You can pretty much guarantee if you have been to a Tattoo Convention in this country over the last few years, you will have undoubtedly seen Carl working away, putting his own brand of ink into people. But the people in their thirties and forties who work in the scene and most of the tattoo artists I know have some really rather crap tattoos that they have had covered up.
I spend a great deal of my week actually covering up stuff and I think a lot of studios are doing the same. I reckon in the next few years we will see a lot more artists from Eastern European countries over here and some of their stuff is fantastic.
From an artist’s point of view, it’s very hard to get to work a convention unless you know someone. Working show makes you up your game a bit as you are working opposite some of this country’s premier artists. The one thing that really annoys me is when you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece and the customer doesn’t look after it. You can go to some towns up here where there is a tattoo shop, a burger shop, a tattoo shop, a burger shop and so on. I think if we all started to give a little something back instead of just taking, we’ll survive. You get a good living out of this business, give something back once in a while makes me feel good about myself as well. It’s sad in a way that we’re making it the last one that we are running, but we are in talks with other parties who could possibly take over. That might sound a bit pompous, but I think that a s much time and effort should go into a tiny stick man as should go into a full back piece.
Which is a sad indication of how things are going and the only one who looses out is the customer because they have paid twice! The way I approach it is if somebody wants to be a tattoo artist, I like to tell him or her the truth. There’s a chap by the name of Damon Taturin whose work I’ve seen is mind blowing and he’s only been going three years!
I always try to set myself goals and I’ve wanted to work abroad first and this year I’m doing more on the continent than I’ve ever done. This is the same abroad but luckily I now get a few invites so I must have done something right! The one thing I really love – apart from tattooing, and I certainly don’t look like I should do, is playing golf. If I go on holiday, I actually miss the studio and I phone up all the time to find out if everything’s okay. What do you think are the three major alterations that have gone on in the last five years?
One or two of the older guys feel that only the strong will survive, but at the same time there are some very fine artists that have gone down the pan because of the overload.
Quite often I’m working at a show, I’ll make sure I cover my costs then I’ll ask the organisers of the show if they have a member of their staff that wants some work and I’ll do that for free. And it just so happened that as we started the Durham one, Eddie started the Peterlee show and we just kept it going as people seemed to have such a good time at the convention. When he’s not at a show, either tattooing or organising conventions, he’s tattooing from his studio Artful Ink just outside Durham.

I say to myself each year, ‘I must cut it down a bit’ but to be honest, it goes with the territory.
I always wanted to draw what I wanted to draw and sometimes that doesn’t work or fit in with what people want to teach you with some formal art classes and qualifications.
These days’ things are different; there is a new wave of people coming through with full sleeves and clean back pieces with not a cover-up in sight.
And I think that, that’s probably the reason that you get into this business is that you think you can do better. The info that I have had through the magazines, I can see that HABIA are the one’s who have fucked up the piercing industry because they endorse the piercing courses which in turn has lost the piercing world all credibility. When I went down the path to becoming a tattooist, the people I admired were Jack Rudy, Bernie Luther, there are so many people that I took inspiration from at that time. If I could produce the quality of work that he is doing after three years I’d be retired by now!
You have about twenty-one square foot of skin on your body and as far as I’m concerned that square foot on your face can do without it. I want to take some time out to play a bit more hitting a little white ball about certainly vents all my anger! We get to speak to a lot of tattooists on the phone and it’s just sad when a world class tattooist turns around and says ‘I haven’t got a thing to do’ There are so many people out there undercutting each other. I do that because I’ve got a lot of crewmembers that help at our show that do it for nothing and it’s nice to give something back.
We try to improve the format each year and we moved the venue to give the disabled access to the show. Apart from being a superb artist, Carl has a very refreshing attitude to the whole tattooing scene and a more generous and kindhearted person you couldn’t hope to meet. I used to be the daft bugger who had the car, so it was my job to ferry all my mates about to the different tattoo studios. The tattooist that worked on me at the time would tick the tip of his machine into the spout of his kettle and boiled it. But recently I have had the privilege and honour to have worked beside some of this country’s greatest. As far as the traders are concerned they are all sorted and virtually a week after the last show, we’re booked for following year.
Although it’s hectic putting on a show I am certain that next year I’ll miss the organisation.
Being a tattooist isn’t a job, it’s a way of life and I think the conventions are part of the life. At the same time I’m looking forward to the future, so when the sad day comes that I have to hang up my machines, the studio will convert into a bungalow.
He’d worked his socks of all weekend and he wanted that tattoo, I wanted to do it and it didn’t cost me anything but time. Sometimes you can come in here and see my Dad making the tea, My Mum going for supplies, my missus doing something and my eldest daughter answering the phone.
We’re lucky that we have a great line-up of top artists; we’re unlucky because we could have more artists if we had more room. I went into it totally blind and I’m the first to admit, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but at the same time I think that put me in good stead later on.

Most of my family travels with me as do many of my friends and sometimes I think that it would be nice to miss one out but at the same time if I didn’t go I’d miss it. So if you get one of these people who’s just come off of one of these courses with all the equipment and certificates who sets up and the bloke down the road who’s been working away quite happily fro twenty years has suddenly got an awful lot of crap to cover up!
Spacey is meticulous, Daren Stares, he’s changed his style to what he was doing ten years ago. A fellow artist warned me about this actually and he was right, working shows definitely changes the work that you do. I worked from home and plodded on and I felt I was getting nowhere and I was on the verge of giving up.
Another thing about conventions is that working many of these shows has brought my tattooing up to another level. Every time I work a convention I seem to end up working on rib cages, armpits, elbow and knees or something like that! The one thing that I do intend to do is take more time out to spend with my family, so why should I work so hard and neglect them.
I think it’s time the tattooists and the whole industry got off their arses to do something about this collectively.
Counter act that with the amount of tattoo artists or people who think they are tattoo artists and the slice of cake is getting thinner.
Then I bumped, quite by accident into a lad in the late eighties and early nineties who was doing quite well on the convention scene at the time. We can talk about HABIA and the TPI and the big issues if the moment but these people are beyond that.
I don’t know whether the union’s the right way and I don’t know what is the right way, but something has to be done to fight HABIA off. And it’s funny as the years go by, I always try to set myself goals in tattooing and one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had in the art was when Stevie actually asked me to tattoo him. I look at the other artists working the shows as friends, not competition because ninety percent of them are. I like it when someone comes in who has thought abut the design and the placement of the tattoo, that’s very satisfying.
I’ve gone down the route of training people many times and in my experience, I’ve been let down on numerous occasions. Those who operate underground, it’s immaterial to them whether new regulations come in or not. I sometimes have guest appearances and Steve Galbrath from Somewhere Else Tattoos working here through the summer. After a while I got my own equipment from Stevie and eventually branched out on my own and opened up my first studio. I also get a lot of offers to guest at other studios, so I want to take time out to do that because I think it keeps you fresh.

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