Seaton man challenges tattoo stereotypes

PUBLISHED: 14:31 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 00:39 16 June 2010

TATTOOIST Liam Sheldrake and customer John Cox

TATTOOIST Liam Sheldrake and customer John Cox

TO tattoo or not to tattoo? For a Seaton tattooist and his canvas, ink work is an art form – not confined to the stereotypes of sailors and convicts.

TO tattoo or not to tattoo? For a Seaton tattooist and his canvas, ink work is an art form - not confined to the stereotypes of sailors and convicts.

Liam Sheldrake, 21, has been tattooing for four years and believes there are still misconceptions about people with tattoos.

Tattoo aficionado John Cox, who had his first tattoo in 1966, agrees that the industry has come a long way and says his only regret is that he did not have one of the more 'beautiful' tattoos available today.

Liam, whose studio Artistic Ink is based in Harbour Road, said: "It's acceptable for most people if you have tattoos, but still a bit edgy if you're heavily covered."

John, a granddad from Honiton, said he has tattoos on every part of his body (yes, every part) except his hands. He had to have the latter removed in order to be employed in the 1970s.

He said: "When I had mine first done, aged 15, it was by an ex-sailor in a front room. He used the same needles, same ink, and was limited to black, brown, red, green and yellow dies. I've been having them done ever since and will only stop when there's no more skin left to tattoo.

"It used to be skulls, cross bones and snakes, but now tattoos are beautiful and more accepted. My only regret is not having the nice ones, such as a full Japanese body piece."

At Artistic Ink a single-use needle is used, sterilised in EO gas, and virtually any colour imaginable is available.

Along with the process, Liam and John believe people's perceptions' of tattoos is changing.

John, who works as a doorman in Taunton, said: "Years ago, if you had tattoos you were either an ex convict or in the forces - I was in the forces! People do stare now, but it's not held in disgust."

He said it was a question of personal taste, but says some women find them attractive and it has acted as a point of conversation in the past.

Liam explained that tattoos can be traced back to every culture, from the Egyptians, to the Polynesians, to the Japanese.

He said: "It was originally a right of passage for a young man to go through. Now it's much more about a fashion statement."

Tattoos can also be used for cosmetic treatment, such as burns or permanent make up.

Work can take anything from 10 minutes to 22 hours and Liam charges £50 an hour.

Liam, who had many tattoos done himself, was attracted to the creative side of tattooing.

He undertook a two year apprenticeship and said his work varies from consultations, to designs, to doing tattoos and even removing them - namely an ex partner's name.

He said: "There's no art form on the planet quite like it. There's nothing better than a living, breathing canvas."

* For more information, visit www.artisticink.co.uk or call (01297) 625255. The studio is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm. Evenings and Sundays are by appointment only,


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