Now, Karen Ireland asks three women and a man with inking if it is taboo in the workplace?
Gillian McLoughlin (43) from Portadown works in Subway food outlet and is married to Gordon. They have two children, Stephen (21) and Jonny (12). She says:
My first tattoo — a panther’s head on my forearm — was when I was 15 and my parents weren’t very happy. At the time, though, you didn’t have to be 17 and there was no problem getting it. Although even now, some tattoo artists will not ink anyone under the age of 18 and you need to bring your parents along if you are 16.
Since then I’ve lost count of how many I have. Now, my arms are fully sleeved, with tattoos to most of my legs, chest, neck, hands — and even my knuckles.
I love having body art — it is very much part of who I am and reflects my attitude to style. Two are special to me; a symbol for autism for my son Jonny (who is autistic) and a badger for my son Stephen, as this is his nickname. These are my favourites.
I also have a pink ribbon to mark my battle with breast cancer, which was done a few years ago. I had to have a mastectomy so that marks a period in my life which I came through and is both special and very personal.
There is still a lot of stigma around tattoos and I do occasionally get dirty looks. People tend to assume I am really rough.
Tattoos are my way of expressing myself and what I choose to spend my money on.
If I get a negative reaction I often think to myself ‘this art has cost me a fortune and is probably worth more than your car’.
I work in Subway and some customers do give me funny looks when they see my tatts, but mostly people are okay about them in my workplace.
Previously I had to cover my arms up in work with long sleeves. Now, though, I’m going through the menopause, having had cancer, and I can’t bear to be too warm, so my employer is fine with me wearing short sleeves — even though my tattoos can be seen.
I have worked here for 14 years and I am lucky that my boss accepts me as I am. They saw the tattoos at the interview and were fine with it. I do have a different image to most people but it reflects my lifestyle — it’s just who I am.
Before this job I worked at a different restaurant and, again, the fact I was tattooed was not a problem — although I wore long sleeves then.
There needs to be a change in attitude in modern society — we are not living in the Dark Ages. More young people are getting tattoos now, so people need to be more accepting.
The only place I was never judged was the church I used to go to. I went out to India on a church mission trip and the people there were mesmerised by them.”
Kerry Woods (32), who lives in Antrim with husband Robert, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is unemployed. She has a daughter Victoria (18) and step-son Peter (19). She says:
I was 16 when I got my first tattoo, which is a small rose on my left arm. Initially my parents were against it — but I was headstrong and really wanted it.
Now I have tattoos all over my body — my chest, shoulders, hands, neck and sleeves on my arms.
I choose artwork which reflects my personality. A small cherub on my shoulder is special to me, as it was done in remembrance of my sister Diane, who died when she was born.
There is also a small poem on my arm dedicated to my mum. Tattoos are very personal.
I don’t have a job now due to my MS but when I was working in a cafe my arms had to be covered up. Many work places do frown on them, but it should be about individuality.
People are surprised that I have tattoos, as I hate needles — but the pain is worth it. Tattoos make me happy and help me deal with my illness — they make me feel better about myself.
A good friend has done a lot of my art work either free or for mate’s rates, otherwise I would have spent a fortune by now. I know I am very lucky.
I will get more, as there is still space on my back. My favourite tattoo is a Victoria Frances portrait on my arm, which is a piece of Gothic art.
Older people seem more interested in my tattoos than younger people. They will stop me and ask about them.
And as more people than ever are getting tattoos, acceptance is growing.”
Leza Drummond (34) is a barber from Bangor. She says:
When I was 18 I got a few small tattoos on my back, stomach and bottom — places where they couldn’t be seen.
Then when I turned 30 and decided to get a sleeve on my arm.
This coincided with a complete change of image for me — and the tattoos were part of that change.
Since then I have had more done to my hands, legs, hips and my fingers.
As a barber having so many inkings fits in with the creativity of the work place.
People don’t judge in my job which is great but I imagine it would be a different story if I worked in an office.
My boyfriend loves my tattoos and has started getting some himself — but as he works in as bookmakers he has to ensure they aren’t visible.
Society has become more tolerant and accepting of people with tattoos and my parents actually do love them, especially my mum — she thinks they’re really cool.
If I had children I would never push them into getting tattoos — it’s a lifestyle choice — but if they want them when they were old enough I wouldn’t object.”
Richard McCloskey Wall (39), from Belfast, is a hairdresser who runs his own salon in Dromore, Co Down. He is married to Jay McCloskey Wall. He says:
I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was 33 despite the fact I had wanted one for years. Up until that point I had never seen one I liked. But when we were on holiday in Las Vegas I saw a guy whose work I loved — I decided to get one done there and then. It is an image of an old book plate which I had tattooed on my forearm.
That was me hooked — now I’m covered in tattoos — sleeves on my arm, my thighs, calves and most recently my hands.
They tend to get noticed because they are so visible.
Recently when I was returning clothes to a shop the staff there behaved as though I was going to steal from them — I felt I was being judged because of the tatts on my hands.
Fortunately I am my own boss. Now I think I will have to stay my own boss as it could be difficult to get a job with tattooed hands.
Although I have no problem employing anyone with tattoos. There are a lot of other things to consider before that and good staff are hard to find.
An Indian Mandala on my hands is my favourite as it is so intricate.
My tattoos have cost thousands of pounds, but it is lifelong art work.
My parents have never had a problem with my tattoos as my dad has a lot and my mum has just had her first one done for her 60th birthday. She got a bumble bee — after my salon which is called The Bee Hive.”