You’re never too old to get a tattoo for the first time, according to a Dublin expert who recently had a first client in his 60s.
evin McNamara has been a tattoo artist at the Dublin Ink studio in Temple Bar for 12 years. He says age should never be a barrier to self-expression.
“We serve a wide audience, ranging from 18-year-olds to 70-year-olds. We had a gentleman who came in recently for his first tattoo in his early 60s,” Kevin said.
“He then got ‘the full suit’ – his whole body covered from head to toe – inspired by Greek and Roman mythology.”
Kevin will be attending the Dublin International Tattoo Convention at RDS next week alongside Dublin Ink owner Norbert Halasz.
Thousands of tattoo enthusiasts are expected at the site from November 4-6 to celebrate an art form that dates back over 5,000 years.
Dublin Ink opened in 2009. Their artists work with their clients to bring ideas to life, guaranteeing custom pieces no matter the size. So why do people do it?
“For the most part, it’s purely aesthetic. You put art on your skin, so often people tell a story, or it can be symbolic,” Kevin said.
“It’s my life, my story and I tell it that way. People usually like to talk about what it means to their life and what it means. Even if it’s Spongebob.
Kevin studied animation and illustration at Ballyfermot College before joining Dublin Ink, and works with clients to develop their ideas, even if some of them may seem strange.
“We brought in a guy who was adamant he wanted an inflatable balloon dog. It was just a little strange.
“We ended up doing a tattoo of a kid holding the balloon dog, but it definitely sticks in my mind,” Kevin said.
“Tattooing is above all a collaboration between the artist and the client. Often people will come up with an original reference and we will think together how to proceed.
“They’ll have an idea and I’ll write an interpretation of it in my journal. I am very proud of those that mean a lot to the person who receives them.
“Memorial to deceased friends, or I made one recently for a woman, like Gaeilge, who said ‘No freedom until women are free’, handwritten by her mother.”
As for the most popular tattoo requests?
“Eyes and knives, strangely enough. I love doing comic book and movie or TV characters in particular. We also do a lot of dogs for people. Pets are very popular,” Kevin said.
“I like to keep mine Instagram and PG-13 compatible. No weird body parts for me.
Regarding the painful aspect of a tattoo, Kevin admits that “it’s a little painful to do, there’s no escaping it”.
“But many factors come into play, such as location on the body, how you feel, have you slept, what you have eaten, if you are exhausted.
“It’s definitely bearable. The healing process has become really streamlined these days. We have a special product that acts like a layer of skin.
“You apply it for 7 days and it works great. It used to take 2-4 weeks to heal, but not anymore,” he added.
Has anyone ever regretted getting a tattoo?
“Fortunately, we never had that in our studio. I think years ago people would get their partner’s name tattooed, it was really popular back then,” Kevin said.
“Now people are much more likely to get a symbol or something that represents someone, that way they won’t regret it if they break up.
“The stigma around tattoos has totally disappeared too. People are more spontaneous. It’s another form of expression to celebrate.