Bristol

Bristol mobile tattoo parlour collects more than 200 images and stories

Soniya Mundy Image copyright KWMC
Image caption Soniya Mundy got her first guardian angel tattoo in 2008 after her 11-year-old son had a stroke

A mobile tattoo parlour which has been touring the streets of Bristol has collected more than 200 tattoos for a show about the city's body art culture.

The project "I Will Always Have You" began in Knowle West in June and asked people to photograph their body art and share the stories behind it.

Curator Melissa Mean said it had been so successful they hoped to expand the tour to other Bristol neighbourhoods.

The exhibition at Knowle West Media Centre runs until Christmas.

Ms Mean said the aim of the project was to gather the memories and stories behind the tattoos for the project's digital archive.

She said: "By exploring the power of personal narratives and the construction of character through body art, we hope to better understand the growing popularity of tattoos across the UK and the richness of Knowle West's tattoo culture."

Image copyright KWMC
Image caption Pete Froom is aiming for a Guinness World Record for the most spiders tattooed on a person

Handyman and father-of-three, Pete Froom, who has 50 spiders tattooed on his head, downloaded images of his tattoos to the archive.

He said: "I intend to be completely covered with spiders - except hands and face - so I can still put a shirt and tie on and still look relatively presentable.

He said tattoos had helped him with shyness and dealing with groups of people.

"If I have tattoos they're not looking at me - they're looking at my tattoos.

"[People may] see someone with an arm full of tattoos and automatically think, 'wrong'n, rough person'. But some of the nicest people I've ever met in my life have been tattooed from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet. Never judge a book by its cover."

Image copyright KWMC
Image caption Chantelle Simpson's first tattoo was a present from her mother who is also "heavily tattooed"

Melissa Mean said the archivists had spotted "some really interesting patterns" as the individual stories came in.

She said they had found tattooing to be "very much a family affair" with "mothers and daughters having matching tattoos".

"Tattooing can also offer an alternative route into the creative economy, especially to those who don't have access through the usual routes of higher education," she added.

Image copyright KWMC
Image caption Mark Allen started his business by practising on grapefruit skins

Mark Allen now owns the Marked Up tattoo studio which he started from his spare bedroom.

Mr Allen said: "You've got to be able to draw - a lot of these people who think they can just pick up a tattoo gun and just tattoo, 80% or 90% of them are in for a bit of a shock, really."

The project also found tattoo parlours to be "community hubs" where people "of all ages and backgrounds come together".

Image copyright KWMC
Image caption Royston Radford reminisced about tattooist Les Skuse whose family has been tattooing in the Bristol area for 80 years

Melissa Mean said: "Contrary to common perceptions that tattoo parlours are part of the 'dark side of town', we found tattoo parlours that are community hubs. The parlour can be a safe space for people to share the deeper stories from their lives - while having them inked onto their skin."

Image copyright KWMC
Image caption The exhibition "I Will Always Have You" is on show at Knowle West Media Centre until Christmas

She said people could still add their tattoos to the online archive at Knowle West Media Centre, and said she was also "very excited" about Bristol's first tattoo convention planned to take place next summer.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites