Ukulele fiddling tattooist-by-day Vanessa “Purple” Ferdinand sat down with Wonderland to discuss her momentous young career, and sketched us our very own ink badge from an east London parlor – in an exclusive new video.
Who did you grow up listening to and who are your current favourite singers?
Thanks to my mum and grandparents, I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, John Holt, Johnny Cash, Barry White, Tom Jones, Freddy McGregor, Debbie Glasgow, SWV, Xscape, Jade, Mariah Carey, Jodeci, Mary J Blige, John McLean, Cheryl Lynn, Anita Baker, Jim Reeves, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, UB40, as well as a lot of old skool garage, jungle and from time to time Soca classics and lots of pop. Current artists I listen to are New Look, Daley, Szjerdene, Lianne La Havas, Gotye, Little Dragon, J*Davey, Selah Sue, Laura Marling and Karima Francis.
How long have you been a tattooist? What do you love about the job?
On and off since November 2010. As I’m not yet professional, I really appreciate the fact such a large number of people have trusted for me to be a part of a moment that is for life. I love the fact the people I have tattooed really got them for special reasons, it makes me feel a part of that importance.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in east London: Stratford, Newham.
Of your many tattoos, what’s your favourite and why?
I don’t really have an actual favourite, but I’d say a very special one is my hand piece. It was designed by an amazing Dutch artist Angelique Houtkamp. I came across her work and fell in love with her line drawings which led me to immediately find out who she was and order a book of hers. The piece I chose to get done on my hand is called “Emilia”. It’s special to me because I love Angeliques story and her humour. She didn’t get her real break in the tattoo industry until she was 30 which gave me this realisation that things don’t always happen as you might expect, however the outcome can be beyond what you were seeking in the first place. Emilia is a reminder of that for me.
When did you first discover the ukelele?
I spend an awful lot of time on YouTube watching new music and acoustic covers, I came across a few songs where the singers had ukuleles. This would have been 2009 and that Christmas my mum got me the loveliest blue ukulele that I still use now.
What’s next? Any tour dates or releases planned?
This is all very new to me, I’ve only played about seven gigs so far and have been in a studio for the first time just this March. So I’m really focused on making more music, experimenting with my sound, playing more gigs and just finding my feet!
Words: Jack Mills