Category: Guest bloggers

Tattoo Experience: You talkin’ to me?

In this post Anna Casey-Woodward a 24-year-old legal trainee from Oxford who spends the majority of her time knitting, baking and getting tattooed. She talks about her different experiences with getting getting tattooed by different artists… 

For me, a large part of getting a new tattoo is meeting the artist and watching the illustration turn into a piece of beautiful body art. And for the most part, this has been my experience. However, there has been one occasion when poor communication with my tattooist almost led me to the dreaded tattoo regret…


Good communication with your tattooist stretches from your first email right until you are talking about aftercare. When I commissioned my tattoo, it was by an artist who I had Instagram-stalked for a long time and was in love with their style. I emailed them with a clear idea of what I wanted, where I wanted it and what my budget was. I was very detailed in my proposal and I hope the tattooist appreciated having such clear instructions. There was artistic licence and of course I wanted it in their style, but we both knew what the finished product was.

The deposit was paid, the appointment booked and the day soon came around. On the morning of the tattoo, I saw the sketch and was in love. I got to the studio and we worked around positioning the tattoo where I wanted it. Because of my career, I have to be careful that my tattoos are easily hidden and my tattooist was more than understanding about this and we got the position absolutely perfect. Then it was time to get the ink flowing! This was not going be a short tattoo, and at the time I was reasonably new to it, so I was a little nervous about managing to sit for so long. I don’t sit like a rock, as much as I want to, but was reassured by my tattooist that when it got too much we could take a little break or have some of that hallowed bactine! As a result, several hours later I had a beautiful tattoo which I adore.


Now to my less positive experience. This was a more impulsive tattoo, I was away on my honeymoon, but I still told the studio what I wanted and the tattoo was some four days later. It was something I had been thinking about getting for quite a while and I had a Pinterest board full of ideas. I had been assigned an artist who was guesting from over 4500 miles away, and I was really keen on the idea of getting art done by someone who I would probably never get the chance to see again.

I got to the studio, and had to wait a good half and hour before the artist was ready for me. During that time, I did a brief sketch of  what I wanted (as I liked parts of several different illustrations I had found and wanted to put them all together) and collected my thoughts. When the tattooist was then free, I talked to them about that I had drawn and showed them my inspiration (I really am a terrible artist!). We had a quick discussion about bits of my idea that would not work as a tattoo and ways they could be substituted. The artist then disappeared for another forty five minutes and eventually reappeared with a sketch. They showed me the sketch and… well… I wasn’t sure.

It was obvious in that moment that the tattooist and I hadn’t been on the same page when we started. I went ahead despite my reservations, and the first part was soon done. We then started to talk about colours, and the situation didn’t really improve. I had ideas, they had ideas, and they didn’t match. I didn’t feel that comfortable talking to the tattooist as I felt they weren’t really listening. The tattoo went ahead as they had suggested and about half an hour later it was finished.  Throughout the tattoo, the studio was playing floor-thumpingly loud music. As a result, there was not much of a chance to talk to the artist and I didn’t have a chance to say when the pain was too much. It hurt, and my leg bled. None of my other tattoos had ever bled outside of the studio, and this one bled all night. Did I go back to talk about after care and what to do? No, because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to go back.


However, there is a happy ending. The tattoo healed well and the next tattoo I had framed it really well. I was saved from that gut-wrenching feeling that a tattoo wasn’t quite what I had wanted, and I wasn’t sure if I really wanted it. My next tattoo is just under a month away, and I will be chatting my way to another wonderful piece of body art.

Have you had the same experiences as Anna? Has how an artist talks to you changed how you feel about a tattoo? 

Interview with Tattoo Artist: Betty Latusek

London based photographer Marta Hawrylow interviewed Betty Beata Latusek who along with her partner Kamil work at Betty Tattoo in Wroclaw, Poland. On the day Betty organised a few of her clients, with healed tattoos, to come into the studio to talk about their tattoos and allow Marta to photograph them… 

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How long do you know each other? Gosh, ages, we’ve met when we were only kids,  14 years old. We have been inseparable since.

Was tattooing important to you back then? Our love for art and tattoo flourished few years after we met.  Kamil was my first skin, he trusted me enough when I was training, now he laughs that one day I’ll have to cover up my first tattoos.

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How long have you been collaborating? How is it working out for you guys? We do everything together, always have been. This isn’t our first job under one roof. Our roles are very clear, I draw and tattoo, Kamil focuses on customer service, the clients are very important to him and he is the CEO.

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How do you work with clients in order to design a project for them? This is Kamil’s part. He meets every client during the first consultation, he discusses what they want- the colours, size and placement. He also does the first draft, most clients bring in photos and other materials  to show what they want in their design. During the session, I chat with the client before we start, over a cuppa.

Does your work depict your personality? I don’t think so. I try to get to know the client and their wishes, I try to portray them, not myself in my work.

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What do you like to tattoo most? What is your favourite theme? I love portrait, realism, always have. Even in art school I loved painting faces.

Is there something you wouldn’t tattoo or a part of the body? I’d always said I will never tattoo faces. But broke that rule, and with pleasure I now say to never say never. I love a challenge and nothing surprises or scares me.

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What or who inspires you? Do you have any favourite artists? Everything what surrounds me inspires me, from changing seasons to people who come to the studio. There are many ultra talented polish artists whose art I admire like Marcin Surowiec or Giena Todryk. However, I might surprise you here, my favourite artist is our eight year old daughter Nadia, who is so gifted. She became a little star and I tattooed a few of her art work onto people already.

When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a tattoo artist? I knew in high school, when I was studying art and got my first tattoo. After that I was drawing projects for friends and their friends and that is how the love started.

And how did you get into tattoo world? Well, it was a bet with my nephew. And as very stubborn being, I did (and still would do) anything to achieve what I set my mind to.

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How long have you been tattooing it? Only seven years, five of which as Betty Tattoo.

How does your own tattoos make you feel? I always wait for super special moments in my life to get them on my skin. Few are a spur of the moment, but most are done by person who helped to change my life, Damian Kowal, my dear friend and my teacher.

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If you weren’t a tattooist, what would you be? I probably would still paint or draw, just using different tools. I am a jeweller by profession. Surely I would be doing something creative and interesting.

Pearls of Wisdom: Tattoo Conventions

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about getting tattooed at tattoo conventions… 

I went to my first tattoo conventions this summer, the first Liverpool Tattoo Convention, the second Leeds International Tattoo Expo. They were two fairly different experiences, Liverpool being a huge gathering spread out over a warren of rooms filled with artists and merchandise stalls whilst Leeds was a smaller, more intimate affair. I enjoyed both equally.


Before my first convention I wasn’t sure what to expect, admittedly getting tattooed with an audience wasn’t on my list of fun activities but it was an occasion to get tattooed by my artist without having to travel as far. So I booked in to have my knee cap tattooed by Max Rathbone who had tattooed the rooster on my shin the year before. Yep my knee cap, in public – one of the most painful places or so I’d been told. I wasn’t getting tattooed until later in the afternoon so I had chance to say hello to friends and watch my boyfriend James get tattooed by Andy Walker. This is where we differ as a couple, I like to book my tattoos in advance whereas he prefers to be spontaneous on the day and go for walk-ups (choosing from the artists flash or pre-dawn designs on the day). He also got a little filler from Ad of Folklore Tattoo– a super fun bunch. My turn came and Max scribbled on my knee with coloured pens, he assured me these freehand scribbles would be a peony so I trusted his word and let him crack on. Max had tattooed me before and I was familiar with his style so I could sit back and relax knowing I would end up with an amazing tattoo. To my surprise getting your knee tattooed wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected, phew! Although the swelling after scuppered any plans for a night out, it was back to the digs with a pizza and a bag of frozen peas, our arms laden with prints and other trinkets.

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My second convention experience was just as good, after the vastness of Liverpool the intimate nature of Leeds Expo was a real contrast. Whilst there was less to do there was more time to chat. I had booked in with Holly Ashby whose work if been a fan of for a while, having bought some of her stunning prints for our home and as gifts so I was excited to meet her. Even though I’d not met Holly we had chatted before hand and decided on a design, having already been tattooed at a convention I wasn’t freaked out like I had been for the first convention. That said at Leeds there was a lot more people walking past and taking photos, at first I found this a bit weird but Holly was absolutely lovely and it ended up being really fun talking to other people approaching her booth. We got to chat to people from all over the globe including other people there to get tattooed by Holly – it was like joining a special club. Inner thigh was a bit of an awkward spot as I ended up sat on a bench with paper towels tucked in my knickers, but it was worth the slight embarrassment as I adore the placement of my gorgeous pooch tattoo. In one hilarious moment a couple came running up to us brandishing a napkin, after some confusion it turned out they wanted a lipstick kiss print too use as a tattoo template. I am still left to this day wondering if some has my kiss tattooed!


Natalie getting tattooed by Holly Ashby taken by Graham Pile

Music Review: Strange Wilds

Our guest blogger is hobbyist reviewer and writer Harry Casey-Woodward

Strange Wilds, Subjective Concepts , 2015, Sub Pop Records 

A grungy punk trio from Olympia, Washington State signed to Sub Pop records. No we have not gone back in time to 1989. I am reviewing a debut album released this year in July by a band named Strange Wilds, who sound like they’ve teleported straight from the late 80s/early 90s Seattle grunge scene to assault our ears. Their state and record label has been home to Nirvana and other indie rock legends, whose anguished noisy spirit they tap into with joyous enthusiasm.

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Now surely a band coming out and replicating a sound popular over a decade ago is a sign to be worried about the progression of music. Then again, there aren’t many places left for music to progress to. There are still lots of good bands coming out, but there’s no big unifying rock movement pushing the genre forward. There are lots of scattered bands who mostly try to sound like great bands from the past who already broke down some musical barriers. A few bands who have cropped up in NME , like Wolf Alice for example, sound and dress like a 90s grunge band. As nice as it is to see people still inspired by this great time in music, the fuzzy-angst-in-converse-and-scruffy-sweaters formula has been done a lot and some current bands (like, in my opinion, Wolf Alice) sound like bland reproductions.

