Polly Phluid has a Chat with Steve Dagg at Scorpio Tattoo, Selby.
I like a bit of ink me … and like Pringles and high grade amphetamines, once you pop you can’t stop.
My preferred port of call, when it comes to any idea about getting a cool picture on some excruciatingly painful place, is Scorpio Tattoo in Selby.
Run by Steve Dagg (tattooist) and his missus, Debbie (Designs, advice and front desk,) Scorpio has been going from strength to strength over the last 5 years with Steve’s art and dedication earning him high praise among the tattooed denizens of this quiet market town.
So, when I decided to have some Tyla artwork permanently etched into my chest, I thought I’d ask Steve a few question about his work while I was there. Cue tape!
Hi Steve, oww! So, how did you get started?
I worked for Thomo, at Ruby Arts in York, as he needed someone on his front desk. The front desk is as important as the back room, because if you don’t have all your art, paperwork and times sorted out, the tattooist can’t work properly. So, as I was a good people person, and not bad at the old drawing, I made myself indispensible, then said ‘Ok, now I want to be a tattooist.’. Thomo said ‘On yer bike, I don’t wanna teach anyone’. So, I threatened to leave and, because I was a good front desk person, he agreed to teach me.
Had you always fancied being a tattooist?
I’d always wanted to be a tattooist. I just never had the opportunity or time. I’d had a few goes at what we call ‘scratching’ on mates and that, but nothing serious. Saying that, it was when I was doing that, my mates said ‘It’s about time you did this for real y’know’.
Did you find it easy once you got into it?
No! I was the hardest thing I ever did. When I first started I had to apologise to people because I sweating that much. It was pure fear, fear that I’d not do it right. Your first customer is a nightmare. I told mine I had a fever so he wouldn’t wonder why I was sweating so much. I still get a bit of a dab on these days if what I’m doing is a bit tricky.
What designs did you first ink commercially?
Japanese symbol, or a rose, simple stuff to start with. Start slow, and you’ll learn right. No point starting with something complicated because you WILL get it wrong.
And, what was the first tattoo you got?
A skull with a top hat on and the word ‘freedom’ – I was 18 and it was on my arm. There wasn’t much choice in them days! Then I had a skull with a dagger and A Place In Hell. I still have them, didn’t cover ‘em up. You can’t read ‘em now, like.
What is it you enjoy about tattooing?
Everything. Talking to people, having the craic is the best bit. I’ve only tattooed about half a dozen people I couldn’t wait to get out of the chair. I treat everyone the same, but some people you just really don’t want back.
Do think there’s a difference working in a small town like Selby than in a big city studio?
I love working here. I could go to a city if I wanted, but you build a clientele up in a place like this, and a lot of my customers become like friends. Which makes it awkward charging them sometime!
Do you find the diversity of work is still there?
Yep, people will always want their own personal designs and not what I wanna give ‘em!
And what would they have if you were choosing the designs?
They’d all have Japanese Body Suits, or Rockabilly type suits.
I just find them very interesting to do. You can make them so different … plus, I think the Japanese work just has that ‘wow’ factor. I do a lot of cover-ups for older gents in the Japanese style. It covers great and looks fantastic. That makes you feel good too – some fella hasn’t been able to take his shirt of for years, because he’s embarrassed by his crap tats, then I give him something to be proud of … you can’t buy that kind of satisfaction.
You mentioned Rockabilly type tats. Do you think they’re making a comeback?
Yep, definitely, that and the American Gaff stuff. The rockabilly is the new style of an old idea though. It’s the next generation doing their thing isn’t it? I know people making very good living just doing that style – especially people who work in big cities.
Do you find clients are still mostly male?
No, not at all. It’s probably half and half going toward more girls. And it’s not little cutesy stuff, these are big pieces. Plus, the range of professionals is incredible, police officers, prison guards, nurses – everything. 5 years ago it wasn’t like this, it’s was mostly blokes, but the mix is fantastic these days. Which reflects the increasing acceptability of tattoos. TV probably has a lot to do with it, with shows like Miami Ink and London Ink being so popular…. and people like Beckham being so heavily inked. When I got my first tat only ‘dodgy characters’ had them.
And what would you say to anyone thinking about getting inked?
You only get one life, live it. If you wanna get some ink, and it makes you happy, do it.
I finished there, but frankly I could talk to Steve all day, he has great opinions on what’s right and wrong in the word of tattoos, and he makes every session interesting and enjoyable.
Having said that, the reason I stopped was because this chest tattoo was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever had … looks ace though doesn’t it?