Elise Brewerton meets the people addicted to getting tattoos and body modifications – and the artists whose steady hands and artistic flair mean they have a waiting list of customers wanting to be inked by them at
Portsmouth’s International Tattoo Extravaganza.
In case you had not noticed, tattoos are very fashionable right now.
Rather than being the preserve of salty sea dogs and bikers, people of all ages have taken to having their bodies adorned with permanent works of art.
It is hugely popular, with tattoos fashionable up to the neck and even face.
And Reno Sammut, the owner of Body Image tattoo parlour in Fratton Road, Portsmouth, knows only too well how popular inking is.
For the past six years he has organised the International Tattoo Extravaganza at The Pyramids Centre in Southsea.
Last weekend saw thousands of people walk through the doors to meet some of the world’s greatest tattoo artists.
But what is the attraction of being indelibly inked?
Reno, whose son and daughter work with him, said the answer is simple.
‘It’s an addiction,’ he said. It’s like a drug I suppose. But it’s colourful.
‘Once you have one done you can’t stop.
‘Tattoos have become a lot more popular over the years.
‘From footballers to pop stars – they are a lot more accepted.
‘It’s not seen as a “tramp stamp” any more.
‘We’re licensed to tattoo anyone over the age of 18.
‘But we tattoo young people, old people, middle-aged people, bank managers, barristers – people who you wouldn’t expect to have tattoos.
‘We have tattoo artists you see on TV, from around Europe and around the world.
‘We’re like one big family.’
As well as tattoos, body modifications are extremely popular – such as devil horns implants and even microchips carrying personal information.
Aaron Porter is not so extreme but he is still passionate about his tattoos.
The 20-year-old supermarket worker, from Waterlooville, went to the convention to have some more work done on his calf. He said: ‘I don’t get tattoos for the sake of it. Each one means something.
‘I studied the artist Justin Hartman at school and I really liked his work so I had a piece tattooed.
‘And I’ve got a piece of Japanese-inspired artwork because I love everything about Japan.
‘It is addictive but, at the same time, I know when to stop. I’d never have my neck or face tattooed.’
Go to tattooextravaganza.co.uk.
Works of art
PAUL Reynolds, of Lady Luck tattoo parlour, in Fawcett Road, Southsea, started drawing as a way of keeping out of trouble.
The 37-year-old has worked around the world, with his most recent stint being in New York.
‘I was a naughty boy at school and got sent to my room a lot where I started to draw.
‘I’ve got lots of tattoos and, of course, there are some I regret. But when you’re young you don’t realise how permanent they really are.’
Lucinda Mace, 27, from Locks Heath, is a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series.
She has scenes from the books tattooed on her leg and characters from her favourite computer games on her arm.
The accounts administrator said: ‘My parents would never have tattoos or piercings but they approve of mine because they acknowledge them as works of art.’
‘I’ve got no regrets’
WHEN Barby Bella had her first tattoo at 19, it was almost unheard of for women to be inked.
But, now 49, her entire body is adorned with tattoos – including her head – and she even has horn implants in her forehead.
But, on Sunday, she went even further with her body modification by having her tongue split by modification expert Mac ‘Dr Evil’ McCarthy at the convention.
Barby, a tattoo artist from Petersfield, said: ‘My first tattoo was a spur-of-the-moment thing – at a time when women just didn’t have them done.
‘It was a little while before the second one but from then on, that was it. I was hooked.
‘The looks I get from the public range from making me feel I’m like something they’ve just trodden on to people shouting “wow!”.
‘The question I get asked all the time is, “does it hurt?”.
‘Of course it hurts. In some areas more than others.
‘My groin was probably the most painful.
‘But they are creative. I don’t regret any of them.
‘It will take 10 days for the swelling on my tongue to go down but it’s worth it as I’ve always wanted it done. I do it because I can.’
Booked up for a year
CERI Williams studied graphic design before training as a tattoo artist.
The 37-year-old works at Inklination, in Gosport, and is so popular she is booked up until next April.
But her favourite tattoo artist – and the only one she trusts to do the intricate works of art that adorn her body – is booked up for the next three years.
Ceri said: ‘Carlos Torres is in LA and I’ve put my name down.
‘The artist is very important to me.
‘Because I have to wait until they have a space I don’t have as many tattoos as I’d like.
‘I won’t go to just anyone.
‘My apprenticeship was with Kyra Wilson at Inklination because she had a brilliant reputation.
‘One day I turned up in my smart clothes and she thought I was a businesswoman.
‘At first she was sceptical but she taught me everything I know.
‘I absolutely love my job.
‘I meet different people all the time, different artists, and learn about different interests.
‘At conventions like this I learn about different techniques the other artists use, talk about machines and needles.
‘I have been all over the world to conventions.’