Thursday 21 September 2017

'The scars bring back memories' - Irish woman (19) credits tattoo artist who has helped her move on after self-harm

  • Tattoo Generation
  • Warning: Imagery could upset some readers
Aoife Lovett (19) with tattoo artist Ryan Kelly, the founder of Scars Behind Beauty, pictured at The Ink Factory. If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.
Aoife Lovett (19) with tattoo artist Ryan Kelly, the founder of Scars Behind Beauty, pictured at The Ink Factory. If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.
Aoife Lovett's tattoo by Irish artist Ryan Kelly (19). If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.

Patricia Murphy and Jason Kennedy

An Irish woman has credited an inspiring tattoo project which has helped her take the next step in her recovery from self-harm.

Aoife Lovett (19) struggled with mental health and self-harm throughout her teens but said the scars left behind bring back memories even though she has moved on from a difficult period of her life.

The Clondalkin woman said she wanted to have her scars covered with tattoos for many years, but was disheartened to find that many artists refuse to work on scarred skin.

However, Aoife's mum recently came across a new project Scars Behind Beauty by Dublin artist Ryan Kelly, who has been helping people who have struggled with self harm cover up their scars free-of-charge.

Aoife Lovett's tattoo by Irish artist Ryan Kelly (19). If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.
Aoife Lovett's tattoo by Irish artist Ryan Kelly (19). If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.

Aoife recently had her scars covered up with a tattoo of a rose and dagger on her forearm by Ryan, who dedicates his free time to the project.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Aoife said:"I think what Ryan is doing is brilliant because it’s very hard to get someone to tattoo over it and it’s such a meaningful to me to get them covered and get them covered well. It’s very hard to find an artist who will do that and is passionate about it.

"A lot of artists just won’t cover them because it’s a lot of work and they’d just not rather take the risk of it looking bad."

Aoife said the project is an important step in recovery because she said looking at the scars is a difficult reminder to face each day.

"It’s very hard when you’re a couple of years clean from doing it and every day you’re constantly reminded of what you did.

"It brings back memories of how you felt then.

"There’s a lot of shame that comes with it and guilt, especially when you’re around your family.

"Ryan is helping people is move on. It's putting something beautiful over something ugly. It gives you a new sense of freedom and you get you confidence back because it’s very hard to go into jobs and wear t-shirts with scars because you get looks and you get questions a lot about it.

"You don’t want to be standing in work and having people asking you questions," she said.

Ink Factory artist Ryan launched the project in February when he was inspired by a client who was having difficulty finding an artist to cover up her scars.

Ryan said: "A girl just randomly came in looking for a tattoo to cover up some scars and I got talking to her and she started telling me her story and at the end of that it didn’t really feel right to charge her. It kind of felt like it meant more to her than that.

"From then I just started to do one a week. I started getting people in once every Saturday and I covered them up. "Once I posted it on social media it kind of blew up. I’ve just been doing it every week since then and I now have close to 300 people on the waiting list now," he said.

The artist said the loss of his mentor Johnny Connolly to suicide in 2016 as well as his own struggles with anxiety inspired him to help others struggling with mental health.

"One of the owners from here was one of the first people to give me a chance. He was in where I got my apprenticeship when I was 17 and when he moved studio, I moved with him. He was one of the owners here and he killed himself about a year ago. After that and the struggles that I’ve been through I kind of wanted to do something and it kind of made sense with the kind of tattoos that I do to do something through that," he said.

The artist said the project is important because many tattoo artists refuse to tattoo over scarred skin, which can be a hard experience for those living with the scars of self-harm.

"A lot of tattoo artists avoid doing tattooing over scars. Understandably to a certain degree because obviously if you want your best piece it’s going to be better on flat skin. It can take a little bit more time sometimes, but for me it means a lot more than that because you're helping someone move on from a difficult time," he said.

For more information on Ryan's Project Scars Behind Beauty contact The Ink Factory www.theinkfactory.ie

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.

Pieta House can be contacted on 1800 247 247.  For more information on Pieta House visit www.pieta.ie.

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