Strange Wilds are the first grunge throwback I’ve heard that I enjoyed. This is because they choose not to channel the brooding stadium-ready gloom popularised by mainstream grunge acts like Pearl Jam  and Soundgarden, which countless post-grunge fakers have wallowed in (Nickelback being the chief culprit). The album Subjective Conceptions harks back to the glory days of grunge’s punk/hardcore roots, sounding like a lost Mudhoney  or Black Flag record. Each song snarls and drips with twisted scorn while thundering along with gnarly riffs not out of place on Nirvana’s first album or a Melvins record.

While there’s nothing strikingly original here, it is nice to listen to a band who like making noise for the hell of it and having a good time. Most current indie bands are either light and fluffy, or take themselves too seriously. Take Metz  for example, Strange Wilds’ fellow contemporaries of noise also signed to Sub Pop, who have released their second album this year. The bleak and terrifying din from Metz is impressive, but noise is all you get with some barely distinct lyrics hollered over the top.

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Listening to Subjective Concepts however, I found myself (shock horror) singing along, something I haven’t done with any recent bands for a while, especially since most bands insist on distorting the vocals beyond recognition. Strange Wilds singer Steven’s vocals are left free and clear to bitterly mutter the verses and howl the choruses in true grunge fashion. The twisted lyrics aren’t bad either, if a bit infantile (‘the streets are littered with our filth’ etc) but the whole band yells them with such gleeful abandon they’re infectious. The band have mastered the art of the catchy grungy chorus, with some spikes of smart sarcasm throughout.

Nowhere is this more effective than on the album’s most powerful track: the opener and single ‘Pronoia’. This is the one song that comes close to being a sincere anthem despairing of the human condition, roaring along with full throttle punk energy. The video is cool as well, showing off the band’s imagination. Standard shots of the blond, long-haired singer thrashing around on his guitar (remind you of anyone?) are interspersed with queasy shots of food and other unidentifiable squishy objects being smashed.

If you still buy CDs, the album’s artwork is cool too. I love record covers that don’t match the content. On the Subjective Concepts cover, we have a young woman dancing on the edge of a building over some urban landscape at sunrise. That and the delicate album title suggest you’re in for some soft ambient music about the self-destructive desire for freedom from social constraints or something. I hope someone picks this up and is pleasantly surprised by the loud, squalling bitterness within. This is a band I’ve been waiting for since headbanging to Nirvana as a teen. This is a short but unforgettable blast of glorious rage that borrows heavily from the past but still sounds fresh, fun and rocks like a boss.

Music Interview: Creeper

In the perfect prelude to Halloween, our guest music blogger Verity Vincent went to Exeter’s Cavern club for it’s aptly named line up of Dead Frequency, Skeleton Frames and Creeper for a night infused with trick or treat sweets and even warm pasties on the bar. Yes, we were in Devon. 

Before the gig we caught up with lead vocalist Will Gould and bassist Sean Scott from to have a chat about all things Creeper.

Tell us about this tour, how’s it been going?

Will: It’s been great, it’s the last night of the tour and it’s been quite a long one for us. Tonight’s a headline show but the rest of the shows have been with Frank Carter and The Rattle Snakes. We weren’t planning to go on tour again this year as our last one with Moose Blood was going to finish the year but Frank messaged us and asked us to come out, so you can’t really say no to that!

But it’s been good and we’ve learnt a lot on this tour.  This year is all about us getting out there and playing and having as many amazing experiences as we can and I feel like with this tour everything that could happen – has happened. The Frank shows have been rowdy as hell. Frank is the nicest guy in the world, really softly spoken but when he’s on stage he’s mad as hell and the crowd are the same. Playing to them is not always what they’re expecting as we’re perhaps a bit more flamboyant! Black Coal were on the tour too so we got to know them really well.

We were opening up for the first time since January so we had to re-work the set to fit the crowd. We only got 30 minutes and we were used to doing a little bit more than that and doing a bit more of a closer. We’re a lot more theatrical than some of the other bands we play with and you can’t really do all that in an opening slot on a 3 band bill but it’s been really good, it’s really challenged us. I feel like we’ve come out the other side of it with not only a respect for Frank and his crowd but it’s made us give ourselves a bit more callus, and toughened us up a bit, it’s been really good. 

So doing headline shows for you guys isn’t as much more pressure, but more freedom?

Will: We’re not a warm up act for anybody, if someone’s coming to a show they kinda know what they’re gonna see and we’ll do it all. Like tonight, we’re doing one of our closing songs and all the fun stuff in between but it seems a bit pretentious doing a big dramatic closing song when we’re opening a show, it didn’t feel like the right thing to do.

Sean: There’s expectations of what people know you’re meant to be doing in terms of your own set, there is that respect to those people who come to shows all the time that they want to see that. If we’re playing to a completely new crowd, you can expect people to stand around, maybe not liking it, their ideas are going to be different to the average person so you’ve got to maybe play into them a little bit more than you would do normally.

Will: And it’s not that we would ever change what we do to suit someone else, it just doesn’t always seem like the right thing to do. There’s one song we’ve been playing with a piano theme and it sounds like it could be from a musical, so if we ended a set on that when we were an opening band it just seems almost disrespectful for the bands that are playing after. It’s difficult going back to being an opening band and working out how we do that now with our new material but it’s been really fun to do it. I think half the point about doing that tour was to go out and challenge ourselves.


