The art of tattooing
By the end of the century, tattooing will be a global business, with tattoo artists from all over the world collaborating to create stunning designs for everyone from the head of the household to the president of the United States.
But for some of us, it’s a career that just doesn’t have a lot of prospects.
When I was in high school, the biggest tattoo I ever got was for a tattoo of the word ‘J’ in an English accent, and I never got a tattoo.
I wanted to be an artist, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realised I had a tattoo on my forearm that was actually my parents name.
I was a bit ashamed of my choice, but also excited to get it out in public.
I went to my GP and was told I had the most perfect tattoo I had ever seen.
The doctor said I could start to get a job, and he offered to pay for it.
I’m so grateful to him for that, and that was that.
The tattoo that I got in my arms was for my father, who passed away a few years ago.
He had a small piece of paper that said: Dad, I am so proud of you.
I would love to see you one day.
The tattoo is very simple: he has a large ‘J’, in an old-fashioned, red-and-white colour, on his left forearm.
It’s called the tattoo of an ancestor.
“It’s not just the tattoos that matter; the people who know you and the stories you tell.
You’re not just a tattoo, you’re a storyteller,” says Mark Kiely, who has tattooed himself to be part of a global community of artists.
“There’s an emotional connection to them that’s so strong, that it’s hard to explain.”
“I have a story.
I have an idea.
I’ve made a commitment to my tattoos to make it better, to do more, and to tell a story that resonates with everyone who has ever heard of me.”
The reason for that commitment is a story Kieley and his fellow tattoo artists tell.
Kielyn and his partner, John, are both tattooists, and both have been inspired by their own lives to tell stories that speak to people who have lost loved ones.
“We don’t want our stories to just be tattoos.
We want to create a world where people are better off for it,” says Kieyl.
“We want to show people that if you lose someone, you can come back.
We think that people deserve to be able to get back to their loved ones, and we want to do that in their honour.”
In the early days of tattooed life, Kielys and his partners worked in their local tattoo shop, tattoo parlour, or in the basement of the family home, where they would find people who wanted to do the work they did for a living.
When they were teenagers, they also worked as part of the Royal Institution of Tattoo and Marine Tattooists, but they were always careful to stay away from the mainstream tattoo scene.
“I’d be in the back and they’d have someone come in with a tattoo and be like, ‘Oh, that’s terrible’, or ‘Oh my god, that was awful’,” recalls Kieleys.
The tattoo shop where Kiellys and his wife would sit down with customers.
As tattoo artists, they were taught to work from a more traditional perspective: they would sit and make notes and make sketches on the customers tattoos, which were usually inked in traditional ink on paper.
“When I started, I didn’t know what to do.
I just sat there and made drawings, and they would all go through the process of coming up with their own words on paper,” Kieys says.
“I’d just be doing a sketch and then the tattooist would come in and say ‘Oh you got this right.'”
But once I started tattooing, it was like the whole tattoo world exploded.
I had to make all the designs myself.
I’d always be making these drawings on paper, but now I had all these people coming in to help me make these designs.
They had to come up with a story to tell, too.
Kiely and his family would come to the tattoo shop every Friday, or even every other Friday, to help with the tattooing.
They’d sit at a table with the customers, and the owner would draw something on the table, and give it to the customer, and then they would give it back to the owner to do another tattoo.
“You have to be so respectful to people that come in, and you can’t be rude to them,” he says.
One day, Kies and his brother, John were walking back from work when they saw