would get more but be more cautious about who. 

How many cover ups did you end up doing in total and do you know (or have a rough idea) how much money was raised for Rape Crisis?

I’ve done six cover ups and raised £300. I hope that some more tattooists may be inspired to do the same, or that people may donate to rape crisis themselves anyway. 

How did you feel at the end of the day? 

I felt very drained both physically and emotionally. I was at the shop for 10 hours and had some heavy conversations and emotions throughout but overall I was really happy to have helped everyone. I was proud of the cover ups I did and how well they worked out. 

I know you are giving a reduced rate for Brand New cover ups throughout December could you please let our readers know where you'll be tattooing and how they can get in contact with you?
I don’t have loads of spaces left but I have a few! You can see my work on my Instagram and contact me for bookings in Manchester and London on harrietheathtattoo@gmail.com
If you would like to give your own donation to Rape Crisis, you can do so here.

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