Happy New Year! And thanks for 2023!
It’s been another weird year right? But at least we got some art done.
The 2023 The Yearly Report.
2023 sucked. I lost my dog in 2022 and I have been missing her a lot. We do have a new pup in the house and she is great but Treacle has left a big hole.
I finally feel like I am over the health scares which were a vaccine injury and an accident which aggravated an old injury. Rough couple of years in that respect, now I have quite a journey to get back to good health and a decent level of fitness.
Looking forward to that…. I keep telling myself.
All work and no play has definitely been a theme over the last few years and it was especially so in 2023.
I did pick up a new bike and as soon as I have laid a bit of artwork on it and done the usual winter clean I will be planning at least one trip away. My big goal is to ride out to Misano for Moto GP and travel well with good hotels good food and have a proper adventure.
It will be a miracle if it happens this year but I can dream.
All that said work has been quite satisfying. I am tattooing better and faster than I ever have, which means my customers are getting some pretty good deals and everyone is really happy with the work.
I have got right back into my airbrush work and I am really enjoying it. The airbrush and custom paint does take a fair bit of setting up, so my only frustration at the moment is that the work and set up that I am having to do at the new workshop is slowing me down slightly.
When painting I am anxious that I am not progressing at the workshop, I will be much happier when it is all done and ready to roll.
Looking back at 2023 I feel like I have achieved quite a lot.
The Parlour in Ramsey is finished and fully operational, I am literally adding finishing touches and decorating. The parlour is a great little space to work in, I really enjoy it.
The reception area and counter are the next project.
My plan was to open a walk in tattoo studio but instead it has evolved into a Private appointment Tattoo Parlour.
Parlour? Studio? whats the difference?
My take on it is this: The definition of a Parlour is a “sitting room” or “Best room”. Early tattooers would tattoo their clients in their “best room” and the room became the tattoo parlour. The tattooing was done in private and away from prying eyes and mostly by recommendation or word of mouth. As fashion tattooing became more mainstream tattoo shops started opening on the High Street and these subsequently became tattoo studios where you could walk in like any other type of shop.
My tattoo space has become private for a couple of reasons, helmet painting gets in the way occasionally but most of all, after a few years working in the truck I have come to realise that I really do not like getting interrupted when I am in the tattooing zone.
It has become a Parlour through accidental design. It is like a living room, chilled colours, big old TV screen, big comfy chair… for you, me not so much…. Plenty to look at, great sound system, its lovely and warm in the winter and cool in the summer, yet it still adheres to all of the health, safety and licensing requirements of a modern day studio.
It actually goes above and beyond EHO guidelines as I have a complete “clean air” system in the studio with HEPA filters and deep UVC light, no virus survives in the parlour.
Getting back to helmet painting has had a surprising effect on my tattooing.
My tattoo speed has increased by what feels like 100%. So much so that I am having difficulty judging times for tattoos, and I am now having to charge by the piece rather than the hour or I would be selling myself short.
I will not be expanding the tattoo business in 2024, for now that ship has sailed, therefore I do not plan to take anyone on.
I get contacted quite often by people who are “desperate” to get into tattooing.
If you desperately want me to teach you to tattoo, then pay me to do so. I would be teaching you to do a job that can potentially earn you 75-100k a year and can take you anywhere in the world…. If you are good!… this is not something I would do lightly or for that matter in exchange for “great cups of tea”. Take into consideration how much my knowledge is worth to you then make me an offer.
If you are good, I will offer you a job at the end of the apprenticeship and you can earn it back in the first year.
Thinking you are good and being good are two different things. I have been a working artist most of my life but I have always had to work at it. I know other artists who don’t have to work at it, they are just natural, they are also very few and far between.
All that said, I wont be reducing the tattoo business either. I still love doing it and thanks to my new found speed I am turning out the same amount of work in half the time.
A new booking system and schedule has been a godsend, I was fed up with being booked up for months or not seeing a sleeve I am working on for ages. I decided to take a risk and just release the dates for the following month mid current month. It’s worked like a charm, existing customers can get their work done at their own pace and it gives an opportunity for new faces to get in the chair without having to wait three months.
And 99% of customers are remembering their appointments!
There is nothing worse than booking a tattoo for three months time and then when it rolls around the customer cancels last minute due to something unforeseen, or worse still just forgets. Fingers crossed the new monthly system seems to have put a stop to that.
My other big risk was a lack of social media.
Facebook, Insta et all are dead as far as I can work out. The algorithm changed and now unless you are paying you are not getting traction, even when you are paying now everyone else is as well so you better be paying more than them if you want to be seen.
It was only a matter of time, as the old saying goes “if you are not paying for the product then you are the product”. Social media has done a good job of grooming us in that respect. It’s been free for years and now there is a very real shift to monetise. Obviously there’s…..Tic Tok.
