Okay so here’s a blog post about tattoos (sorry mum)!
I have been obsessed with tattoos for as long as I can remember, it was initially a fascination with the pretty patterns and then I fell in love with the stories that many of them had behind them; the various styles, intricate designs and the amazing artists that create them. I got my first and; until this year, only tattoo a week after my 18th birthday. Three tiny dots on the outside of my wrist “just to see what it felt like”. After the way that that went down with my mum (I wasn’t spoken too for roughly four days) I realised I probably wouldn’t be getting any more any time soon for fear of disappointing her, and very possibly being expelled from the family.
Three years down the line and at the age of 21, I had decided on a tattoo and finally grew the balls to tell my mum I was going to get it. A robin tattoo in memorial of my grandfather, with a lyric in his handwriting underneath it. She couldn’t hate it really, especially not when I showed her how delicate and small it would be, and showed her some of the tattoo artist’s (@leehumphs_tattooer) other works she fell in love with the idea too. We were both even more in love with the final piece, which sits on my ribs in beautiful colour.
Following this my love of tattoos has only escalated, not only to wanting to cover myself in them but also to wanting to design them myself, maybe even look into it as a possible career. So when I realised that Leeds Tattoo Expo fell on my only day off last week, I knew I had to go. I was desperate to get at least one tattoo whilst I was there, and despite being eager to try my luck in the flashes; I knew I would be far too excitable on the day and probably make some very rash decisions, I decided to email some of the artists who were advertised as having booths there in advance to see if they had any space available. There was one artist in particular that I was interested in (@blackcatfriday), who had so so many beautiful fine line and dot work designs on her instagram page. I was particularly interested because her two most recent posts were a robin; like my own tattoo, and the Creation of Adam; which was the tattoo I was next hoping to get. I took it as fate. Luckily enough she did have the space and I paid my deposit and got myself booked in.
I think it is important to state in advance that I am a very very anxious person. So it was a very big day for me- I was travelling to Leeds and attending the expo all by myself and the expo itself at first did seem very intimidating. However, my opinion changed very quickly as literally everyone, from the other guests to the tattoo artists, to those organising the event were so helpful and lovely. Any anxiety I had dissipated instantly, it was so well laid out and there were tonnes of people there just as excited as I was. Kotone (that’s her real name not her insta handle FYI) said she needed another half an hour just to make sure the stencil and sizing were correct now she had seen me, and I was only too grateful to have that little bit of extra time to walk around the convention. A LOT of people had got there early like me, obviously eager to get first pick of the flashes, and there was an amazing buzz in the Leeds First Direct Arena. I saw plenty of artists I would love to have tattoos by and resisted the urge to ask them if they had any space later in the day (the resistance came primarily from my bank account rather than my willpower) but picked up plenty of business cards and stickers as mental notes to check out their pages and *probably* book at a later date.
Then began sitting 4 hours sitting for not one, but 3 tattoos. Like I said, no willpower. I chose to get the Creation of Adam at the base of my neck/ top of my back. It was a piece of art I had originally fallen in love with when I was very young as it was on the wall of my family’s favourite restaurant and I would always ask to sit opposite it so that I could stare at it. Since then I have researched it many times and its many interpretations and meanings and I knew it would be perfect. Especially in the tiny, delicate, shaded version that Kotone created. I also got a whale that looked like it was made of origami. Yeah, you read that right. Kotone had done several other animals in this style and I couldn’t help myself. I always remember a children’s book in which it says that “whales have a big enough heart to withstand the pressure of the ocean and never stay down for too long”. Finally I got the number 20 in small type writer font at the top of my neck, right in my hairline. My favourite book has always been We Bought a Zoo (some of you many recognise the film) and one quote has influenced me greatly in a lot of my life: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” That is what I think of when I am most anxious or scared, it is what has got me through a lot of days. So now in more ways than one, I will always have that in the back of my head.
Once I was all done and wrapped it was about 4pm (the whole expo finished at 9pm each night after opening at 11am). I wanted to make the most of the time I had left there, so I walked around the rest of the booths, got a pizza and a pint and finally found the one stall I had specifically set out on finding beforehand- Katie Abey’s. Badges galore. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE badges and my denim jacket is covered in them; but there is always room for more- especially ones with choice phrases such as “off you fuck” and “I fucking hate people”. There were also socks, cards, magnets, posters and all sorts of other bits and pieces. They would make perfect gifts (I got my magnet obsessed mum one as a form of appeasement for coming home with three tattoos more than she wanted me too. Then it was time for the train home.
Whilst I could only go for the one day, Leeds Tattoo Expo is a weekend long event with separate day tickets available which runs every year. And you can bet I will be there next year. It’s not like I’ve already got some artists and designs in mind… I cannot recommend the event or Kotone enough it was a brilliant day out and so well organised with everything you could want for the whole day in one place. I now have three more beautiful tattoos, and even more of an insatiable itch to get more. It has also made me consider the career of tattoo artistry more seriously. It is something I have briefly considered numerous times but never with much conviction as I couldn’t believe I would ever be good enough to actually make it. But having spoken to many tattoo artists there I now appreciate that many of them shared the same outlook once. I also heard numerous times that they did not want to consider their art a “gift” because “I worked really fucking hard to be where I am today it isn’t a gift”. And my personal favourite phrase of the day that I heard in passing, “all kids are born shit at drawing, just some stick at it and get less shit”.
I would love to hear from any tattoo artists, or tattoo apprentices who could offer me some more information of how they got into tattooing, and any advise they may have for somebody that might be interested?