Louis Molloy has been working as a tattoo artist for over three decades, inking some of the world’s most famous people, including soccer star David Beckham and British Olympic and Tour de France champion cyclist Bradley Wiggins.
He told us what trends are cool, why you shouldn’t always follow in celebrity’s footsteps and some tattoos you should never get.
How did you get started as a tattoo artist?
A common question that is difficult for me to answer. I got into tattooing properly when I was 14 and opened my studio when I was 18 and that was in 1981.
Do you ever tattoo yourself?
I have tattooed myself and I think all tattoo artists do it at some point, but it is very difficult to do.
How many tattoos do you have?
I have two full sleeves and my entire chest is tattooed. I also have some work on my legs that I did myself many years ago.
What process do you normally follow with a client? Do most people come to you with a clear idea of what they want or do they look to you to design something for them?
Most people come with a concept from which the design is then worked up but some people have no idea except that they want to be tattooed. These are nightmare clients!
Do you ever have to persuade people that the tattoo that they’ve got their heart set on may not actually be a good choice?
If I don’t agree with a client’s choice or think they are making a mistake, I will point this out and sometimes even refuse to do the work. Partners’ names are the classic example of a tattoo you shouldn’t get, for obvious reasons.
Have you ever refused to create a tattoo that someone has asked you to do?
What makes a great tattoo?
Difficult to answer as it’s in the eye of the beholder but the lines should be crisp and neat, shading finely graduated and colors should be bright and even.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make when getting a tattoo?
Biggest mistake most people make is that they assume all tattooists are equal and they are definitely not. For every good tattooist there are 10 bad ones so do your homework beforehand.
The other classic mistake is not properly looking after a tattoo once you have it. I always recommend clients apply Forever Ink Balm to help protect and recover newly tattooed skin and longer term that they use Forever Ink Shield, an everyday moisturizer with an SPF 45 and a unique ink lock technology to keep tattoos looking vibrant. Nothing is worse than a faded, sun-damaged tattoo – and I have seen plenty of them.
What are some of the current trends we’re seeing in the types of tattoos people are getting?
Religious inspired imagery is very popular at the moment.
Why do people want tattoos?
Many, many answers to this but I think its mostly as a personal way of individualizing one’s self.
Is getting a tattoo painful? Are there parts of the body that are more painful than others?
All tattoos hurt but it is a manageable pain. Boney areas will hut most!
Are there any tattoo trends or styles that are specific to gay men or lesbians?
No. Tattooing is one of the only industries where gender and sexuality cross all boundaries and equality reigns.
You’ve tattooed David Beckham – which of his tattoos are you responsible for?
I have done around 85% of David’s tattoos.
Did Beckham know what he wanted or were you able to have some input into the final creation?
I worked to verbal briefs given to me from him.
Does working on celebrities add to the pressure of creating the tattoo? If you make a mistake the world will be judging it?
Celeb or not, all people are equal in my studio. I am not fazed by celebrity however I recently tattooed Sir Bradley Wiggins and I was excited to work on him as I am a keen cyclist myself but I was not nervous.
Do the tattoos celebrities get influence the types of tattoos that the rest of us aspire to?
The best thing to come from celebs being tattooed is the fact they have helped tattooing become more socially acceptable.
There are many celebs who have influenced trends, but not all good! Cheryl Cole had a tattoo done on her hand a few years ago and this inspired many copycats and I think there will be many regrets with that one.