Get a Mental Health Tattoo
Tattoo legend and all round lovely bloke Jack Watts, aka 'Tattoos for your Enemies' created a new sheet of tattoo designs to mark #worldmentalhealthday – The Book of Man spoke to the artist around his motivations and reasons for this great initiative.
Jack, how long have you been doing these tattoos now?
I’ve been doing it for the last four years, I’ve used the same sheet of designs for three of those, but this year I painted a new sheet. I used to just do it on the one day but there was a lot of people who weren’t able to make it down so now I just tattoo them all year round. I don’t mind tattooing the same thing over and over.
This year I wasn’t able to work for five months, I couldn’t tattoo at all, so I did a lot of painting and I thought it was a good time for me to reset and think of some new ideas for new designs on a new sheet. I always try and aim it for a day that is mental health related rather than just a random day.
When you first started doing it, what gave you the inspiration?
I think tattooing is almost like a therapy and I think people get a lot of positivity out of going to get a tattoo. I personally struggled with my mental health over the years, so I’ve naturally had an association and attachment to that subject and I just wanted to bring the two together. I wanted to be able to create designs that would inspire positivity and conversation as well and be able to tattoo those on people who were perhaps struggling or had struggled or just wanted to have a positive message on them. I was trying to bridge the gap between tattooing and mental health and bring it together. Do something that would help. And I think when I’m actually doing it, people definitely get something from it.
Do you feel that people open up to you when they’re in the ‘chair’?
Definitely. You’re spending a good chunk of time with someone, even if it’s a smallish design, you’re still going to spend about an hour with them and people do tend to feel like they can open up with tattoo artists. You generally get really good conversations with people. Some people don’t want to talk, which I get but when they do it flows nicely, and people open up about a lot of stuff. People tell me stuff they don’t even tell their friends, and I don’t know where that comes from…but I don’t mind at all.
Do any of those conversations inspire the art?
I think it must do. I do think those conversations certainly re-enforce the ideas that I have. When I’m tattooing those designs on people and they’re telling me how they feel and that the design is going to help them in some way, that definitely makes me want to keep doing it because I feel like it is helping.
Could you talk us through a few of your tattoo designs?
Cards on the table
This one is the cards on the table, to say I’m not Ok. Its ok to say you’re not Ok is the point of that. I was trying to create designs that weren’t too specific but that would convey the message, that people would feel happy having on them.
This tattoo, the Snoopy looking dog without writing - is open to interpretation, but the idea that meditation is a big help for a lot of people struggling – I’ve definitely found that myself.
This one I’ve tattooed twice today already – the idea of no surrender and maintaining focus and helping your mind.
Eye Can Do IT
This one is the Eye Can do it tattoo – I’ve got a similar design on my hand and it’s a reminder that things can get better.
How many have you got yourself?
Haha I’ve lost count, I’ve completely lost count. I sometimes forget I’ve been tattooed by someone. I’m 31 now and I got my first tattoo when I was 18 and I was getting them consistently like all the time. So no idea.
Is there any right way to get your tattoo done? Full sleeve in one go or lots over time?
No I don’t think there is. People work differently and people like to get them in different ways. People come to me for one or two pieces and then go to someone else. I don’t tend to do big piece work it depends on the style of what someone does. With Japanese styles for instance you’re going to go to one person. I like both ways. Personally myself I like collecting, I like to get a lots of different ones of a load of people. But I totally get why someone would want to go to the same person.
And what was your first one?
Ha! My first one was a ghetto blaster, but its being removed and it meant absolutely nothing. I was 18 and I thought, what can I get and it just sprang into my head. And it wasn’t what I’d had done that made me remove it. It was just done SO badly. I knew even at 18 that it was bad.
As its World Mental Health day you’re giving all the proceeds of today to charity, what’s the charity you’re supporting?
It has changed each year, but this year it’s to the Frank Bruno foundation. My dad suffered with depression when I was a kid and I remember watching him go through it and not really understanding what that was until I got a bit older. I don’t think he really understood what it was when he first went through it, but as I got older he told me he wrote a letter to Frank Bruno as he was one of the first people openly talking about his mental health and depression and how bad that was. The stigma is getting less, but at that time you just didn’t talk about it – it wasn’t even recognised as a thing. So I’ve watched him build his foundation and I was always a fan of him as the boxer as well. So it was natural this year to give the money to the Frank Bruno foundation.
I love Frank Bruno…
I think he’s inspired so much conversation just him alone because it’s one thing me talking about it, but someone in the public eye who at the time was one of the greatest boxers in the world, to then come and say ‘I’m actually not doing alright’ and its to do with my mental health rather than my physical health. Mental health isn’t tangible you cant see it. If he broke his arm most people would probably understand the pain of that even if I haven’t done it myself but because it was mental it can be hard for some people to relate to that. He made it relatable. Now you can see multiple people who have influence talking openly about it. Particularly in sport. He’s inspirational.
Have you tattooed anyone in the public eye?
I’ve tattooed people in bands a LOT. Music and tattoos go hand in hand and Sang Bleu has a high profile so you get a lot of musicians in here. It attracts them!
You can donate directly to the Frank Bruno Foundation here
You can book an appointment at Sang Bleu here
Follow Jack for all his updates here @tattoosforyourenemies
Or check out his bio –
Credits: Josh Moore, Talent and Photography Lawless Studios
Lawless Studio is a community of artists and creators, leaning specifically towards tattoo and street art disciplines. They work with brands to level up projects, communications and campaigns with tattoo and graffiti art, and reach over 750k people through their artist’s combined social channels.
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