Studio 81

Published: 15 August, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 121, May, 2005

Tattoos are a growing trend in Britain. In the last 10 years the industry has moved dramatically into the mainstream. The amazing talents of tattoo artists have decorated the bodies of billions of people around the globe. The choice of having a tattoo is a major decision and shouldn’t be contemplated in haste. Acquiring the right artist is also a major part of the process. Choosing someone who is truly talented and experienced is the key to a perfect tattoo.


Dave Ashton, 35, is an award winning tattoo artist at Studio 81 in Preston. He is funny, kind, charming and approachable. In the tiny kitchen of Studio 81, Dave switches on the kettle and sparks up a cigarette. Amongst joking and laughing with his colleagues, he outlines the major difference between tattooists and tattoo artists. ‘A tattooist can take designs from books and tattoo them well. However, they wouldn’t be able to create original designs or be able to design from people’s ideas.’ 


Dave has worked at Studio 81 since it first opened in February 2001. He enjoys his job so much he travels 65 miles to and from the studio every day. ‘I love getting up to go to work. I’ve never dreaded it once. I get to hang out with my friends, listen to music and draw on people all day. It’s my dream job.’ 


Dave’s artistic talents were apparent as a child. He loved to draw and create creatures and monsters with his colouring crayons. He is able to interpret any idea onto paper to the most intricate detail. This talent is what he prides himself on and he believes it is so important to provide exactly what the customer wants. 


After handing out cups of coffee to everyone in the studio, he explains, ‘It’s so much better for the customers being a tattoo artist. Because I can really personalise his or her tattoos and create anything anyone wants. You have more chance of having a completely original design.’


Leaning against the kitchen worktop, clad in a black t-shirt and jeans, Dave recalls his first tattoo experience. He was about six years old on holiday in Ibiza with his parents, Tony and Pat. ‘I remember seeing a guy on the beach with a full, tattooed body suit and an octopus on his back. I’d never seen tattoos before and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.’ 


Dave had his first tattoo when he was 18 years old. He started to read tattoo magazines and realised he could draw just as well, if not better, than the designs shown on the pages. Dave taught himself how to tattoo after buying second hand equipment. Even early on, his talents exceeded those of the local tattooist. For eight years Dave ran his own tattoo business from home. He had more customers than the local studio and was creating more innovative work. 


Now, instead of just reading tattoo magazines, Dave’s work is featured in them. His creations have covered the pages of Skin Deep and Skin Shots. Dave’s artistic talents have also earned him five awards. Two of which boast the title, Best of Day, at Manchester’s Premier International Tattoo and Body Piercing Convention, Skin Tech. 


Donna Jones, 21, a student, from Preston, has experienced Dave’s talents first hand. She went to Studio 81 for her first tattoo and is extremely pleased by the result. Donna said, ‘Getting a tattoo is a big decision and Studio 81 were very helpful with finding what I wanted. Dave was very professional and also really fun to be around. He listened to my ideas and transferred them onto paper. He is really talented.’


Sitting in the studio, sipping his coffee, Dave offers advice to anyone who is thinking of getting a tattoo.


‘I’d say to think about it, think about it, think about it some more and think about it again! There are so many people who would spend more time choosing a winter coat than a tattoo. That coat will be with them for a few years, but the tattoo will be taken to the grave.’


I asked Dave who his influences are and what tattoo style he prefers.  He said before he became a tattoo artist, he liked Philip Leu, Paul Booth and Guy Aitchinson. He saw these artists in magazines when he was around 18 years old. His English influence at that time was Tom Ptolomy. Now he his inspired by Spacey, Andy Morris, Bob Hoyle and Pepp, who is a good friend.


His favourite tattoo style is black and grey and shading. He believes he can achieve a more realistic look to his tattoos. He also loves big, bold images, especially graffiti.  Dave added that he believes it is important for tattoo artists to be more than competent in all disciplines and styles of tattoos, in order to please every customer. Which Dave does




Text: Tanya Byk Photography: Drew Harrison


Skin Deep 121 1 May 2005 121