Michael Rose has been on the british tattooing and convention scene for some considerable time and I’ve seen his work progress into a unique style that is incomparable to anyone else I can think of in the UK.
Michael is one of those guys that is so passionate about tattooing that he eats, drinks and sleeps tattoos. He will be the first to tell you that his chosen industry hasn’t always given him an easy time but Michael has stuck with it and is finally getting the recognition that he deserves including winning a best of day trophy at the recent Newport convention against some very strong opposition.
Michael isn’t the sort of bloke to sit back and let the work come to him and he constantly craves more and more information about tattooing and anything that will help him improve and hone his already impressive skills. He sucks up tattoo information like a sponge and constantly enrols himself on courses from colour theory and art-based seminars to hunting down new and elusive art books to add to his collection.
Walk into Michael’s tattoo studio and you will be greeted with a huge smile from the lovely front of shop girl; Rhia, followed by a cheeky grin and a warm and enthusiastic welcome from Michael himself.
I have been promising to showcase Michael’s work ever since I first met him at the Derby State of the Art convention in 2004 so it’s about time!
May I introduce you to Michael Rose – Top tattooist, mad Spurs supporter and all round good egg...
When did you first become aware of tattoos and tattooing?
My earliest memory of tattoos was probably some blurry, shitty tattoo that was on my father’s forearm. I think it was a heart with a scroll or something of that nature – it was so blurry, it was hard to make out which was which.
Did he have any others?
No just the one, with the typical ‘Steve’ written in the scroll of it!
So did that inspire you to start; how did you get into it?
My motive for getting into it…it’s a bit of a long story and I’ll try and shorten down for you a little bit. I got into tattooing when I first left school; I got a job as a gold miller and while I was in there cutting away at gold and trying to stop my temptation (laughs) I met a guy called Steve who had some old tattooing equipment from when he was younger, and like so many others back then had used it as a spare source of income. He was one of those guys who, even though he wasn’t ‘management material,’ these multi-millionaire Jewish guys would come in and “You need to do this, you need to do that” and Steve would say, “Hang about, why don’t YOU fucking do it?” He had such a presence about him and I remember Steve coming in and saying to me, “You want to get some tattoos”, and I said, “Do I?” Within the space of a couple of months, I’d bought some old tattooing equipment off him and I found myself wandering in to Jock– King’s Cross’s tattoo studio – and basically found myself getting my first tattoo. I think literally, from day one in Jock’s studio, that’s where I got the buzz for it. It wasn’t the biggest studio, it wasn’t anywhere near today’s standards of how a studio should be in regard to hygiene, but it was the seediness and the characters that were lurking about in the studio. I remember there being a big dog in the studio – I don’t even think it was Jock’s – this big dog slobbering all over the floor. The first words Jock said to me as I was running across the road (because I was dodging drug dealers on the corner) was, “Come in, sit down you fucker before your head explodes” and then something along the lines of, “I don’t know what it is about you fucking people, but you’re always in a rush.” I don’t know, it blew my mind from thereon in, I just loved it, and wanted to be a part of it, really.
And he tattooed you, I take it?
Luckily enough, no he didn’t! (Laughs) Even though Jock was one of the reasons I got into tattooing, which may sound bizarre because anyone who knew him might question how the hell someone like him can inspire you, I actually got tattooed by another guy that worked in there. Jock might not have been the most artistic person in the world, but just the fact that he had a studio, in London, for forty-five years, had so many old school tattooists that I managed to travel around with in the early days (like Ben Gun). I said to Ben, “Do you know that there’s a rumour going round about you saying that you’re blind?” He said, “Yeah I know, I fucking started it!”(Laughs) If he was busy in his house, he used to tell us to piss off over the road to the bus stop; no fancy reception, no “Would you like to take a seat?” A long, white-haired old man used to open the door and give you a whistle, wave you over, and there was a fear-factor that came with it.
You held him in awe?
Yeah, and there may not have been much physical presence, but there were bulldogs on the walls, naked women…all the edgy stuff, which I feel a lot of shops have lost nowadays because people are asking for more extravagant artwork and it needed to change slightly, but for me as an individual, I think that’s what got me into tattooing, the whole edgy feel of it.
When did you first start tattooing?
