The Sharpest Of Mornings

…The door opens. Two regulars with ongoing tattoos walk in. They are greeted by shop owners Nick and Loz, who are working on them this afternoon. Within a few minutes they’re all in comfortable conversation. I hang Loz’s lady’s coat up, pop the kettle on, and sort Nick and his guy a cup of coffee. The whirrs of the machine motors start and I settle back at my station. I have a consultation and a tattoo booked in soon, with drawing for upcoming tattoos to do in the meantime…

Fun At The Office

There are five of us that work at Sharp Art Studios. Nick, Lauren (Loz), James (Johnny), Alex (Al) and myself. We inspire, support, advise, and relentlessly take the piss out of each other. We have regular customers who are in on the jokes, new customers who soon learn them, and together they allow us to create amazing custom tattoos everyday.

It really is a ‘people’ business as much as an artistic one. To create a great tattoo you’ve first got to talk to your client, listen to them and sometimes guide them in making decisions (about size or composition for example). Once they’ve booked in on Booksy (free to download – very user-friendly) and the design is finalised, you’ve got to look after them while they’re under the needle – do they need calm, gentle encouragement or a thorough examining of their life choices to get them through it? Both are on offer, and everyone gets a brew. It’s then our job to make sure the client is both super happy with their new ink, and aware of all the aftercare rules and recommendations.

It’s A Cultural Thing

We’re all registered and fully certified by the local environmental health agency to responsibly carry out the practice of tattooing. This means we have an understanding of the potential risks involved and have measures in place to prevent them – protecting both our clients and ourselves. All our needles are sterile and strictly single-use, and contact surfaces, including chairs and armrests, are disinfected between clients. We always glove up and we have council-managed contracted waste disposal.

In regards to the technical stuff: collectively we have over twenty-five years of tattooing experience. We line, power-line, shade, whip-shade, dot shade, colour-pack, and blend. It takes time and a lot of practice to develop these skills.

Tattooing is not just drawing and colouring in. It’s a cultural practice that’s been around for thousands of years (Ötzi the Iceman dates back over five thousand years old and he has sixty-one tattoos!) It’s passed down from master to student for a reason. Our canvasses breathe and bleed – they wriggle, sweat, stretch, stop for pee breaks – they need lunch. They need time to heal and they age. People are not paper. We’ve tattooed our own bodies, each other, our nearest and dearest, and have studied and completed apprenticeships. It takes hard work to get to where we are, but it’s our passion. We follow emerging fashions with interest and keep up with advances in technology – trying new machines, needles, inks and aftercare products. The tattooing industry in the UK has soared to new heights in the last two decades – with tattoos generally becoming more accepted in the workplace and at home – and it shows no sign of slowing down.

Works of Art

…Drawing done… I nip round and see how the work’s going. Loz is in the zone, quietly focused, intent on her client’s left elbow and the complex pattern blossoming there. Nick’s crafting a skull-themed piece, but the dark subject matter does not dim his mood. He and Johnny chat freely across the studio – football results, follicle prowess, still-to-be-proven rap battle skills. Johnny’s saturating an arm with autumnal colours and Al’s on a cover-up project – working a raven’s wing over an old tattoo. Laughter cuts across the old-school reggae and hip-hop beats, that are essentially the shop’s soundtrack (when the boys have the controls at least). I look out the window – it’s hard not to with a good view of the trees, birds, passers-by. My two o’clock consultation approaching…     

SAS Style

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a tattoo – style, size, subject, detail, composition, flow, and body shape. That’s why when it comes to consultations we all prefer to do them face-to-face; so you can see our studio, meet us, and so we can see not just what you want but what you need.

First-timers often want the design and tattooing process explained, and to look at examples of our work. You may need a reassuring smile to put you at ease. You need to feel safe, happy and confident, in the knowledge that getting a piece of permanent art on your body is going to go as planned, and that we’re the right people for the job. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking getting your first tattoo. Our aim is to make sure you leave with a great piece of work and a smile on your face.

Covering Up

I think the amount of cover-up tattoos we do highlights how important this first stage is. If you got a tattoo a long time ago, did one yourself or got your cousin’s boyfriend to tattoo you in the garage (I’ve heard it all), chances are you might have had a different experience first time around. There are also a lot of tattoo shops about nowadays that don’t have the same standards when it comes to staff experience and training.

For cover-ups it helps us massively if we can see first-hand the existing tattoo – how faded or fresh it is – so we can advise you on how big the cover-up needs to be and what style or subject would work best. I’ve covered nineties tribal with owls, skulls and roses and exes names with hourglasses: turned symbols into mandala patterns, covered red devils with pocket watches, crucifixes with geckos, and hidden old numerals under coal miners and spaceships! Design wise you probably have more options that you might think possible.

A Pretty Sharp Team

Between the five of us, our design styles and subject preferences span pretty much everything: from traditional Japanese to portraiture and realism, delicate and intricate mandala, dot-work and geometric patterns to big, bold illustrative, and colourful neo-traditional pieces. So whether it’s your first tattoo or your fiftieth – we really have got you covered.

Tattoo collectors who have had work elsewhere can compare our prices and set-up with other local studios – and be pleasantly surprised. We charge £60 per hour, with money-saving deals for four hour and day sessions. The studio itself is large and open-plan with comfy sofas  – so unlike a lot of shops your friends and family are more than welcome to wait close at hand to support you or mock you while you’re being tattooed. We take great pride in the fact our tattoo work and the atmosphere within the studio get amazing feedback (every single one of our Facebook and Booksy customer reviews have given us 5 stars).


One of my favourite things about working at Sharp Art Studios is that I actually started out as a customer and did my apprenticeship there – now my colleagues are my best friends and my teachers. They christened me “Finngers” – a bit hard to explain to relatives, but I love it because it’s my shop-name and they gave it to me, and they push me to be the best artist I can be. We work together as a team – keep pushing forward. It’s a great working environment and our customers can see that – I think they buzz off it as much as we do. That’s why they keep coming back. Why we set our own sights and ambitions as high as we do. Because we can do this.

… Consultation done and a new appointment booked for next week, I set up my station for my two-thirty tattoo: Gloves, cling-film, kitchen roll; tongue-depressor, petroleum jelly, ink pots: machine, grip-wrap, and clip-cord cover. It’s a familiar routine. I print off my stencil drawing – I’ll need to size it up on my client before using the carbon printer for the actual stencil. I set it down, glove up and check the power and speed settings for my machine. I tap the foot pedal and my Cheyenne Hawk purrs to life. The door opens, right on time…


by Finn




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