Inkoming - 158

Published: 04 April, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 158, March, 2008

Air your views or have a rant and we’ll give one letter a free, yes free, t-shirt! Aren’t we nice?

Winning Letter

Old Timer Ink

Dear Skin Deep

Here’s a story. It was National Service time and there I was in Aldershot; young, innocent and full of the bravado that only goes with youth. Mr Skuse was tattooing there, and at the behest of my comrades I had a small design executed on my forearm. After my National Service I took to the waves in the Merchant Navy. This was to be my home for many a year, and a happy one at that. My artwork was now looking sorry, which was understandable after so much salt water, manual labour and blazing sun. It had lost its colour, had spread and was a pale remnant of its former self. We docked in South Africa yet again, and on a particularly grand day I found myself accompanying some shipmates to a suburb of Johannesburg called Melville. They piled into a tattoo studio and I followed. I’d been in dozens of such places but had never had the urge to add to the original design. What struck me about the place was the nature of the artist. I’d seen the good, the bad and the downright rude in my travels, but this lad was different to them all. He was genuine, a real gent, and called me “Old Timer” in a very respectful way. I was pushing mid 60’s by then. 

He saw the old tattoo and suggested he cover it. After some initial reluctance and seeing some amazing photos of his work I let him go ahead. As soon as the needle went in, I thought, “What the hell are you doing, you silly old sod?” It was brilliant; out with the old and in with the new. The lad’s name was John Edwards and not only did he know his trade, he was a gentleman in the bargain. 

I often thought that I would have liked some more of his work, but I retired with no prospect of ever returning to South Africa. 

At the ripe old age of 70-something (!) I was visiting my grandchildren in Kingston-upon-Thames when I spied a tattoo studio, Gypsy Nirvana. I thought I’d while away a few minutes before the school pickup and to my utter amazement, I walked into the studio and was confronted by the same John Edwards. He was older, but nowhere near as old as me, his waistline had expanded somewhat, but he was the same considerate gentleman I’d met in Melville.         

He remembered me as the oldest person he’d ever tattooed. The photographs of his work were better than ever and the studio was immaculate, his work superb and his manner the same. You know where this is going don’t you? 

I’m back in Kingston in March and I’ll be adding to my rather meagre collection. “Silly old sod” I may be, but I’ll be showing a superb new tattoo off down at the ‘Legion’ in the New Year. I may end up with a full body suit if my pension can take the strain, and the grim reaper doesn’t summon me! Yours sincerely, 

Mr P Fredericks, West Yorkshire.

Good for you sir! You are never too old to get tattooed. Please send some photos of your tattoos; we’d love to see them. Neil


Sister Support

Hello Linda

I saw your ad on the letters page of Skin Deep and wanted to reply. 

I was really sorry to hear that you are getting such negativity about your tattoos in nursing, and think you are doing the right thing by pursuing BOTH sleeves and a nursing career - the two are not incompatible, whatever some people think!

I am a third year student nurse in London and I also have full sleeves on both arms. I cannot pretend it has been plain sailing all of the way, but I have come this far and there is no reason why you shouldn’t either. I would love to hear more about your experiences and whether they have been more ward or academia-based, as I am thinking of maybe setting up a website for people like us to support one another and explore issues such as discrimination in the work place, employment law etc. 

My email address is  

I KNOW how busy you must be, but it would be really great to hear from you, if you fancy it. Good luck - Julie G


Theraputic Tattoos

Dear Skin Deep

I read with great interest the letter in your magazine regarding tattoos as an aid to help alleviate the effects of depression. I can totally relate to the writer, C Sage’s experience. 

My life has gone through a number of dramatic changes during the last few years and as a result I have recently been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. 

As someone who has always been interested in tattoos, I had collected a number of small, discreet flash pieces that I could hide easily, allowing me to conform in my role as a teacher, mother and general ‘normal’ member of society. 

Having had my mental health problems recognised, I am now on the slow road to recovery. However, this new chapter in my life has awakened a ‘so fucking what’ attitude within me. I have made the transition from being someone who loves tattoos to someone who loves tattoos and gets tattooed! 

I have recently acquired two relatively large and very prominent old skool custom pieces inked by a fab artist practically working on my doorstep. 

It is quite hard to explain exactly the impact this process has had on my life. My tattoos have made me feel empowered and proud of who I am. My tattoos are there, they are me and if someone judges me on the appearance of my skin, then I think I can probably make a judgement about them too! 

I now feel confident enough to recognise that the people who matter will be the people who love me when I have eventually have acquired full sleeves and a back piece. And I can’t wait! It is fab to hear about other readers whose experience of tattoos goes more than Skin Deep. 

Amanda, Shrewsbury


Ink Acceptance

Dear Skin Deep/Cath,

Hi! I have just read the article in Skin Deep regarding tattoos and if they can be classed as art and I felt compelled to email you. My name is Laura Dean and I am a 3rd year at Leeds College of Art and Design, studying printed textiles and surface design (emphasis on the surface design!). I have always been interested and I am rather tattooed! Currently I am writing my dissertation with the title ‘Tattoos; A form of Surface Design?’ and I have come across similar issues that are within your article. Because it is difficult to define surface design, I started to research tattoos and whether they are a form of art. I have raised many issues regarding this topic within my dissertation and I would gladly send you a copy of my dissertation, as soon it is finished. All of my studio-based design work is based on tattoos or the idea behind tattoos, and my tutors told me to ‘move on from the skull and tatty motifs’, yet at the same time, a younger tutor asked me if I could use a tattoo machine to tattoo leather for interior design. I think that there is an issue with age and the acceptance of tattoos as art within the art education world. I also undertook a questionnaire for my dissertation and found that the younger people I questioned believed that tattoos are art and a form of surface design, yet the older participants did not believe so. I must say thank you because your are helping my argument within my dissertation! 

Yours Truly Laura Dean


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Skin Deep 158 1 March 2008 158