Wednesday 23 May 2018

'The tattoo doesn't make the person' - Ireland’s young professionals on their dedication to tattoos and the barriers they've faced because of it

Tattoo Generation

Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.
Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.
Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.
Dylan Kerr (20) has a hand-poked tattoo by @HardasNailsDublin
Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.
Alessia Taliercio (29) says she it can be difficult to have tattoos when working in a corporate environment.
Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.
Dani Duffy (27) is a make up artist and blogger in Dublin
Gretel Downey (25) says her most meaningful tattoo is one of her mum's handwriting
Chris Fahey is the manager at Union Grind in Cork
Shane Brady is currently working on a tattoo that represents his life story
Dylan Kerr (20) talks about his first tattoo
Gretel Downey (25). Photo credit: Emily Quinn
Dani Duffy (27) and her husband Brian, who is a tattoo artist
Dani Duffy (27) is a make up artist and blogger in Dublin
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

Future career prospects and public judgement may have been the worries that kept older generations out of the tattoo artist's chair but it seems Ireland's twenty-somethings feel the tide is changing when it comes to acceptance of body art, at least among their peers.

In fact, many of the tattooed young professionals who spoke to as part of this series believe that those who haven't been inked are their generation's minority.

And yet, the most recent Irish survey carried out found that, 73pc of employers said they would be reluctant to hire someone with "excessive tattoos", which has to be a concern of those hoping to climb the career ladder.

Below seven young people speak about their decision to pursue their love of body art in spite of the barriers presented to them.


Dani Duffy (27), MAC Make-up Artist and Blogger, Dublin

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Dani Duffy (27) is a make up artist and blogger in Dublin

I'm so glad I waited until I was 18 to get a tattoo... because some of the ideas I had as a teenager were things I know I would hate now for instance, an evil skull within a tribal design! The first tattoo I ever got was a small black treble clef on my hip.

It's hard to say how many tattoos I have now... because some started as small designs but then morphed into bigger things.

My husband Brian is a tattoo artist... who works in Wildcat Ink on Jervis Street. One of my favourite tattoos is a coffee cup on the inside of my bicep that Brian did when we first started seeing each other because it brings back memories of that time and how we always use to go for coffee. I told him I wanted it because I liked coffee but really it was because I liked him!

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Dani Duffy (27) and her husband Brian, who is a tattoo artist

When I was nineteen I went to Gran Canaria.. with my best friend and before we even boarded the plane, we had planned to get a tattoo over there. I got a small skull with a bow on my ankle and it's probably my least favourite tattoo that I have but I don't regret it because it reminds me of a really good time.

It seriously irks me... when strangers tell me I will regret my tattoos. Sometimes they ask if they're real or say 'Wow you have a lot of tattoos they're lovely' through gritted teeth when I know they're thinking the opposite. I'd honestly rather they said nothing.

I'm lucky... that I work for a brand like MAC whose credo is 'all ages, all races, all sexes'. Years ago I was told by some other more conservative brands that I interviewed for that my blue hair wouldn't fit in on their counter so I definitely wouldn't have been employed with the amount of tattoos I currently have.

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Dani Duffy (27) is a make up artist and blogger in Dublin

I wouldn't have gotten a hand tattoo... when I was unsure of my future career in case it ruined my chances. For years I battled with the 'what do I want to do with my life' question and even went to college to study secondary school teaching. I had already started to get tattooed quite heavily by then but I was always mindful that my tattoos could be covered by long sleeves if necessary. Once I got back into makeup and decided this was truly my passion, I finally got my hands tattooed, knowing it wouldn't stop me getting a job.

All tattoos hurt... anyone who says they don't is lying.


Dylan Kerr (20) Model and Student at the National College of Ireland


I've gotten six tattoos in less than a year. The first one I ever got was the word 'Pussy' across my stomach, which I got in November. I'm part of an art collective called Pussys and I have the logo, which Oscar Torrans created, tattooed in the middle of my chest. A lot of people don't believe it's real when they see it, it's in red ink. I think it's funny.

