Illustrated Teacup

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

TATTOOS: Interview with Sion, editor Skin Deep Magazine

Welcome to the second of my tattoo interview series. This time I have the absolute honour of bringing you an interview with Skin Deep magazine editor Sion Smith...

This is part one, all about his tattoos... with part two next week, all about Sion and his life with one of the world's  biggest tattoo magazines.

Let the quizzing begin!


What was your first tattoo, and how old were you? 

So far in this job, I have managed to ever avoid talking about this. I was 19 (which makes it 1987) and it comes under the heading of “a good idea at the time”. I was publishing a fanzine back then which was about American glam rock bands nobody had ever heard of and some guy drew a picture of a character he wanted to do a comic strip for in the mag. He was actually a pretty good artist and my wife (at the time) suggested I get it tattooed because then we would both be tattooed. This was quite a big deal in 1987 and she already had a flaming skull on her shoulder. To put it into context for you, life was all very music driven and apart from tattooists, the only people you ever saw with a lot tattoos where Guns n Roses and Motley Crue - and back in ’87, even the Crue weren’t heavily tattooed by today’s standards. I was just putting a band together at the time as well… it was all very natural and felt very right. There was no ‘scene’ to speak of and it really did make you an outsider. 

Rebels without a clue. All of us! 

Actually. if I expand the story to my second tattoo - which was a 1990 ‘flash piece’ of a shaman with wolf head-skull head-dress - I learned fast. It was well done and still stands up to scrutiny today. 
Fast forward to sometime in 1998, I decided I needed to move on from this original statement of youth and got it covered up with some really big black stuff (search for Brotherhood of the Wolf online and you’ll see how big) - this was done “as a favour” to a friend who had just finished his apprenticeship and wanted to practice. In hindsight, not the greatest idea in the world but at the time, I was in a “what the hell” kind of mindset - nobody was ever likely to see it and never in a million years thought I would be the editor of Skin Deep one day. Anyway, to wrap this up, it’s taking forever to laser off but we’re getting there! It’s also a damn good experiment in what a laser is capable of and how much patience I have!


How many do you have now, and what are they? 

Two sleeves… minus the laser work that’s in the way but once that’s down to a reasonable level and my skin is in good shape, that will be cleverly and smartly finished off. All of my tattoos are ravens (aside from the shaman but it fits into the story) - everything I get tattooed from now until whenever, will be ravens. I’ve lied to the BBC and CNN as to “why the ravens” because I think some things should remain a secret or at least personal. Please don’t think bad of me for not telling you why but at least I’m not lying to you! 

Who is your favourite tattooist/s? 

One day, I was trawling through submissions on discs, dropped in one from Henrik Gallon and immediately fell in love with the timeless woodcut style that he works in - in that instance it was two foxes. Woodcut has never dated on paper and it doesn’t date as a tattoo style either. I still love what he does and am very committed to continuing and finishing what we started, but of course there are others and we have spoken about how to move forwards when the time is right (let that be a lesson to everybody about not thinking things through properly - it’s 2015 and there’s no excuse anymore!). 

Aside from Henrik, I’ll be working with Otto at White Elephant on my chest and I need to get on a plane to Austria to speak with Carola Decasa at some point too. Noon is a class act and I hope we can find some way of incorporating his work into what I have going on… and I’ll say the same for Yann Black as well. David Hale is another. I’ve never been asked this question before. It’s a scary list to try and compile but basically, anything that veers as far from the norm as possible and is done with precision skill is what I look for - if they have a killer understanding of the natural world as well, that’s a bonus. 

Professionally speaking - which is slightly different - not much gets in the magazine that I don’t personally appreciate as good work.

Do you have any tattoos planned for the future? If so, what? 

Ravens! The laser work also comes across onto my chest, so that’s what we’re working on at the moment and sometime in the late summer, there’s work to laid down across the chest as well to finish off what seems to have become “part one”. Doing this job, I early on figured out that I could be covered very fast if I wasn’t careful and I’m still discovering new talent on a daily basis but the legs have already been marked out. It would all happen a lot faster if the people I want to work with weren’t thousands of miles away. 

As a slight side-line from this question, seeing so much good work every day of the week actually takes away from wanting to get tattooed every five minutes. I think a lot of artists find that too. It’s as though somebody else has gone to the trouble for you and you can remain satisfied for a very long time by proxy - so when I do get work done, it’s a big deal because I really want it.

Do you have any 'no-go' zones? 

Yeah - I’m pretty old school with this. No hands. No feet. No neck. No face. I’m of the Yakuza mindset with this. Tattooed when you want to be and not tattooed when you don’t. It’s a big world to operate in and I’m not going to held back by other peoples prejudices about art. Small sacrifice but those are my own rules. No big deal - getting around the world and finding time for what I do want is hard enough!

What is your favourite thing about tattoos and tattoo culture? 

That moment when you think you’ve seen it all and something comes along that shoves the theory right back down your throat is my favourite thing. I’ve also met some fine, fine people who have become good friends because tattoos are what we had in common in the first place - life is beautiful if you let it be that way.


Thank you so much to Sion for sharing some of his tattoo life - and check out part two next week!
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