Walking into the Tattoo Parlour in Kentish Town you could be forgiven for thinking you had gone back in time.
The stylish but true 50’s Rockabilly decor is inspiringly cool, the black and white tiles are reminiscent of a slick American Diner, the blood red walls scream danger, the circus signage is curious, but the waiting area, flooded with sunlight is (against all the odds) strangely calming.
Trust me I’m a Tattoo Artist
Naresh, owner of the Flaming Eight studio, has been tattooing for 25 years and if you met him outside of the studio you could take an educated guess at his profession.
Although he cuts a tall, dark figure with almost every inch of his visible skin illustrated with intricate ink, Naresh is knowledgeable about his trade and extremely trustworthy; a desirable trait in one who changes your body for life.
As you can imagine being a tattoo artist requires remarkable skill and if it is your calling in life, a traditional apprenticeship will get you to where you need to be.
It’s a romantic notion to turn your passion into a career but making money out of something you love is never easy. As Naresh says, “it requires dedication and a lot of hard work”.
A fine line
For the tattoo artists in Camden, the concentrated competition is a double edged sword.
Imagine Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose all opened up on the same street? Products would almost be given away in the price war that followed, but in the world of body art it’s a different story.
Since moving to Camden the Flamin’ Eight team have watched as the amount of studios in the area crept up from around 10 to over 30.
But tattoos are a comparison not a convenience purchase. In Naresh’s words “now, when people in London think tattoo they think Camden”.
Or to put it another way, the increase in competition has also increased the size of the market.
Its all about serving your dues and showing respect to those that laid the foundations of our craft.
He says “Some artists open up in the area and they’re closed a year later. They don’t get involved in the community and they don’t understand the competition.”
Each to their own
Each artist working from the Flamin Eight studio is self employed and each of them bring something different to the table; the only thing they share is a mission to “pursue excellence”.
Operating like this means the studio can offer a diverse range of work with each artist having their own area of expertise.
By having self-employed artists it means that Naresh isn’t committed to paying eight salaries if things don’t go well. But it also means he takes less of the upside in the good times.
With most tattoo artists working as self employed prices can vary wildly from studio to studio and depending on artists, so be sure and do your homework, ”good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos generally aren’t necessarily good" .
Check out the studio, online reviews and make sure your artist has a strong portfolio reflecting the kind of work you are after. Be prepared to travel for the right ink, its going to be there for a long time so invest time and energy in finding the right artist.
Any good artist will be happy to discuss your needs and will help to steer you gently through the rocky waters of tattoo choices. Collaborate with an artist you feel understands you and be prepared to listen to their advice, it will serve you better than any books magazines or know it all friends and bar room experts.
I think this old saying rings truer for tattooing than almost any other trade "the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten"
21 million journeys began or ended at Camden Town tube station last year. So it’s not surprising that most of the tattoo studios in NW1 are most densely clustered around the station.
Flamin’ Eight are on Castle Road in Kentish Town, just a short walk from the station but away from the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfare.
While still benefiting from the allure of the area they don’t benefit from passing trade like the others so have to be clever when it comes to marketing.
Appearing on page one of Google for Tattoo Studios in Camden helps but a good website with lots of information is what really seals the deal. With so many competitors displaying their work online this is where you have to sell yourself. A clever blog, lots of pictures and good social media are all key in making the customer pick up the phone to your studio.
You can leave your tat on
It’s the question on everyone’s lips when they talk to a tattoo artist, what’s the worst tattoo you’ve ever done?
Naturally, we had to ask Naresh but like a true professional he told us, “I’ve never done a bad tattoo, I wouldn’t take a job I didn’t like or I couldn't do.”
Very admirable but we know this is not the case for everyone and as tattoos become more and more mainstream so does tattoo removal; a lucrative service now being offered in a lot of studios too.
Amusingly Naresh tell us there’s a saying in the business, often used when a permanent declaration of love needs to be modified; “tattoos last longer than romance”.
We did get some gossip though, Rita Ora has been inked in Flamin’ Eight and the studio was also used for filming 2006 comedy drama, Venus, starring Peter O’Toole!