During our family holiday at the beach recently I took an unofficial watching poll of passers-by. By the end of my half hour of people watching I came to the conclusion I am the only person alive who doesn’t have a tattoo. Okay I exaggerate, but seriously body ink is everywhere. And yes I do mean EVERYwhere.
I still remember being told years ago by a friend’s police officer dad that if a person had a tattoo you could assume they had had a run in with the law at some point in their life. That’s definitely not a generalisation you can make anymore. In fact I’ve seen a stack of police officers sporting tatts.
I recently met someone who I would expect to be heavily tattooed – Gold Coast tattoo artist and owner of Gold Coast Tattoos, Robyn Braniff. She’s married to an industry legend, Paul Braniff, and she has some fairly firm views on the industry. But it was her lack of tattoos which really surprised me.
This is what she had to say about tattoos, the industry and why she won’t tattoo hands and faces.
I’ve been involved in tattooing for 36 years. I used to do quite a bit of bookkeeping and office work but then my husband Paul decided to become a tattoo artist. He was working as a wardsman at the hospital.
It was a lot different back then. A lot of people you wouldn’t have thought had tattoos had them, but they hid them. Today it’s a fashion thing.
Back then it was easier to make a living out of tattooing, now there’s too many shops. Everyone wants to be a tattooist – just like everyone wants to be a rock star.
I stopped tattooing about three years ago, when we started the laser removal. I focused on that and I still do the bookkeeping.
I don’t have any tattoos. I used to have one here on my hand but I lasered it off. I’ve never wanted to have them on me. I like them on other people but not on myself. I would be a rarity in the industry. My husband is covered in them.
Paul was self-taught. There was a lot of trial and error to begin with. He learned off an old tattooist in Sydney. He practiced on his friends – they’re still friends today so he can’t have been too bad. Paul is recognised as one of the leading tattoo artists in Australia, he’s won a lot of awards.
There are some terrible tattooists around. You only have to look at their work; it’s all scratchy, all chopped up.
I’ve had people walk in here who’ve just had tattoos done asking us to fix it up. They’ll spend $50 on the tattoo and $150 fixing it.
You can never predict the fashions in tattooing. They go in fads. It used to be that dolphins and yin yang symbols were everywhere. At the moment it’s owls and little sayings … things like ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’ that people are continually asking for. If that’s what they want we do it, but we do say ‘Gee again? This is very common.’ But it makes no difference, they still get it.
We get a lot of young ones now, it never used to be the young ones. It’s a fashion thing now and in my opinion it’s a big mistake when you get something for fashion.
You have to be 18 to have a tattoo and we used to refuse a lot of young people but we don’t now because they just go somewhere else and get it. We do try to talk people out of getting names, especially the young girls.
It’s hard to find employment with tattoos on your fingers and hands and it looks awful on young girls’ hands.
We don’t believe in tattooed faces, it looks terrible and people can’t get a job.
We have three shops, Gold Coast Tattoos in Southport and two others in Surfers Paradise – it’s the same as running any small business. We have about 12 tattoo artists, including our sons Ben and Luke. We didn’t let them get tattoos until they were 18, but it was inevitable that they would. Our daughter doesn’t have any.
Good tattooists are hard to come by. Just because you’re good on paper doesn’t mean you’ll be good on skin. You have to learn about how to put it on a person. It’s very different, there’s the little flinches, the little ticks, the sudden flex of their muscles when it hurts a bit.
I don’t even hear the noise of the machines anymore. A lot of the machines they use now have no noise but I don’t like that. I prefer to hear the noise.
Most of the designs are drawn by our artists in this shop. People come in and write down their ideas and our artists put them together.
We had a lady in the other day and she would have been about 85-years-old – it was on her bucket list.
Some people will stop if they can’t take the pain but they will come back. Some people it doesn’t worry, some people find it really, really hard.
I enjoy this job, I enjoy the people. When you work on someone for five to six hours you get to have big conversations.