By Teresa Madeline
The bright pink exterior and camp brand name may be misleading. Once inside this parlour of ink it’s obvious this is one bad-ass tattoo studio, in the best possible way of course. The interior yells out with worldly wonders such as tribal masks from the likes of Africa and beyond, but the numerous mean-looking skull posters remind customers that they are not in a hippy hemp clothing store.
The Happy Sailor has been at this location in Hackney Road for over 13 years. Owners James and Tota have been in residence for the last ten, giving it a well lived-in feel, very unlike many of the more recently established tattoo parlours that often have a cold and clinical atmosphere.
The homely parlour has three main tattooists, James, Tota and Eszter, who each have their own specialism; James’ is old school Japanese and cover-ups, Tota’s is tribal and blackwork, and Eszter’s is black and grey realism. Their range of skills enables the studio to cover all bases when it comes to tattoo styles.
Being located in such a unique area means that with every client comes a different challenge for the tattooists. Co-Owner, James, describes how the area provides customers of such a diverse nature, from the more ‘street’ urban clients to Shoreditch hipsters, police officers, city stock brokers and even pensioners. Happy Sailor has also had its flashes of fame, tattooing the likes of Amy Winehouse and appearing in the movie ‘Green Street’ where the main character makes his life time tribute to West Ham in ink.
The tattoo community has changed for Happy Sailor over the past ten years; the example books of work on its wall have been gathering dust as a majority of people tend to come in with their own designs, perhaps indicating what a creative area East London has become. “People used to come in and pick things off the wall, those days are now well and truly over”, James also explains how people want anything, even the subtlest design like a small star, just to become part of the growing tattooed community. Other trends that James has noticed unique to East LDN include local street art tattoos, whether it’s Banksy or other lesser known artists, and a growing number of people are using comic book style as an influence on their body art.
Tattoos start at a minimum charge of £90. Co-Owner James and his staff truly live up to their shops name; creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere, top this up with many years of experience and a portfolio of truly inspiring tattoo art work, getting yourself needled in the Happy Sailor couldn’t be more pleasurable experience.