As you can probably tell by the title, today’s post is going to be a little bit of a different one. If you’re no stranger to my little corner of the internet, then you’ll know that I’m a fan of E4’s hugely popular show Tattoo Fixers – and tattoos in general. You may also know that, outside of his work in tattooing, resident ink-slinger Sketch is also a singer-songwriter. Teaming up with friend and fellow artist Stevie P, the duo have released a few tracks online – which I have also previously featured on this very blog. Needless to say, I’m a fan of Sketch’s work, both in tattooing and music. If you follow me on Twitter then you may have seen that I actually got tattooed by the man himself recently at his south-east London studio, Reppin Ink.
Initially I was going to vlog parts of the day, but I hadn’t been tattooed since 2012 so I was really nervous going in. I also didn’t necessarily think about the practicality of filming, being that I was getting a rib tattoo so I was quite ‘exposed’, let’s say.
My friend and I got to the shop and, despite having ventured there a few times previously, were again both struck by how cool the inside of the studio looks. The walls are a deep purple – which also happens to be my favourite colour so maybe I’m a little biased – and the featured artwork is nothing short of beautiful. Displayed proudly behind the desk is a picture of the Tattoo Fixers cast, and there are also certificates from various tattoo conventions dotted around.
After a little while, Sketch came in and asked if I had any reference images for the piece I was having done – a dream catcher on my ribs – which I then gave to him. We had a bit of a chat about design specifics, and off he went into the back to draw everything up. My friend and I stayed out front and, once I’d signed the consent form with her nudging me excitedly, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment that I was scared. At which point, Sketch popped his head around the corner and asked “are you scared?” I told him I was, mainly because I hadn’t been tattooed in a while, before the appointment everybody kept telling me that rib tattoos really hurt, and I generally have anxiety anyway. Thankfully he was a total sweetheart about it, saying that he gets anxiety too sometimes, and that we could take our time. He also said that I may feel like I’m going to pass out at the beginning because you realise it’s not that bad, and your body has all this adrenaline that it doesn’t need so it just gets rid of it. This really reassured me and made me feel better. Then, off he went to continue drawing and, shortly after, Bring Me The Horizon’s newest single ‘Oh No’ started blaring from the back room – needless to say we had a bit of a sing along while we waited, my nerves well and truly calmed.
Not long after, in-house piercer Victoria came out with the initial design on an IPad (or some sort of tablet-looking thing) and after a few small tweaks we were called through to the back. Sketch very courteously asked me if I wanted any help with my bag, and he also took an instant liking to the waistcoat I was wearing, almost immediately asking where I’d got it. Following this, it was a case of rearranging and taping my clothes in place so that my ribs were actually exposed, putting the stencil on, and going over to the mirror to check everything was 100% as I wanted it – que some hilarious wardrobe issues, tipping tattoo beds and awkward manoeuvres around the studio. But, to their credit, Sketch and fellow tattooist Jack took it all in good humour, which made me feel even more comfortable – I’m sure they’ve seen a lot worse!
Getting my rib piece was nowhere near as painful as I thought it would be; as soon as he started, it was like I instantly remembered the ‘pain’ of getting tattooed and wondered what I was worried about. I’ve always been pretty good at getting tattoos, in fact I’ve been known to say that I quite enjoy it (don’t give me that look.) My friend even kept saying that she couldn’t believe how well I sat and that my face showed no signs of discomfort at all – I’m sure it did! Halfway through my leg started twitching loads and Sketch tapped the top of it and was like, ‘now I can feel your leg going.’ But, honestly, even I was surprised by how little it hurt both during and after – I started dancing in front of my friend after it was done and she was like “how are you doing that already?”
It helped that we chatted our way through it though, chewing over past drunken antics, questionable tattoos, my blogging, the show, being in the public eye, and how he refuses to tattoo any direct copies. He also asked about my disability and of course we spoke about music; there was even talk of a possible interview with him and Stevie P at some point to drum up publicity ahead of their next single. So, Sketch if you’re reading this, be sure to hit me up :). It was a lot of fun – he even had to tell me to stop laughing at one point.
When my ribs were done I couldn’t wait to get a look at it. But, I was pretty wary of moving because, as I said, when I tried to get up previously the tattoo bed ended up tipping over – with my natural reaction being to try and stop it – which resulted in a casual nip-slip. Sketch also said he wanted to let me get my bearings for five minutes because I was shaking – I’m sure he thought I was going to pass out. He took my hand and helped me over to the mirror, telling me to lean back on him so I could check it out properly, and as soon as I saw it I was totally blown away. He asked me if I liked it and I think my face said it all; it’s everything I’d said I wanted, having combined all the elements, and style, beautifully. It’s delicate, it’s ornate, and it’s pretty. All the detail in the dot-work mandala design is amazing, and the little pops of colour really lifts it, rather than it just being standard black and grey. I love it – photos really don’t do it justice.
