Emerald gemstone tattoo by Jenna Kerr

Royal Gothic – The Baroque-Inspired Tattoos of Jenna Kerr

With roots in fine art and corsetry, Jenna Kerr has always been drawn to lavish, rococo styles. Since embarking on a tattoo career, her love of ornamental design has translated into her signature style, with sparkling gemstones, filigrees and art nouveau inspired patterns becoming constant themes in her work.

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Royal Gothic – The Baroque-Inspired Tattoos of Jenna Kerr

This week, we caught up with Jenna to talk about her tattoo journey, inspirations – and learn about her passion for aviation outside of the studio.

How did you discover tattooing? When did you realise you wanted to become a tattoo artist?

I had always wanted to pursue a career in art in some form as I’ve always felt the need and desire to create, which is why after high school I chose to stay on for a further four years to study art. I just wasn’t sure where it would lead me in terms of a career, but I continued in the hope that eventually I would find a life in art.

I even delved into making alternative clothing after I left my university course. I set up a business mainly making custom steel boned corsets. I taught myself how to make the garment patterns on mannequins and to construct corsets based on one I had brought years previously.

It was only later down the line that someone I knew suggested that I should try tattooing and pointed me in the right direction with it all.

I must admit I was a little uncertain at first, the world of tattooing was so alien to me, but I set about finding ways of how I could get into the industry, speaking to people who knew tattoo artists and trying to find someone who would give me a chance.

Jenna Kerr – Tattoo Artist & Studio Owner, ‘Royal Gothic’ UK

How did you learn the ropes – did you undertake a traditional apprenticeship? What was the learning experience like for you?

Tattooing was not an art form that I had seriously considered until I was in my mid-twenties. When I first got into tattooing nearly eleven years ago, the industry was very closed off to newcomers. There were not many opportunities in my local area offering apprenticeships which made it very difficult for me in the beginning. Eventually I did find a studio to work at but even then I wasn’t mentored in a traditional fashion, I was thrown in at the deep end with this craft so it took me much longer to get to where I wanted to be.

There were many times during this period where I questioned my ability and questioned myself, wondering if I would ever progress. It was a true challenge battling between where I wanted to be with design and technical ability as I only had limited knowledge. This was where I tried to learn from other sources and to reach out to other artists over the internet.

If there is any advice I would give to apprentices out there it would be to seek a good mentor because they will teach you all the important fundamentals of tattooing and you’ll progress quicker and further.

That’s not to say that once you have learnt the fundamentals that you know every aspect of tattooing – nearly eleven years in I am still learning so much. It’s definitely an art form where you never stop learning.

Gemstone and filigree tattoo by Jenna Kerr
Gemstone and filigree tattoo by Jenna Kerr

You have a signature ornamental style with baroque filigree and jewels. How did you find your personal style? 

My style is a combination of my favourite art movements and ornamental styles that I’ve always been extremely passionate about and inspired by.

I have always been drawn to the heavy baroque ornamental styling of the palace of Versailles, from the interior styling, jewellery and the fashion of the period. I’m also influenced a lot by the art nouveau movement, my favourite artist being Alphonse Mucha.

I’ll never grow tired of these styles, they always intrigue and captivate me and allow my mind to become inspired. With every design and tattoo I create I feel that my work naturally evolves, I don’t push it along in that way, I just enjoy doing what I do and allow it to develop by its self.

What are the main inspirations behind your artwork?

A lot of my inspiration comes from period jewellery and vintage objects, especially of the baroque and rococo era. There is definitely a hint of influence from gothic architecture too; I find myself drawn to the shapes and arches of gothic buildings and religious buildings.

I enjoy using crystals and jewels in my pieces and coupling designs with other subject matters, especially ladies faces, birds and insects. I’ve always been a fan of neo-traditional tattooing, the bold line work and solid colour reminds me of a lot of the prints from the art nouveau period.

Ornamental skull tattoo by Jenna Kerr, Royal Gothic UK
Blue gemstone tattoo by Jenna Kerr

Which tattooers do you look up to?

There are several different artists that I follow on social media and I enjoy following their journey in tattooing, there is no-one specific as I follow each of them for a variety of reasons. Some are traditional artists, some are realism artists, some black and grey artists.

In my pieces I use a bit of every technique, a bit of realism for the jewels, bold lines and colour similar to neo-traditional styles, black and grey for some of the parts which are shaded.

Each piece I do is made up of three layers, line work, shading then colour. Every artist I follow is relevant and they inspire me in individual ways.

You’ve done a number of collaborative tattoo projects in the past. Can you tell us a little more about these experiences?

I really enjoy collaborating with other artists. Usually when I’m working on a piece by myself I have a clear vision of what that piece will look like when it is complete.

With a collaboration that doesn’t happen; it’s a step by step process that evolves along the way through the collective ideas of two minds, so during the design process and the tattooing process ideas change, hence the outcome of the final result changes.

With collaborative projects I feel that it is important to be open minded and to trust the artist who you are working with in order for there to be an exceptional outcome.

Pink gemstone tattoo by Jenna Kerr
Ornamental tattoo by Jenna Kerr

When did you make the move to your own studio? Can you describe your studio space? 

I’m currently awaiting to relocate to South Wales where I have a new studio lined up. The studio is going to be a private studio, called Royal Gothic.

The name came from one of my inks from the collaborative ink sets I created with World Famous Ink and I felt that it was a very fitting name for the look of my new studio.

Originally I was set to move in May – unfortunately due to the pandemic it’s now been put on hold until such a time where it is safe to open.

My vision for the interior of my new studio is to bring rococo and gothic styling together. I like to surround myself with everything that I’m inspired by and to construct it into a little creative hub. It’ll be open to friends in the industry, tattoo artists and painters alike, who will be able to guest whilst traveling or just to visit. The main aim is to build a hive of creativity and a place to share my passion with other creatives.

Emerald gemstone tattoo by Jenna Kerr
Sternum tattoo by Jenna Kerr

Outside of tattooing, what hobbies keep you busy?

I’ve spent many years learning to fly aircraft, I’m very close to achieving my private pilots licence, however it has been very difficult over the recent years to remain consistent with this hobby whilst travelling and also splitting my time between Stoke on Trent and South Wales.

Flying is a way of me being able to clear my mind, destress and refocus and I plan to commit to some more aviation in the near future once life is balanced again.

Other than that, I find that I have little time for anything else! With what time is left I feel it is important to use it for family and friends. If there is anything I’ve learnt over the past several years, it is that family and loved ones deserve your time – time is limited so using it wisely is key.

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