I got my first license in 1994. I had my first license for four and a half years and I rented, basically, two rooms in my mum’s house. One of the rooms was converted into a workspace that was passed by the local authority, and the other room (which was meant to be a guest bedroom) was turned into a waiting room! That’s basically where it all started; working outrageous hours, friends would come round after a night out and want a tattoo, and even though it would be frowned upon now…it was fun. After about four years, it got to a stage where I’d outgrown the space I was in, I took a gamble and went from Potters Bar into Barnet, which is quite funny because the shop was empty and I went into the property to have a good look around, went upstairs and when I came down, there was someone else being shown the property. Straight away, I could tell by the things he was wearing – he had lots of piercings – that he was either a body piercer or a tattooist, and I thought, ‘I’m going to get this fucking place before he does!’ Oddly enough, it was someone else who has now gone on to open up another shop! I opened up that shop in Barnet and tattooed out of there for eight or nine years. At the start, when I was in my early twenties, was difficult at times. We were opening up a tattoo shop in that era and there weren’t many tattoo shops at all around that time, and it was difficult to get clients and win new customers over, because we had arguably the most famous tattooist around on our doorstep…building up a reputation under that shadow was difficult.
Obviously I took criticism and slowly worked with customers coming in, and I’d like to think that with good work and good attitudes, we started building up our own client base. We went down a different avenue; there’s no point in me claiming to be into rockabilly or heavily into a rock scene, and I saw that there was a market for working-class people who wanted to get a tattoo and that’s the kind of market I wanted to target. We weren’t trying to be something we wasn’t, not trying to offer an attitude that some people find cool, we were trying to basically be friendly and open the doors to people that maybe wouldn’t normally walk into a tattoo shop. The other thing that I took a gamble on was to do it on a high street, when a lot of people did it just off a high street, and we opened up on a high street in Barnet with a Rolls Royce garage next door! Most of the locals were multi-millionaires and they thought that a tattoo studio would lower the tone of the high street, so they all got a petition together and on my opening day the council came and closed me down, saying that there was a twenty eight day appeal period to see whether or not I was allowed to actually open. That devastated me. That was the same with this shop, I had taken a gamble moving out of my house, opened up my first proper tattoo studio…and that studio certainly didn’t have the money put into it that this one has. I never had a pot to piss in – I’d have to go caddying and carry some tosser’s bag for three or four hours just to earn fifteen or twenty quid, but if it meant I could go and buy some new Micky Sharpz ink, then I’d go and carry some arsehole’s bag around a golf course!
I did whatever was necessary to get the tattooing equipment that I needed, and to have the over-wealthy class (or the upper class, as they like to call themselves) gang up on me because of their opinion on tattooing or tattooists was a bit of a shock. Luckily for me, because there were no real grounds for me not to open – maybe we were lucky that the council were pretty open-minded – they allowed me to open up. We opened up in the summer of 1994, finally, and it was quite overwhelming at first. There were a lot of people who had been tattooed at different studios and were looking for someone newer to tattoo them. At first it was very tough because certain individuals had been tattooing, say, their mum and dad, and then their mum and dad wanted them to get tattooed by the same people that had tattooed them, and to try to break that mould was difficult but I like to think that we did. It was quite surreal because next door we had a car being sold for about £160,000, which is either half of what someone’s house is worth in London or someone’s actual house price, and there it is on four wheels polished up in a showroom, and there’s us lot trying to earn a living by drawing on people!
Did you ever serve an apprenticeship, or was it all self-taught?
Everything’s been self-taught. I wish that I’d had an apprenticeship; if I’d had an apprenticeship, someone to take me under their wing, it wouldn’t have taken me so long.
You think that you’d be further on?
Definitely, definitely. I don’t think it would have taken fifteen years to gain recognition, and if I trusted someone enough now and they had me teach them and show them the knowledge that I have, I don’t think it would take them that long to progress beyond what I could show them. The problem that I’ve had is that I got caught up in a weird phase where, when I first came into it there weren’t many studios, there was no help; if you weren’t in the clique or the group or were into certain music or didn’t dress a certain way, then you didn’t get any help. I was a young lad, cocky, and unfortunately there was nothing on the Internet – there was no book, there was no Josh Carlton, Brandon Bond or Mike DeVries, there was nothing. What you had was Tattoo Factory or Micky Sharpz selling you your equipment and where your ability took you was purely down to you. I think for the first six or seven years I was limited – I thought a magnum was a fucking ice cream! (Laughs)
The industry is a lot more open nowadays.
Yes, and I think it’s a good thing. I got into tattooing because I liked the whole seedy thing whereby when you walked into a tattoo studio, you were worried, and tattooists had this weird power! I feel like I’m contradicting myself because we’re trying to run a business different to that.
