Continuing our series of reader profiles, this month, we hooked up with Rich Smith - better known to us all as Dickie – who made the jump from being a forklift truck driver to resident body piercer at Cosmic Tattoo. Good move, Sir...
I always knew I wanted to get tattooed, even from a young age. I’d grown up watching my sister getting tattooed and I’d had my eye on a dragon design I’d seen on the wall at Cosmic Tattoo since I was 16 so I knew it was going to be the right choice!
As soon as I was 18 I got it done! I’ve always enjoyed art, drawing, being creative, so getting tattooed was another way for me to express myself. I started off getting small pieces done, a few months apart and having piercings done in between, I then moved to Australia for a year, but whilst out there I only had one done. I have a tradition of getting tattooed on my birthday, so I had to have one on my 21st. It was a small Chinese symbol meaning Richard, and it still means a lot to me today.
After coming back to the UK, I’d changed a lot in myself, was more confident in what I liked, namely tattoos and piercings and set to work on my sleeve. I’d always been tattooed by Leigh Oldcorn at Cosmic Tattoo, except for the Chinese symbol, So I visited the studio to get booked in. I started work on my right sleeve, which is a black and grey dragon & snake, Japanese design. I had one session a month and whilst I was getting tattooed by Leigh I started to chat more and Leigh invited me along to a couple of conventions with the Cosmic team.
The first convention I ever went to was The London Tattoo Convention and what an eye opener that was – I saw people with full body coverage, head tattoos and I knew that day I wanted to be covered. It was an amazing convention, I talked to people from all walks of life, and had a terrific time. After the convention, and once the sleeve was finished, I decided to start on my chest and right side of my body.
I’ve always loved Siamese Fighting fish, so decided to have one on my chest which made a bit of a change from the traditional koi. I then started work down the right side and it was whilst having this work done I mentioned to Leigh that I loved piercings and I’d really love to get into body piercing. He then told me he was actually in the process of moving to a new studio and would have space for a piercer, and if I was interested he could point me in the right direction to get trained up.
I jumped at the chance, and he gave me the phone number of a lady called Nettie who owned Mettle Nettle in Chelmsford; I left my job as a forklift driver and started my training within a matter of days. Once I was fully trained I started working for Leigh in the new studio, and I’ve never looked back. I love doing what I do, seeing people come in nervous and shy about a piercing, and leaving with a big grin on their face makes my day.
Once I started at Cosmic, I started getting tattooed more regularly and the guys realised I’m not bothered by the pain. I soon became a convention ‘bitch’ as I could quite happily sit for nine hours getting tattooed one day, then more the next day. This is where my Japanese work started expanding quickly. Arran started doing my feet at a convention, and gradually worked his way up my left leg, which started with a frog on my foot, then a Kappa on my calf, Bakka on the inside calf, a skull with a centipede on front thigh and a demon geisha head on my back thigh with Japanese flowers in between.
Leigh also used me for conventions, doing a portrait of Bill the Butcher from the movie Gangs of New York as all the guys here at Cosmic think I look like Daniel Day Lewis. I thought why not, he’s a wicked character in the movie, it’s a good talking point! Leigh’s also done an Omni mask on my chest, which is now extended onto my side. He also did my left sleeve which includes a zombie geisha, a samurai warrior and a dragon which I had at the top of my arm from my younger days. In between conventions I’ve had my neck done, left side was old school roses and an anatomical heart done by Pinky Darling, as after working in the studio for some time I started to like the traditional style of tattooing as well as the Japanese artwork.
As time has gone by, I’ve now had my full back, throat and back of neck done by Arran, all in Japanese style, with my back being a rather large but beautiful octopus. Back of my neck is a foo dog and my throat is a scarab beetle. I’ve also had both hands done by Leigh, old school rat on my right hand and realistic rat skull and rose on my right hand, as I born in the year of the rat.
I’ve also just had my shop nickname tattooed on my fingers by Sim Abbott, so I’m almost covered, but not quite! As I’m so covered, I attract a lot of interest from people, but I’m always happy to stop and chat about my tattoos. I’m also a regular on the convention scene, really enjoy meeting people, so if you see me at a convention stop and say hi!
If you had asked me five years ago what I’d be doing in 2011, I would have said driving my forklift every day. Never in a million years did I think I’d be doing my dream job. I am so grateful to Leigh for giving me the opportunity to do this and want to thank him and Nettie for training me and the rest of the team here at Cosmic Tattoo for supporting me over the years.