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Johnny Skovbo; Danish “Old Timers” Vol. 3

Johnny Skovbo; Danish “Old Timers” Vol. 3
September 25
11:54 2017

Johnny Skovbo – Fyns Tattoo Corner

Johnny Skovbo is 51 years old today and he started out his career  27 years ago back in 1990, where he began in a shop called Fyn’s Biker Corner, which he later took over and has owned ever since. Although, he did later end up changing the name a couple of times, finally ending up with Fyns Tattoo Corner.

Johnny Himself.

Getting Started With Tattooing:

Johnny had a bit of a peculiar entrance into the world of tattooing. Originally he drew comics and such. Especially commissioned pornographic comics, for rich guys who couldn’t find their peculiar fetishes in any porn back then. Then he saw a friend of his who was tattooing and he kind of looked at his work, and thought to himself: “I can do better than that”. Then he bought some equipment and started experimenting and practicing on friends. After a year’s training, he got a call from the guy who would later become his master. That is the short version of how he went from fetish cartoonist to biker tattoo artist.

However when he got the call back in the day, it was because of his rising popularity on his own. It had not gone unnoticed in the biker community at the time. So when he got the call that day, he packed all his equipment to take it with him, said goodbye to his then girlfriend and her child. Because, as Johnny puts is while roaring with laughter “I didn’t know I was going to be offered an apprenticeship, I thought some bikers were going to beat the life out of me, for creeping in on their turf”.

But luckily that was not the case and Johnny’s career as a tattoo artist, kind of began on that day, 27 years ago.

The Tough Old Days:

Johnny had grown up in a very rough neighbourhood and area of a city in Denmark called Odense, so he was used to being around rough people and tough guys. So he got along fine as an apprentice and tattoo artist in the biker community.

But when he looks back at the 90, he does think of it in a somewhat bad light. With everything being rougher and tougher back then. Especially the stress that came, with being the only shop on the whole island of Fyn (one of the larger Danish islands). It was nonstop, people couldn’t go anywhere else for tattoos and he couldn’t tell people to go somewhere else, if it wasn’t a style he felt he was good at. Because they had nowhere else to go.

Sometimes he had to work from 10 in the morning till midnight tattooing, in order to fit in all the customers, because there would always be delays, because there was so many customers.
He actually had to close up the shop for 14 days, someday after he had taken it over. Because he had to rethink, how they were going to go about their business, in order to minimize the stress.
But they managed to restructure everything and have a fresh new start, and everything worked out and he fell back in love with tattooing. So he has had 27, mostly good years, as he puts it with a chuckle.

Looking Back With A Grin:

But he was actually very joyful and happy, when more shops started opening up all over the place, as it took a lot of the stress of his shoulders and made the work more manageable. Not that he ended up having no business, far from it, he just had a much more manageable amount.

But as he puts it with a laugh “the only good thing about the 90’s was the money, I got so tired of the stress and all the tribals I had to do on people”, as well as being tired of the closed off nature of the business in those days. A thing which Johnny thinks has improved a lot more today, with people sharing ideas and experiences which each other. Plus when people want a tribal today, it is not some biker dude tribal, it is often much more unique, inspired by the Maori or Samoans.

The New Age Of Tattooing:

There is just a whole lot more nuance to the industry and the tattoos you get to do today. Indeed, there are still a lot of trends that pop of and fashion tattoos. For example a lot of people want black and grey realism today. But it is as if every shop and artist, has their own specialty to some extent. Something they are experts in. So even though it can be a bit of a downer, how many artists there are today and how easy, some business guy can open up a tattoo shop and hire some artists, just to earn some money. There are still a lot more nuance and creativity today.

But it is tiring, how guys that just do it as an easy money business venture. Go and create a lot of price pushing and competition on prices. Instead of the industry, just being about the art and people going to the artist who can do the tattoo they want just the way they want it. Some people today, sadly just hunt cheap prices and bargains for their tattoos. Instead of looking for the best guy for the job.

