Current trends in tattoo art

Current trends in tattoo art

A pair of swallows over your throat? Or a winking girl behind your knee? What would you get? Lindsey Johnstone explores current trends in tattoo art

And you thought tattoos were an expression of individuality? Celebrity copycat body art is more popular than ever, with images of Rihanna and Cheryl Cole currently the most frequently ripped from the gossip mags and taken to the tattoo parlour.

'Everyone wants something on the side of their hand like Cheryl Cole,' says Fiona McKay, studio manager at Forevermore on Glasgow's Hope Street, 'or stars on their neck like Rihanna.

'The hand is definitely the new tramp stamp, whereas two years ago you never saw it. The inside of the finger is a big thing now too – Rihanna and Lily Allen both have "shhh" tattooed there, so that's probably why.'

Roz Collins, studio manager at Edinburgh's Tribe, echoes this, 'The side of the hand is the 2010 tattoo.'

Encouragingly however, the flipside in terms of current tattoo trends is originality, contrary to the celebrity influence.

'Aside from the celeb stuff,' says Collins, 'we are actually seeing people being a lot more original than they used to be; coming in with their own ideas, or customising flashes, and generally being more daring, both with their designs and where they want them.

'People are going for larger pieces too, and for their first tattoo, rather than starting with something small. Ribs are also more popular these days. They're notoriously uncomfortable to have done, so before it was hardcore enthusiasts that got work there, but now we see first-timers getting their ribs done too.'

Tribe specialises in traditional Japanese artwork, and the studio has seen a surge in its popularity, with Collins citing tattoo parlour TV show Miami Ink, which features the style heavily, as the reason.

'Sailor Jerry is definitely having a big moment,' says McKay. 'We've seen a real increase in all the traditional imagery – roses, mermaids, Victorian heads.'

As for what's on the way out, both studios have seen a decline in tribal and Celtic tattoos. The heavy, black designs covering biceps are being ditched in favour of more colour and detail. David Beckham's influence is waning too, with both seeing fewer clients come in with pictures of body art's former poster boy.

Somewhat gratifyingly, Collins also reveals: 'You don't really get people asking for cartoon characters anymore either – we see a lot less of Winnie the Pooh these days.

'People seem to be thinking more about how they'll feel about their tattoo when they're 60. Because tattoos are more mainstream these days, people seem more aware of what they maybe should and shouldn't get done.'

The studio also offers a laser removal service, although these days clients are more likely to have previous work removed to make way for the new, rather than out of regret.

'A lot of people get things removed to make way for bigger pieces,' says Collins. 'They want to be even more ambitious and are getting rid of smaller, tamer pieces to make space.

'Other than that, it's the stuff you'd expect to regret; devils they got when they were 18, holiday tattoos that don't look quite so good once you get home and sober up. And of course, names. It's the cliché of the romantic gesture that didn't work out. I've seen enough of those to recommend never getting one.'

Current Tattoo Trends

Japanese traditional
Detailed, elaborate and vividly coloured scenes featuring warriors, waves, koi fish, geishas, dragons, cherry blossoms and Kanji characters (Japanese lettering) are the mainstay of this genre. Don't worry, they're a world away from the once-beloved Chinese symbols, speculated by many to be the tattoo artists' joke at the expense of clueless punters, and all secretly reading 'chicken fried rice'.

Sailor Jerry
Mermaids, ships, anchors, roses, swallows, pin-ups, flags and scrolls. Images are boldly outlined and almost cartoon-esque in their simplicity. This old-school style is called after legendary tattoo artist Norman 'Sailor Jerry' Collins, exposed to traditional Asian tattoo imagery while sailing with the US Navy. He made his name, and the style named after him, inking sailors on shore leave in Honolulu. And yes, the rum's his too.

This style has grown in popularity in recent years due to advancements in tattoo technology. Designs are usually exact copies of photographs and done in black and white – or a heavily detailed reproduction of a work of art.

Saturated Colour
Lush reds, deep greens, glossy yellows – tattoos have come along way from murky blue-green scribbles. Instead try butterflies, peacocks and lighthouses with colours you can almost dive into. (Lindsey Johnstone)



Terry's Tattoo Studio
23 Chisholm Street, Trongate
0141 552 5740,
Venerable family-run business going back over 50 years; the original Terry established the International Tattoo Artist's Association in the 70s, and son Stuart now looks after the shop.

202 Hope Street, city centre
0141 332 9340,
Well-respected establishment with strong links to Glasgow's music scene (several artists are also musicians), and occasional 'guest artists' from other cities who pop in from time to time.

5 Dixon Street, city centre
0141 248 4966,
A popular shop, Bodyline is found just round the corner from the St Enoch subway station, and offers a full consultation before any work – be it pre-existing, custom or cover-up.

113 Dumbarton Road, Kelvinhall
0141 339 6171,
Heartily recommended by local folks, Kaya also likes to offer its customers the occasional guest artist – although when it comes to residents, you should be sure to ask for Paul.

Chameleon Tattoo
6B Glasgow Road, Paisley,
0141 889 8866,
Chief artist Leon has been going since 1993, when he started in his father's Australian studio. Now firmly established in Paisley, Chamelon offers tattooing and piercing in a bright, modern studio. No appointment necessary – just arrive when you're ready.

Custom Inc.
214-216 Kent Road, Finnieston
0141 249 9949,
Home to respected resident artists Foot In Mouth and Billy The Bastard, this much-loved studio is also involved in off-beat international skull-decorating charity scheme The Sugar Project.


Studio XIII Gallery
3 Jeffrey Street, Old Town
0131 558 2974,
A studio-cum-gallery (tattooists' non-skin-based artwork hangs on the walls) that also moonlights as a shop for mystic/occult items.

47 West Nicholson Street, Southside, and 80 Broughton Street; also, 1 Bank Street, Glasgow, 0131 622 7220 /
0131 622 4554 / 0141 337 1940,
Spanning both cities, Tribe offers all the standard tattoo and piercing options, as well as tattoo removal for those who have had second thoughts.

Old Town Tattoo
49 Blackfriars Street, Old Town
0131 556 0345,
As well as traditional tatts and piercings, OTT also offer Micro Dermal Anchor techniques that allow piercings and jewellery to poke out from under the skin.

Red, Hot and Blue Tattoo
1a Brougham Place, Tollcross
0131 477 7753,
With a personalised design ethos, this is one of the best places in town to come if you're after something uniquely 'you'. Tattooist/owner Paul Slifer's Sailor Jerry designs are also quite, quite beautiful.

Venus Flytrap Tattoo
50 Candlemaker Row, Old Town 0131 220 4971,
The capital's leading specialist on oriental designs, it's located on one of the most alternative-friendly streets in town, with Deadhead Comics, occultist store Black Mausoleum and clothes shops Electric Cabaret and Underground Nation all within spitting distance.

Bills Tattoo Studio
73 Elm Row, Leith, 0131 556 5954
So old school it doesn't even have a website, Bills (with a defiant lack of apostrophe) gets by on very healthy word of mouth, offering a straight-to-the-point service on a first come, first served basis.

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