The Inkings.

If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd someday be sitting in an indie cafe with a tab set up behind the bar, writing blog posts and managing social media as a job and invoicing publishers for a week of events...well, that was my dream, actually. So I'd have been very happy. But then, if you'd added 'you have a sh*t ton of piercings, pockets full of crystals, and a whole lot of ink covering your skin'? I'd have snapped my fingers at you and said 'you almost had me!'

Photo: Erin Veness (
Tattoos: both Ella Bell

I've written before about my body being a map of me. It's covered in marks and memories, both deliberate and unplanned. Scars and ink mingle on my surface, and while some scars go deeper, the latter is my way of redecorating and reclaiming. I've written about that before too; described each inking and their individual importance.

But that latter blog post actually was published in March 2016, when I had 7 tattoos and had booked 1 more in...I now have 12. 

I mean, I'm hardly a veteran in the tatt world, but I know my stuff now. I'm sufficiently decorated that these days, as an artist wraps me up and takes payment, they say 'we don't need to tell you what to do next'. I have nappy rash cream in convenient travel-size tubes and I plan my outfits so the inked skin gets air and the cream can be applied with ease. 
I can also identify different styles on other people and in studios, I like to think I can gauge how much an artist will charge (although tbh I have been very, very wrong before).
Friends now come to me for advice on what designs to get, where to get them and who should do them, but also how to heal and what to expect. 

Photo: Erin Veness (
Tattoo: Ella Bell

Yes, I'm slightly over-enthusiastic about ink. My Instagram feed is home to so many gorgeous tattoo artists and their incredible work, and I've made one long note on my phone with a list of which artists I want to do future tatts on me. Also these days, I tend to find people with ink that much more attractive – because it shows not just bravery (tattoos hurt, guys) but also a love of their bodies and a creative mind. And then tattoo artists? Dear god, the very definition of hot...

I never used to like tattoos. I was very much of the belief, as a teen, that tatts made you look kinda scruffy, and yes they would look appalling on your wedding day or when you were entering your eighties. I also remember saying once that I'd feel odd getting into the bath – or just getting undressed, generally – if I had any ink, because I'd 'never feel properly naked'. 

But then, at 17, I found something I wanted. The image came into my head and wouldn't leave. I had the idea for over 2 years. It was just 3 words, on my forearm, in an important person's handwriting. I had the note I'd use as a stencil pinned to my corkboard in halls for ages before I finally took it into my local studio. After getting it done, at last – with my 2 best friends present, just before a job interview and after a Starbucks latte (don't judge guys, I didn't know then what I know now about decent coffee) – I then thought to myself 'hmm. That was easy...' and soon, I was addicted. Within a year I had another, then 2 more, then 3. And now, 4 years later, I have 12.

Photo: Erin Veness (
Tattoos: Ciara Havishya, Ella Bell and Amber Ida

I will never regret any of my inkings. I love them all, and am beyond happy they exist on my body, in my skin. Tattoos really can be the most beautiful artwork, and the best way of expressing yourself and your loves, your influences, your fantasies.

Sadly, some others may think differently. I do notice people peering at me in public when I shrug off my cardigan; acquaintances will poke and prod the pictures or read the handwritten words without permission, turning their noses up very loudly at my choice of decoration and expression. It's so upsetting that there's still prejudice in some places. I have friends who've actually lost out on job opportunities supposedly because employers fear that their business partners, customers, or in most cases students, would see the ink and...what? Be utterly horrified and take their business elsewhere? Or just run wild in rebellion?! 

I will never judge others for their body art – or for anything they do with their appearance, really. Unless of course it offends minorities or breaks laws...

Someday I bet one of my kids will come home and casually say 'mama, I think I want some ink'. I will then immediately swoop down upon them, gasping, excitedly asking 'what kinda design are you after? Where will it go? Are you following *this* studio? Ooh, check out this design I saw on Insta the other day, would totally suit you...'

