Everlasting Job Stoppers.
Does a visible tattoo mean the end of a career as we know it? Tony Jones speaks to three tattoo fans about getting ink above the collar and below the cuff. The final frontier!
Joolz Denby has been a professional writer of poetry and fiction, a spoken-word artist, illustrative artist and photographer for around thirty years. She’s been a matriarchal figure in the UK tattoo world since the early eighties and is now a tattooist herself.
TONY: 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.
TONY: 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.
TONY: 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.
TONY: 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”.
TONY: 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!
TONY: 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! Whilst “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 of it.
TONY: You’ve been a tattooist for a few 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. I’m a 53 year old woman so perhaps I have an overdeveloped sense of maternal responsibility. I know I was very changeable when I was young. I was only as good as the last book I’d read! I’m sure that the present rebellious generation is no different. 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.
TONY: 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.
TONY: 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 world that I live in. Rock and Roll has protected me from the worst of the prejudices and even my move into literature has been from a Rock and Roll base camp. My tattoos didn’t really influence my life choices; I was going down this road anyhow.
I think if I’m honest I’d concede that my life may have been a little easier if I’d not had my Everlasting Job Stoppers, but it probably wouldn’t have been as much fun. Who wants an easy life anyway? The idea of not getting the visible ones done would have been a compromise of myself and that’s something I’m not prepared to do.
Dr C. is a Consultant Psychiatrist in a London hospital and has several coverable tattoos. She’s currently considering an Everlasting Job Stopper on her hand.
TONY: I know from your job title and our conversations that you’re at quite a senior level in your profession. Are there many tattooed folk in your professional peer group?
Dr. C: At my current workplace there are colleagues with tattoos, but none visible at work. Within my specific doctor peer group of those mid 40s and above I would not expect to find many with tattoos, but I could be surprised! Interestingly, like most things, once there has been some disclosure then more people are happy to reveal their tattoos.
As a doctor I have a responsibility to my patients, colleagues and the general public. I have reached the top rung of my career ladder and could potentially remain in my current post, as a hospital Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in drug addiction, until I retire. This does mean that I don’t need to worry much about career progression, but I still worry about being viewed negatively.
TONY: What tattoos do you have at the moment and are they visible to the people you work with?
Dr. C: I have 4 tattoos currently. The two on my forearms are visible when I wear short sleeves but I choose not to display them to my colleagues and patients. I have almost exclusively shown them to those who I know enjoy tattoos.
TONY: Having decided to have your hand tattooed, what are you getting and by whom?
Dr. C: I am awaiting a draft design and am very keen to see this before I make the journey to Barcelona. Jondix is the artist and the studio LTW (Love the World). I visited the shop last year having being given his name and viewed his website. I was impressed by the portfolio and people who work there.
TONY: Given the amount of available skin you have, why are you so compelled to get such a visible piece?
Dr. C: I have been fascinated by hand and neck tattoos for some time. Jondix has an incredible portfolio, a spiritual angle and a history of tattooing on hands. They are symbolic tattoos, in black, with extraordinary designs and geometric patterns.
I have always had a mild ‘rebel without a cause’ desire to shock, but paradoxically would not want to upset anyone. The latter becomes more profound as I get older. Of course I want people to see and admire a tattoo on my hand, but at work I want to maintain some anonymity and be judged only on my clinical skills i.e. my ability to treat patients in a compassionate and helpful manner. My worry is that people invest too many values and negativity into tattoos.
TONY: How do you think your employers and colleagues will react and are you concerned at all?
Dr. C: The closer it gets to my tattoo the more real my concerns become. As a doctor I am here to listen to others and treat them well. I do not want to distract from that focus and my current thinking is that I will wear a tubigrip on my hand whilst at work. It may be that I just do that when working with patients and not in the management side of my role.
TONY: If you foresee any negative reactions, how do you think you will address them?