Did you find it similar when you toured with Misfits? 

Will: It’s a very similar sort of thing but it’s something we couldn’t say no to again. We got the opportunity to do it and to be honest on the Misfits tour everybody there was wearing full makeup and a leather jacket and I was like – this is our crowd. So we did end with some of those big songs that we could get away with more on those particular shows. It didn’t seem as out of place for some reason. But that was really fun as well but a very similar sort of vibe you know, we’re proving ourselves and we’re cutting our teeth and it’s all about the experience for us.

You’re playing with Skeleton Frames and Dead Frequency tonight, have you heard much of them before or played with either of them? 

Will: Yeah, our agent sends a list of suggestions basically of everyone available and we check them out and this is our first time playing with them but I’m always excited. One of the best things about being in a band, and one of the first reasons you get in a band is to find new music and check out new stuff and it always really interests me what’s going on in a city. I might end up bumping into everybody again, you never know. So when we do get to do headline shows, I think we’re quite privileged to do it anyway, but even more so to have other bands play with you we try to take as much interest in that as we can, so I’m really excited to see everybody today. See what Exeter’s got going on.

Is it interesting to see how the music scene differs from city to city?

Will: It really does! Some places have a really strong hardcore punk scene and sometimes there’s no punk scene at all. But because you come through they’re so grateful that a punk band have come there and they’ll come out to the show because there’s not a lot of it in the area. So yeah it’s really cool to see how it differs place to place.

Sean: We’ve been here twice this year with Bury Tomorrow and Bayside and the demographic for those crowds is so far apart in a way so it’s kind of like each time we’ve come we’ve had a different scope of the audience. We’ve had the heavier crowd, we’ve had the sort of nostalgic Bayside crowd and now we’ve got what could be more ours and catered to with those who are playing with us.

You released your Callous Heart EP on vinyl which sold out on your website, why do think that format has had such a surge in popularity again? 

Will: When I was a kid and my parents divorced I remember my dad giving me a load of records so my first impression of owning music was holding something really tangible. So when I got more into music myself I bought CD’s and the whole thing was about going into town on a Saturday and flicking through CD’s and finding something new.

I think a big part of what we do is visual and our visuals are really important to us so we spend a lot of time working on those. Our band in particular translates very well to vinyl. It’s a large platform for our fans to interpret our band in an artistic sense in terms of something physical – something you can hold. But in terms of the medium itself, when mp3’s were happening and everyone was terrified that Napster was going to kill the internet, I think that was maybe ill-founded because people that care about music were always going to want to have something to hold.

When I’m at home and I look through my record collection, I’ll see something that I want to listen to and I might just put it on my phone straight away – but I’ve seen it and had a visual stimulus to do that. Imagery and visuals can define a band as well,  when you see a logo or a tiny little nuance – or when people do a colour variant it’s such a bit deal to people because people like to hold it and it’s about ownership. I remember my dad had a Pink Floyd gatefold record and opening that up, it was already like going into another world, having something to explore in itself and read all the notes. When I was a kid it was about finding out what bands were thanked on the record to then pick up bands that inspired the bands I like. So I think that stuff absolutely has a place and it was always going to come back round again. It’s why people are selling tapes now. You can laugh at it and say its retro or just a fad but I really don’t think that records will be. CD’s have gone now because you can have an audio download in great quality and play it right then and there and have the record for something to collect at the same time – that’s why most records come with download codes.

Sean: I think a lot of people don’t see a value in a CD for the money that it’s priced at, but with vinyl you get a bigger thing to hold or even with 7 inches, there’s more artwork, it looks like more time and thought has gone into it than the average person will see in a CD. On a wider scope, majority of people will see music as a service not a product. The may not think a lot of time has gone into the artwork or a CD booklet, whereas when you see a big vinyl that actually looks, like Will said, like art, you can frame them and have them on your wall, and have the download there as well.

Will: I think there’s something really romantic about it as well; going to a gig and picking up records and taking them home. It’s literally picking up piece of that music and taking it home with you, I think that’s something that will never die. Taking a record over to your friend’s house in a tote bag – that’s timeless.

There’s something about the sound as well isn’t there, it’s almost more tangible?

Will: Absolutely, it reminds me of being a kid because of my parents but I think that’s what I like about it, it my head the bands that I’m into, would have some relevance to my dad. Sending one of my records to my dad and him going “Oh! You’re in a band!” because he recognises that as music and something he would’ve got when he was a kid and I think that’s really cool. And the sound quality, absolutely.

Sean: It aids an artist as well, someone I always buy on record is Lana Del Ray, although she’s seen to be in a very contemporary music world, her sound is slightly of an older generation, it’s a very 50’s / 60’s influence. So if you’ve got that added thing of a crack or a slide of the needle going through a groove, you can’t get that with an MP3 pristine link.

Will: It’s almost ritualistic; you have to invest that time into it. Music can start to seem disposable to people. I remember Dave Hause once said he didn’t want to be on a record that was locked in someone’s hard drive and forgotten about forever, lost in time.

