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TomCraig Today our trip is going to the United Kingdom and I am happy to present you Tom Craig the voice of the Rock band Y.O.U (Yesterday Outlines Us). On 2nd November, the band has released their single called ‘No History’ to promote the EP which comes out early in the New Year. But coming back to our main theme, I was really exited by Tom’s tattoos, so I hope you will be too.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? Did it take much time until you decided to get it done?
Tom: I got my first tattoo when I was 17 in some dude’s kitchen. I got ALEXISONFIRE lyrics on my back from their song ‘Polaroids of Polar Bears’. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted one after seeing my friend James had gotten one! I instantly wanted some. Although I did not like that I could never see it…

RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Tom: I honestly cannot count them, haha, I have my front covered from my throat down to the base of my stomach. Not all of them have a story. I have some that are relevant to my passions such as the microphone on my hand and some words that have meaning like the word ‘Selfless’ written across the bottom of my fingers. But I am mainly a collector of tattoos and the pieces remind of certain times in life. Like this little anchor I have on my thumb reminds me of when I went to Australia. Sometimes I just felt like getting tattooed and would not decide on a design until I got to the studio. A lot of them are about being in the moment and getting something rad!

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RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Tom: I definitely have a lot of what I want and have slowed down on how frequent I get them. But I still have some I want to get. I am currently working on my back and have a few pieces so far. I don’t think it’s something I would ever stop doing. I love the tattoo community especially as I have a lot of close friends in the industry. It’s great to see them constantly grow and be a part of that by getting tattooed by them.

RoD: Have all your tattoos been done by one tattoo artist or by different ones? How do you choose the tattoo artist? In addition, who draws your sketches?
Tom: I have been tattooed by a few different artists. Some random one offs in different countries. But I mainly started getting tattooed by Rich Hadley, he did a lot of my traditional work and got my hands done by a guy he worked with called Lee Pound. Those guys actually lined my torso at the same time, haha. I have had a lot done by Lee Withey and also James Ryan and Joel Heywood. James and Joel are really close friends. Each of those artists draw the designs and I don’t think I have ever gone back to them to change anything. They’re all amazing artists.

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RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Tom: Once you get your first out the way you realise the pain is not that bad you can manage it. I suck at getting tattooed on my stomach or ribs though it feels like surgery, haha. But in general, I can just get through it knowing there will be a new addition at the end. People handle it differently though. I remember I was so nervous to get my palms done because all my friends said it was the worst thing in the world. But it was actually okay. It wasn’t the worst I have had.

RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Tom: No, not really. I have had tattoos that I didn’t like but they have been covered up now so it’s cool. I like how they look and they have been a part of me for so long. I would only regret it if I got something done and it was done bad, haha.

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RoD: What is your taboo in terms of tattoos? What kind of tattoo would you never get done and don’t like to see on other people?
Tom: I wouldn’t ever say I don’t like to see certain tattoos on other people because everyone has individual tastes and it’s important to respect that. There are certain styles I’m not that into but someone could probably say the same about mine. But a tattoo I would never get done would be on the eyeballs. I can’t even put in contacts for Halloween let alone have someone tattoo them! Even those tattoos look super cool on some people though.

RoD: Some people say that the drive to acquire body art is addictive while others say it fails to meet the true definition of an addiction, simply calling it a passion. Is it really impossible to stop?
Tom: Personally, I don’t think it’s an addiction. It could definitely be an addiction for some people. You see some people really pushing the boundaries of body art and it seems like something more than collecting tattoos and piercings. Like if they couldn’t get anything anymore it would be detrimental to their health, which is addiction. Like I said I’m more of a collector of tattoos and always wanting to add to that. Why would you want to stop something you love? I collect other things like antiques and art. I always want to add to that too.

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RoD: Currently, tattoos are a new trend; many people do not care about the meaning, they just want to have something coloured on the skin, to be in trend. Those people often just go into a tattoo salon and ask which drafts they have. Tattoo artists are not artists any more, they produce consumer goods. Not all of them, of course. How do you feel about this situation?
Tom: Well one thing you have to remember from a tattooist’s perspective (and this is something my tattooist friends tell me) is that those people that come in on a whim wanting something that seems trivial like a dolphin or a Celtic symbol, are in fact that tattooists bread and butter. If a tattoo artist just did the work that they wanted to, they may not make as good a living. Personally I have seen the change in popularity which has its positives! It’s more acceptable and has opened up more career paths for people. It’s not as frowned upon anymore. It’s always a positive thing when a culture/ community grows. The negatives being the kids that think it’s cool to run and get their neck and hands tattooed straight away because of social acceptance. But in these cases they should be getting better advice from their tattooist. When I started getting tattooed you had to earn that. Your tattooist almost had to know you were serious about that commitment which is important. I think a lot of responsibility falls on the tattooist to be informative and help people. That being said, if you want a tattoo, you want one and that’s fine….

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RoD: I would like to talk about the social aspect of tattoos, too. Previously, many people believed that if you have a tattoo, you will be never be successful and will not find a “good” job. Have this state of mind and people’s perceptions changed or are these prejudices still alive?
Tom: Similar to the last question I think it has gotten a lot easier with the growth of the tattoo community. I remember being told I wouldn’t be able to keep my job if I got my neck tattooed. So you can imagine where I told that guy to shove his job… But now my day job is working as a manager in car insurance haha. It has become easier but the prejudices are still there and think they will be for a long time. But they are fading which is the most important thing. I can see both sides. If you have the word F**K tattooed on your head do you really think you would be hired to talk to customers face to face in a bank? It all comes down to making the choices you want to make. Get tattooed. But think about what you want to do.

RoD: Which advice would you give to people who are going to get their first tattoo? How to choose a tattoo artist? Colour or black and white? Any practical advice?
Tom: Just take your time. There’s no rush. Find something you like and just go with it. If you spend too much time wondering if you will like it in 10 years then it’s not for you. Tattooing is imperfect and raw. Research your artist. Get something cool like a wolf or a granny bear. Follow the advice your tattooist gives about looking after it. And don’t get tattooed in a kitchen like me!

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Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa
Portrait Pictures by Niall Patterson

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