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Thrax on tattoos. (part one)

Thrax here with some ramblings about my profession, and today I want to talk about the change of tattoo fashions over the years. I’m in the fortunate position to have been a tattoo artist for more than 20 odd years, after an apprenticeship of sorts back in 1997, and over the last two decades I’ve witnesses some weird and wonderful tattoo fashions.  Back in those days, it was all about the flash sheet. Something that still, at times, raises its head and gives me a subtle nostalgia trip. Tattoo shops were curious places, usually blacked out windows, locked doors and crudely painted signs. The dark and foreboding interior filled with dubious, scary, almost criminal looking types.  You knocked the door and cautiously enter, and are immediately faced with walls filled with racks full of thick lined designs, a foreboding sight for the ‘tattoo virgin’. Roses are in abundance here and although the ones I tend to do nowadays are black and shade, the English red rose still has maintained popularity today.  Thankfully shaking off its slight nationalistic roots, rather like the British Bulldog tattoo design. consigned to history, however in those days not a week went by without tattooing a Bulldog wearing boxing gloves. Even more outlandish was the Tasmanian Devil, a design that even baffled me. Over the years I’ve tattooed them wearing wizard’s robes, army uniforms, ripping through skin and riding motorbikes. I still don’t understand the thought process behind them, but I bet I could knock one out in under an hour at the time. Hahaha. The female equivalent was the Betty Boop. Again, I’ve no idea. She was a cartoon character from the 1930’s? Thankfully I didn’t get to do many and now we tend to cover them up instead. It was in those early years I was inspired by Austrian Tattoo Artist, Bernie Luther. I discovered his style when visiting my first Tattoo convention, around the same time, in Dunstable. He was nuts. Long haired, listened to heavy metal and designing twisted, alien tattoos. Ripped skin with evil faces and skulls. Totally breaking the chains of what a tattoo design could be.  His work, alongside other Tattoo masters like Robert Hernandez and Paul Booth totally blew my mind. Inspiring me to pick up a pencil and draw. It sounds strange now, what with the internet and its abundance of dark imagery only a click away. In the late 90’s it was different world. We took our cues from the occasional magazine we could find and most of those were filled with traditional or biker style tattoos. 

part two to follow soon.

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