It’s difficult to find tattooists like that these days.
I think it’s a shame but I think it’s a good thing that tattooing is moving on now because it’s opening the door to new people. You’ve got new talent bursting onto the scene that are doing incredible work, which I think is great because it’s going to drive the industry forward and hopefully open the door to something completely new. Boundaries are just going to burst and I think that’s a great thing. I also think it’s a bit of a shame that there are the old tattoo studios that have just drifted off and don’t get mentioned. That’s why, even just in this article, it’s good to mention a couple of old names, even if it’s just in their memory, because I feel that for me as an individual, they’ve had some influence on my tattooing.
Of course, they were one of the reasons you got into the industry in the first place.
Nowadays with so much information available, I think it’s helped me with my own work.
There are a lot of people nowadays who pick up a tattoo machine for the first time who have come from a fine art background and they’re up and running, and within two or three years are knocking out phenomenal work.
And you can’t help but admire them. Unfortunately there are too many haters out there (laughs), as with everything. I don’t want to sit here and drop names, but I think we all know who we’re looking at and we’re all looking to the same people for inspiration, but I’m more into English artists; I’d love to see some sort of competition, the Ryder Cup of the tattoo world, where a team of English and European artists go up against the USA, and hopefully in a weird way it would bring everyone together to obviously have a bit of fun, but the one thing we definitely lack over here is the unity that the Americans seems to have, and I think that’s something that we would need to work on over here, rather than people being jealous of certain individuals.
I think it’s getting better, with more information flowing between artists, but it’s nowhere near as advanced as the States.
The old school tricks of the trade! There’s information out there whether I want to use it or not. I feel some information died with the artist, like I go back to Jock or Ben Gun, and when I look at their pieces…ok, artistically I might not be inspired by it, but if you look at the even qualities of the colour… When we get a piece in here, it might only be a little heart or a rose, and it looks like it’s been drawn by a child (his roses always had this little cabbage look about them!) but the colours on Ben’s used to be so bold, and I think it’s a shame that some of the old school didn’t pass their secrets on.
I’m sure there are a lot of techniques that weren’t passed down that can be used today.
I hope so, I mean I’d like to suck up as much information as possible and use what I want to use, and hopefully at the same time pass it on to my fellow artists. Between all of us, we could come up with our own stuff and in fifteen or twenty years hopefully we can then pass that information on to someone else, who can then hopefully take the next revolutionary step in tattooing. It’s been around for thousands of years, why should it suddenly stop now because of a few bad eggs?
You reckon you’d have improved more with an apprenticeship and you’re looking for someone else in the shop but can’t find anyone. Why do you feel that is the case?
I think a lot of youngsters think it’s a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and the way it may be perceived in certain TV shows is…I know the TV shows are edited and they don’t show the reality of it. We all know these guys are booked up for months, and I’m not saying the TV shows should show money changing hands, but the one thing that we’ve noticed with our shop, what it needs to show is that…you’ve got a great artist like Chris Garver hanging around the back of the shop doing fuck all, then a client comes in and goes, “Oh yeah, I want this designing”. “Sure thing, I’ll just draw this up for you”, and five minutes later he’s tattooing it on them. That isn’t the reality. I’ll be tattooing you, for argument’s sake, and someone will come in and say, “I’ve brought this design in and I want to get tattooed by Michael”, and Rhia will say, “No problem, leave me the artwork and give us your phone number.” “Well, can’t he draw me up something now?” You try not to be rude and then the best question is always, “Have you seen that TV programme, Miami Ink, or London Ink? Have you seen that guy with the teacup?” You want to laugh or come out with a sarcastic comment, but you somehow just have to roll with it and let it wash over you!
It has opened up people’s eyes to what you can have tattooed, though.
Regardless of my personal opinions, I think what they have done is fantastic. It’s opened the door and come onto someone’s TV set who has never even thought about walking into a tattoo shop. Don’t get me wrong, they are the ones who are a complete fucking headache…they come in, they want a tattoo, they’ve seen it on the TV, but they haven’t got a fucking clue what they want. Everyone in the industry has to say that at some point they have had a pound off the strength of these TV shows. I think London Ink could have been better – it certainly didn’t have the unity that Miami Ink has got. You can see that they’re all friends, and that’s what made it a more watch-able show. Even LA Ink, you can feel the love in that show.
