Shamanic Body Art, Essex

Published: 28 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 161, June, 2008

Nestled in the seaside town of Westcliff-on-Sea on the northern side of the mouth of the Thames Estuary, Shamanic Body Art is the life’s work of Frank Moore. Opening the studio in 1996, Frank prides the shop’s abilities to tackle any ideas that clients may have, big or small, and his roster of resident artists have most bases covered when it comes to the myriad of available styles. Clichéd as it may sound, the Shamanic crew are a close-knit family and their enthusiasm for body modification is truly infectious. Welcome to Shamanic Body Art…

Frank Moore

"I was born in Holland in 1963. I came to England when I was 6 and was brought up by my aunt, as my father worked away at sea for 9 months of the year. I went to numerous schools, none of which managed to teach me much of anything that I wanted to know. I got the tattoo bug when I was 13 thanks to my cousin Mark Pettigrew. I used go to the Joker pub in Laindon, where he used to work before his own studio was set up in Benfleet. 

I worked at numerous jobs from metal fabricator, hoddy to fairground worker and was only tattooing when in 1991, I met Tom Ptolomy in his studio at Southend seafront, and to cut a long story just a little bit shorter, he offered me an apprenticeship. I worked for Tom for 7 years.

In 1997 E Woods and myself opened Shamanic Body Art. I had known E for many years before I was tattooing professionally. He was also the piercer at Silver Needles where I worked then. Believe me, opening the shop was the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done, but was the turning point of my tattooing life.

The shop did well pretty much from the off, and after 18 months we took over the upstairs of the shop, as well as taking on two apprentices; one for tattooing, one for piercing. Neil and Brian were good additions to the shop. Brian is a long-term friend and Neil was advertising for an apprenticeship in Skin Deep. They were both with us for 6 years and now have a successful shop in Leicester.

For the 10 years we have been open we have built up the shop’s reputation, and now with the people we have working at the shop get on like a family, which makes the shop a good place to be, for our customers and us.

In 2007 E sold his share of the shop to me after 10 excellent years to travel and chill for a few years. Lucky man!

As far as inspiration goes, I get inspired by the people I work with and anyone else who can turn out good work, and of course not forgetting Mark and Tom who set me well and truly on the right path. As far as the future goes, I can never see myself doing anything else. Tattooing is a way of life, not just a job. Every tattooist will tell you they have got the best job in the world and that he or she is privileged to be doing what we do, and that’s because it is true.

We have secured the shop for a very long term, so we are having a major refit, with new studios, a waiting room and a coffee shop downstairs. Although not yet finished it has already made a major difference to the shop’s business. We have done all the work, so thanks to Giselle, Iain, Zoe, Perrine and Tina (the missus) for all the work they have done.

Tattooing is a growing industry and has been for many years, partly thanks to the tattooed celebrities and lately the tattoo shows on the TV. Also the change in people’s views; nowadays if you see someone down the high street with their tattooed sleeves out, Joe public will stop and want to talk about where they are from, who they’re by, and how much they cost, rather than turning their nose up. Nowadays tattooing is recognised as a true if not ultimate art form, and is down to the amount of very good artists turning out amazing work, day in, day out.

At the end of the day, we have got the biggest art gallery, in the world. The more people see nice work in the gallery the more they want it for themselves. More clients are going straight in at the deep end with half and full sleeves and even the odd back here and there as their first tattoo because they can see what can be done, so if you’re thinking about taking the plunge for the first time and you see something you like whilst out clubbing or in the high street, just stop, look, and ask questions; they wont mind, honest!

What do I do to relax? As little as possible as often as I can! Between the shop and 3 kids under 8 at home, me and Tina don’t have a lot of time, but when I can it’s fishing or in the garage with a welder, grinder, stack of metal and an engine, or out on my Harley or the trike."

 

Giselle Stock

"I was born in Rayleigh, Essex in 1979. After a brief spell in Dorset, my dad moved us back to Essex where he raised me, my brother and sister. My childhood was very happy.

Despite us occasionally stacking the odds against him, my dad did an amazing job bringing us up. His love, encouragement and support was, and still is, boundless.

I left school with 10 GCSEs but found it hard to settle in further education. By this time I had discovered alternative politics and wanted to make my mark, make a difference.

During this time, I returned to college to do a BTEC in art and although I completed the course, I became disillusioned with the system once more.

My artwork was heavily influenced by my politics, and the college refused to display some of my work at the end of year exhibition as it could “offend people", they said.

As far as I was concerned if it got any kind of reaction, positive or negative, at least it was a reaction and was making people think.

