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Tattoo You:
Art And The Needle In Bulgaria

Whenever I go anywhere today, and wear short sleeves, you can be certain for some sort of reaction. Here in Bulgaria, tattoos on women are not considered that great, well only if you are foreign and then I guess you can get away with anything! People stare, and friends have fallen about laughing. Ive seen people almost walking into lamp posts and falling off bikes, staring at my tattoos on my arm. People double take, grab my arm, want to photograph it. Some would probably be happy to saw it off if they could and have it stuffed on their sideboard.
Ok so my tattoos are different, yes and thats what I like, after all, all my life I have strived to be that little bit different. I mean, why would anyone want to be like anyone else?? And I write about haunted houses and take people on tours of graveyards.I guess thats not your normal British womans occupation. So here I am, after spending 18 months living in Bulgaria, and what do I have to show for it. Well I have some of the best artwork ever.tattooed on my left arm for EVER!

And it doesnt get much better than that.

So you have 101 questions to ask me? Well, I have anticipated what you may ask and here they are for you..the top 5, most asked questions of me

Tina Lakin

Who are the people in your work?

The lower part of my arm is my grandfather, William Lumley from the first world war. He was in the Yorkshire Regiment of the Green Howards.

The tattoo is an exact copy of the photo I gave the artist to use. The result is stunning, and so much more than I expected. I was speechless when it was finished and I could take in the whole, real effect. If anyone could see the photograph which the work was taken from, its an exact copy.
The upper part of my arm is my Dad, again another portrait copied perfectly the exactness very uncanny. The attention to detail is breathtaking.
Both my Grandfather and Father are no longer here and I wanted to preserve their photographs in the best possible way, so that I would never loose them and they would always be close to me. A tattoo is the perfect way, now wherever I go these two wonderfully handsome men come with me and, boy, do they get some attention.
The rest of the work is a mixture of designs which I found to compliment everything else and I really like the overall result there will not be anyone else with the same tattoo!! I am unique!

Did it hurt?

Hurt is a slightly too stronger word I think to use for the tattoo process, however I would not say it was painless. It is uncomfortable, but then would anyone really expect to have permanent art sketched on them and receive no pain?? Anyway there were moments when I thought that I would pass out or throw up and please this is a piece of advice for anyone wanting a tattoo:
Dont drink the night before and make sure you have lots to eat before the work. After all, you want the experience of getting the tattoo to be part of the whole event and a pleasant few hours, not torture!! I think its the hour or so after that hurts more than the actual work. The burning.not nice.
And then there are the two weeks or so when the skin is healing and you must take care of it applying medication several times a day and keeping the area clean. You also feel like a snake shedding its skin for a week or so and then as if by magic the process is complete. This is all vital to the end result. I had mine done at the worst time of year, when the sun was at its hottest and it was hard to keep my arm out of the intense heat of the Balkan sun at times.

What Inspired you?

Last winter I was living in a small village on the banks of the Danube and was very bored, I found myself watching more and more cable TV and two of the programmes which I became addicted to were LA Ink and Miami Ink. I would sit glued watching and rewatching these reality shows about life in tattoo studios. I watched with great interest of the stories behind the clients artwork.
I had been wanting some more work doing, I had one tattoo done about eight years ago in the UK on my ankle . It was at a rather dodgy place and spent several weeks after having it done in agony and spent a fortune on medication. I also had a small artistic piece on my left shoulder, but had wanted something dramatic. I always believed that tattoos were made to be seen. And so I decided, one cold snowy night last winter, that 2009 would be the year for my ultimate tattoo!

Where did you have your work done?

Sometimes you meet people for a reason. And no matter how strange and bizarre the meeting may be at the time, you are meant to meet them and they will play a significant part in your life for one reason. Well to cut a long story short, a Bulgarian friend of mine introduced me to a wonder tattoo artist in the town of Vratsa, half way between Vidin and Sofia. Luidmil, from the Magic Needle.
Luidmil changed my life and we will always be friends and keep in touch. He has a uniqueness, a quality which is rare to find I believe in Bulgaria, still today. Meeting him was like a breath of fresh air. Vratsa is very much small town Bulgaria and quite traditional and so for him to establish himself I can only imagine was a huge challenge. Well he has succeeded in many ways, and now he is the only artist I would trust to do any work on me. I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending Magic Needle to anyone who wanted a tattoo. And who knows, I may just have to go back for something else soon!!

Do you mind the attention?

I have got used to the affect the tattoos have on people, people have even asked if they can take a photo of them. They are a talking point definitely and certainly break the ice. On recent flights I have sat next to people who have done nothing but stare at me for almost three hours.I just wish more people would ask.
I see them as not just tattoos, no way, they are works of art and masterpieces and ,above all, they are my Dad and Grandfather. To be able to say that, makes me very proud. My Dad has been likened to Charles Bronson and Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind! And some Bulgarians think that my Grandfather is some Eastern military figure.
Whoever they are, or whatever they think, I will always love my tattoos, I chose to have them and I chose the portraits, they mean the world to me and I enjoy sharing the experience with anyone who asks.

Tina Lakin November 2009.











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