Tattoo who… is this is a Dalston signifier?

Antoine Laine of Sang Bleu29b dalston lane 060714 e8 3df ©

A TATTOO STUDIO opening in Hackney sounds, well, tatty… hardly news. But there is much about the shop that’s just opened in Dalston Lane, that clicks with the vibe of the area.

Possibly – who can tell what fits with this still-occasionally-sleazy centre of street style? But the experience of Antoine Laine persuades him that Sang Bleu has been pitched perfectly.

Certainly, it’s more than a tatt stude, linked not just with a £70-a-copy magazine Sang Bleu (Blue Blood – who knows what happened to the “le”?) but also fashion.

© Damien
Well-armed by Damien

The inevitably tattooed and earringed Laine is eloquent on the subject.

“Tattooing is certainly popular in London,” he told Loving Dalston. “I would not say that it is more popular than ever, though.

“The idea has been discussed over the last 100 years, and I would send you back to The melodramatic nostalgia of tattoo reporting by academic tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman.”

Tattooing was once common among sailors and, happily for most of us, because it was a great indicator of whom not to trust, near-compulsory for convicts. The spread of body art has widened, as the great video song Love my life indicated.

Laine told Loving Dalston: “Body adornment through tattooing has been a common activity for longer than we like to admit. But there is an evolution, making it a more acceptable practice in its social connotation and a major movement of appropriation of tattooing by other cultural, artistic and commercial fields.”

The health aspect has often worried parents. Laine said: “Tattooing is under strict regulation and controlled by council licensing departments.

“We use inks designed for tattooing purpose only and approved by national health and safety authorities. A huge range is available nowadays: multiple brands and suppliers.

“There is no compulsory trade body dictating professional standards, which is the very reason tattooing is such an interesting and powerful practice. It is not regulated and formatted.” 

Sang Bleu aims to be more than just a tattoo studio, said Laine, who sees it as the “spatial expression” of a project started 10 years ago – an open space for tattooing, offices for production of Sang Bleu and headquarters for  fashion designer Cottweiler and wall space for visual artists.

Californian note (the Eagles) by Sang Bleu regular Philip Yarnell

As for needleists, Laine said: “Our team is composed of resident artists MXM/Maxime Buchi, Philip Yarnell, Mimi and Damien, who have worked in top European studios.

“We also have a network of tattooists to guest with us, including Kenji Alucky from Japan, Norm from Hawaii, Dan Smith from California and Scott Campbell from New York, among others).

“The mix of truly incredible artists and the multimedia value of the space is what makes Sang Bleu London a unique studio in my opinion.”

The magazine was started by Buchi, who is still the publisher. It mixes tattooing, fashion, fine arts, body modification, fetish, photography and essays.

He said: “Publication of the print versions is irregular but the digital SB runs daily features.”

Back to skin-scratching. “Tattooing, said Laine, “is an entity that is not separate from you. It becomes you. It will go through the same evolution and decay as its bearer.

“People from all kinds of backgrounds can do it with any type of approach matching any type of clientele. Let us hope it stays this way.”

David Altheer 080714

* Sang Bleu, 29b Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3DF (020 8616 0840)

* Picture at top: Antoine Laine at Sang Bleu

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