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How to choose a tattoo you won't regret

We spoke to Hannah Cox from Afflecks' Stag & Raven

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Whether it’s your first or twenty-first time getting inked, settling on a tattoo design that you’re totally comfortable with can be a drawn-out, chin-scratching process. Emerald Street sought expert advice from Hannah Cox, who – along with her best mate Kate – runs Stag & Raven, an Afflecks-based business selling clothes, prints, homeware and accessories bearing designs by more than 70 tattoo artists.

Hi, Hannah. Let’s start with what *not* to do. Which tattoos carry a high risk of being eventually regretted?

A tattoo anywhere that you can’t easily cover up if you need or want to. I didn’t get my arms tattooed until my thirties, as I was worried I’d get something I’d no longer like when I got older. I’d also avoid anything you haven’t designed alongside a tattoo artist. Finding a tattoo you like online, printing it out and getting any old artist to do it is asking for trouble. A good artist will create something truly unique for you. A tattoo is an investment in yourself, so give yourself the respect of time and consideration when choosing one.

Have you encountered any tattoos that’ve made you think “Oh, mate, really…?”

To be honest, if you want something drawn on your body, provided it’s not morally offensive, I say go for it. I constantly see people wearing clothes that I wouldn’t, and tattoos are the same. If you like it, if it makes you feel good, good for you. Making fun of how other people look is for losers.

What’s the hot thing in tattoos right now, then?

Watercolour and sketch-style tattooing is popular. Rebecca de Cadorette of Long Time Dead in Stretford did an abstract watercolour design on my arm which I adore, as it’s completely unique. Dotwork and hand-poked tattoos [where the ink is literally ‘poked’ by hand into your skin using a needle attached to a stick instead of the usual electric tattoo gun] remain popular, as you can get large designs that are still delicate. Blackwork – solid-black pieces – also continues to be interesting.

Is a very on-trend tattoo likely to date?

Yeah, of course. You can often date tattoos: there was that big trend for tribal tattoos, and later for star tattoos. I have my own ‘emo stars’ tattoo on my hip. I used to run a club night and those stars were part of our identity. I certainly wouldn’t get that tattoo now, but it reminds me of a time when I could party until 4am and when I really started to carve out my own individual style, so no regrets at all.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, where’s a good place to look online?

Inkluded is a great place to discover artists and learn about different styles. Pinterest is good for creating mood boards and Instagram is the best place to find individual artists – try #uktattooartists.

And how much communication should you have with the artist beforehand?

It’s vital to give them a very clear idea of what you want. I’ll often create a mood board on Pinterest to share with the artist. Look at their Instagram so you can tell them which of their designs you particularly like. Tell them what you’re thinking in terms of size and placement – a good artist will suggest where they think the design will look best. It’s as important for them to be as happy with the finished result as it is for you, as you’ll be a walking advert for how amazing they are.

Is it possible to overthink a tattoo? Is there a point where you have to say, “Oh, sod it, I’ll just do it”?

Yeah, it is easy to overthink a tattoo, or worry about what other people will think about it. But who cares what anyone thinks? Our bodies are incredible – but they are just our bodies. I have different breast sizes from surviving cancer. I have scoliosis – a curved spine – and one leg shorter than the other, which causes me chronic pain. I’ve got two scars on my forehead from separate falling-over instances. At the age of 33, I still struggle to make my eyeliner ‘wings’ match. But none of that matters, because I’m here – I’m alive! I’m running a business with my best mate, which is awesome. I have ‘Why Not?’ tattooed on my wrist as a daily reminder that it doesn’t matter what other people think. My self-worth isn’t defined by what I have drawn on my skin. Love yourself, and love your tattoos!

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