I didn’t go to the exhibition; I was at the Dockers’ march in London, which later turned into a riot in Trafalgar Square. That made people think!

Years earlier, my sister returned from travelling just before my 14th birthday. Whilst away, she had got a tattoo. I loved it and really wanted one. A month later I took my Celtic heart design to a local tattooist and an hour later emerged with my first tattoo. I remember it hurting a lot more than I expected it to and thinking that I wouldn’t be doing that again in a hurry!

In hindsight, I was far too young. The design is not something that I would choose today, but it marks a point in my life and has sentimental value. I would never cover it up- behind every tattoo there is a story and all that

So that was my introduction to tattoos. I loved the whole concept of decorating your skin, but most of all loved the permanence of it.

After a few years working in mental health (that comes in handy at times!) I found myself wanting to do something creative and start carving out some kind of career. I had been drawing on and off since leaving college and obtained a qualification in silversmithing whilst living in Ireland. But what I really wanted to do was tattoo.

Since my first experience, I had been tattooed a few times by Frank and also drawn designs for friends. Turning up at Shamanic with ready-to-go line work designs always went down well!

Early in 2003, I got to know a tattoo artist by the name of Glyn Tomas and he sold me some kit and showed me the bare basics. At first I found it daunting and overwhelming and didn’t take in much of what he was telling me. There was a lot more to it than I thought there would be- a common misconception!

I watched him do just two tattoos. That was it. 

A couple of months later I heard on the grapevine that Shamanic would soon be needing a receptionist. This was a foot in the door. Although there was no discussion at this point about an apprenticeship, I would at least be in the right environment.

After a little persuasion and a lot of cups of tea, Frank gave me the break. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Not only has he been an amazing and inspirational mentor, he has also become a firm friend.

For the first year or so I practised on friends (thanks, you know who you are!) and absorbed as much information as possible. I was fortunate to be working with some very talented artists, all of whom had different styles so I got to see how jobs were approached from different angles.

When I began tattooing the public I had a constant battle with my lack of confidence. I still do at times; I can be very critical of my work and cynical about my ability. But I think this can be a good quality. It keeps my feet on the ground. I think in this industry there is the potential for you to become so absorbed in what you are doing that you lose the essence of what the job is about and run the risk of coming across as being, dare I say, a little conceited!

Regular reality checks I hope will prevent me from heading down that slippery slope.

At the end of the day, the customer pays our wages and without them we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing. Each person’s tattoo is as important as the next, from a handwritten name to a full sleeve.

I see this job as being a total privilege. What other kind of artist gets to exhibit their work on such a scale?

I have been tattooing full time for three years now so on the scale of things I am totally new to the industry and have so much to learn. That’s what I love about it though, when you try something new and pull it off, that’s an awesome feeling, and there will always be something new to learn. We get to meet some really interesting characters too. Tattooing gives me common ground with people who I would otherwise have no connection with.

With tattooing being brought increasingly into the public eye via the media over the last couple of years I can only see the industry growing stronger. The misconceptions and social stereotypes surrounding tattoos and tattooing are being blown away by the high standard of work being turned out worldwide. It is an honour to be part of this art.

Some of the work being produced by artists today is mind blowing – it’s just on another level. If I could be half as good as some of them I would be happy. There are so many awesome artists out there. I love the work of Jeff Gogue, Robert Hernandez and closer to home, Jo Harrison and Jason Butcher. There’s too many to name. I have recently also been tattooed by Dan Sims of Life Family Tattoo and think his work is awesome too...I have plans for a sleeve in the pipeline and he is definitely the man for the job!

My great passion is with black and grey work. I have recently begun to do portraits and more photo-realistic work, which is without a doubt my greatest challenge to date. Thanks to a donated leg (cheers Spike!) I have been able to begin to explore this style, and the response has been very positive which is encouraging.

For now I just want to keep doing what I am doing to the best of my ability and enjoy the opportunities and challenges the job throws my way.

I am fortunate to have the people that I do working along side me - there’s always another pair of eyes and word of advice when needed. Now I’m making us sound like the Brady Bunch! On that note I think that’s enough said."

 

Iain Parry 

"I was born in Kent and grew up with both parents and my brother. I then moved to Hampshire until I was about 7 years old. My parents went through a break up, which is why we moved here to Essex where the rest of my family lived. I settled in Essex and went through junior school and loved it. After moving to senior school something went wrong that I cannot explain and I ended up refusing to go to school. I then arranged with the school that I would go in for art and cooking, which went well for about a year and then I ended up not going in at all, so I didn’t do any of my GCSEs.  Whilst in senior school I got into graffiti, which I loved, and I continued with that for quite a few years.

