Q&A With Tattoo Artist Lady Luck

INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES courtesy of @ladylucktattooer


Cape Town-based tattoo artist and illustrator Tanya Swemmer, aka Lady Luck, chats to VISI about her influences, inspirations and how she began tattooing. 

Tell us about your artistic journey.

I’ve always been an artist in some form. I’ve been drawing and making things since I was a baby and just never stopped. Besides drawing and painting, I also enjoy three-dimensional work and studied Industrial Design before my tattoo apprenticeship.

What inspires your illustrations?

Whatever I’m consuming visually usually spills over into my designs. I tend to get obsessed with certain subject matter and will research it to exhaustion and that will lead me onto something else.

When did you realise you wanted to be a tattoo artist?

The first time I walked into a tattoo shop. I was 16 and had always said I’d be an artist of some sort until I realised tattooing was an option. I was obsessed with the idea from that day.

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A little Goa beach hut for Sanchia 🌴

A post shared by Tanya Swemmer (@ladylucktattooer) on

How did you decide on the name “Lady Luck”?

“Lady Luck” is actually a tattoo that I wanted for a long time but never got. I apprenticed under somebody called Mr Lucky, so at the time it was a nod to that.

What do you enjoy about tattooing?

I love the singular focus of tattooing, dedicating my time to getting better at one thing and the endless growth within the craft. But also clients and peers – humans are really interesting and I truly enjoy spending time with and listening to so many different people.

Do you have a tattoo that you’ve most enjoyed designing/doing?

I completed a black and grey leg sleeve on one of my oldest and favourite clients in March/April 2019. We did bi-weekly sessions for seven weeks. The frequency of the sessions gave a sense of instant gratification that you don’t usually get with larger work. The whole process was so free and gratifying.

Where do you look for inspiration and how do you conduct your research?

For the last while I’ve been looking at a lot of imagery from Japan, India and Tibet – woodblock prints, watercolours, yoga and medicine journals. I love old library reference books. I also listen to ancient history podcasts and will dig into imagery that I hear about. I love nature and gravitate towards images of plants and animals.

You mainly focus on grayscale designs. Why is that?

My brain can be quite scattered, so it helps to have my focus narrow slightly. I used to put as much detail as I could into each design, but I’ve been trying to strip away what I consider unnecessary in my work, to express the image as plainly and as beautifully as I possibly can.

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Thank you @tehillahjakkals 🐝

A post shared by Tanya Swemmer (@ladylucktattooer) on

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future have always been to just put in work, learn as much as possible and enjoy the slow process of learning – there isn’t really an end point. My plan was to travel and tattoo abroad but it seems home is the place for a while at least. Besides tattooing, I’ll be working on some three-dimensional work and entering more of the fine art space… but that’s all an idea for now.

You can find Lady Luck at @tomb_tattoo in Cape Town and follow her on Instagram, here.