In At the Deep End - 195

Published: 25 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 195, February, 2011

When a painter sells a work of art, the ownership transfers to the buyer and it is clear to whom that painting now belongs. The buyer can display it or store it and often must insure it against theft or damage, for it is their painting.

My column this month is dedicated to Shone Davis, 1973-2010:

Authorship is quite separate to ownership and no matter where that painting may go the author is always the artist, indeed, the painting can even be sold on again and with that the ownership will change, ownership can be said to be in a state of flux.

In these terms, tattoos are quite a different form of art to paintings- we know that a painting can exist without ever going to a recipient, but the tattoo cannot be without its owner, it cannot exist. To be the wearer of a tattoo, an enthusiast or a collector is to be both a necessity and a privilege; we are required for the tattoo to be and also honoured as its owner.

The painter cannot become friends with the canvas, they do not share thoughts and they are not equal, nor does the canvas decide what is to be painted upon it. So the tattooee and the tattooer share a special relationship, one of implicit trust, as each and every time the tattoo curator acquires a new exhibit for the collection a leap of faith must take place, to deliver one’s skin, one’s body, into the hands of another who will mark it indelibly requires faith. Just as we trust our lovers not to break our hearts, we trust our tattooers not to alter us into persons that we do not recognise; rather, we trust them to bring our vision alive. To make our outsides align more closely with our insides.

To be a tattoo collector is to curate a gallery like no other, to buy your object of desire is not enough, you must also endure whatever it takes to receive it, blood is shed, we must give up our blankness in creation and to endure this, we must have belief.

Shone Davis embodied everything a serious tattoo collector requires, his enviable collection of tattoos featured work from some of the brightest artists on both sides of the Atlantic and included Phil kyle, Tin-Tin, Hori Toshi II and Mike Dorsey. 

Shone’ hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, boasts Kore Flatmo of Plurabella Tattoo and it was here that Shone worked before moving to the UK to become a founding member of the crew at Magnum Opus Tattoo, Brighton. 

The loss of Shone is devastating, not just to his friends, colleagues and customers, but also to those of us who perhaps knew him only as a fountain of tattoo knowledge or as the go-to man, organizing appointments and ironing out annoyances, as someone with which to eat a really big sandwich or indeed as a source of endless amusement.

Shone’s profile on the community forums at declares him to be raised by Ninjas and lists pizza as an interest, so no one that knew him could’ve doubted he was special, he had an uncanny talent with soft toy claw machines, a ninja related T-shirt company and had once taken 4th place at the World Beard and Moustache Championships. 

Each and every one of us that has chosen to adorn and decorate our skins with permanent art is one of a kind; we are creative, brave and strong, we have belief. We are special, Shone was special. 

That tattoo world is now sporting a Shone shaped hole.

There are many reasons that I have chosen to dedicate my little corner of Skin Deep to Shone this month but the biggest one of all is that without him, I would have no column. I met Shone at the London Tattoo Convention, 2006 and previously to that first face-to-face meeting we had shared an online correspondence. In that medium I had told him of my fascination with another of Ohio’s children, the last wooden boat on the Mississippi River, the Delta Queen. And so, to the convention 2000 miles from Cincinnati Shone brought a scale model of my favourite paddle steamer. 

Later on, I wrote a story about that model boat, my first story and here I am – in a fleeting moment of random generosity, Shone set me on a path that led me to writing for real.

I’m a collector, just as Shone was and his absence recalls to me how closely our tattoos are tied to our own mortality, how permanence isn’t really so because we measure it not in forever but in human life spans and although there has been a historical precedent for preserving tattooed skin, without the personality that instigated them, they will never be as interesting. 

Shone has gone and with him he took the spark that made his collection and himself, so cool.

Goodnight and Shine on, Shone.  


Text: Paula Hardy Kangelos