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Dylan Kerr (20) talks about his first tattoo

People thought I was crazy... to get tattoos on my head, but if I let my hair grow you wouldn't be able to see them. Two of them are hand poked tattoos, by a girl called Lindsay who runs Hard as Nails. Usually they use machines, but hand poked tattoos are just done with a needle and ink. I liked the look of the rose and I saw a snake tattoo she had done and I went for it.

I had the word... 'Velvet', a velvet kiss, tattooed inside my lip but that has almost faded away now.

People do say to me... 'What's that going to look like when you're older' but I don't really care. They are something I wanted at a time in my life, and I think when I look at them I will remember that.

I'm planning my next tattoo... at the moment. I want to get a word on the top of my head, just at my hairline. The problem is I haven't decided which word just yet and that's quite important!


Chris Fahey (26) Manager at Union Grind, Cork City

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Chris Fahey is the manager at Union Grind in Cork

When I was 17... I got a tribal tattoo on my shoulder. Since then I've had various tattoos done; my left arm is covered in tribal tattoos, and half of my right arm is.

My fiancé Michelle and I have matching tattoos.... we each have candy skulls. Mine is on my ribs. It was a way I guess to mark our engagement last September and it's nice to have something that whenever you look at it, you think of each other.

Once you get your first tattoo... you just want to get more. All your skin kind of becomes a sketch book you want to fill up.

My grandfather used to say... only scumbags had tattoos. My mam has four though, which he doesn't know about! When I was younger and my Mam would ask me why I was getting a tattoo, I'd say, 'Well you have them'! She couldn't really give out to me about it after that.

It's been too long🙌🏻 #tattoo #candyskull #sugarskull #engagementink #losethisskin

A post shared by Chris Fahey (@chrisbuzzfahey) on

I was sure I was going to fail my driving test when... I sat into the car with an older instructor wearing short sleeves. He was looking at my tattoos but it turned out his son was a surfer in Australia and had loads of them. I just thought he was judging me because older people tend to be more judgemental about tattoos.

I think in my industry it's more acceptable to have tattoos... on show, but my fiancé is an accountant. She would wear short sleeves, and nobody really even cares. I think people are more accepting of tattoos than they were ten years ago.


Sean Bryan (30), Owner of Cut & Sew, Dublin

Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.

My first tattoo... was a stamp tramp of my own name 'Sean' on my lower back when I was only 16. After a couple of days I showed my Mam and she didn't really bat an eyelid. I guess she thought there was worse things I could get than my own name. It's a bit embarrassing now but I haven't covered it up because nobody ever sees it, except when I'm on holidays.

I have been inspired... by people like David Beckham and Ricki Hall. I've always been a football fan and I liked Beckham's look. Ricki Hall is a male model who kind of started the big beard, hipster sort of trend and I think his tattoos are really classy.

Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.

Some people connect tattoos with being cheap... I started my career as a hairdresser in Toni and Guy in Blackrock and I definitely found that some of the older ladies who would come it looked at me and my tattoos. That's how I felt anyway. Nobody ever abused me about them, to my face anyway, but I would cover up if I was going to a really nice restaurant, for instance.

If I was an influencer I would tell people... to wait until they are 21 to get tattoos. The worst tattoos I ever got were all when I was under 21. Back then I used to go in and go 'What can I get for €50' but that attitude has changed. I feel like this is going to be on my body forever and money is the last thing I worry about.

Sean Bryan from Cut and Sew barbers shows off his tattoos.

The tattoo scene in Dublin... has gotten so much better throughout the last ten years. I've encountered tattoo artists hungover from the night before and I was never asked for ID when I was under 18 either. Obviously with the internet, people have the tools to do a lot more research, where as before it was all word of mouth.

I don't worry about the old cliche that tattoos will look terrible when you're older. I think as you get older, you're way more confident and you accept yourself. I'm in the process of opening our fourth shop in Dundrum so I think I'm doing alright.


Alessia Taliercio (29), Citybank worker, Dublin 8

Alessia Taliercio (29) says she it can be difficult to have tattoos when working in a corporate environment.

When I was 16... I got a little star tattoo on my ankle. I kept it a secret from my parents for ten years until my mum spotted it a few years ago when I was getting out of the shower.