When I had legally left school, I got a labouring job working for my uncle, which I did to get a bit of cash here and there. By this time, my brother had left the army and started working at a seafront pub, so I joined him. One of our regulars would fascinate me, his name was Clive “Doc” Powell (now sadly deceased) and he was the seafront’s old time tattooist. He would open up for the summer and go on the trawler boats for winter. I was so amazed with his stories and tales, I got chatting to him more and more, then one day he said he had a casual job going doing the floor, drawing up his stencils and the usual stuff. Naturally I jumped at the chance, and I stayed with him for a summer and loved every bit of it. I didn’t learn that much at all but I just loved being in that environment, getting tattooed and chatting to tattooed people, it was great!

After that season I got another bar job across that road. I stayed at that job for a while then moved to a nightclub/bar where I progressed to deputy manager there and moved around a bit with that company (Wood Green/Ilford/Basildon) all the time getting tattooed with bits of flash off various tattooists’ walls. In the back of my mind I knew that I wasn’t totally settled in any of these jobs. At one point in my nightclub career I decided to go to art college, so I was working a nightclub 5 days and nights a week and 2 days at art college; I did that for about 6 months but the hours at the nightclub ended up clashing with art college so I had to leave the college. I then decided to leave the nightclub company due to the bunch of twats running it.

I went on to do another couple of bar jobs and I also ran a newsagents/cafe/coffee shop that my brother had set up. That didn’t quite work out, so I got a job working for the MOD, which I enjoyed, as it was a nice, easy job and just down the road from me with good money, good hours, pension the lot, but I just wasn’t satisfied. Whilst I was at this job I met a guy called Matt through someone I knew, and I became really good mates with him. He was heavily tattooed himself and we would talk about tattoos and stuff, and he would talk of his friends running tattoo studios. All this talk gave me the bug again, and one of my mates told me that there was an opening at Shamanic for an apprentice. He said he would have a chat with Frank and see what he could do - and that, as they say, is history.

Now I’m here and I’m loving every second of my job and my life; I finally feel settled. After years of sending emails, letters and phoning studios asking for an apprenticeship, it happened, I got the job, and I have a good mate to thank, and Frank for taking me on and training me. I still have a long way to go and I’m learning everyday, and working with Frank, Giselle and Zoe is great. We all have a different working style, which is great, and if any of us are having a nightmare with something there is always another set of eyes that can be called upon to help us along. I can see myself staying here at Shamanic for a long time to come.

There are so many excellent artists I take influence from, it would be so hard to pick any one artist and say “they” influenced me, as I am still quite new to this career. I’m still finding my feet and I haven’t taken on any particular style of tattooing. I am very intrigued and amazed by Japanese tattoo art, so I really enjoy doing Jap stuff, but to be totally honest, whether it is a little hand written name or a big Japanese piece, I am truly grateful to be doing any tattoos at all. I’m very pleased with the way the industry is going; the TV programs that are out at the moment I think have boosted people’s awareness of it all and made it a bit more mainstream, although I would like to see it a bit less “Hollywood”. 

When I’m outside work I try to spend as much time as possible fishing. I love sitting next to a pond somewhere chilling out and doing nothing, it’s so relaxing not to have a care in the world. I also enjoy films and music, all the usual stuff."

 

 Zoe Windle

"I was born in Wales and grew up in Wales, Essex, London, Australia, and Essex again in that order! Henry Rollins without a doubt was the reason that I wanted to have tattoos, and my first came from Dennis Cockle in Soho when I was 18 in my first year of my art degree. It was a crop circle, embarrassingly enough…oh dear!!

I learnt to tattoo at Into You in London, starting off as a receptionist. When I started, Alex said to me, “This is not an apprenticeship so get that out of your head!” But, I worked really hard and he gave me a chance. It was such a great place to learn and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to do so there.

I have returned to Essex after about 15 years living in London and travelling and working in Australia. Being so far away made me want to live close to my family again and so now I work at Shamanic. I remembered Shamanic’s name from when I just left Southend; it is a well-established shop with an excellent reputation so I am so pleased that they have taken me on. I also work at Cult Classic in Romford, and that’s about as close as I like to get to London these days!

My primary influences are Alex Binnie, Permanent Mark, Horioshi, Keko, Ian Flower, Sailor Jerry, Tim Lehi, Mark Ryden, and the Chapman brothers. As for rest and relaxation, I volunteer at a dog rescue called Gemini Kennels and the rest of the time I grow veggies in my green house and spend time with my lovely Chihuahua and parrot!"

Credits

Text: Paul Callaby; Photography: Shamanic Body Art

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Skin Deep 161 1 June 2008 161
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