I don’t have time for that.
So, I only post occasionally now, like when the diary dates go up, or to link this blog for example. I am no longer posting the majority of my tattoos to SM they are going in the gallery on this site which I plan to expand daily, a bit like my own personal instagram page.
I seem to be retaining more customers and getting more done on them, I think this is due to the drop in new enquiries since my absence from SM.
I like it.
I am getting new customers through connections and recommendations, it’s how we used to do it in the old days.
My workload is much more manageable and I am getting to know my customers instead of living in a blur of skin and ink. I even recognise a couple of people in the street now, by their faces!
The tattoo business is In a great place, not making lots of noise and letting the work do the talking, but still hitting all the right notes. It’s fun again and long may it continue with your support.
On The Road Tattoo:
Trucks been in a paint shop for months. Just got it back, untouched. Yeah, the refurb aint going well.
And to think of the work I have turned down, Machine Gun Kelly’s guitarist contacted me to take the truck to an event in London and tattoo (true story), couldn’t do it, truck was in the paint shop, not getting painted.
Given there was no mention of first class flights and a hotel I am guessing that they saw the truck as the star of that particular show….. tbh I doubt I would have made it anyway, licensing the truck properly in a new borough takes quite a bit of planning and a ton of paperwork and the request was extremely last minute
Being completely honest I have no idea who Machine Gun Kelly is? I have heard the name before. Had it been Valentino Rossi’s mechanic instead then I would have strapped the truck to a jet ski and gone over for free!
The mobile project is a bit of a basket case at the moment, I am no further forward, I will keep you posted but at the moment I am concentrating on other things…
The old bus may make an appearance at TT, just got to firm it up.
After the worst possible end to my first year back on the helmets when after just getting everything set up I had to move again. 2022/2023 proceeded to be pretty good years.
I feel like I have turned out some nice pieces, built up a bit of a portfolio and started to “pick up” the business again. Things have certainly changed in the custom paint world in the twenty years that I decided to go and play with tattoo machines.
The helmet market has completely changed, some of the prices of the helmets are crazy. And there are so many models. I am seriously lacking on product knowledge, which is why I haven’t built the online helmet shop yet or really promoted helmet sales. I still supply all models we just don’t shout about it.
It’s been a lot of work to get this far. But it’s been worth it.
I finally have a new workshop, it is compact but perfect for what I need. This means that in 2024 I can take on bigger projects, not just helmets. I already have a Fatboy Harley to do in January and If you keep an eye on the window display in the shop you may even catch new bits and pieces on display before they are collected.
I still need to invest quite heavily in the custom paint side of things and learn new skills in order to increase production whilst reducing price. Currently all of my work is airbrushed, even the logo’s, it is proper old school custom paint done properly. But it is time consuming. The early helmets I did lost money, prices have slowly increased as the portfolio has grown and I find myself doing a lot more car helmets, these tend to be profitable.
Buuuut… Im a bike man, and I feel like I am loosing that market due to pricing.
So I will be adding “Race Paint” to the list for the bike racers and riders as of January.
I really do have the passion back for the paintwork and I plan to expand this business as I have done previously. Which means I will be employing and passing on some paintwork knowledge, hopefully later in the year.
I have a couple of reasonably big purchases to make which will be the last pieces of the puzzle, once I have these then I can really pull the trigger ( excuse the pun ) on the custom paint. My aim is to get at least one helmet out of the door each week, in theory with the new tools this should be achievable.
The paintwork is already at breakeven point. This is good news considering the investment that I have put into it. This year I will have to spend again and hopefully I may even make a small profit. 2025 however should be quite good, everything I need in place from the start of the year and nothing to do but paint.
My aim for 2024 is too double production and go from roughly two helmets a month to four, it’s going to take some effort and a fair bit of work but the goal is set.
In closing I would just like to thank you for supporting my business in 2023, your custom is very much appreciated for both airbrush and tattoo work.
If it’s been a while since you have been in the chair or you are thinking of trying me out for the first time just drop me a message on the live chat. Now that I am in the spray booth when not tattooing I don’t always respond straight away, but I will respond given a bit of time.
I am no longer taking on all comers. Getting back into the paintwork allows me to cherry pick my tattoos, I know that doesn’t sound great but its not as bad as it sounds, I love tattooing so I wont be saying no to much.
But, I will be saying no to stuff that I have done a thousand times, infinity symbols, small black birds flying and just about anything off the first page of google. That doesn’t mean that I wont tattoo you, what it means is that we can take your idea and come up with something new and original that works for us both, you may not want to do that and I completely understand in which case I will wish you well with your tattoo project.
So here’s to 2024, cheers!