The star means a lot to me because it reminds me of my grandfather. A year before he passed away, he told me that if I ever needed him after he was gone, all I would have to do is look at the sky and find the brightest star because that would be him looking down on me.

I work in banking... and some jobs would have strict dress codes that mean you have to be covered.

I don't see why a little bit of colour on your skin can impact someone's opinions on your professional ability.

In CityBank there have been some very, very formal occasions where I have covered up but for the most part it's absolutely fine.

In my old job I was at a conference in Italy during a heat wave wearing long sleeved shirts to over up!

Alessia Taliercio (29) is working on a back tattoo in Dublin's Skin City

I moved to Ireland five years ago because I was chasing love. The love didn't last but my love affair with Ireland really began.

One tattoo that I had covered up was my old boyfriend's initials. We all make mistakes. I would advise anyone to avoid doing that but at the time I was in love and it felt right.

At the moment I'm getting... a back tattoo. It's a beautiful flamingo that's being done by an amazing artist called Turco in Skin City in Dublin. It's so colourful and beautiful but it's a long process. I've had two sessions that have been over six hours and another that's been three.

I am also thinking about getting a tattoo with my boyfriend, but not initials this time. We were thinking that one of us might get a chicken and the other an egg.

I don't worry about how my tattoos will age. The thing is, when you're old you're old. With or without tattoos your skin is going to be wrinkly, I don't think it will make much difference if you're tattooed.


Shane Brady (27), Cosmotologist, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

Shane Brade (27) is a cosmetologist from Nenagh

I was 25 when I got my first tattoo... It was inspired by the film Alien and by one of my favourite artists H.R Giger. It was a full sleeve, from my wrist to my shoulder and I worked on it with a tattoo artist at a convention in Killarney so that it would be individual, that nobody else would have it.

I'm in the process of getting a tattoo that represents my life story on my left arm. I have a compass on my hand, a clock on my wrist, a skull with a crown on my bicep and a gas mask. I began that tattoo last year and I like that only I know what it means. I'm planning to get an old quill next on my left arm.

Shane Brady is currently working on a tattoo that represents his life story

At the end of the day... you only live once. I don't want to be looking at my life 30 years from now and be thinking 'Oh I wish I'd just done it'. At least I've lived.

I don't think I've ever been judged because of my tattoos in life or at work. I would work with people who are older than me, and the reaction I get a lot of the time is that they always wanted a tattoo, but that they could never just decide what they would get. A few of my colleagues have actually gotten tattoos in the last few years.

I don't believe... the tattoo makes the person. I actually feel like people with tattoos are more open minded which is a good thing.

It took me a long time to decide... whether or not to get a hand tattoo. You see people getting hand tattoos as their first, which I think is such a bad idea. It's worth thinking about it because it's going to be on your body forever.


Gretel Downey (25) Events Assistant, Sandymount

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Gretel Downey (25). Photo credit: Emily Quinn

The first tattoos I ever got... were Chinese symbols on my back. I liked that they meant serenity. At the time, I was 18 and working in a Chinese restaurant so I asked my boss to double check that they really meant serenity before I got inked It's kind of embarrassing but I can laugh about it now. My friend has a worse one, she has a Playboy Bunny!

I moved to Ireland when I was 20... from Newcastle in Australia. My favourite tattoo and probably my most meaningful one, is on my wrist. It's my mum's handwriting and it says 'Love you forever'. It's a line from a book she used to read to me and my brother.

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Gretel Downey (25) says her most meaningful tattoo is one of her mum's handwriting

My family would be into tattoos... but my Nana really hates them. She's kind of the only one who has ever criticised them, but your family can do that, can't they. My brother Jarrad is fully tattooed, he hardly has any space left!

When people say to me... 'They look great now but what about in 50 years?' I just say 'I'm going to be a super cool old lady'.

I definitely would be conscious... of my tattoos when going for interviews and when meeting corporate clients, I would probably wear a blazer and that's absolutely fine. I understand that. However, I don't think I could work in an environment where you have to cover up 24/7. It sounds really cheesy but they're part of who I am, they make me feel like me.

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