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Sween

Sween tattoo artist

Talk us through your first tattoo and what inspired it?

I got my first professionally done tattoo when I was 16 years old – it was a traditional black panther stretching down my left forearm. I got it to cover some Indian ink tattoos I had there which I’d had done when I was 13 – signs of a misspent youth.

Dan Gore TattooI’ve always been into tattoos for as long as I can remember, I grew up around uncles who had a lot of tattoos and was always a little anti-establishment so anything that went against the norm appealed to me.

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

Personally I think the rebellious nature of tattoos appeals to the darker side of people’s psyche much the same as a good horror movie does.

Of all your tattoos which do you think is most synonymous with horror?

I tattoo a lot of horror imagery on others such as gory zombies and movie stills from films like Evil Dead, 30 Days of Night, Alien etc. Of my own collection I have a lot of skull-based tattoos and my head/facial tattoo done by Gerry Carnelly of Octopus Tattoo, is a mixture of bio-organic shapes with various body parts like a brain and teeth.

Who are your favourite horror tattooists?

Without a doubt the master of macabre tattooing is Paul Booth of Last Rites Tattoo along with Lior Cifer of the same studio out in New York. Bob Tyrell of night gallery is another one of my favourites, although he doesn’t always do horror tattoos, when he does they are ultra realistic.

How much do a person’s tattoos tell you about them?Alien vs Predator

I learnt a long time ago not to judge books by their covers, as I wouldn’t like to be judged by mine.

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?

I think the Miami/LA Ink generation think that every tattoo must have a reason or a heart-wrenching story behind it. In actuality the reasons for getting tattooed are as varied and diverse as the subjects. Some have a plain and simple meaning like a child’s or loved one’s name and some get them as fashion accessories following whatever celebrity is in the public eye at the time sadly. Others get them because they just fancy a tattoo or like a particular design or artist’s work and think it would look fuckin’ cool on them. Of my own collection there’s only my kid’s names that really have any meaning behind them. The others make their own stories by the occasion of having them and the memories they create of the time of getting them.

Skull TattooWhat advice do you have for people considering their first tattoos?

Always check out an artist’s portfolio of previous work before committing your skin to them, and don’t follow the herd and be a sheep by getting a Rhianna or Llady Gaga, tattoo or whatever the ‘in’ celeb of the time is – the majority are shite anyway if I’m honest. Work with your artist and be prepared to take good advice from people who know. Don’t get tattooed in highly visible areas until you are running out of space in less visible areas. Tattoos might be ‘de rigueur’ at the moment, but they may not be forever and laser surgery is a costly and time-consuming thing.

Any words of warning regarding tattooing and things to avoid?

Just because it says ‘studio’ over the door don’t presume they know what they’re doing. Take the time to check out your artist’s work both through pictures and reputation. NEVER get tattooed in someone’s kitchen or house because it’s cheaper. Hepatitis and other blood born disease are easily contractible and sometimes deadly. If they can’t be employed by a studio there is a damn good reason! Studios are more costly because of health restrictions we MUST follow to make sure you are safe.

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

Tattoo conventions are a lot of fun for attendees. Organisers, these days, put on a variety of forms of entertainment such as bands, burlesque, art galleries, clothing and craft stalls, depending on the venue, as well as bringing in the best artists from both the UK and worldwide. And there is always a bar or three for liquid refreshments as well as competitions throughout the weekend.

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

A body suit haha! I told you I’m a rebel – the more people tell me not to do something the more I’m gonna go and do it, and the more extreme I will be when I do. Seriously though, I think it would be my sleeve of stand-up comedy greats by the great tattooist Cecil Porter. We’ve already started with Bill hicks and the sleeve will progress with other legends over the years such as George Carlin, Mitch Hedburg and Richard Pryor.

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? 

Not really, I think tattoos have become as socially acceptable as they’re going to be and I like the fact that they’re not for everybody. As long as tattoos are kept in areas where they are inoffensive to others in a normal working environment then that’s fine, people expect to see a tattooist with visible tattoos, but not a bank clerk or solicitor.

Sween Tattoos

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