Tattoo Artist – The Q&A

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tattoo blog - set sail tattoos

Tattoos are everywhere these days, with tattoo artists showcasing their considerable talent by allowing their human canvases to express their individuality. With the popularity of this art form showing no signs of diminishing we wanted to speak with someone on the business end of the ink. Upon recommendation we’ve tracked down a studio in the West of Scotland where artistic dexterity and unique design is paramount – the waiting list may be as long as your sleeve, but from what we hear…it’s worth the wait.

Set sail tattoo studio is based in Irvine and run by Louis McKee and Nicole Cairns. Louis specialises in vibrant, illustrative design and draws much of his inspiration from sci-fi and comic book culture. Nicole concentrates on Disney pieces and intricate detail with a focus on hands, animals and jewels.

We caught up with Louis to find out how he got involved in the tattoo game and asked him to give us an insight to the industry and share his thoughts on current trends. Plus a little advice for those thinking about going under the needle.

What was your very first tat? First tattoo was a tribal tattoo that is now covered up. It was a product of what was popular at the time and was badly positioned and didn’t work for any kind of expansion.

How did you get started tattooing and do you have any advice for people interested in getting into the industry? Don’t really want to talk about my start in tattooing. It’s complicated and would piss people off. If people are serious in getting into the industry, the main thing would be to draw, draw again, and draw some more. Work on a portfolio and be willing to travel. Your local tattoo studio might not be looking for someone but somewhere 50 miles out could be and if you really want it they will be able to tell.

awesome tattoos

What was the first tattoo you did on someone else and was it a terrifying experience? First tattoo on someone was terrifying. It took a lot of trust on that persons behalf, something for which I will always be grateful for. It was a treble clef. No photos I’m afraid, plus, it was terrible…

What do you think was your finest work? Finest work is impossible. It depends what I like at the time and I’m not vain enough to blow my own trumpet like that.

How much of the design idea comes from the client, is it quite a collaborative process or do you tend to just do what is asked. Things I’ve had most fun on recently were like the ones in the pics. Something where the client gives me a bit more control or freedom with whilst remaining in their idea. People come in and ask for what they like. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as that. Other times people need to realise that not everything works. And not everything will look good.

Do clients still choose from pre-designed tattoos or is there more interest in ‘bespoke’ artwork these days? Best part of modern tattooing is the increase in scale of tattoos and vision for bigger pieces. Not taken from a wall, along with 20 other people that day. Some people just want a tattoo though, and have no idea what design they want. That’s hard to work with. We have our own pre-designed flash books, but there usually isn’t flash like there was before. That’s what the internet is for now. Pinterest is where most people’s ideas come from, but we try to customise as much as possible.

cool tattoo ideas

What is the biggest tattoo fail you’ve ever seen? No point in talking about tattoo fails. It’s not nice, and an area of the industry I’m not interested in getting involved with, one man’s trash as they say…

Do you ever refuse requests? Or would you advise against certain ideas that you think are just too out there? …. As a shop we refuse anything racist, sectarian, offensive or outright stupid. Anything that is going to upset or offend any specific demographic of people. Also, stupid ideas that would normally be done on holiday. If it’s not going to be funny in 4-5 months when your appointment comes around, it won’t be funny years down the line either. It’s our responsibility to make people aware of the risks and our thoughts/morals. If people still want to go ahead on our recommendations, then that’s their call.

Thanks so much for your time Louis, your designs are mega-impressive, for anyone interested in finding out more or arranging a booking you will find Set Sail tattoo studio on Facebook  and  Instagram.

Worth remembering though…Louis is often booked up 3 months in advance, so get your date in the diary sooner rather than later.

If you’d like to share your own tattoo stories with us please comment below or show us your own cool designs on Twitter.


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