It’s just different in Britain…
It goes back to the unity that they’ve got. When Kat opened up her shop, she phoned up different artists, you’ve got Brandon (Bond) in the background, you’ve got rock stars and TV stars on the show, and people raising money for Pixie when she wasn’t well...that kind of shit doesn’t seem to happen over here. I am, in my opinion, all patriotic and English, and I really would love to have that sort of unity going on over here. At shows over here, you’ve got artists that will talk to each other, but then you can be sat there in the booth and feel looks coming across from other people, and it’s like, we’re in the same boat – it’s not like I’ve got a shop next door to you or done anything wrong to you. If you want some information rather than just sitting there and making up an opinion about me, then come over and talk. Obviously if I turn round and say, “Screw you, you tit”, then fair enough, but just to sit there without making an effort is beyond me.
When did you work your first convention?
The first show we did was Pontypridd in 2000. That was an experience!
What was really funny was that it wasn’t the most lush of venues. The team that I worked with in Barnet were all into partying, loved tattooing, and we were really young, and the young lad who used to work on reception was the one who talked me into it. I used to look through the magazines and look at Darren Stares’ work, Dave Fleet’s backpieces, John Treharne’s Celtic work, Tom Ptolemy…all these guys, they rocked! I used to sit there and think that my work was never going to get into these magazines, and I used to go to Dunstable to just sit there and be a part of the show. I used to think, ‘Why would I want to work at a tattoo show, I’ll be a right pile of wank’ and basically with their encouragement, I went to work the show. The next challenge was being given a piece that was completely beyond me because I wasn’t doing that kind of stuff at the shop at that time. I was still influenced by the old school and even today with the artwork that I’m pushing myself to do, I don’t feel above doing a tribal armband or a bulldog – I find them quite enjoyable every now and then. I can’t approach stuff in the same way I did even a year and a half ago now though; putting my own ideas and style to it is something that luckily my customers trust and I can save them from having the same thing that thousands of people have got.
What changed in you to make you see stuff in a different way? Do you know?
I basically got my hands on some books and I started reading more. I sat down after the daily running of my shop and on my weekends where most people would go out and try to have a life, I basically decided not to have one! I started reading more colour theory from Guy and Josh Carlton, just taking bits from each book. I try to keep everything in life simple rather than overcomplicate it, and when I was reading certain techniques in different books and they were talking about different hues and saturation, something strange happened when I came to do a portrait, and rather than panicking and thinking ‘What about all the strands of hair?’ I literally started seeing things in shapes and different sections of colour. I feel like there’s so much more to learn and I just want to suck it up…like The Matrix!
There’s a definite change in your work that I’ve seen in the past three or four years.
Thank you. That’s what I’m hoping for and in the last thirteen or fourteen months, I made a massive decision. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’d been hearing that Filip Leu or someone similar had changed his techniques and it took him five or six months to get used to it, and I don’t know how true that is. I felt that my work wasn’t progressing and that something needed to change, and I saw the article you did on Bez and it looked like American artists had inspired him, and it was a direction that I wanted to move into. I phoned him up – he didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know him – but he was kind enough to take twenty minutes out of what he was doing that day. I asked him about the wrist ache he had mentioned in the article and asked him about the Neuma set-up. The feedback he gave me was good and when I put the phone down, I thought, ‘Let’s give it a go.’ Max sent all the stuff down and I phoned him up, effing and blinding and wanting to send it back because I didn’t have a fucking clue what to do with it, and he was great with me, didn’t raise his voice once. He basically gave me the confidence to know that this was something I had to try out.
Do you find that you pick up much from other artists when you work at shows?
I had a period up until about 2003 where I used to go to every show I could. For me, being able to see Staresy doing one of his portraits and be around these guys…the techniques I couldn’t get from them. The only way I could get information was to book in with Darren when he was out in Germany, and after wrestling with his snakes and spiders that he used to keep getting tattooed by him. The information wasn’t given, it was purely observational, trying to watch and feel what they were doing. If you turned round and asked what sort of needles they used, they never would have said, “Oh, this is this brand.” I would say the information now is certainly more available and for the first time in the fifteen years of my career, I can truly say that people are now more open. Even when we used to work Derby, you’ve got your normal faces who would turn up and say hello, but the people who have already made it in the industry, rather than walking past me and ignoring me like a piece of shit on their shoe, they are now stopping and talking, and adding us as friends on the Internet. I’m really enjoying it and it’s rocking my cock! (Laughs)
What is it about tattooing that you enjoy so much?
