This week I caught up with Joe from Black Bones Custom Tattoos. He began his career in the industry seventeen years ago, and since then has opened up his own private studio. Interested in finding out a little bit more about his guilty pleasures, what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a tattoo artist, & his favourite machine? Then read on…
1. Any hobbies?
Between tattooing and my two young kids I don’t get a lot of free time, but I like to read or listen to podcasts.
2. What’s your favourite movie?
My favourite films (‘cause I have two of them which I love equally, although they are two totally different films) are Young Guns and Dead Man’s Shoes.
3. Any guilty pleasures?
Guilty pleasures? Haha, I don’t have any guilt in my pleasures. I do read Warhammer books. I’ve never played the games but I’m about twelve books into the Horus Heresy saga. I’m also yet to do a Warhammer or Space Marines tattoo so if anyone fancies one I’d definitely be down for doing one.
4. What was the last song you listened to?
The last song I listened to was “Evil’s Sway” by the Japandroids. I heard one of their songs and downloaded the album on the strength of it. They’re on the way to being one of my favourite bands.
5. What’s your biggest fear?
That’s pretty deep. You want me to just put it out there? I dunno about that, but I guess my second biggest fear is people knowing my biggest fear.
6. Tell us about the last dream you had?
I can’t quite remember my last dream. It was one of those that the more you try and remember it, the foggier it gets. I once had a dream that I had a reoccurring dream, so one night I dreamt that I was going to bed every night for about a week having the same dream. Then I woke up and realised it was just a dream. That made about as much sense how I described it as when I had it haha.
7. What’s your favourite insult?
“What did you brush your hair with? A fucking toffee apple”. That always tickles me.
8. One word to describe yourself?
9. What’s your favourite tattoo on your body & why?
I have a portrait on my leg of my girlfriend. So that wins, hands down.
10. If you wasn’t a tattoo artist, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t a tattooist I’d either be a dental technician (which is what I was doing when I got my tattoo apprenticeship) or I don’t know, just any old job I think. I didn’t get any good qualifications so I would’ve took any job that would give me enough money to go out and get tattooed.
11. How long have you been in the industry?
I started in 2000 when I was 18.
12. Who are your biggest influences?
When I started I just wanted to be a tattooist, I wanted to be able to do anything that came through the door. I was really into Tin Tin’s work, he would do any kind of style and I loved that. There’s so many amazing artists out there and you keep hearing of people all the time. When I started, if you didn’t see their work in a magazine you’d never hear of them.
13. Where do you usually gather inspiration from for your designs?
99% of the time customers tell me what they want, it’s very rarely that I get to draw just for my own pleasure. If I’m not drawing up something requested for a customer, I’m trying to get some sleep ‘cause the youngest isn’t the best sleeper.
14. What’s your favourite style to tattoo?
I like to do anything large, colour or black & grey, just big tattoos. Aside from that, I love to do custom lettering. I think it goes back to being able to do anything. Lettering always seems to get over looked as a style. You see some tattooists do a nice piece, then just print off some real straight unformed Edwardian script off the computer and put it at an angle next to the tattoo and it just ruins it.
15. What’s your favourite machine?
I have a coil liner that’s an absolute beast, I call it my “Widow Maker”. I mainly use the rotaries for colour and black & grey. I have a left handed Rob Ratcliffe coil machine that’s my favourite for sentimental reasons.
16. What’s your favourite tattoo convention?
I really like the Tattoo Tea Party. It’s not just close to me, but it’s got a great mix of artists and it’s not too big that it loses its good vibe.
17. What do you think makes a great tattoo studio?
A great studio? I guess that’s different for everyone. Personally I think if you don’t have the privacy then you need to have the space. Don’t get me wrong it’s good to have the banter as a tattooist with the guys you work with, but some customers prefer a bit of privacy. So however it’s set out, good music, good tattoos and a good vibe. I don’t think anyone wouldn’t agree with that.
18. What advice would you give to anyone looking to join the industry?
My advice for getting into the industry, be picky. Find the studio you want to learn from and do your damnedest to get a job there. Don’t settle for a subpar studio, you’ll only be expected to be as bad as they are. Secondly, go out to impress them in all aspects (artwork, tattoo knowledge and attitude). Look at your portfolio and ask yourself “if I took that into a studio and got that design tattooed on me exactly as it looks on the paper, would I be happy with the tattoo?” That will give you your answer if your work is gonna get you the gig.
19. Do you have any guest spots coming up?
There’s only me at my studio at the moment so I’m pretty much a hermit, so nothing planned.
20. Anything else you’d like to share?
I guess I’d just like to thank everyone I’ve worked with since I started. I don’t believe anyone locked themselves in a room with tattoo gear and figured it all out by themselves, so by that we are a sum total of all the tattooists we’ve worked with or talked to for good and bad. I’ve only had my own studio for about three years now and it’s the best thing I did, I love it. It’s my little space where I can tattoo and meet some great people, and my girlfriend and family have been behind me all the way. Also, thanks for asking me the questions.
Black Bones Custom Tattoos have recently launched clothing and accessories. Stay tuned to see it featured over on our Style section soon. Wanna check it out now? Then head over to Black Bones Custom Tattoos and treat yo’self!
If you’re interested in getting tattooed by Joe he’s currently based at his studio Black Bones Custom Tattoos in Warrington, UK. To check out his work head over to his social media.