Back in business. Yayo interviews the super cool Sam Rowan.

Back in business. Yayo interviews the super cool Sam Rowan.

Lockdown is over and tattooing in the UK is starting back up again. It’s been a dirty black summer, but finally the light at the end of the tunnel is not that of an oncoming train. To celebrate, Yayo dispatched blog boy Matt Haddon-Reichardt to interview tattooist Sam Rowan. 



During lockdown tattooing kind of felt like the crazy aunt in the attic. It was given scant attention by government, lumped in with beauty salons by Cabinet and laughed at in the commons. While financial support was provided for tattoo studio business owners and their employees, for many in the industry it felt like had been forgotten. While the press harped on about pubs and hairdressers, tattooists sat patently waiting to go back to work. It’s a shame that those in power in the UK don’t appreciate the financial contribution tattooing brings to the country, or appreciate what a stressful time lockdown as been for artists. Yayo tattooist Sam Rowan has felt the pinch during the crisis.


“It’s been a tough one; I’ve had two rents to pay no income."

“It’s been a tough one; I’ve had two rents to pay no income. That’s a large amount of money to stump up every month. It’s definitely been a struggle but on the flip side it’s been good having a break from everything; tattooing is an intense business. To be honest I did nothing creative for about four months so it’s been a good reset. Sometimes it’s good to just disconnect. I’ve been back working since Monday and to be honest I’m loving the job even more now than before.”


They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and while Sam has enjoyed the downtime many artists have used the headspace to expand into other avenues of art. I’ve enjoyed following such creative endeavours on Facebook and of particular note was Simon Cookes ATAT model build, Gary Chase’s Joker painting and Matt Wall’s handmade wall. its been great to be able to follow artists whether they have been creative or just used the free time to relax and connect with their families. 


Now Sam is back in the artist’s chair I ask what he first worked on.

"I was back on the day they told us to open; bright and early Monday morning. The first tattoo back was a portrait of Fenella Fielding from Carry On Screaming, on my mother and I’ve got to say it was nerve wracking after having such a long time away. Looking at the finished work I think we nailed it.”


It’s been tough as a writer coping with lockdown restrictions. While I’ve managed to keep working, due to Yayo not shutting shop, juggling a day job as a key worker, childcare, blog work, home schooling and supporting my wife who is a community nurse has been stressful. I’m just glad my family have come out of it all Covid free and that the tattoo industry is now gearing back up for business as usual; all be it with even stricter hygiene rules and heavy doses of PPE.


  "What I mainly love about tattooing is just the freedom of working for myself."

I’ve been conducting all my interviews by email, Skype and on the phone so it will be good to get back to visiting studios. I ask Sam how he got started in the tattoo trade.

“I got into tattooing around ten years ago; somewhere between 2009 and 2010. I had always had a background in art and graphic design and when I started getting tattooed my tattooist knew about my passion for body art. My regular tattooist knew how keen I was to get into the industry and let me tattoo my thigh one session; the rest as they say is history. I work in and own a little street shop called Skin N Ink tattoo studio, in a town called North Shields on the coast of Newcastle; it’s my baby and its great being my own boss. What I mainly love about tattooing is just the freedom of working for myself and doing something different each day.  Of course I like the money,” he laughs. “I love art but it has to pay; you can’t survive off nothing.”


"I started out wanting to get into the Japanese style of tattooing."

I really admire Sam’s style and we chat over how he came to be the artists that he is.

“I do mostly everything although the majority of my bookings are for black and grey realism. In terms of designs it’s mostly sleeves every day. Sleeves have become so popular over the past few years. I started out wanting to get into the Japanese style of tattooing, because I love all of that Japanese stuff but at the time people where wanting more and more black and grey work. It’s surprising where the industry has taken me as I seemed to get a grasp of that a bit easier. The style comes quit naturally to me so that’s what I love doing most now.”


It was difficult to tell when lockdown was going to end and certainly impossible for tattooists or tattoo collectors to make plans. Now restrictions have eased into the new normal it may not be business as usual, but at least tattoos are back on the table. I ask Sam of his plans for the rest of the year. 

“Well since lockdown ruined everything I have a back log of over four months worth of appointments to get through. That is on top of a six month waiting list so I will mostly just be tattooing every day for the rest of the year. It sounds like a lot but I’m really feeling energised and ready to go after the break. I’ll be down at the great British tattoo show in November as well which will be a nice break even though I’ll still be up to my eye balls in tattoos. A change of scenery is always welcome.”


A final thought from the author: "Tattooing has survived; let us build stronger and taller than ever! Its time to contact your favourite artist and book a spot in the chair. Just remember to heal your new, post lockdown tattoo with Yayo. If you want the best results then use the best in the business; use Yayo!"

Yayo, be part of the family!



Words by Matt Haddon-Reichardt

Images by Sam Rowan, Yayo and NHS England