It’s the holiday season and tattoo studios are busier than ever as people celebrate Christmas and New Year with fresh ink. Rising Phoenix Tattoo Studio in Leighton Buzzard is one of the most popular studios in southern England and it also happens to be the home to Yayo Pro Team member Martin Marshal. We sent out tattoo collector Matt Haddon-Reichardt to brave the cold winter air and catch a quick chat with Yayo Pro Team member and all round nice guy Martin Marshall.
With less than a week to go before Christmas the roads are jam packed as commuters make a desperate dash to get away for the holidays. My drive south from the Midlands is painful and ponderous and I’m over an hour late to interview tattoo whizz kid Martin Marshall. My bad mood is alleviated by Martin’s positive attitude and in between customers we sit down for a mince pie and a very quick chat.
"I knew from a young age tattooing was what I wanted to do."
“I’ve been tattooing around 9 years,” explains Martin as he hands me a box of Quality Street. “As a kid I was always interested in art. I think my dad having tattoos was my first look into the industry. I knew from a young age tattooing was what I wanted to do. I would spend my evenings researching the industry and drawing non-stop.”
Martin has risen up the ranks of tattooing at astonishing speed and he has already reached his first milestone of going into business for himself.
“I am now the owner of my own studio in Cheshire. I have worked in a few studios in the past all of which I was happy with; although as a tattooist one of the ultimate goals is to own your own studio. After having my 2 boys I felt like I needed to build something for them as well as myself.”
Like so many elite tattooists I interview their lives are a balancing act between family and career. Martin’s hard work has been rewarded with a spot on the Yayo Pro Team, a position he is very happy to endorse.
“I have been on the Yayo Pro Team since my studio opened in August 2019. I have been using Yayo for years and the product speaks for itself. The customer service and commitment that Kirk and the other members of Yayo provide is what makes Yayo the best on the market.”
Tattooing has reached a saturation pint with new shops springing up all the time. When Martin started in the industry nearly a decade ago it was a different playing field. I ask him how an aspiring artist can break into a very crowded market.
“I feel like tattooing has gone very main stream with shops opening up all the time. I think introducing yourself to any local studios as I did, to show respect, is all you can do.”
"After having my 2 boys I felt like I needed to build something for them as well as myself.”
One avenue where I have seen new tattooists get a foothold is to specialise in vegan tattooing. The rise of vegan tattooing seems good for business and good for the planet; Martin agrees.
“Personally I don’t know the ins and outs of the Vegan industry. From the surface it would seem like it would be good for the planet yes.”
Martin’s work is heavily focussed on realism and he is arguable one of the best in the game. Trying to take an image and accurately present it on skin has been a focus of Martin’s since the start.
“From very early in my career I have always been interested in the realism aspect of tattooing. It’s what I’ve always enjoyed the most; to make a tattoo look real is the ultimate goal for me.”
The studio is getting busier and Marin checks his watch. I fire 2 final questions at him.
“If I could tattoo anyone, who would that be and what would I tattoo. That’s an interesting question.” He muses for a while lost in thought. “I think I’d tattoo Eminem; I’m a big fan of him and his music. As far as what I’d tattoo on him, I’d probably choose stages of his career to make a sleeve.”
Martin’s next customer has arrived and as he gets ready to tattoo and I finish my mince pie I ask him what he has planned for the next year.
“I have some plans for next year. I had the pleasure of working at Love Hate in Miami in the summer and have since spoke to Ami about guesting in either New York or Ireland. Outside of tattooing other than family life, I want to keep fit. I love boxing, playing football and hitting the gym. Owning a studio keeps me busy even when I’m not tattooing so you have to make time for yourself and the ones you love.”
“If I could tattoo anyone, who would that be and what would I tattoo. That’s an interesting question.”
I pack up my Dictaphone and file away my note book. It’s raining outside and I have a long drive back to Derbyshire. I thank Martin for his time and apologise once again for being late.
“No worries man,” is his nonchalant reply, “drive safe and come back anytime.”
As I always say it’s always nice to work with nice people.
A final thought from the author: "Healing a tattoo during the British winter has its own set of challenges. From the cold damp weather, the abrasion of winter woollies and the drying blast of central heating winter is a tough time to get inked. Make sure you keep your tattoo moisturized by using Yayo aftercare. its not the best on the market for nothing."
Yayo... its a family thing.