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Tattooists draw on team spirit (and each other) in lockdown

Doing away with the perception that tattoos are primarily something for care-free 20-somethings, Mavericks Tattoo Parlour in Diss has established itself as a place for people to turn their ideas into captivating pieces of body art.

Since opening its doors in July last year, the family-run business has accumulated an ever-increasing client base thanks to the skill and expertise of its staff.

Owner Lia Tunbridge-Shepherd took over the business after spending years as a piercing specialist at Bear Ink, in Woodbridge, which is owned by her husband, Gordon.

Lia and Gordon with children Billy, Bear and Blue, and staff Jane Titchener and Sam Roberts. Picture: Mecha Morton
Lia and Gordon with children Billy, Bear and Blue, and staff Jane Titchener and Sam Roberts. Picture: Mecha Morton

“We’d been talking about branching out and went to Diss one day, and it caught our hearts,” said the mother-of-three.

“People were asking what we did because we were covered in tattoos. We said we were tattooists, and they said we should set up a place here.”

Regional perceptions of Diss are one of an ageing population – not necessarily the best environment to foster an ink-ready client list.

“There is a large older generation but there’s also many estates where families are moving into,” added Mrs Tunbridge-Shepherd, who moved to East Anglia from Slovakia in 2012.

“We target mostly middle-aged clients. Although people think tattoos are for only 18 year olds, they often tend to go for the cheaper ones.”

Less than 12 months after opening their doors, the business was forced to close as lockdown came into force across the UK.

In an impressive feat of dedication, the handful of staff at the parlour in Cobbs Yard used each other as test subjects in order to keep themselves sharp ahead of last month’s reopening.

“During lockdown, nobody was tattooing – it would have been like getting back on a bike after years away. Everyone was a bit nervous about coming back and picking up the gun, so they were tattooing each other to get back into it,” said Mrs Tunbridge-Shepherd.

“You have to do this, though, because it’s such a great responsibility to tattoo somebody else’s body, so you need to make sure you’re at your best.”

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