Knowing that someone would take the time to buy your record, unwrap it, put the needle across – that may not seem like a lot but we live in a world where people will click and play something for 5 seconds and then cross it off on Facebook. For someone to invest that time in 2015 when there is not time for anything, that’s really special.

You’ve been touring a lot! When it comes to recording do you take time out for that or try and juggle it on the road?

Will: In terms of records, we tend to keep what we’re doing very quiet and on the down low on purpose. As a band we like to make something and then present it when it’s done. Some bands I know like to record diaries but it’s not really our thing at all. Behind the scenes is something that only half interests me. I don’t like the idea of someone being in the studio with a camera or constantly doing updates like “recording drums today”.  With our band the appeal is to escape for a minute, to see something different, to find something in it that makes them think of another time or place. They want that nostalgia, that performance. What good does it do to walk round the back of Disneyland, who wants to do that? And that’s exactly how I feel about it. I’m not comparing our records to Disneyland! But in a way I think that we set the stage, we play in character and with the conviction that those songs need. The process of it may seem quite boring of it, quite mundane.

This time, we were recording in the day and doing festivals in the evenings. We didn’t want to slow down and take away from touring, but at the same time, we needed to record.

What’s next year looking like for you? More of the same?

Will: We’re going out on tour with our friends Neck Deep in the UK and round Europe, we’ve doing some of the biggest things we’ve done with this band, playing spaces like the London Forum it’s a dream come true for us. There’s a venue in Southampton – the Guildhall and we used to go to gigs there growing up and seeing that we’re main support in that venue we get to do all the theatrical stuff we dreamed of doing, it’s gonna be great.

We’re away a lot next year, putting out new music and having great new visual ideas already. It’s going a be a busy and hectic one! We take pride in our work and just try to work as hard as we can. It means a lot to us and we sacrifice everything to do it. We get things in place so we can just hit the ground with it in 2016.

In line with The Horror Issue, are you horror fans?

Will: Yeah! I mean in particular there’s a film called Phantom of the Paradise – i don’t know if you’d call it a horror film as such but it’s a play on Phantom of the Opera and there’s a great scene where the main character gets his head caught in a record press. It’s kind of Halloweeny I guess!

Sean: We went to the Pleasure Beach the other day and we had a moment that was like that scene from The Exorcist. Ian our guitarist is really into exorcism films and there’s a section of the Pasaje Del Terror where there’s a girl on the bed and you’re thinking – she’s gonna wake up in a minute and do something scary and then all of a sudden she does and chases you out of the room. So not only have we been watching those kinds of films with Halloween coming up, we kind of lived it a little bit too!

After continuing to chat about our horror icons and fancy dress, it was show time.

Daventry based Dead Frequency kicked things off with some classic punk rock, mixing their catchy original tracks with a little Green Day cover to warm up the crowd. Lead singer Matt threw himself into a high energy set and even got a mini circle pit of 6 people on the go.

Next up was local band Skeleton Frames. A mix of 90’s grunge and heavy guitars saw the indie rock band prove themselves popular with the night’s crowd. 

Lead singer Emily Isherwood will either enchant you with her introverted demeanour, or just annoy you for keeping her eyes shut and frequently sitting on the floor throughout their set. Their music though, can’t be faulted.

Creeper treated fans to songs old and new with tracks taken from recent release Callous Heart, right through to their first EP, including anthem The Honeymoon Suite and the beautifully theatrical Novena. After a pretty magical set, I’d urge anyone to join the Creeper Cult.


Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Tattoos are for Sailors

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about tattoos and relationships…

I couldn’t have told you whether my grandfather had a tattoo. No matter the weather he would always wear long trousers and a sleeved shirt, occasionally folding up his cuffs an inch in summer. He passed away when I was 12 years old taking any secrets with him. As I write this there is a gentleman sat across from me on the train, dressed in a manor my grandfather would have seen fit; blue striped shirt, grey slacks, polished Oxfords. His snow white hair putting him at around my grandfather’s generation. As he sat down he slipped off his damp over coat, revealing shirt sleeves rolled up to just below the elbow. Scattering his pale freckled skin a series of small blue tinged tattoos. Now smudged with age it is difficult to make out the designs, a swallow perhaps and an anchor. With a nudge and a disapproving tut from the lady beside him he pushes down the sleeves, with it a knowing eyebrow raise and a quick grin to me. His look said it all, this wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last his wife would plead with him to cover up those tattoos.

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This exchange got me thinking about tattoos in relationships. When I was still dating I had a few odd comments, a general consensus that guys didn’t like tattoos on girls – even guys who were tattooed themselves. I had one guy tell me on a first date he wasn’t really bothered about my tattoos so long as I didn’t get any more, needless to say I never did call him again. I’ve also spoken to people both male and female who have admitted they’d rather their partner not be tattooed, or in contrast wish that they were.