It is almost like there are two kinds of customers today, the ones that go bargain hunting, and the ones that look for the perfect artist for the job, because it is all  about getting the perfect tattoo, prices be damned.

Creativity and Originality are The Best:

But he is mainly pleased with how things are today. There is nothing like the feeling, when a customer comes in with a good idea, and you get to put your own spin on it as a tattoo artist.
There are far too many people, that come in and just want something others have already. Or They want something from a drawing done, exactly as it is on the drawing.

But because of how it is today, you have to be open minded and not let things get to you. So Johnny’s limits for what he will not do, have shifted a bit. Though, he refuses to tattoo hateful tattoos or copying anyone else’s work. those he will never do.

He has nothing against all the tiny fashion tattoos, of birds, inverted crosses and you name it, that people want done today. That is just how things are now and in the end it is still money.

A New Tattoo Culture:

But he chuckles a bit at how the culture has changed quite a bit. Especially at how some tattoo collectors, almost seem to be even more tattooed than the artists are today. “You almost can’t tell who is the artist and who is the customer anymore, when you visit tattoo conventions”, as he says once again laughing to himself.

Though to Johnny, this has nothing to do with the level of acceptance towards tattoos having changed. He still believes the acceptance is the same as it has always been, in the provinces and outskirts of Denmark, a lot of people still dislike tattoos. The same conservative people as 27 years ago, still dislike tattoos. However, he does believe that in the big cities, people love tattoos and accept them, more than ever. Perhaps, also in other countries, like certain parts of the US and even in Sweden. But all in all, it is the same type of people loving tattoos and the same type of people hating tattoos, as it has always been, as he sees it.

Good Hygiene Makes Great Business:

But one of the things he, especially as a former board member of DTL (Danish Tattoo Guild), thinks is an amazing improvement. Is how much artists care about hygiene and safety when tattooing today. As well as all the information that is readily available to help both them and clients. The whole industry has become a lot more safe and open.
Both things are very good for business in the long run.

The artist don’t just know how to keep their equipment clean etc. They also know why it is important and what the risks are. They know more about the inks and hygiene today, than ever before. And the industry continues to learn more and to make it safer, which is awesome. As safety helps improve business.

The Age of Women:

Another change, which to some extent, both fascinates and amuses Johnny. Is that a lot more girls than ever before are getting tattooed. They even get big tattoos, not just small and dainty ones.
However, it is a shame that alongside this new trend, the boys have stopped getting tattooed as much. Not that all of them have stopped but as Johnny puts it; “ More often than not today, a couple will come in, she will be tattooed and want a new big piece to her collection, and the boyfriend will have not a single tattoo on him. Sometimes I ask him if he wouldn’t want some work done? But they all say that they would never want to be tattooed and it is not for them”. So it is a bit of a shame, Johnny thinks, to lose half of a whole generation.

Thinking Ahead After 27 Years in The Business:

But life goes on and business is still good. Though, he is not entirely sure what he wants to have happen, after 27 years in the business now. Business is slowing down a bit for him lately. After having moved his shop to a street, which sadly then got closed off a bit. So the public can’t get to his shop that easily.
So he contemplates perhaps dialling back the tattooing a bit, perhaps finding a side gig so he can do both part time.

However, one thing is clear to Johnny, as long as he is able to tattoo, he would never stop tattooing all together. Finding a side gig, is merely because of money.  Also, for now, the business is still running well enough, that he does not need to find a side gig.

Final Comments and gallery:

Although he finds it funny, that a lot of his customers, are older than him and good friends. They have been tattooed by him for many years, and now they come to him going “Johnny, I can’t be arsed to get another tattoo now, I am too old”. Whereas Johnny himself, is getting loads of new tattoos lately. He is filling in spaces around his body that he feels are missing some ink.

Though he warns all us youngsters out there who love tattoos, it does not hurt less with age!

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About Author

Mads

Mads

Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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