LOVE them or loathe them, more and more people are getting tattoos.
And they’ve come a long way since the stereotypical anchors, skulls and crosses.
“It’s a modern art form,” says James Martin, owner of Jekyll and Hyde in Church Street.
“I don’t see it as a job. It’s more of a lifestyle. I can’t take my tattoos off when I go out - they go where I go.
“Tattoos don’t change you as a person but you tend to get painted with a negative brush. Often, people are surprised when they look past the exterior to find that I’m a good person.”
As the quality of equipment and ink advances, so do imagination and creativity - meaning that almost any design is possible. A lot of people draw their own designs out to take to the tattoo studio where staff will help them refine their ideas before putting ink to skin.
Mel Boyer co-owns Jekyll and Hyde with James. She said: “People are really thinking outside the box now, but it’s difficult to choose something to put on your skin for the rest of your life. We tell people to get a picture of their design on put it up somewhere they will see it every day - if they still like it after six weeks or so, then it’s the right design for them.”
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Jody Kirton from Lilbourne has several tattoos all over his body including tribal patterns, stars and a tribute to his parents. Jody said: “I was visiting a friend and I saw that his brother had a lot of drawings pinned up in his room. There was one tribal design that I really liked so I took it away and he was amazed when he next saw me with one of his designs tattooed on my arm.”
One consequence of the rise in popularity of tattoos is that people are attempting to tattoo themselves at home - which can have terrible results. Although tattoo studios and artists are regulated and inspected, there are no controls in place for the purchasing of tattooing equipment.
Spencer Scott owns the Eternal Art Tattoo studio in Drury Lane. He said: “People see a tattoo artist working and they think that it looks easy enough for them to try themselves, so they get a kit from Ebay. These kits are very poor quality and combined with someone inexperienced in tattooing the results are horrendous.
“A lot of people come to us because they’ve unsuccessfully tried to tattoo themselves and they need them reworked or covered up. I think that if you want something on your skin for the rest of life, why not pay the little bit extra for a professional who can give you the results that you’ll be happy with.”
There’s no linear career path to becoming a tattoo artist. Spencer used to do tattoos as a hobby and got his first professional job when he went out to Gran Canaria on holiday and ended up staying there for over a year working for a friend’s tattoo studio.
Spencer worked at various studios around the Midlands and when he was working in Coventry he met Polish tattoo artist Marek Misztela who he asked to work with him when he set up his own studio in Drury Lane just over a year ago.
Spencer said: “I think everyone aspires to do a job that they love and that’s what I’m doing. Marek and I are here every morning at seven because we love coming to work. We won’t usually start until ten but we sit and talk about different designs or do some drawing.”
The pair are always wanting to challenge themselves. Last Friday, Spencer was grinning - he had just finished what he thought was the best tattoo of his career. He drew a design of Star Wars character, Darth Maul, and uploaded the picture to Facebook asking for people to get in touch if they were interested in having the tattoo free of charge.
Spencer said: “We’re getting better and better all the time and I decided on the Darth Maul design because I needed something to push myself. We upload our designs onto our website and Facebook page which is where so many people hear about us. We’re off the beaten track so we don’t attract walk-ins.”