Shall Adore Tattoo Parlour’s Francis Merlyn Doody talks to The Resident about the ‘hand poking’ method of tattooing and the Golden Years of bodyart…
Like most of us London grafters, body artist Francis Merlyn Doody runs on caffeine. Although when I offered to bring him a cup from one of Shoreditch’s many hipster coffee spots, he politely declined, because he’s particular about everything, from his coffee to his tattoo handiwork. The finite detail in his work can’t really be achieved with a mechanical tattoo needle, and even some of the most talented artists couldn’t produce such feather light perfection without any do-overs.
Doody’s Instagram profile boasts a mythical, other-worldly aesthetic that he creates using a technique called ‘hand poking’ or ‘stick n poke’, whereby the artist uses a hand-held needle, attached to a chopstick for better grip, and a pot of black ink to create magical designs.
Born in Wales, Francis Merlyn Doody originally trained as an actor and then dabbled in music, travelling the UK’s festival circuit with his band. It was his sister, a tattooist, who first piqued his interest in body art, and though he’d always enjoyed doodling and drawing bits and pieces here and there, he’d never considered it as a career. Once he gave it a serious go, he was sold and it’s the Instagram profile of seasoned artist Tati Compton that first gave him the confidence to go free hand.
‘It’s not at all that any one technique is better than the other, it’s personal to each tattoo artist,’ explains Doody. ‘It just so happened that the hand poking method sat well with me. It allows me to create spherical and geometric shapes almost perfectly. The fine lines and marks are much more difficult to create using a mechanical needle.
‘My sister introduced me to tattooing as a medium and I’ve just always been around very heavily tattooed people. My ex-wife had an entire sleeve done by hand without any machines, it was fascinating to watch.’
It’s not at all that any one technique is better than the other, it’s personal to each tattoo artist. It just so happened that the hand poking method sat well with me. It allows me to create spherical and geometric shapes almost perfectly
Doody doesn’t feel influenced by any particular time period, culture or religion: ‘I’m not very traditional at all,’ he says. ‘I’m more influenced by music and artists. Jimi Hendrix is one of the few people I can listen to and it feels like I’m listening to an old friend.’
Instead, Doody points out that every medium has experienced a Golden Age, from the rise of the classicists when it comes to music to ethereal style Michael Angelo types of the Renaissance period, yet the time for body art to come into its own is here and now.
The industry has evolved from the cliché tribal patterns, Chinese symbols and big religious gestures into a platform for tasteful, elegant art, from minimalist intellectual creations to the floral work of European body artists that is almost indistinguishable from real flowers.
‘There has never been so much experimentation and innovation in the tattoo industry as there is today,’ explains Doody thoughtfully. ‘I feel like I have found a secret back door to a way of life not many people will ever discover.’
There has never been so much experimentation and innovation in the tattoo industry as there is today
Shall Adore Tattoo Parlour – owned by cool chick Silvia Zed (think Lara Croft meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is all distressed sofas with plush burnt-orange velvet pouffes set against dark flooring. The fascinating art of Ramon Maiden – prints of 20s flapper girls with intricate tattoo patterns drawn onto their skin – lines the walls and the shelves of the gothic, ornate cabinets.
‘Shall Adore in particular is so mystical and opulent, but at the same time it carries a very inclusive and inviting feel, without that intimidating vibe so many tattoo studios often have,’ says Doody.
Doody says that tattoo art is a form a self-discovery, and with the ancient form of storytelling getting more creative, diaphanous and exquisite, I guess we all have a lot to learn from the Golden Age of body art…
11a Kingsland Road E2 8AA; shalladoretattoo.com
Find Francis Merlyn Doody on Instagram