A, how fucking cool is it? You draw on someone for a living and you’re earning money out of it! The biggest buzz I get out of it is finally getting recognised by the UK’s biggest tattoo magazine on merit – not just because I’ve given you a backhander or anything – on the merit of my work and have you travel down here and want to talk to me about me! That’s got to be one of the most rewarding things ever. Right up there alongside that is if I’ve tattooed someone thirteen or fourteen years ago, they are recommending their kids to come to me! They come in and say, “You tattooed my dad when you were over in Barnet! We used to come down to the shop as kids and then sit in the bus stop because you wouldn’t let us in”…a similar inspiration that I got off Gunny or Jock! To have those kids now all grown up and want to get tattooed by me because I tattooed their parents is great. When I had the studio in Potters Bar at my mum’s house, because we were on an estate, their kids would be outside the house on their skateboards and BMXs and then when their parents came out with their tattoo, they’d all be like, “Wow!” Body Art stickers were a big thing back then and Tom Ptolemy had actually designed some stickers for Body Art, and we bought a load and we’d go out and give them to the kids for nothing and they’d ride around the estate with these stick-on tattoos on them! (Laughs).
The artwork that’s out there nowadays…there isn’t a week that goes past without you hearing of somebody and you look at their work and it just fucking blows your mind. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, someone comes along and pisses all over you! I love that. I try to look at as many English artists as I can, but I’m getting a lot of inspiration coming from Poland and Russia. We all know who the guv’nors are amongst the Americans but the inspiration of new artists coming through is a massive thing.
Would you say that you have a distinct style?
I have a style that I’m trying to move in to, I certainly wouldn’t say that I have a style. I’m trying to express as much movement or realism as I can, make it expressive rather than just have someone roll up their sleeve and have someone say, “Oh yeah, you’ve got a tattoo” but when we do a client and they go out into the waiting room before they get photographed, the people waiting there see it and say “Wow!” and say they didn’t know that kind of stuff was possible – you can’t get a better feeling than that.
Do you have a favourite style of tattooing?
It’s got to be realism, definitely. I think after spending so many years doing run-of-the-mill, bread and butter flash – and like I said, I’m not above it – even if I was doing an armband, I’d try to do something with it to make it as 3D or as real as we can do it. For me to look at Nikko or Mike’s work, Roman’s…it is so realistic that, that form of art is definitely the category that I’m trying to fall into. Am I there yet? No. Yes I’m moving in the right direction but am I at that quality yet? No.
What do you do when you’re not tattooing?
Tattooing! I go to watch Spurs, tattooing (laughs), tattooing, running the business, tattooing…to be honest with you, this last year or so, because I’m enjoying it so much (as much as it’s a headache and turning my hair grey) I can say that I’ve done absolutely nothing except dedicate myself to this trade. If we’re not at a tattoo show, I’m here in the shop; if I’m not here in the shop, I’m at home drawing something for a client. If I’m not drawing something, I’m fucking researching it on Google, watching videos of another tattooist tattooing – everything has become part of my lifestyle. The other thing I enjoy doing, and I don’t know how Rhia puts up with it, but we try and have a relationship and go out and enjoy ourselves. We go to Spurs, we’re season ticket holders down there (for our sins) and we walk the dog. I’m into my shooting but don’t get a lot of chance to do too much of it at the moment. They’re the other things I try to do in my so-called social life! (Laughs)
Have you been tattooed by various artists?
I’ve been tattooed by somebody and nobody. I’ve had work done by John Treharne, Darren Stares, Tom Ptolemy, Dave Fleet…from different eras in my tattooing career I’ve had different people that I’ve looked up to. Those people were, for me when I was growing up, an influence. I see these guys now on the circuit and we’ve become friends. There are guys out there now who are doing work that’s just off the scale and I aspire towards it, to be honest with you.
Is there anybody that you’d like to get work from?
I would like to get tattooed by loads of people, but it’s got to the stage now, and I’m going to be honest here, that I have got to make some sort of connection with the artist. There are loads of artists out there where I like their work, but when you meet them it’s like meeting your idol, this famous person, and it can turn out to be a bit of a letdown. I like what I’ve got and it doesn’t have to be the most artistic thing, hence the club-footed, one-fingered pin-up girl I’ve got on my arm! I just like tattoos.
What about the process of being tattooed? Do you mind that?
