rebellion against the uniform,’ guesses Terry.
Back in the bright sun of Dalry Road, I'm feeling a mixture of relief and anger that I’ve been such a chicken. A bit more procrastination is needed before I can pluck up the courage for a second shot, so it’s off to the library for a suitable design. As all the tattoo books are already out on loan or too battered to leave the library, the biology section has to provide my template. Suitably
horrible hairy wee beasty procured, I set off at last for Bill-the-tattooist’s. It is an open, airy parlour. The usual motifs are complemented by examples of Bill’s own designs. A pile of leaflets explaining why AIDS is not a danger ifyou visit any reputable tattooist is placed on a table under a notice warning of a
S g : 3: \‘jy; .. - .. I L. ‘ ~ 7 Id! More oi Bill Hooper’s handyworlt
f more real risk: a badly crafted z tattoo. Ifyou are going to take the
plunge, you do not want to be
: permanently adorned by Botticeli’s ' Venus ifshe has a broken nose.
Although it is possible to get a catastrophic mistake removed, the process is expensive and can only deal with blacks and blues. The leading tattoo removers are Derma-lase of Glasgow, who use a technique developed at the clinical burns unit ofCanniesburn Hospital. A laser, focused on the ink under the skin, breaks up the pigment so it is removed naturally by the body. According to Derma-Lase’s Mike Murphy, most of the company’s patients want amateur tattoos, names of ex-lovers or football affiliations removed. People who have gone to the trouble of getting a
professional job are not so likely to
want to take it off. although one
g current patient is a male model who
is unable to get T-shirt or swimwear
As Bill~the-tattooist sterilises his
equipment in an autoclave and ' throws away the paint palates he‘s
used for the guy who has just had the names ofhis children tattooed on
, three skulls, I show him my spider. l : need not have bothered. It is too ‘ intricate, the lines too close
together. Besides, it is too flat. leaving no room for light and shade.
Instead he picks out a complex picture of a spider, casting a shadow as it scutters across the page. After shaving the top of my arm, he draws the outline in biro, explaining that over the years the ink will move under the skin, turning fine lines into blobs. The trick is to keep the needle at the right depth, something that no machine could ever be programmed to do. A tattooist needs the steady hands of a surgeon, combined with the eye of an artist.
I wince as the needle plunges in for the first time. drawing tiny beeds of blood in its wake. But the sensation is more like a light scratch than a doctor’s hypodermic. Twenty minutes and it‘s done. The spider transformed into a living beast on my arm. £13 seems a small price to pay for a work of art. But it is an
addictive process. lam already wondering what I will get next time.
' I Terry's Tattoo Studio, 23 Chisholm
Street,Glasng,041552 5740. I Billy Tattoo Artist 73 Elm Row. Edinburgh. 031 556 5954.
I Dragon’s Lair 228 Dalry Road,
. Edinburgh, 031 346 8566.
‘ l Ralph’s Tattoo Studio 288
Portobello High Street, Edinburgh, 031 657 1605.
I Derma-Lase 223 Hope Street,
Glasgow, 041 552 3944.
Thom ledln settled lortho spldor
"The List 31 tvlay- 13June 1991
STORIES FROM A GLASGOW TENEMENT
OUT NOW IN CORGI PAPERBACK