6 August 2011

the lost art of keeping a secret

When I was 18 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When I got home and in a flurry of mid-freshers excitement at Uni I ended up going and getting a very simple black outline of the mountain and it's snow-capped peak on my foot, fitting I thought. It was important to me from a personal achievement point of view and also due to the fact that the famous snow capped peak would be gone within 20 years due to the warming of our planet. It was with this first tattoo that I set the bar for myself quite high, after this there was no chance I was going to head out and get something tattooed on me just because I liked it, it had to mean something to me. Maybe it was for the best, popping my ink cherry at such a height that it would prevent silly impromptu tattoos in the future. I would post a photo of said tattoo but it's really quite ridiculous and literally just two black lines.

A year ago last June my Grandad passed away, without getting too sombre he was a massive reason why I moved to Leeds for University to be closer to him through his last few years of ill health. He was a huge influence through my childhood and a great friend to me whilst in Leeds. He lived in the same house in Wakefield my Mum, Auntie and Uncle all grew up in. A huge weeping willow tree overlooked the house in the front garden that Simon, our cousins and I used to play in and generally the house was full of fantastic memories for us all. Soon after his passing my Uncle decided to buy the house off my Mum and Auntie which obviously delighted the entire family, keeping the house within the family for another generation.

Ever since his passing I had considered getting myself another tattoo, something to signify and honour my Grandad. He smoked a pipe almost every day of his life (since he was 7) until a few years before his passing. The image I remember of him is with a pipe in his mouth talking gruffly out the corner of his mouth and barking in shock when one of us would proclaim we weren't fans of peas or something else on his much prided Sunday Roast.

Around this time I spoke to a friend about my enthusiasm to get something tattooed for him. My experience of other friends getting inked was simply them going to the nearest tattoo studio and getting their own design done fairly simply. But having studied art I was keen for this to be something quite special considering the inspiration. My aforementioned friend frequented tattoo conventions, searching out her favourite artists and getting inked, almost as a collector of unique pieces of art on herself. I told her my idea and she pointed me in the direction of a few artists.

pug life
It wasn't long before I settled on Joe Ellis, an apprentice tattoo artist from Darlington working at Cock-A-Snook studio in Newcastle. Joe turned professional in February of this year and by industry standards is very much a newcomer to the scene. In the last 5 months however Joe has exploded, tattooing almost every day, clients are travelling as far as 7 hours to be inked by Joe. Having been recently asked to tattoo at this years (invite only exclusive) Tattoo Jam in Doncaster, it's sure to be a bright autumn and winter for this young man. Joe has a certain antique elegance to his work and classiness yet with definitive classic art roots that really resonated with me. He has a talent for portraits too - widely believed to be the most difficult tattoo to perfect - so I was confident in his ability. Here are a few examples of my favourite pieces of his work which led me to decide on Joe.

So after following Joe on his Facebook for a month or so and messaging back and forth I decided to take the plunge. I wanted the tattoo on my leg just above my knee, somewhere less visible than say an arm or something, yet being a big fan of shorts it would never be too far away. With my friends' lips sealed to avoid revealing this prematurely to my family, I headed to Newcastle one lazy Saturday afternoon. Having only had a tiny tattoo done in the past I had almost forgotten what it was going to feel like. The outline nearest my knee killed (having barely eaten I wasn't sure if i'd be able to hold out) but luckily just as Joe had said it would, the rest got easier. I then relaxed into it, my adrenaline was going and my first (proper) tattoo was taking shape.

3 hours, 2 and a half albums, lots of blood and snacks later, I had a homage to my Grandad, Gordon Walker. Cliche alert! Words literally can't describe my thoughts towards it - the realism of the smoking pipe, the natural colours of the willow leaves, the subtle shading of the house named banner - it was perfect. A week later I arrived home to Malmesbury from Leeds and told my mum i'd had a tattoo done but that she had to find it. After assessing my arms and a brief peek under my wife-beater she discovered my new piece. A few moments of shock and overriding emotion later, the words "as far as tattoos go, it's lovely" came from her mouth, which is more positive than the "i'm not angry i'm just disappointed" line I was dreading. All in all the entire experience was hugely positive for me. I love my new tattoo and my experience with Joe and Cock-A-Snook was fantastic, I can't recommend the man enough. The bar had been set high by my 18 year old self but G. Walker easily surpassed that bar.

Last but not least, I found out whilst at Cock-A-Snook that Joe used to live in Leeds and perform quite regularly in a metal band he'd be embarrassed if i mentioned. He did however mention that his band supported skate punk-rock outfit The Swellers once upon a time and played me their album whilst he was working on my leg. I've had the album on non-stop since returning home, a lot like A Loss For Words, Wonder Years and Against Me!, it's a perfect summer angst fueled record. Go check them out and grab this single off their fifth album Good For Me.

Download #4

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