This won't be me being The Cool Mum (though I may well be serving up virgin cocktails and wearing pink velour), it'll be me being me. I'll be simply respecting my kids' wishes to decorate and personalise their bodies. I won't be that parent who considers ink or piercings dirty or rough – nor will I stake any claim to those (totally hypothetical) kids' bodies. When they turn 18, they're not mine to govern any more. In fact, they never really were. Kids are their own bodies, their own people, from a young age – it sounds ludicrously obvious, but weirdly some parents don't see this as what it is, a fact and a right.

Don't get me wrong, I'll probably insist my kids (Wolfie, Buttercup and Newton Jr. Battenberg Faulkner) tell me exactly what they want and show me designs and artists they were thinking of seeing – I'll want to make sure they don't get ripped off, and get the best possible inking done. And who knows, I may insist someday that we all get matching tatts...

Photo: Erin Veness (
Tattoos: Ciara Havishya and Yasmin Mckimmie

Ermm, anyway...last week I got a very important tattoo. It's something I'd been pondering for a while, but booked in rather hastily after finding out one of my favourite artists, usually based at their own stunning studio in Canada, was guesting at a studio in London. Ciara, aka samsara.rat, made me the most gorgeous piece for the back of my left arm – a brain, mine, complete with a dark star hidden inside, the prettiest most fragrant lavender growing fearlessly from it, and grounding, healing crystals protecting from below. It may be the most personal one I have now – save perhaps my favourite artist's lyrics and Grandad's wise words.

Photo: Erin Veness (
Tattoo: Kelly Violet

Then just 2 days later, my favourite local artist Ms Yasmin (aka yasimckim) brought a little ladybird to life, also on my left arm, actually placed perfectly between Ciara's work and my gal Ella's florals (now 1 year old). This booking had been in place for a while longer than the previous one, and really it was one of the first things I'd thought of getting but put it off for some time. Ladybirds have been my 'thing' since I was young; I'd search for them in the garden, rescue them when they were stuck on window sills, draw them at school and I even got a Brownie Collector badge when I presented my stashes of ladybird-patterned things (lunchboxes, earmuffs, bowls, jewellery, notebooks...). They've been in my life always, in some way. So of course I needed one on me! 

Photo: Erin Veness (

Anyway, I am done getting inked...for now. My dad will be delighted to hear that, I'm sure. Well, I do have others planned for significant moments in my life, as and when they happen. Of course.

Oh, and with regard to those concerns about looking 'odd' when I'm eighty? Dude, my generation is one of ink lovers. We're gonna be the most radically, beautifully decorated old folks. I cannot wait! 

How do you feel about tattoos? Do you have any? Would you ever get any?
Tweet me or comment; let's talk tatts!


  1. Your tattoos are beautiful grace and your brain tattoo is so special and unique to you :) I've wanted a tattoo since I was 18 and its my goal over the next year to finally get one.. Or two :) and in regards to the whole looking good when your 80 thing, seriously none looks good when there 80 we all look like wrinkled ball sacks so might as well add a pop of colour/art to our pasty veiny skins and look like old badass rainbows :) xx

    1. Thank you so much! You totally have the right idea - someday the world will be full of inked up oldies, and it will be a hilarious and magical time! Also, let me know what ink you end up getting? ;) xoxo

  2. I love the idea of tattoos but I'm so afraid of needles that I would never be able to get one myself!

    1. I get that - needles are scary, but I find staring at a spot in the distance and deliberately ignoring the buzzy needle works a treat! ;) xoxo

  3. I seem to be having wifi problems so apologies if this reaches you twice! This reminded me of a book I heard about at the Edinburgh Book Festival in the summer- I heard the author speak on a panel about youth mental health. It's called Ink and it's by Alice Broadway. I've not read it but it's about a society where people have their whole lives, like their stories, inked on their skin. I thought you might find it an interesting read!
    Lisa x

    1. I LOVE Alice Broadway! I have her debut novel ready on my shelf - now I'm even more keen to start it! Thanks, Lisa. x


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