Being the trooper that I am, that wasn’t the only tattoo I was getting done that day; I was also getting a rose added to some existing pieces already on my wrist. However, we took a break before moving on to that, so I could get dressed again properly and sort myself out. I was made to feel very comfortable walking around the studio and at no point did I feel awkward or restricted. Like before, it was a case of talking through reference images, getting a stencil drawn up and going from there. It didn’t take us long to get started and, again, we talked all the way through it, from anxiety issues to my interest in tattooing – over the course of the day I think we chatted about everything other than our mutual love of sloths, surprisingly!
If you can believe it, getting my wrist done actually hurt more than my ribs did; it seemed to bleed more as well because of all the shading involved. But the end result was totally worth it because, as I said to Sketch, it looks sick. As before, he took my hand and helped me over to the mirror so I could get a proper look at it, and again, I was ecstatic. It’s bold but still feminine, the white highlight throughout is beautiful and the shading on it is amazing – I’m so happy with it.
Throughout both of my tattoos Sketch was really attentive, taking my hand and helping me to the mirror, and asking me if I felt ok or if I felt sick, on numerous occasions. I felt so comfortable and looked-after throughout the day, and Sketch is an absolute sweetheart; he was very open to getting pictures with both of us – he even tried my waistcoat on at one point. There was just constant banter and chats the whole time and we hung out in the shop pretty much all day.
They say you shouldn’t meet your idols but, luckily, I’ve never had any problems and this day was no exception. Sketch is one of the most honest and genuine people you could ever hope to meet; he’s a very ‘what you see is what you get’ character, and I think a lot of people would quickly realise that he is just a normal, down-to-earth guy who happens to be on TV. You can also tell there’s a genuine passion for what he does; he cares very much about the customer and what they want, and that ultimately they’re happy with it. You can see this as he goes to the mirror with you to see your reaction to your new piece; he’s not just like, ‘Ok, I’ve done it…next!’
It’s definitely not about the money with him either; he asked me early on what I was quoted for the work, so I told him and also said I’d brought extra cash with me in case we did run over, to which he replied “nah I wouldn’t charge you any more for it.” When we were done Sketch handed me the stencil of the rose, which he also signed, and said “this is yours, if you ever want it added to take that in and they’ll have the right one.” To which I replied, if I ever wanted it added to I’d just come back to him.
We hung out in the front of the shop a little while after that, as my friend decided to also get a piercing that day, and I ended up speaking to Victoria about after-care. She advised me to wash them with water and re-wrap them that night, and then continue to wash them with clean water and apply Bepanthen, morning and night, from the following day onwards. I didn’t get any ink transfer on anything, they didn’t bobble/scab nearly as much as my others did, and they definitely weren’t as sore – itchy, yes. Sore, no. My tattoos stayed relatively smooth up until they were healed and, honestly, I wish I’d had her there for all my tattoos; her advice was great, and the healing process on both my tattoos was totally different to the three I already had.
Now, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade so the shop shall remain nameless, but I couldn’t help but compare it where I’ve been tattooed before as it was a completely different experience. My usual tattoo studio is very ‘in and out’ – though that may be because all of my previous appointments were walk-ins and very small pieces. There’s not much of an atmosphere and as said, the aftercare advice wasn’t the same – a couple of my tattoos they didn’t even wrap, and one of my tattoos I was told to not even bother putting cream on.
Reppin Ink is totally different; there’s a jukebox in the back, there was music on the majority of the time, and it just generally had a warmer atmosphere overall – despite the back door being open. This may also have something to do with everyone who works there, as they’re all lovely people, very easy to chat to and, as said, they make you feel very comfortable and at home. It’s a very free and creative space, and I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else for my tattoos now – I’m already planning my next one. If I could tattoo, I’d want to work in there tomorrow.
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions on Sketch’s work – as they will with anyone who’s in the public eye – but in my experience, he does a fantastic job. He incorporated everything I wanted into each design resulting in tattoos that I absolutely love and couldn’t be happier with. He’s very warm, welcoming and caring of his customers, and this reflects in the overall atmosphere and vibe of the studio. Ultimately, I’m glad I went to him.
As always thank you for reading. Like I said at the beginning, I have featured Sketch in a few other blog posts so, if you’re interested in those, please see the list below and check them out if you’d like to. 🙂
Click here for my review of Sketch and Stevie P’s debut track ‘Everything Part 2’,
click here to see my review of their follow-up single ‘Street Lights’,
click here to find out why the duo are #3 on my ‘Top 10 Interviews Wish List’,
click here to read my original article on ‘Tattoo Fixers,
And click here for my follow-up article on spin-off show, ‘Tattoo Fixers On Holiday.’
I’m blogging every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday throughout November as its ‘National Blog Posting Month’. However, my schedule has gone a bit awry lately as I’ve had a lot going on. To keep up to date with my upcoming posts, come and join me on Facebook & Twitter, and to see what else is coming up throughout the rest of this month, click here. 🙂