A tattoo artist from North Staffordshire has made a name for himself after winning numerous awards and appearing on television.
Simon Cooke owns The Ink Spot, in Silverdale, but learned to tattoo by teaching himself at home.
The 46-year-old, from Penkhull, starred in E4’s Tattooist of the Year and progressed to the final.
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The father-of-one says he has always been artistic and first wanted to work as an illustrator before deciding to try tattooing.
“I have had my own store for 11 years and have been in my current premises for three years,” he said.
“I was on E4’s Tattoo Artist of the Year about five years ago and made it to the final. I applied to be on the show, they check your work to make sure you can do what you say you can do And the rest is history.
“We are a busy studio and the show has only increased the number of people coming to the studio.
“I went on the show to prove that you can come to a studio in a small town and still get a tattoo, instead of having to go somewhere like Manchester or London.”
Simon woke up one day and decided he would learn to tattoo on his own – but he says it’s not the traditional way to learn.
He said: “I’ve always been artistic, and it was one of those things I wanted to try and see if I could do it.
“From school to art college, I always wanted to be an illustrator, but never had the opportunity to get into something like that.
“I taught myself how to tattoo, practice in my spare time and read and research whatever I could find. But now there are a lot more aspects related to health and wellness. security.
“I then got a job in a studio as a junior and then opened my own shop. My style is realism with a mix of illustration.
“I love portraits and anything geeky and colorful that grabs attention. Surrealism is a big thing right now, which is a picture within another picture.
“It took a while to get to this level and it’s not the traditional way to do it. But I got stronger and stronger and am now a savvy international tattoo artist on several occasions.
“I can travel and see places I wouldn’t even dream of going.
“We also meet a lot of great people. We’re like therapy for a lot of people. They come here because it’s their happy place.”
Simon is always on the lookout for new talent and explained how someone looking to break into the tattoo industry can apply for an apprenticeship.
He said: “The traditional way to get into the tattoo industry is to do an apprenticeship and have a mentor.
“To get into the world of tattooing, you start at the bottom by cleaning and doing small jobs to help your mentor, like cleaning and setting up.
“I trained on my own leg, but now there are products like a Pound Of Flesh, 3D molds that you can practice on. It’s come a long way. As they get better, we let them tattoo us so they can feel what it is like with the skin.
“We are always looking for new talent. If someone is able to impress us, we will look at them.
“The first point of call would be to reach out to the studio on social media or email and ask if anything is going on.
“The other thing is you need a strong portfolio to back it up. Photos of your designs, something like that, can help us be impressed.
“It can be anything, a portrait job, an art school job, as long as it’s artistic and we can see your talent, that’s what it takes to start tattooing .
“You can start working in the studio as young as 16, but you’ll need to be 18 before you can become a licensed tattoo artist. The earlier you start, the better.
“We’ve had a couple of apprentices and we’ve got one at the moment who’s doing pretty well and by the end of the year they’ll be ready to be fired and go out into the big world.
“It’s pretty exciting to see their progression from when they’re holding a tattoo machine to the point where they’re tattooing skin.
“Before, it was something quite secret. No one wanted to pass on their knowledge because it’s still a business and the more people who do it, the less customers there are.
But nowadays there are a lot more people getting tattoos, so we need more tattoo artists.”