After meeting my boyfriend for the first time my mum had said to me ‘you’d best keep this one you might not find another who likes your tattoos’ I’m still not entirely sure if she was joking or not. My mum likes my tattoos, although she thinks I’ve got enough now – not sure how to break the news to her when I get my sleeves done but that’s another story. But she is from a generation filled with tattoo stigma. Before I met my boyfriend’s parents she said I might want to wear something pretty and on the sensible side, hiding the tattoos and toning down the extreme fashion. My boyfriend said the opposite, don’t cover up your tattoos because otherwise they will wonder what on earth we have in common – a university lecturer and a builder (he’s the builder). In the end I wore something in between, just what is normal to wear to go for dinner and didn’t worry about it. Getting a tattoo is a permanent body modification, it’s not like a dodgy jumper you can eventually talk your partner out of wearing – or shrink in the wash. After all they do say love is about compromise, but, for me, someone not loving my tattoos would be deal breaker.

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Inked and Educated

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about her decision to not cover her tattoos at her graduation ceremony… 

This summer I had the opportunity to don academic robes for the graduation ceremonies at the university where I work. I gained a PhD in Biochemistry (textile and fibre analysis should you be intrigued) in 2010 however this was the first time since then I would wear my robes, this time to watch my own students graduate. Graduation ceremonies are filled with tradition and seen as formal affairs, dress code is generally smart and conservative. For my own graduations I’d worn smart basics such as a blouse and pencil skirt with some cool shoes for a bit of personality. There is also the practicalities of wearing the gown to consider, they were designed to be worn by men in suits, the hood looping around a shirt button to secure it. Thus wearing it over a dress can cause it to slip around. That said in the 11 years since my first graduation things have changed, the dress code is more about what the students see as ‘their best’ which can be anything from evening gowns to party dresses, t-shirts under blazers and so on. No matter the changing styles it’s an occasion to get dressed up and of course celebrate these amazing achievements.


I’d planned to wear a shirt with loose tapered trousers due to the afore mentioned practicalities, however the day turned out to be a scorcher (robes are heavy and hot at the best of times) so I just threw on a light summer dress, one I wear for work often, instead without much thought other than to make sure I found some safety pins to avoid being strangled by my gown’s hood.

It was only upon putting on the gown and looking at myself in the mirror did it occur to me I should perhaps put on tights to cover my tattoos. As I said these ceremonies are formal affairs. I’m lucky enough to be given the freedom at work to wear whatever I want. As it happens you can’t really see my tattoos with what I wear to work due to the fact I dress in what I deem appropriate – I wouldn’t wear backless dresses or shorts to work say. What I do tend to wear are calf length dresses with jackets, so in the warmer months you can see the tattoos on my lower legs and feet. If anything my tattoos have only brought positive reactions. Although this hasn’t been the case in previous jobs, it has never been a problem for me to cover my tattoos if requested, I think it would be ignorant not to acknowledge the fact there is still very much a stigma around tattoos. Many of my students are tattooed and they are always encouraged to express themselves however they wish, there is no dress code per say for them.

So what made me decide to keep my tattoos visible on this day? It was actually something a friend had said to me ‘look at you with all your education and your tattoos’ and I thought yeah, just look at me, because it really doesn’t matter if you have tattoos or not and we need to break those boundaries. I’m not encouraging anyone to get tattooed, that’s personal choice, but I am in a position to help break the negative stigma attached to tattoos and that I feel is an important place to be.

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Ink on the beach

Our guest blogger is Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she talks about the reactions she received from people while sunning herself on a beach…

This was to be my first beach holiday in years, I’d packed some vintage style bikinis and not much else envisioning long days spent in the sunshine. What I hadn’t foreseen was that with the bikinis would come the stares. I’m used to getting funny looks back home for my tattoos but I guess this was a lot closer to naked than I was used to being in public. I live in Sheffield which I’d say is a fairly tattooed city, seeing tattooed people isn’t all that unusual. On this two mile stretch of Spanish beach not so much. Sure there was the odd little tattoo but in the five days we spent there I only spotted two other heavily tattooed people. In a sea of exposed flesh mine stood out, together with my boyfriend we stood out even more.

It really made me stop and think, just seeing all that ink free skin how few of us actually choose to be tattooed. When you have tattooed friends, follow tattoo related Instagram accounts and so on it becomes the norm, you get used to seeing tattooed people. The beach line up was a bit of a reality check I guess. The stark realisation at how different you have decided to become. There is sexism in the stigma too, I could watch my boyfriend walk around with the odd glance but nothing compared to the reaction I got. Is it more acceptable, more normal to see tattooed men?

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One day after some holiday cocktails we found a stack of business cards for a local artist and took them to hand out to the gawkers – what can I say we find ourselves hilarious after a few piña coladas. A bonus is that parents with screaming kids would take one look at us, decide we were likely criminals and move further down the beach, win! Away from the beach at a restaurant (not wearing the bikini just to clarify) we were asked to move to a table furthest away from the crowd, the waiters plea that it was reserved didn’t wash as we promptly left for the place opposite and watched said table sit empty for over an hour. I caused quite a stir at the hotel for breakfast too in a backless dress- tattoos not ok, stealing the entire platter of chocolate croissants totally acceptable apparently.

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All I can summarise is that the behaviour of people is strange, Things&Ink’s Rosie wrote about her tattooed holiday experience in Vietnam and had various reactions. In some cultures staring isn’t considered rude and I don’t mind at all people looking at my tattoos, I just wish they could give a little smile to show its in a friendly way every now and again. That said it won’t stop me wearing a bikini on the beach!

