Skin Deep 180

Welcome to this, our Christmas Edition of Skin Deep magazine. Well it’s been a long and eventful year for not only the UK tattooing scene but for tattooing in general. We have seen many, many new shows appearing (plus more scheduled for next year!) and one or two falling by the wayside. This year has also sadly seen the demise of some tattooing greats. Dave Ayres was sadly taken from us, as was Danny Skuse, and Painless Jeff, as well as a talented young artist in the form of Modern Body Art’s Sumo. Luckily they will live on our memories and their legacies carry on in the skin of many a happy person.

By the time this issue hits the newsagents shelves it will be pretty close to Christmas. What with Christmas supposedly being a Christian holiday (albeit stolen from many older religions) and about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, this got me thinking about tattoos and religion.

There has always been this division amongst many that God-fearing folk should not get tattoos. Indeed it says in the Old Testament book of Leviticus that; “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print any marks upon you”, so it is well documented that tattooing is for bad people…ahem. The Jewish faith also bans tattooing and this was one of the reasons that those in the dreadful Holocaust of the Second World War were tattooed – another blow to the European Jews’ dignity.

So why do we see so much religious iconography in tattoos? 

It is interesting that certain members of the Christian church such as Saint Basil the Great said; “No man shall let his hair grow long or tattoo themselves as do the heathens.” Heathens? Heathens? Oh, you must mean the rest of us, then?

Way back in 787, the fathers of the church of Northumberland made clear distinctions between good tattoos and evil tattoos. Apparently, “When an individual undergoes the ordeal of tattooing for the sake of God, he is greatly praised. But one who submits himself to be tattooed for superstitious reasons in the manner of the heathens will derive no benefit there from”. So as many pilgrims who took the arduous trips to the Holy Land got tattoos of remembrance (indeed many got tattooed as proof that they had actually made it to the Holy Land), in the eyes of their God, they were fine. The rest of us who get tattoos for our own sake or to commemorate anything other than God are going to Hell in a handcart!

Religious symbols have been tattooed on the skin of many for years and in recent years the increase in religious tattoos has almost turned into a tattoo genre in its own right.

Not a day goes by when I don’t see at least one tattoo with religious symbolism attached to it. I suppose in a way it is a similar yet more permanent way of having your savior with you at all times; like wearing the cross around your neck. I could go on about this subject almost indefinitely but I won’t here as there isn’t enough room and I plan on running a series on ‘Tattoo Symbolism’ in the very near future. 

One of the great things about tattooing is the fact that tattoos are the ultimate debate starters; not everybody agrees with each other’s choice of ink but everyone I have met is more than willing to talk about their decision to get a design permanently etched into their skin, thus starting a dialogue that can lead to a lifelong friendship or relationship. What other shared passion can do that?

Having spent close to six years piloting the Skin Deep ship, the last twelve months have seen the rise of probably the biggest insurgence of tattoo genius I have seen yet. It’s almost as if someone has pulled the lid off a huge cauldron of tattooing talent and these massively gifted individuals have spilled out into the public’s consciousness. Whether I am at a convention or festival, in a pub or restaurant, or just walking down the street, never before have I seen so many mouth-watering tattoos on display, which is very heartening. 

The upsurge of good quality tattoos and tattooing is a wonderful thing to see and the more the public see this incredible work coming from these young and immensely talented tattooists the better, as this will serve as a positive advert for good tattoos in general, hopefully raising the public’s awareness
of such work.

Next year looks to be a full one with many new and innovative tattoo conventions appearing. Although it is a long way off, Jazz Publishing have already started to get the ball rolling with the third instalment of Tattoo Jam. Doncaster Racecourse proved to be the perfect venue so again Tattoo Jam will take up residence there over the weekend of 6th - 8th of August. 

There will be close to three hundred international artists offering their talents to all and the now legendary and unique ARTIST friDAY will hold free seminars from some of the world’s best artists. The day will be rounded off with the Tattoo Masters’ Ball, making it a great start to a great show. You can keep tabs on all the updates at

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, and I hope to see many of you on the convention circuit next year.

Back Issues