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22nd May 2018

Lovin Dubliners: I Spent The Day With A Dublin Tattoo Artist And Here’s What I Learned

Éadaoin Fitzmaurice

If you’ve been keeping up to date with our Instagram page, you’ll be familiar with our new Insta Stories Series, Lovin Dubliners. Every Wednesday I get to follow around the change-makers of our beautiful city and learn about their interesting line of work. 

When I think of a tattoo artist, I picture a bulky man with a goatee and a sleeveless leather jacket, I’m not too sure why, but when I met Ryan Kelly that idea soon went out the window. Ryan is a really cool and humble guy from Dublin who recently opened his own parlour called Heartbreak Social Club

I met up with him the day the shop opened to ask him a few questions.

When did you start tattooing?

“I started about seven years ago.”

Ryan began as an apprentice in The Ink Factory in Dublin. With time he could see his skill set improving and became a lot more confident in his work. This journey eventually lead him to set up his own business. 

Three years ago Ryan took a break from tattooing due to mental health issues. During his time away from work the owner of the studio he worked in committed suicide and he decided from there that it was his time to do something positive for him in his memory.

Since then he has incorporated this into his line of work and tries to help his clients with their own struggles. This is where Scars Behind Beauty began.

Could you tell me about Scars Behind Beauty?

Ryan tattoos for a good cause as well as professionally. He set up a project called Scars Behind Beauty, where he tattoos over someones self-harm scars for free once a week. There has been a huge interest in the project and he’s pretty much booked up for the foreseeable future. 

He said it all began when he covered up scars for his friend and “it gave him a whole new lease of life”.

He has since seen how much of an effect it has had on his clients and their loved ones.

“A lot of people come in with their mam or dad or partner and like, you see the positivity it has even for other people in their lives, not just the people you’re doing it for, so it’s good.”

It’s a deadly way to raise awareness and spread positivity when it comes to mental health. Ryan explained that a lot of his clients open up to him about their struggle with mental illness during their tattoo session. 

“It’s quite intense, some want to share it with you, some don’t, so I’d listen if they want me to.”

Do you have many tattoos?

“I’d have a good few yeh, my favourite one would be my sons name on my neck”.

Ryan pulled up his sleeves and showed me some of his first tattoos on his forearm. He had done a lot of it himself and it was pretty impressive. He explained that he sees a tattoo as a big commitment and said it should be thought through before being done as it’s permanent.

“I did my first tattoo on my brother and it was terrifying, it was awful. It’s still awful. I was very nervous, I was shaking so much it was never going to be good”.

What’s the plan for your new parlour?

“The plan is here really, just to kind of have a nice relaxed environment, somewhere quite private to get tattooed. It’s just welcoming and a nice place to be.”

The parlour is a really cool venue and there are sketches in every corner to give clients some inspiration on what they might like to get. 

Tattoos start at €70 but it’s best to consult with one of the team on how much a particular piece would cost. 

Header Image: @ryeanseanthepirate

READ MORE: I Spent A Day In A Famous Dublin Café And Here’s What I Learned