a man with a tattoo

I was first introduced to tattoos as a boy through bubble-gums purchased from the local shop with my pocket money. I would ensure I had lots of the little sweet treats included in my ‘mixed bag of lollies’ before heading home on my push-bike. To the bathroom basin I would head, to get the flannel face-washer – an essential tool for tattoo application. I would decide where I wanted the back-the-front looking design and put the little piece of paper on my skin, carefully following the 4-step instructions. The damp flannel would then be pressed against the paper while I counted and soon took little peeks underneath to see if it was ready. Once confident, all would be removed and revealed. I would look at the colourful little design in the mirror (now back-the-front again) thinking that it looked good on me. It would then be time to go and kick the football outside again, burning off energy from the lollies.

None of my family had tattoos and there were really none around me to check out up-close as I grew up. They were viewed as the domain of rough and shady characters; perhaps this added to my intrigue of them. As a rock’n’roll loving teenager, I was always looking at pictures of my favourite bands and enjoyed checking out any tattoos they had. The general rule was: the harder the band rocked, the more tattoos they had. As I took hold of my independence and became of legal age to get a tattoo, I thought for a long time about what design I would get. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew I just wanted one. I was keen to emulate my favourite rockers in as many ways I could.

I befriended a bikie chick that worked at the local photo shop on the corner of my street. When I picked up my photos of bands and friends from being developed, Cassandra would comment on them and we’d talk a little rock’n’roll. She had a few tatts including one inside her bottom lip. Her business card was a picture of a pistol with a big headline “Cassandra Shoots Photos” – so we hired her to shoot us on our wedding day! She even drove us there in her old blue Jaguar, swerving madly across lanes; weaving in and out of traffic since we were running late.

When I mentioned to Cassandra that I wanted to get a tattoo, she told me to go and see AJ (Adrian Jarrett). I did… and (between you and me) he scared the shit out of me! He was a large bikie dude who often wore a huge gold bone through his nose with a ruby in the end of it. His head was shaved into a Mohawk and not only did he have full sleeves and tatts on the sides of his head, his face was heavily tattooed as well. When I walked into his shop, he greeted me with, “What the fuck do you want?” I’d never walked into a tatt shop before. Going in to sort out your first tattoo is scary enough, but I guess I knew no different and assumed all tatt studios were like this. I told him that Cassandra told me to come and see him as I’m ready to get my first tatt. His demeanour changed in an instant and I was now welcome. As I waited to discuss my design with him, I soaked up the smells and buzzing noise of the studio, while looking at the flash designs on the walls.

Adrian Jarrett - AJ, tattoo artist

That's AJ in the middle