Britain’s creative city
Interview with Jack Applegate, resident tattoo artist at Dead Slow, Brighton
Jack Applegate is a resident tattoo artist at Dead Slow 9 Boyces St, Brighton. He and business partner Kirsty Simpson took over the studio in 2014 after both tattooing there for a number of years. Since then they have redecorated, introduced new resident artists – five in all – host guest artists from around the world and renamed the studio.
A striking figure, with his grey hair, tattoos and black clothing, it is clear from the start that Jack is utterly passionate about his job and its artistry.
Originally from Tunbridge Wells he moved to Brighton eight years ago to begin his career as a tattoo artist – although at the time, he hadn’t realised that’s what he would end up doing.
“I wanted to learn to paint and draw better and enrolled at Bristol University to study Fine Art but, sadly, the syllabus didn’t really give me that opportunity – not in a traditional manner anyway. In retrospect I should have asked more questions at my interview so as to determine it was the right course for me – which it turned out it wasn’t! So! I cut my loses and moved back home and ended up in Brighton.
“I had begun to collect a few tattoos and on one of my visits to Brighton, I met Ade who worked at this studio – formally Temple Tattoo and then Nine. We got chatting, I showed him some of my drawings and he asked if I’d ever thought of becoming a tattoo artist myself. Learning to become one is something done on the job. The best way to learn is to find yourself a really good tattooist and who wants to teach you – luckily for me, this is exactly what happened without me really chasing it! And so my apprenticeship began”.
So – once you have your mentor sorted – how do you practise?
“Although there are fake options available, the best thing to tattoo on is real skin and so most tattoo artists will use their own legs as these are easily accessible. There are many techniques that you become more skilled at as time goes on. It is like anything I guess – practise makes perfect. Anyone can learn how to tattoo – but it is the artistry that makes it”.
Practising on yourself sounds a little painful but do people ask how much with will hurt?
“I think it is the most asked question ever! When needles are concerned – there will always be a little pain! I have noticed that women seem much calmer when they are tattooed – men, in my experience, are more likely to pass out due to nerves!”
Do people always know what they want when they come to you?
“Most people who come to us here have a good idea of what they want. They will have drawings that we can then work on, improving and adding to their ideas until everyone is happy. Tattooing is marking someone for life and so you have to be very sure of what you are doing and make sure it is right.”
You have a lot of tattoos – do you find that people look at you when you are out and about – is there still a stigma about tattoos?
“We live in a bubble of acceptance in Brighton – everything and anything goes really and that is good! I am glad to say that the stigma of having a tattoo has lifted over the years – although my Grandma loves to tell me about tattooing regrets. Her sister had the name of a beau tattooed on her at 18 and regretted it for the rest of her life. My parents don’t have tattoos and they weren’t best pleased when I began to get them. However, they see the beauty now as I have a successful career, a business, earn decent money and I don’t rely on them! They are very proud of my accomplishments like any parent would be”.
I suppose everyday is different for you – you are constantly designing and creating art. Do you think this is something you will always do and is there ever an element of boredom at all?
“I can honestly say I love it all. There is always something good to enjoy. I meet a range of interesting people all the time. I love the consultation and design process, ensuring I give my client what they want. There is also something really nice about someone trusting you and having my art/work out there. l am very lucky that I have found my niche and the day I don’t want to come to work will be the day I stop doing it. But I can’t see that happening”.