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Shawn Conn

Shawn Conn

Talk us through your first tattoo and what inspired it?

My first tattoo was a straight up impulse tattoo. I was getting ready to go into the army and I walked into this place that had all these dead animal’s heads on the walls and the tattooist was a massive man with no shirt on and two enormous nipple rings.  He was sweating profusely and tattooing off this small table that his nipple rings kept clanging on. I had drawn a small skull with an arrow through the head that said US Army around it. He placed the stencil, tattooed it and bandaged it, all with my arm bent, so when I got home and took the bandage off it elongated and looked more like a mutant sperm whale swimming up my arm. After that I became a little more discerning of the artists I had work on me.

There’s a lot of crossover between horror and ink fans, what do you think the connection is?

There’s a large segment of the tattooed populace that tends toward the darker, fantastic side of life. In the past dozen, or so years it’s become ok to be an out of the locker geek and so a lot of people can show that part of themselves through their tattoos. It’s especially so in the horror community. Horror fanatics can now let people know who their favourite horror icons are by having them engraved in their flesh. And it’s a way for people to give the outside world a little taste of the darkness inside of us all.

Mordare by Shawn ConnOf all your tattoos which do you think is most synonymous with horror?

It would have to be the tattoo of an eyeball with tentacles of muscle intertwining behind it and a nail going straight through the top of the eye. It’s on my right hand and I got it the day I decided to enter a tattoo apprenticeship.

Who are your favourite horror tattooists?

Paul Booth, who definitely helped to create the genre of horror tattooing, Dan Henk, Josh Carlton, Bob Tyrell, Shane O’Neill does some great horror stuff, as well as Polish artist, Grzegorz “Prykas” Pryka. There are a lot more fantastic artists who do horror stuff. Too many to remember, let alone list.

How much does a person’s tattoos tell you about them?

It really depends on the person and the circumstances their getting tattooed under.  For some people it’s a very personal thing, whether it be a memorial tattoo for a passed loved one, a tattoo for their kids, or even a personal affirmation tattoo. But then there’s that impulse tattoo that some people get just because. No real meaning to it, just something they were compelled to do.

Is it ok to get a tattoo because it just looks fucking cool or do you believe there should be a deep message behind each tattoo?

Fuck yeah it is! That’s part of the whole foundation behind the tattoo subculture. No constraints and no judgements! It sometimes bothers me these days when tattooists call certain tattoos stupid. In essence they’ve become the very elitists that they profess to be so against.

What advice do you have for people considering their first tattoos?

Don’t get a stupid tattoo. Just kidding. The first thing people should do is to educate themselves. Find out what makes a good tattoo and a good tattoo artist. What are the health concerns and precautions involved with safe tattooing? Do the research to find good artists in your area, who not only can do the best job for the work you want, but are also concerned with your safety.

zombie Dimebag by Shawn ConnAny words of warning regarding tattooing and things to avoid?

Talk to people you know who are tattooed with good work. They’re going to be your best source of knowledge for people to trust, both artistically and health wise. Don’t get tattooed in someone’s basement, kitchen, or in the back of a bar, or hair salon (a disturbing trend as of late). Ask your respective artist if they follow ‘universal precautions’. If they look at you like you’ve just asked them to explain quantum physics, turn around and never go there again. One last piece of advice, tattoo studios are the last real bastion of free expression. We swear, tell bad jokes, make crass remarks and innuendos and we love to say “Oops” about five minutes into your tattoo. Be prepared.

For those who haven’t been to a tattoo convention, what can they expect?

A really great time if the convention has been properly organised. You meet all kinds of great people, some scary and bizarre ones too, but it’s all people there to immerse themselves in the tattoo culture. There’s the constant buzz of tattoo machines, the smell of green soap and visual delights of the flesh, as far as the eye can see.

If, for whatever reason, you were told that you could only have one more tattoo, what would it be and why?

The kanji for strength. Ha, ha, ha. Well, when people ask me how many tattoos I have, my response is, “One. It’s just not finished yet,” so it’d be that one.

There are still a lot of people who discriminate against tattoos in the work place, why do you think that is? Do you think this trend is reversing? 

A lot of people don’t know this, but within the tattoo community there exists a secret society that has quietly been eliminating those who discriminate against tattoos in the workplace and replacing them with our own people. Human beings will discriminate until the end of the human race. It’s in our nature to discriminate against that which we feel is radically different from us, threatens us, we fear, or fail to understand.  When I first started tattooing, twenty years ago, people would turn eighteen and wonder if they should get a tattoo. Now they turn eighteen and wonder what tattoo they should get. The more people get tattooed, the more it will be accepted everywhere, including the workplace. We’re coming for you Disney!

Shawn Conn

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