Timeless Tattoos, Glasgow
It’s been almost seven months since Timeless Tattoos descended upon Glasgow City centre. The idea started in the depths of the Savoy Centre where r Roddy McLean and Laura Kennedy worked together in a small shop before Roddy decided to start a shop of his own on Dundas Street in Glasgow and thus Timeless Tattoos was born.
“We wanted to keep everything a little bit ghetto given our roots” explains Roddy. His shop stands on the site of a former Haddows; the glass partition which served to separate irate jakies from Buckfast has been kept to allow a division between the waiting room and the studio. The whole shop in fact is like an urban curiosity cabinet; when I walk in the first thing I notice aside from the grimacing customer having his full back tattooed in the middle of the room is another relic from the shop’s previous career- the cigarette cabinet from the off-licence has been kept to store bottles of ink in every colour and a number of little mechanical looking needles. In the more private studio, Roddy shows me a Buffalo skull given to him by a gun slinging customer. “We get loads of weird presents, people give us all sorts of stuff” he tells me. On the walls I see frames filled with Coyote jaw bones, Scorpions and creepy little spiders. It’s pretty clear that this studio is a far cry from the hyper professional surgically silent shops a lot of people have the misfortune of getting tattooed in. This shop is like more of an art space- every inch of the wall is decorated with some obscure curiosity or art work; the bathrooms appear to be wallpapered by pink 1990‘s pornography while the staircase to the cellar displays approximately one million sketches and designs for customers. The basement itself is like a kiddies party come acid den- I’m told that customers come down and spray the walls with obscenities and graff and that the balloons on the walls are from the shop’s launch party. Laura explains that the shop is intended to be unconventional and different from some of the more dull shops she and Roddy worked in previously. I suppose branding people for life involves a certain responsibility not only to provide the customer with an aesthetically pleasing design they enjoy, but also the actual enjoyment of their experience of being tattooed is something the guys at Timeless seem to be preoccupied with. That’s not to say there is no attention paid to things like hygiene or skill, but Laura tells me that the ethos of the shop is primarily concerned with the creative process and producing a unique design for each customer.
“We do custom tattoos, but mostly when someone comes in with a design we alter it a little bit. It would be boring for us to sit and do the same designs all day and for everyone to be walking about with the same tattoos. We try to give everyone something they like whilst improving our skills and being creative” Most of the shop’s customers are regulars with a yearning desire to be repeatedly tattooed by the same artist which is surely a massive compliment and says a lot about the levels of customer satisfaction. On one of the walls in the studio there is a huge grid with photographs of around 50 regular customers. I imagined it must be like being a therapist or a hairdresser seeing so many regular customers for quite intimate sessions. “We do get a lot of different stories, and our customers trust us” says Laura. “You spend so much time doing the designs, maybe sitting for 20 hours in total with the same person. You get to know the individual and learn about them and their life.”
Laura herself has a very bold graphic style, although she tries to incorporate many styles into her work. “It’s about constant improvement- I always try to improve my work; it’s a constant learning process.”
Laura began her own career as a tattooist at the deep end; “I worked in a coffee shop and the guys used to come in so I got to know them and decided to get a tattoo myself” she shows me a small Mogwai symbol on her wrist, “I said while I was getting it done that it must be an awesome place to work and just by chance the receptionist in the shop was getting the boot at the time so I got the job. So I worked the desk for a while then the other guys found out I was good at art and drawing- I was going to go to Art school before I got the job- and encouraged me to get into tattooing.” Lucky for Laura she had a stream of enthusiastic friends and volunteers who let her practice on them allowing her to progress away from the reception desk into a job as a full time tattooist. “There isn’t really education or qualifications that get you into this kind of job and opportunities are hard to find, I was really lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But tattooing shouldn’t be a career accessible to everyone” She is right of course, as well as her circumstances Laura possesses more than enough talent, creativity and skill. Body modification is ever popular but is something that is also very personal and thus should be unique. In terms of her own tattoos, Laura went from her first modest design to allowing Roddy to do a full sleeve on her, then another. “I like the way the design flows, and I like the bright colours” she says. The most complicated tattoo she has ever done she tells me, is one of a huge robot battle which was the inspiration for the design of the shop window.
I asked Laura if she felt that being a girl in a largely male dominated profession was challenging. “It’s motivating I guess” she says “I always want to improve myself and my work and so I don’t want anyone to treat me any differently because I’m a girl. I want to get better at tattooing and I won’t be able to do that if I get allowances made for me or I’m babied”
“She still gets abused and battered as if she was a guy” Roddy cuts in “We treat everyone the same and we don’t make exceptions for Laura just because she’s a girl. People want the best person for the job and she is that person”
My favourite thing about Timeless Tattoos is that there is a commitment to art for art’s sake instead of branding faceless customers soullessly as a purely capitalistic venture. There is a commitment to the shop’s aesthetic, to providing unique designs for every customer and to exploiting the shop space as an adaptable venue for art, parties and general fucking about. The team produce a variety of really unconventional, original multimedia including the Timeless TV channel on YouTube which features short videos which can best be described as Jackass meets Gaspar Noe which really says everything about the hyperactive creative energy of the team and their success as individual artists, as a business and as what can only be perceived as a very genuine friendship between all the staff at the shop.
Text: Hailey Maxwell
Photography: Claudia Miquel
- Insanity @ Timeless Tattoo Glasgow (roddymcleantattooer.com)