The bold and the beautiful. Connor Prue Yayo interview.
Connor Prue is passionate about tattooing and loves the family vibe of Yayo. He is based in Blackpool and is working hard to up his game and improve the image of the industry in his town. from the confort of his kitchen table Yayo scribe Matt Haddon-Reichardt had a virtual interview with Connor to talk tattooing, mental health, yoga and back pain.
What inspires tattooists to take up the needle and begin their journey into the world of body art is often deeply personal and complex. For Connor it was all down to a family connection.
“I think what gave me the nudge towards tattooing was the artwork at the time which was heavy traditional, from a young age I was always seeing my dad come home with new tattoos and generally being interested in the how and why, all contributed to my journey towards tattooing. I had been in tattoo studios for informal apprenticeships, watching and learning whilst doing odd jobs, but my journey began once a friend offered to teach me in a studio in my hometown Blackpool. It was a traditional apprenticeship in the sense that I was pulling my weight; tidying, cleaning sterilising setting up packing down and dealing with general shop day-to-day tasks. I gradually earned my place and began learning the trade of tattooing maybe 8 to 10 years ago. Currently I am the owner of the tattoo studio Empire Tattoos and Piercings with my good friend Sean Powell. I’m working with the most amazing people and phenomenal artists keeping the highest standard of studio hygiene and artwork.”
"Mental health is a big subject currently and tattooing really has helped me with my issues."
While Connor has much love for Blackpool he admits its reputation has something to be desired; he is working hard to change that.
“In Blackpool when I first started to tattoo it didn’t have the best of reputations for artists the general vibe was that you come to Blackpool on a stag or hen night get drunk and wake up with your bog standard of the wall flash tattoo. For me I wanted play whatever part, big or small, in helping to improve and take Blackpool’s name out of the dirt as far as tattooing is concerned. Coming into the studio knowing that I’ve got amazingly talented friends to bounce any and all ideas off helps keep things fresh. From composition to complementing and contrast in colours every day is a learning day.
Connor is also keen to pass on his skills and professionalism to the next generation of tattooists.
“Teaching is also what keeps me passionate, my apprentice keeps me on my toes and constantly has me questioning how and why things are done. Seeing your effort and focus help somebody else with the same drive as you is immensely rewarding. To help someone get to where they need to be really gives a sense me a sense of satisfaction.”
"Seeing your effort and focus help somebody else with the same drive as you is immensely rewarding."
Connor views tattooing holistically and it has helped him grow and develop as both an artist and human being.
“I firm believe that tattooing takes dedication and determination and this is what keeps me sound of mind. Putting the extra effort in and going the extra mile really doesn’t feel that hard when it comes to your passion. Back in the day I would start tattooing nine o’clock and there were instances of working through and finishing at two in the morning. Now that might sound like a stretch, but honestly after working on a piece and trying to make it the absolute best you possibly can and enjoying it along the way time flies by. Keeping hydrated and fed, along with good company, I feel like I could tattoo around the clock. Mental health is a big subject currently and tattooing really has helped me with my issues. Keeping occupied and focused on the task has always kept me on the straight and narrow and tattooing has helped me deal with most mental problems.”
While tattooing may be mentally and spiritually rewarding it can be physically exhausting.
“On the other side of the coin doing long hours and focusing on pieces in compromising positions the physical side of things is a different story. But physical pain has always taken a back seat; but not by choice. As most other tattooists would likely agree back problems are the number one issue. Having gone through numerous back braces and things to keep my posture up, tattooing almost forces you to sit hunching and put yourself in awkward positions just to get that smooth blend or that crisp line. It’s a sacrifice but something that I’m working on especially this year doing little things like yoga and stretches in breaks always helps to fend off any short term pains or aches.”
Connor agrees that tattooing is far from the glamorous lifestyle depicted on TV.
“The tattooist rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as far as I’m concerned is a bit of a myth. Yeah when it comes to conventions and events it’s always nice to let your hair down and give in the tattooist stereotype. But realistically in your everyday life, there’s not much time to be going out getting absolutely leathered and waking up the next day feeling like crap, knowing that you’ve got a go to the shop and do a tattoo it’s just not worth tripping yourself up.
“The tattooist rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as far as I’m concerned is a bit of a myth."
Connor has seem times change and the role the tattooist is playing in society is more counsellor than rock star.
“It used to be you’d open up to your barber or drunk mates down the pub about your fears, secrets and dreams. Now it seems tattooists almost double up as therapists; people just seem to want to talk about not just what tattoo they’re having and why, but everything about themselves. I feel blessed that someone can feel that comfortable to open up to me and know that there’s a secret code. What is spoken about to your artist stays with your artist.”
Connor is a big fan of Yayo and feels he is part of the family.
“Yeah Yayo has been an absolute blessing to the industry I have almost replaced all my products for Yayo where possible. The process tattoo butter is especially a godsend not just for the tattoo process but I have never in all my years of tattooing seen tattoos heal as well as they do with Yayo. The Guard product is another amazing revolution I found other brands to have too much adhesive. This has a knock-on effect to people having reactions where as Guard has just the right amount. I recently had a friend who was allergic to adhesive products like tape and plasters but wanted to try the guard and resulted in a perfect heal with zero irritation. The whole team at Yayo almost feels like a family very close knit and you know rocking up at up at a convention that somebody under the Yayo banner will always be more than welcoming. Being part of the Yayo family has really helped me personally with my social awkwardness. I feel free to go up and chat to anyone on the team. From supported up to pro everybody has a really good vibe.”
Like anyone in the tattoo industry the Covid-19 outbreak has thrown his plans up in the air but he is optimistic he can make the most of 2020.
“My plans are simply to improve, grow and enjoy my experiences. I have a couple of conventions lined up Blackpool Tatcon and also Milton Keynes with the Yayo team. I was planning to travel abroad with a few members of the tattoo studio to soak up a little culture and hopefully get some inspiration for my artwork; but we will have to see about that.
I finish off the interview by asking how people can get in touch with Connor
“Normally If people wanted to get in touch with me I’d say pop in and see me at Empire tattoos and Piercings in Blackpool, but we are currently closed due to the coronavirus. Instead you can message the studio over social media Facebook/Instagram page or message me directly @connor_prue I really don’t mind messages at anytime I enjoy and thrive off everybody’s ideas and passion for the art work.”
A final thought from the author: "Blackpool is a great town and well worth a visit. When this lock down is over and tattooing is back up and running, I'm going to be on a road trip checking out old haunts, discovering some new ones and getting a few tattoos along the way. Its going to be an exciting adventure I'll be healing my tattoos with Yayo. If you want the best then use the best; use Yayo."
Yayo... its a family thing.