Don’t get me wrong, they hurt like fuck! (Laughs) When people say they enjoy it, I’m like, “Are you some sort of twisted fuck?” (Laughs) I like the end result and the tattoos on me, but getting the tattoo…I enjoy the banter I have with the artists I select to tattoo me, I like listening to their own stories. I’ve been tattooed down at Lal (Hardy’s) before now and just listening to different stories about who’s been through the doors and those are really cool to listen to.
So whom do you class as your influences?
In different pockets of my career, different people have influenced me. In this day and age, Joshua, Mike, Nikko and Roman, all these kinds of artists. The English artists have been my biggest influence and there have been people whose tattooing hasn’t been the bigger influence, more the way that they conduct themselves and for the way they’ve had a studio for thirty or forty years, and also their business manner.
I know you don’t have much spare time, but do you work in other mediums at all, like painting or sculpture?
I’ve wanted to buy an airbrushing kit ever since I saw Phil Beresford (RIP) doing it but I’ve never really had someone say, same with tattooing, “This is how you do it”. I’ve got the all-singing, all-dancing kit round there but I still haven’t got a fucking clue what I’m doing. I like painting, but do I get enough time to do it? No, unfortunately I’d love to do more but so many tattooists want to be painters now, and so many painters want to be tattooists. You talk to painters that are really good and they can’t earn a fucking penny, and you look at their paintings and think, ‘Wow, that’s fucking amazing’, and they want to move into tattooing because they’re still doing a form of art and getting paid for it.
Have you got any other ambitions in tattooing? Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
I’d certainly like to think from the standard I’m at now that I will have pushed on and I’ll be doing better work than I’m now, and somewhere down the line I’d like to think that someone is getting some form of inspiration from me. That would be pretty rewarding. We’ve had some messages recently and one guy saw me at the Great Yarmouth tattoo show years ago doing a portrait of Jim Morrison, and he said it inspired him that much that he went out and got some tattooing equipment. He’s now got a shop up near your way and when I got that message, I was like, “Really?”
Where do I see myself in a few years? Still here, still with backache, a few more grey hairs, and still pushing myself and still going, “Who the fuck’s that? How fucking good is that?” I just hope that my work’s moved on and that I don’t get into this stale, stagnant position where you suddenly find people think that they know it all and basically never progressed.
Anybody you want to thank for helping you over the years?
I’ve got loads of people I want to thank, but I don’t think that they would even be aware of it, and some people have helped me for all the wrong reasons; people being nasty wankers when they come into my shop, criticising my work at shows – not in a healthy way, in a way to make me feel really bad. It almost drove me away from the trade I love. I’ve already mentioned quite a lot in this interview, but definitely Staresy, Dave Fleet, John Treharne for having a quiet drink outside the back of conventions and a few wise words he gave me years ago about finding a particular style, and then last year at your Tattoo Jam having the likes of Darren and John come over and say, “Your work has progressed and you finally look like you have a style that you’re good at” was a massive buzz. Obviously I’d like to thank my mum for being patient and putting up with my fucking stroppy behaviour over the years (laughs) trying to get where I am today. I’ve got to thank Rhia because she’s been able to deal with running the shop with clients that come in that can be so awkward, and where I’ve gone to take the bait and bite and be rude, she’s been able to deal with the client in a healthy business manner, which has enabled me to sit in here and concentrate on what I should be doing, which is tattooing. I think really I’ve got a lot to thank her for.
A lot of tattoo studios are only as good as the person out in front.
Definitely, and don’t get me wrong, it’s difficult because we’re in a relationship. Going out with someone and working with them is difficult, but in a weird way we enjoy it. When we’re in here, because I trust Rhia beyond anything, it’s easy for me to sit in here and tattoo somebody without having to worry about deposits being nicked, people being overcharged, body jewellery going missing… I taught Rhia the basics of body piercing and gave her a room, gave her a base of clients that I had built up over the last fifteen years, and said, “There are courses that you can go on, here’s a platform for you, take it where you will.”
Anything you want to add to the article, anything you want people to know?
For anyone wanting to get into the tattooing trade, you’ve got to be able to take criticism. Just because you get a knock-back from a studio don’t be disheartened. In an ideal world an apprenticeship is the way to go forward and if you want a tattooist to take you seriously, have a portfolio of your artwork. If by some weird way you happen to fall upon a tattoo kit, even though you shouldn’t, tattoo yourself and walk down to your tattooist, drop your trousers or lift up your shirt and say, “This is what I’ve done”. We get so many people through the door without a portfolio who want to tattoo and don’t even have a tattoo, and I find it really weird that they’d want to become a tattooist when they haven’t got a tattoo.