In the 2nd of our features from London College of Communication students, Amy Clarke meets black and grey tattoo royalty at Bethnal Green ink institution Lowerider Tattoo
The buzz of the needles at Lowrider Tattoo are a welcome noise to any ink lover. Situated on Bethnal Green Road, the studio boasts four talented artists; JP, Ken Carlos, Kingsley Hayward and Lux, as well as guest artists, and is open 7 days a week, 11.30 ‘til late, which is a rarity in London meaning you can have that tattoo done straight after leaving work. Pretty cool, huh?
With the founding Lowrider Tattoo shop in Los Angeles, East Londoners and those further afield in the UK can get a taste of the talent on offer right here in Bethnal Green. With superbly detailed fine black and grey work on offer, the artists are – not surprisingly – booked up well in advance, but do still offer walk-ins if there is something available. The area itself is seeing a rise in the demand for tattoos, and shops like this are producing quality work. Tattoo artist of eight years, JP, is a looming figure with his black and grey inked muscular arms, but the confident demeanor he portrays in his swagger is down to the fact he is a professional and has produced well executed work to be proud of. “A lot of people are seeing the potential of how good a tattoo can actually look, and there’s quite a few good shops in East London too. So as long as everyone keeps pushing out the quality work, the tattoo culture around here is gonna keep growing.” But has anybody ever asked for a Bethnal Green related tattoo? “Yeah, me and Lux have both done gangster tattoos of the Kray twins. Old School Bethnal Green!”
The shop is known for its relaxed, welcoming and ‘social club’ atmosphere – from friends and people popping into the studio, to the music and films playing in the background. JP knows only too well how lucky he is to be working in such a down-to-earth tattoo shop. “To be offered a spot in a shop that’s known for its luxury black and grey tattoo style, and also to work under one of the main pioneers of this sacred art, Jose Lopez, it was pretty much a no brainer for me [to join Lowrider Tattoo]. And I get to work with some of my best friends that I’ve known for six plus years. It was literally an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Most people who enter the industry take up an apprenticeship, spending months inking on anything but real skin, but it wasn’t the same for JP and his friend and fellow tattoo artist at the shop, Carlos, who found it hard to get their feet in the door. They spent days jumping from different tattoo shops, meeting and connecting with great artists. “None of the older guys wanted us youngsters getting into the game. Ken Carlos got his first tattoo machine passed onto him from a family friend [and] he did his first tattoo on me. I did mine on him and the rest is history.”
With Bethnal Green changing all the time, with its bars, cool shopping areas and local, independent businesses so close to ‘hipster’ areas like Shoreditch, and a short tube ride away from central London, it’s nice to find an area where local support thrives from business to business. “At the end of the day we’re all like neighbours so we all look after each other. We support them, they support us. It creates a better atmosphere on Bethnal Green Road.” But have they asked for a tattoo? “Of course!” JP laughs. “Some serious, and some joke about it. It’s all love.”
Lowrider Tattoo is at 311 Bethnal Green Road
Check out their instagram here