Fast Friends: Claire Griffin and Anali De Laney
When you ask realism tattoo artists Claire Griffin and Anali De Laney how they first met and became friends, they both seem shocked that it worked out so well.
De Laney was traveling through Ireland on a non-work-related trip, and on the recommendation of Donal Cranny, the owner of Inkology in New York, she decided to stop by Griffin’s shop in Athlone after being exhausted from a long day of driving. The goal was to simply ask about potentially guesting at Inksane in the future. “I have found that no matter where I am in the world, if I walk inside a tattoo shop I will see a friendly face,” says De Laney.
For both artists, the connection was instant, and Griffin invited De Laney and her traveling partner to dinner that night. “We got chatting and we asked if they wanted to go for dinner and drinks once we’d finished up tattooing for the day,” says Griffin. “I also immediately offered them a place to stay in our house—which I realized later was really weird.”
But despite the admittedly stalker-like invite, both De Laney and Griffin immediately hit it off. They chatted over Jagerbombs and cigarettes, and quickly realized they had a lot in common.
“I don’t feel connected to many people, but I was instantly like, this girl is my Irish counterpart,” says De Laney. “We are both the same age range, both shop owners, both traveling tattooers, both realism artists. And we’re both intensely passionate about our careers and our community.”
Learning Their Trades a World Apart
Griffin grew up in Ireland and entered into tattooing while she was waiting on admission responses from art colleges. “I just messaged a local tattooer on Facebook and he told me to bring my portfolio into the studio,” she says. “I did and I started in the shop pretty much straight away while also holding down a multitude of other jobs so I could just about pay my way.”
After four years of putting in the work and getting her foot in the door, Griffin moved on to Galway Bay Tattoo owned by Stephen Kennedy and Nancy Klein. She credits her time there as pivotal to her career. “It was such a nourishing artistic environment and an experience that I still remember with fondness,” she says. “To this day, I try to instill a lot of what I learned from Steve and Nancy in my own shop.
Overseas in the Bronx, De Laney did her own apprenticeship at a tattoo and piercing shop while finishing up high school and working in a restaurant. “Honestly, the most valuable thing I learned in that studio was how to hustle,” says De Laney. “My whole life I was very shy and timid. Very introverted. My mentor there made me stand out on the street with thousands of people, handing out flyers.”
After her initial apprenticeship, De Laney worked with and learned from artist Javier Eastman in Connecticut. She credits Eastman with teaching her the technical skills that shaped her career.
Now, both Griffin and De Laney are tattoo shop owners and keep themselves busy by creating eye-popping designs for their clients. Griffin runs Inksane in Athlone with her partner Chris Raczka, and De Laney is a bi-coastal business owner, overseeing Never More Tattooing Atelier in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Black River Tattoo in San Diego. They also both travel frequently to attend tattoo conventions and work as guest artists.
But despite their hectic schedules and the distance between their shops, Griffin and De Laney have remained exceptionally close. “I appreciate that no matter how far we are from each other, 99 percent of the time Claire has always kept in contact and kept our friendship,” says De Laney. “She is also one of the funniest people I know, and nothing is better than a friend who can make you laugh like a little kid!”
Sharing Knowledge and Lifting Each Other Up
The friendship between Griffin and De Laney has allowed them to learn from each other and support each other in an industry that is hyper focused on individual artistic success.
“Tattooing can kind of isolate you from friends that you would have had growing up because its all consuming,” says Griffin. “It’s invaluable to have a friend that knows and has experienced all of that, and who can enjoy talking about tattoos just as much as I do.”
Although both Griffin and De Laney consider themselves realism artists, their styles are different and they don’t believe in jealousy or putting each other down to gain a competitive edge. Instead, they regularly share techniques and talk about their work together in order to help push themselves to get better and improve.
“Although our styles, and color palette bear a resemblance, we will always create something of our own,” says De Laney. “We are not in competition in the way that people may think.”
Griffin agrees that the relationship she’s built with De Laney stands on a foundation of mutual respect and admiration for the other’s craft. “Anali and I talk very freely about tattooing and various tricks and methods,” she says. “There’s no heavily guarded secrets between us. She helps me loads, and I hope I help her too.”
At the end of the day, Griffin and De Laney have each other’s back—even from afar. Griffin recalls one time when a tattoo artist stole De Laney’s work and posted it as his own on Instagram. “He just had a regular Instagram with pics of all his shitty tattoos, and then BAM! He smooth-as-hell just posts one of Anali’s roses,” she says. “This story isn’t half as good without all the memes we made.”
It’s that support system that means something special, and both Griffin and De Laney recognize the value of having another female tattooer, with similar life experiences, in their corners when times get tough.
“There are certain things that women have to deal with that men wouldn’t even be able to fathom,” says Griffin. “One time, I literally had a miscarriage in the middle of a tattoo session. You need to have people to talk to about that kind of stuff and therapy is too damn expensive.”
Recognizing the Success of Female Tattoo Artists
Both Griffin and De Laney don’t believe that any of the negative experiences they had while learning how to tattoo has to do with their gender. In fact, they both think men going through apprenticeships experience their own version of hazing and harassment.
“This industry was originally built to keep out the weak. Every tattoo apprentice deals with bullshit. That’s the gig,” says De Laney. “As a female, my bullshit may have been a different brand then a male apprentice, but it’s bullshit all the same.”
Griffin believes that the playing field for women artists is leveling out and that women have more opportunities than ever before. “I think things are pretty much on par now,” she says. “Women are able to have very successful careers and beautiful families without compromising either.”
De Laney agrees that female tattoo artists are doing incredible things, and she says she’s regularly inspired by other women in the industry who push her to work harder.
“I think female artists right now are totally kicking ass,” she says. “In the last few years, I have seen so many female artists from all over the world absolutely changing the game. I think we are all on the right track.”