An upper arm with a tattoo of a black dog and the letter B underneath

It’s of my dog Billie, the dog my family had from my teenage years, through to when she died in 2001. I was 27.

Half Collie, half Flatcoat Retriever, she was an unusually intelligent, even empathetic dog.

She became a great companion and comfort to me: a socially and scholastically unsuccessful teenager growing up in rural Somerset.

By the mid 90’s I had gone away at art college, and obviously didn’t see her as much, incrementally watching her turn into an ‘old dog’ when I’d come home for the holidays.

During the last few years of her life, I often vowed that I would get a tattoo of her when she died; to commemorate that great dog-friend of my boring, tricky teenage years.

I remember my Dad telling me on the phone that she had finally gone – it was the same week that Joey Ramone had died.

The rest of 2001 came and, almost, went…but on New Year’s Eve I suddenly realised that if I didn’t get the tattoo in the actual year of Billie’s death then I would use it as an excuse that ‘the moment had passed’ i.e. chicken out.

So on the grey afternoon of December 31st 2001, I hastily did a simple drawing of her, with biro on a paper napkin in ‘TastyStop’ (the local greasy spoon) and nervously took round the corner to ‘TattooLand’.

This big shaven-headed Welsh guy named Dean looked at the napkin and said -

‘Not bad that. People come in with some terrible doodles they’ve done and I tell them I’m not doing that but I don’t mind doing this one for you.’

He set about copying it onto my arm. He seemed in a bit of a rush though, because it was New Year’s Eve and he wanted to close early to ‘get some drinking done.’ So much so, he wouldn’t write the full name ‘Billie’ under the dog - ‘I’ll just do the ‘B’ if that’s okay, cos you know, pub’s waiting.’ I said that would be fine, because I was a bit terrified; by the act of getting a tattoo, by Dean himself.

The finished tattoo is pretty underwhelming . And at a glance many people mistake that abbreviation - B - for an adjacent dog shit!

For a few years I thought I should maybe have drawn a more prepared, better rendered drawing of Billie (with legs in better proportion, they ended up a bit long on the actual tattoo) and taken it to a better recommended (or at least, less hurried) tattoo artist.

But as further years passed, and more and more people got more and more elaborate and impressive tattoos, I’ve grown quite fond of the low-key, slightly crappy look of mine.

I think my more minimal one might suit me better, at the top of a skinny white arm, with no right hand at the end of it.

(I did choose, quite deliberately, my right, handless arm. Though I’m not quite sure why.)

written by joff


Tattoo on an arm saying the latin phrase non serviam

I was raised in a family where my father was the law, the controller and the punisher.

Incapable of showing any love, he often pretended submission and, oddly enough, at the same time required to be treated with devotion.

It was just another way of making me submit, yet more cruel because of the humiliation involved.

When you have been beaten until your mother steps in front of you so that he can't physically get to you and you have to kiss him goodnight, you just feel every word you're forced to say is another punch.

As far as I can recall, my aversion for any kind of authority started back then.

He wanted me to be the typical "normal" person who never steps out of line, but he didn't raise me as one.

I grew up making good and bad decisions, but always tried to escape any control.

Many - I'd say the majority - of the bad decisions were just a way to oppose to him and elude his power.

I just couldn't obey for the sake of some kind of superior order, I felt almost physically ill every time I had to.

Then one day I read the quote: "Non serviam", I will not serve, which is attributed to Lucifer when he refused to serve God in Heaven.

That quote spoke to me in the strongest way, it meant rejecting serving and being firm until the last consequences. It meant freedom.

Sometimes it would be easier to compromise, but building your own life, as a person and an artist, with that phrase in mind, gives you the possibility of knowing you're living it just the way you want it to be.

written by s


A tattoo on an ankle which has roman numerals spelling out a date

I’m covered in tattoos and none of them really mean much.

I guess they’re decorative, it’s often a question that women will ask me: “What do your tattoos mean?” A lot of the time by this stage in the conversation I just don’t care, priorities are shifting.

Anyway, I’m covered in tattoos and maybe a handful of them mean something.

One sits on my left ankle, it’s a date in roman numerals VIII · V · MMXII.

I’ll look at it often, but weirdly it’s a date I’ll tend to forget. It's odd really as it’s the day everything changed.

It marked a turning point in my life.

It’s really taught me that everyone is capable of change, we’ve all got it in us. Sometimes we just need a little help. I certainly did and I still do one day at a time.

On a good day looking at this tattoo will fill me with gratitude and on a bad day it just reminds me why I shouldn’t revisit my old way of life.

I got the tattoo added onto the end of a session as we had a bit of time left. An afterthought I suppose. It’s odd how it’s become perhaps the most significant section of my skin.

Aesthetically I love the simplicity of the tattoo and the questions it asks the viewer.

written by bobbie