Dr. C: In my altruistic way of thinking I would like to get colleagues to challenge their own attitudes. What is so upsetting about a piece of inoffensive and potentially beautiful artwork on the body? Henna tattoos for cultural reasons do not raise such negative views to my knowledge. Is it the permanence? Is it the historical memory that tattoos are only held by those viewed negatively by society and seen to be of a lower social class? Who knows?
TONY: How do you reconcile the risks with the rewards?
Dr. C: It is something that is personally very important to me. It will be the imagery I focus on when under pressure, when looking to relax and clear my head and something I would hope to be proud of.
TONY: Do you think an EJS will be an issue should you ever apply for work elsewhere?
Dr. C: I think it would influence people, albeit unspoken. I have to admit I would probably cover up my hand for any interviews. I do currently hide the tattoos on my forearm. I would now never wear short sleeves at work. Thankfully I am not working in general medicine where short sleeves are viewed as a way of reducing the spread of infection.
Claire is an I.T Project manager at a University in the North of England and has tribal tattoo work on her neck and head.
TONY: When did you get your Everlasting Job Stopper?
Claire: I’m thirty-five now and I had it done about 15 years ago so I’d have been twenty.
TONY: Did you realise the implications of having a visible tattoo.
Claire: In a way, yes I did because in those days I had long hair and so it was easy to cover. Also I’m fond of oriental style suits with high necks which do a good job of hiding it too. It’s easier to cover up than you’d expect and the small piece on my arm is often more visible.
TONY: Your outfit and hairstyle today do nothing to cover it now though.
Claire: That’s right; I don’t think I should have to cover it. Admittedly I had them covered when I was interviewed and didn’t really start showing them at work until relatively recently. By then I had my feet under the table and having proven I’m good at my job I expect to be appraised on that alone. I think it is wise to play it safe in an interview but I’m at liberty to show my tattoos if I like now.
TONY: How’s that working out for you?
Claire: Just fine thanks, both my main job at the University and in my other job as a fitness professional it hasn’t caused me many problems at all. In fact my tattoos have become a bit of a trademark. People know me and remember me by them. I think they’re an asset.
TONY: So, no problems at all then?
Claire: I have found that some people are initially judgemental but they soon get over it. It was sometimes an issue at my son’s school; some of the other mums were wary of me at first. When word got out that I was a fitness professional some of the wary mums plucked up courage to ask me for advice.
TONY: It’s good to know that an Everlasting Job Stopper hasn’t been anything of the sort for you.
Claire: No, not in the slightest. I think the design and the location help enormously in that respect. I don’t suppose a tattoo on the face would have been so easy to get away with. I think the culture in the places I have worked has been excellent and there has been very little negativity. Many of the people I work with at the university have tattoos too.
TONY: As a mother, what advice would you give your son about tattoos.
Claire: He’s only eleven at the moment but he has spoken to me about getting tattooed when he’s older. He’s talked about getting work on his arms and I’m quite impressed with his choices! If he decided to have work done on his hands or face I’d advise him to think very carefully about it as people will judge you whether you like it or not. If he really wanted an Everlasting Job Stopper then I’d be supportive so long as he had considered the consequences. It would probably be a good idea for him to speak to someone with tattoos on their face for a first hand account.
TONY: Do you think that your tattoos have shaped your life or decisions at all?
Claire: In some ways they have. For example, my tattoos lead directly to me getting work as a model and as an extra in films. I was in Hackers and Judge Dredd if you look really closely. Catwalk and photographic modelling was great fun and I even worked with Jean Paul Gaultier at one point. All of this was a direct result of having this tattoo. It has opened up a whole new world of experiences.
Whilst researching this article I came across a story about the ultimate Everlasting Job Stopper tattoo. Apparently, a group of anarchist/anti capitalist protesters each has a thick black cross tattooed across their faces. The tattoo represents their wish to un-subscribe from poplar capitalist culture as it renders them essentially unemployable. Despite extensive research I have been unable to find any concrete evidence of such a tattoo and as yet the story retains the characteristics of an urban myth.
I’d be grateful if any readers can help with first hand information or contacts. If you can help then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Skin Deep Magazine 2009