We have never featured a tattoo artist in LSD’s pages before, but when we were tipped off about David Corden by a supremely proud wearer of his art who was overjoyed at having something quite so breathtaking to distract from the walking catastrophe that is the rest of him, we we were so dumbstruck by the vibrancy, the detail, the love and the visual dynamism of his work that we got straight in touch with him.
How did you get your start in tattooing?
It was by pure chance really as I wasn’t looking to be a tattoo artist. I had done a design that I wanted as a tattoo and after asking around to see who was the best artist for the job I found myself in Jim Gambells chair. We got along famously and he asked to see my portfolio and after he did he offered me an apprenticeship.
How difficult is it to judge skin as a medium when you are used to drawing on paper?
At the beginning of your career it is pretty difficult. Paper is consistent whereas skin types vary greatly. The age of the skin, the body part, and a persons health all contribute to how the ink will go into flesh . It takes a while before you have encountered every skin type, and you have to work on each enough times to see how you need to change your technique in order to do the job at hand. One of the biggest difficulties is the fact that flesh moves and on top of that people cough, sneeze and answer phones without telling you...it’s all pretty challenging!
Can you give us a brief insight into how technique and art come together in a tattoo – how a tattoo actually works
There are general rules that are held to be true in order to make ink go into flesh correctly. You have to stretch the skin with one hand in order to keep the skin as tight as possible so that the needle will penetrate the flesh. If you don’t do this the skin will give under the pressure and the needle will bounce and make your lines go all over the place. Once your machine is set up you dip the tip into the ink and when you press the foot pedal the machine will start making the needle pass in and out of the tip dragging ink as it moves. When applied to skin the needle will push any ink that passes in front of it into the flesh. Whether or not you want to specialise in realism or more graphic type work will influence your technique a great deal, what works for one artist may not work for you
How much of a responsibility is permanence?
It is the most important part of the job. We turn a lot of people away or advise them against making a bad mistake with their choice of tattoo. We have a book in the studio called ‘I wish I had listened to you’. It has been filled in by people who have come to regret tattoos they had, in most cases they are boyfriends or girlfriends names or tattoos done on the cheap by someone with an ebay kit. We will not do necks or hands on anyone if it is their first tattoo as they need to have lived with ink first in order to know the seriousness of their choices and we won’t do it if they are under 21 anyway. You change so much as a person in your younger years and tattoos are so fashionable at the moment that everyone wants to be covered as quickly as possible. We don’t do joke tattoos or cartoon characters either, if it’s not artistic then we are not interested
Laymen have this image of getting a tattoo immediately on a whim. How much thought, debate and preparation really go into each commission?
The artists in our studio are booking up to 6 months in advance. We ask to meet each client first and for them to bring any research they have done with them. We go over ideas and take notes in order to produce a design that is both original and unique to them. We will not copy someone else’s work and it will take at least a couple of months for a design. We are not machines, ideas come when they are ready to and we are up to all hours making them come to life. We take our jobs very seriously and want every tattoo to be our best. Work doesn’t stop when the studio closes, we lose a lot of sleep. Inspiration can come from anything and at any time, if a client has a problem waiting then they can go somewhere else.