The Vida Loca Interviews: Everlasting Job Stoppers Pt 3
Does a visible tattoo mean the end of a career as we know it? In this series of interviews, our man Tony Jones speaks to tattoo fans about getting ink above the collar and below the cuff. In this part we speak to artist, author and tattooist, Joolz Denby about tattooing’s final frontier.
VIDA LOCA: When did you first get an Everlasting Job Stopper and how old were you?
JOOLZ: It was done in the early eighties and I was in my late twenties. I had the star on my cheekbone.
VIDA LOCA: You were unusual in several ways as in the eighties it was less common for women to be tattooed, let alone on their face. What were you thinking at the time?
JOOLZ: That I was absolutely unemployable in a conventional sense. I never had any notion at all that I wanted to work in the so called real world. In fact it never occurred to me that I would ever have a “proper” job and so those things weren’t part of my reasoning at all.
VIDA LOCA: Have your tattoos ever been an issue during your working life?
JOOLZ: Tattoos are almost inconsequential in the music industry* whereas I found my career in literature was severely curtailed. For example, my name came up at a Literature Festival meeting some years ago now and the head of the festival didn’t realise that one of the committee members was a friend of mine. When my name came up he said “We have enough people like that on the streets, without having them at our festival.” This is typical of my experiences with many in literature. I don’t fit their usual profile.
VIDA LOCA: How then, did you manage to make a career of writing?
JOOLZ: I think the world of literature initially viewed me as a novelty in the same way that the industry is sometimes hot for Asian writers or Irish writers or whatever happens to be the current vogue. Thankfully the people who read my work appreciate the prose rather than the novelty. I was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Literature and much of the publicity was focussed on the fact that I was a “Tattooed Biker Chick”.
VIDA LOCA: How do you deal with the people who react negatively to your tattoos?
JOOLZ: My advice to those who have a problem with visible tattoos is “Get over it!” It’s just a tattoo and part of life’s great spectral tapestry. There’s a whole heap of interesting and different experiences one can have and if your life is so straight that tattoos upset you then you need to get out a little. Go shear a sheep or visit Africa or climb a mountain. Anything! Just broaden your horizons!
VIDA LOCA: What advice would you give to those who are thinking of getting an Everlasting Job Stopper?
JOOLZ: (Laughs!) Make sure that you can work in rock and roll or as a tattooist! While ‘straight’ society is slowly and begrudgingly becoming more accepting of tattoos, I’m not sure they’re ready for an influx of everlasting job stoppers just yet. I fear that the latest batch of tattooed young people with visible ink will still have problems in the conventional employment market. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope they make a career doing something they enjoy like I have. I’d love that to be how it turns out, but I’m not confident it will.
VIDA LOCA: You’ve been a tattooist for a several years now. Do you counsel people who come to you for visible tattoos?
JOOLZ: I wouldn’t say counsel, but I do discuss their choices with them and I have refused to do some tattoos when I feel the client has not thought it through. I believe tattooists have a responsibility to their clients, particularly young people. If I think the implications of a particular tattoo are bigger than the client realises then we need to discuss that. I can’t just send them on their merry way to find out the hard way. I don’t fancy the Karma.
VIDA LOCA: Would you refuse to do an everlasting job stopper on a ‘younger’ client then?
JOOLZ: (Ponders for a while.) I wouldn’t flatly refuse to do it, but I’d need convincing that they’d thought it through.
VIDA LOCA: If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, would you still get your everlasting job stoppers?
JOOLZ: Yes, absolutely. I’m extremely resilient to being told what I can and can’t do. I’m happy with the life I’ve had, it’s been brilliant. My tattoos have been an interesting sideshow to my life, neither a hindrance nor an asset, but that’s because of the circles I move in. My tattoos didn’t really influence my life choices; I was going down this road anyhow.
*Joolz has worked with the cult rock band New Model Army for over four decades, providing artwork, management and backing vocals.