While she took her clothes off, naturally, It is always best to listen to the tattoo artist because they know how body shapes work,” reflects Arabella Drummond, Britain’s most alluring ink expert. At loaded we’ve always prided ourselves on our understanding of the subtle nuances of body shapes, so naturally we are mortally offended when she suggests that we actually haven’t a clue. Yet when Arabella offers to be our teacher, we’re keen to endure a little extra tuition.
By way of our first lesson, she proudly talks us through the first inky daubing to grace her skin – a tiny outline of a heart. You can still see it just below her knicker line if you take the time to stare long enough at these pictures. It was given to her in a dodgy parlour in South London at the tender age of 14. “I’ve always loved tattoos and I’ve never done anything by halves,” she tellsloaded. “I woke up and got it in my mind that I wanted one. I didn’t look 18 but the place wasn’t a reputable establishment!”
Having such an enviable canvas to work on would have seen Michelangelo raise his game. We don’t need the Sistine Chapel though. The freezing drafts whistling through the crumbling doss house we’ve hired for the shoot won’t prevent Arabella showing off her art, and she is keen to talk about the tat on her arm. “I came up with the idea for the characters on the sleeve and the artist had an input too,” she says. “That’s always the best way to do it.”
But in keeping with the grown-up line of debate, we at loaded set out to debunk the biggest myth of them all. Are inked ladies really filthy in bed? “I’m not sure whether girls with tattoos are filthier,” Arabella replies after a lengthy pause before giggling, “Maybe.”
She may only be 25, but she’s wise. Arabella recalls when the tattoo world inhabited seedy backstreets, before the days when everyone from Cheryl Cole to the Prime Minister’s better half Sam Cameron joined the tat club.
Arabella – who also works for the Cirque du Soir and performed with Will.i.am – tells loaded that her portfolio of tats also gains generous feedback from her legions of female admirers. “There’s always the worry that I’m going to do too much or be off-putting for readers. But I always get a positive reaction, especially from girls. People still say the most ridiculous things to me about tattoos. It’s usually older people telling me, ‘What are you going to do when you’re 60?’ I definitely won’t give a shit when I’m that age. Besides, it doesn’t matter what they say because they’ll all be dead when I get to that age anyway,” she laughs. She has a point.
may contain nuts
Searching for more answers, we went to hardcore tattoo artist Lal Hardy for another view on the wonderful world of ink. This guy has designed for the likes of Dave Grohl, Liam Gallagher, Mackenzie Crook, The Saturdays, and Aaron Lennon in his prestigious North London parlour, New Wave Tattoo.
Having been in the industry for almost 40 years, Lal’s seen it all. “The weirdest request I’ve ever had was a guy that wanted his scrotum tattooed with ‘May contain nuts’ which I didn’t do,” he tellsloaded without so much as a pause. “I never, ever, go near penises, never have and never will. I don’t have to be interfering with men to make my living. The only time I’ve tattooed genitals was a very, very close friend who got a Latin word tattooed on her private area. But if I tell you the word, you’d probably know them…” He’s probably right.
Ok, so genitals are a no no, any other forbidden requests? “I’ve had people come in for things that are definitely not appropriate. Sometimes their design just isn’t right. What they ask for, you just know they would regret, hence why we don’t do facial, political, racist or offensive tats.” So while we can’t get a picture of Ann Widdecombe naked, if we could just get him to design a tat of Arabella, maybe she’ll give us another lesson.