Choose Happiness with Miss West End Girl

Lynsay Neil is a 30-year-old writer, podcaster and creator of Miss West End Girl blog, from Glasgow. We chatted to Lynsay to find out how she started her blog, her style tips and tricks and her colourful tattoo collection…  

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How did you get into blogging? I’ve always had a deep love for writing, ever since I was a kid – when all my classmates wanted Tamagotchis (remember them?!) I was asking my parents for a typewriter. It seemed like a natural progression for me to start a blog as a platform to share my life and stories. I used sites like Livejournal and MySpace when I was younger, like most people – but it was when I took the plunge and got my own domain space that I considered myself to be a blogger.

How did you start? I started blogging under the name Miss West End Girl about five or six years ago. It started off as a fashion blog, because I was reading a lot of fashion based blogs at the time and also because I love to have fun with my own personal style. But over the years, it’s evolved into what I consider to be a lifestyle site as I love to write about all manner of things that make me excited, so much so that I have to share the details with my readers.

What can people expect to see on your blog? My blog is essentially a guide to living life with joy and style, and embracing what makes you unique. You can expect to find guides to Glasgow (my home city), personal and  blogging advice, DIYs, interiors, personal style, beauty, food, travel…the list goes on! In a nutshell, it’s the things that make me smile and that I think will make other people smile or feel inspired.

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You have a lot of positive messages and upbeat posts, how have you cultivated this mind set?  Any important life lessons for our readers? That’s very kind, thank you! I think that happiness is a choice and it’s one that we make each day when we wake up. Negativity is pretty toxic stuff, and even though it’s easy to feel dragged down, I try to concentrate on the things that should be celebrated. We only get one shot at life, and I firmly believe we should make the most of it! Be adventurous, be kind, look after yourself and believe that you can do anything (because you can!).

Do you have any advice for people either thinking of starting a blog or who have one already? Think about what inspires you and go write about it. There is no right way or wrong way to blog – that’s the beauty of it! If you’re writing something that you don’t care about, or for the sake of it, it will show. Don’t put pressure on yourself either – some of my favourite blogs are only updated once in a while, and when a new article drops I get super excited! You’ll find a rhythm and routine that suits your writing style and your life.

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How would you describe your fashion style? Where do you shop? How has it evolved? Sometimes I feel like I’m permanently dressed to attend my own birthday party – I love to wear bright dresses and statement accessories. I’m rarely seen without something on my head – be it a flower crown, a glittery slice of pizza or a massive bow. My personal style has been described as ‘cartoon-like’ which I take as a compliment!
I shop in a variety of places because I don’t tend to stick to whatever is ‘on trend’. An average outfit could be a mixture of indie designers, vintage, thrifted, high-street and high-end. I love discovering local design talent and people who are thinking outside the box. I like to have fun with fashion and dress for myself!
When I was a teenager I was a bit of a sulky goth, all black jeans and kohl eyeliner. This has massively evolved – particularly as I studied film and media at university and feel very inspired by some of my favourite colourful characters.

Does your home/homewares reflect your style? Absolutely! After eight years of renting beige nightmare flats, my boyfriend and I bought our flat last year and have been having the BEST time decorating it. I love sharing home tour posts of the flat on my blog so I can document our little interiors journey! After I posted pictures of our living room, an interiors magazine wanted to run a story on our bright and cheerful home – we ended up getting a 12 page feature in a magazine and I still can’t quite believe it! I’m proud to have created a happy home that I can relax in. It’s somewhere I can write my blog and record podcasts, as well as hang out and entertain friends.

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What are your beauty secrets? Any tips or tricks for our readers? Finding products that work for you and make you feel amazing is my number one tip. I’d feel lost without my eyeliner flicks and a pop of bold lip colour! The best way to get comfortable with make up is to get in front of a mirror and practice – it’s also fun to experiment with products until you find what’s right for you.
Skincare wise, I am all about the classic advice. Look after your skin so you don’t end up looking like a second-hand handbag! Wear sun protection (minimum of SPF 50, especially on those tattoos!), drink water, moisturise plenty and always remove your make up before bed. Some advice never goes out of style!

What inspires you? I feel inspired by lots of things, but if I had to pick one thing it would be meeting other people that are passionate about what they do. That kind of feeling is infectious and you can really feed off of each others’ good vibes.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? I have 14 tattoos, and have been getting tattooed for just over 10 years. My very first tattoo was my stocking seams, which run from my achilles heels right up to the top of my thighs – go big or go home, eh? They were inspired by my love of vintage glamour and pin-up culture. This was the only grey and black work that I have had done, every other tattoo is very bright!

