Saturday 24 February 2018

Why I'm totally addicted to wearing my art on my sleeve

To mark times of change and emotional upheaval, Antonia Leslie turns to body art

I got MY first tattoo when I was 15 years old. This was way back in the Seventies when tattooing was considered something that only ex-cons, sailors and truck drivers had done and, to many people, tattoos were considered the height of vulgarity. That was the view held in Ireland, but also in mainstream Europe. If you had been in Japan, Samoa, or you were a Maori in New Zealand, things would have been slightly different.

I was a punk rocker back then, and my aim was to shock. I went all on my own and discovered that there was one tattoo parlour in Dublin called "Johnny Eagle's". I downed a can of beer and went in search of this den of iniquity and tattoo delights. I found it at the top of Capel Street and entered the small dark room that lay behind the hand-painted sign.

Inside there was queue of a couple of large tough-looking men, and one guy being tattooed. There was a chipboard with a square window carved out of it. You sat down and put your arm through the hatch, and the guy at the other side tattooed you. My turn came and everyone looked at me like I had two heads. I could see them thinking: "A girl, here in this place of bravado, street tough and real men."

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