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My tattoos don’t have too many meanings or tributes behind them – with the exception of two! I have two tattoos that are matching ones with my boyfriend. We got them on our fifth and ten year anniversaries.
I like to think that my tattoos are a reflection of my personality, as they are very feminine and colourful with a rock n’ roll twist. On one arm, I have an old fashioned perfume bottle, a Russian doll, a spider web (bright pink, of course!), a cupcake, a sugar skull, love heart candies and a lipstick. On my other arm, I have a swallow, a strip of pink leopard print and a lucky cat. My legs have identical stocking seams and I have a heart-shaped locket on my foot.
All of my pieces have been custom designed, via consultation and brainstorming with the artist so that we get it just right. I’ve never regretted a tattoo and put a lot of planning into each idea.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? Always! I think about getting tattooed all the time, and with so many amazing artists posting their work on Instagram the only question is, who to book with? I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Film Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Our guest blogger is hobbyist film and TV series reviewer and writer Harry Casey-Woodward

A Girl walks home alone at night, 2015, 18, dir Ana Lily Amirpour, 3/5


I’m not a big fan of vampires movies, unless they’re done well. I dislike the way certain films and TV shows (cough cough Twilight cough) have portrayed vampires as surly, sparkling love interests. I’m more a fan of the old fashioned kill-them-first-shag-them-later variety. I also dislike the fact that vampires have been done to death. But I guess vampire films are like any other genre. Out of the majority of over-clichéd, over-sexed muck rises a few gems that dare to do things differently and show everybody else how it’s supposed to be done.

There was Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In  in 2008. I liked its original premise of a young girl vampire making friends with a human boy. However I don’t know if it was the film’s sparse, sombre tone or there was something wrong with me when I tried to watch it but I just found it a bit dull. This was certainly not the case with the subject of this review.


This year’s vampire flick (now on DVD and blu-ray) is the most striking and unusual of its kind I’ve ever seen. For one thing, it’s set in Iran with dialogue faithfully in Farsi while remaining an American production. Elijah Wood is one of the executive producers and he features in the special feature interviews.

Watch these interviews and you will understand exactly how an Iranian vampire film came together. The director Ana Lily Amirpour has an Iranian background and comes across as a female version of Quentin Tarantino. She swears a lot and chatters enthusiastically about her favourite things, which include spaghetti westerns, pop music and vampires. She set out to write a screenplay that brought all these elements together. She had already shot a couple of shorts set in Iran and when she tried on a chador veil one of the extras was wearing, she knew her vampire had to be Iranian. Of course.

But she’s not just planted a vampire in Iran. She’s planted a vampire in a fictional desert town named Bad City , home to various social misfits including a prostitute, a pimp, a transvestite, an urchin, some spoilt kids, a junky and his son Arash (Arash Marandi) who dresses like James Dean and drives a hot vintage car. Even when his beloved ride gets taken as payment for his father’s drugs and he breaks his hand punching a wall in anger, he still looks cool with a cast and a bicycle.


While he’s trying to look after his father and cat, make money and keep on looking cool, the vampire simply named the Girl is prowling the streets at night, looking suitably menacing yet somehow cute in a black flowing chador as she preys on scummy men, terrorises children and steals their skateboards.

The actress Sheila Vand gives an astonishing performance. She never smiles and her lines are rare too, but she communicates so much menace and loneliness through her expressions you don’t know whether to be scared or feel sorry for her.

The sparse dialogue in this film is a merit. It’s clear that Amirpour has learnt a lot from her favourite Sergio Leone. Her movie runs on the less-is-more principle, relying on the actor’s expressions and actions to tell the story rather than dialogue. She also makes heavy use of atmosphere and suspense rather than gore in the horror scenes, which is refreshing regarding most blood-spattered horrors today. In fact for a vampire movie there is very little blood, except for one nasty scene and even then the film is in black and white.

It’s clear from the start that this is not a straightforward horror. Amirpour is more concerned with giving her audience a visual feast. She is also a big fan of David Lynch. With the film being black and white and featuring various long shots of industrial scenery, as well as being an urban nightmare populated by sad freaks, I couldn’t help being reminded of such Lynch films as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet.


However, while the film is a banquet for the eyes and ears (the soundtrack consists of Iranian and Western pop mixed with spaghetti western-style music), perhaps the film is too concentrated on style and trying to be hip. For example, amidst all the culture references the plot boils down to a love story between Arash and the vampire. It’s the film’s presentation of romance which gets on my nerves. These two very good looking people meet, are instantly attracted to each other and their lovelorn talk consists mostly of comparing life to music: ‘don’t you wish you could live in a song?’ etc. I’m sorry but this fantasy does not match my past awkward, bumbling attempts at dating and thus I believe it encourages unrealistic romantic expectations. Then again the film is just that, a fantasy.

Nevertheless as cool and fun and imaginative the film is, I couldn’t help feeling a little underwhelmed at the end. The film bends over backwards to satisfy you superficially with stunning visuals. When it comes to the plot however, I feel the film could have gone for more emotional impact with the dramatic events it depicted. It’s cool that the film opted for a less-is-more approach concerning the dialogue and emotion depicted, but there’s never any real conflict between the characters. So as dark as the film gets, it doesn’t really pack a punch. Still, it’s worth seeing for the cat Masuka’s performance alone.

This is still the coolest and most genre-busting vampire movie you will ever see and I applaud Amirpour’s unique vision and cinematic enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to her next movie The Bad Batch, a love story set in a cannibal colony in a Texas wasteland. I hope she does a western.

Images from IMDB