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Where Do You Go? with Charlotte Meddings
The tattooist tells us about hand poking, icy waters and being named after a London street
Every now and again we like to ask people for their personal take on London. We get them to tell us the places in the city that they turn to for different reasons: the spots that excite them, inspire them, make them feel calm, happy or just make them want to spend money. We call it ‘Where do you go?’
For June’s edition of WDYG? we spoke to Charlotte (above) a tattoo artist based in South East London. Charlotte talked to us about the therapeutic act of being inked, tattooing her parents, Norwood’s mini-Hampstead Heath and Brixton’s best roof terrace.
P.S. You can find all the previous editions of WDYG? right here.
Who are you?
My name is Charlotte. I am a hand poke tattoo artist and owner of SorryMum London, a private tattoo studio in West Norwood, London.
Why should we trust you?
I was born in Fitzrovia, just off Charlotte Street (hence the name!), so I’m a Londoner through and through.
I travelled around a bit when I was younger and finally settled in West Norwood. I’ve been here for about 18 years. At first West Norwood seemed like the middle of nowhere but now I love its village feel and you have lots of great surrounding areas.
You haven’t been a tattooist for that long though have you? You came to it though quite a circuitous route.
I studied Fine Art at Coventry University and always wanted to be an artist but it’s a tough industry. I was also interested in art therapy so around ten years ago I got a job as the manager of Studio Upstairs, the art therapy center in Dalston.
I organised the exhibitions of the artwork that was being created there. Then I pivoted into doing PR and marketing in art and antiques, and started working for Rosebery’s auction house in West Norwood. Which I loved, but I wanted to do something different, so I started working with children with special needs. I only got to do that for a couple of months and then Covid happened. So, I started drawing again. Tattooing just naturally progressed out of that.
You must have been interested in tattooing before lockdown though!
Oh yes, it’s always been an artform I’ve been interested in. I was planning to do an apprenticeship, but when Covid happened I just started learning how by doing it from home. I practiced on myself a lot and did a lot of drawings and illustrations.
When lockdown started to lift, I started roping in friends to experiment on! So far everyone is happy.
Can you explain hand poke tattooing to us?
It’s the same needles that are in a tattoo gun, but instead of a machine doing it, I’m poking each ink dot into the skin by hand. I like it because it feels like a more natural extension of pen and ink drawing; just on skin rather than paper.
It’s more gentle, less invasive on the skin and you don't have the buzzing noise of the machine so in all a much more relaxing experience.
In the last ten years or so, the industry has changed quite a lot. Handpoke has become more popular and I think there’s a more diverse set of people coming into the industry in new ways. There’s lots of different styles and it’s exciting to see what people are doing.
We’re assuming it takes longer as well. You must enjoy the people element of what you do?
Yes, I have to really, because I might spend three hours with somebody to do a medium-sized piece. It’s an art and therapy session! It can be very tiring, but I enjoy it. Being at my home studio and having one person at a time - it’s ideal.
I love meeting new people and hearing their back stories as to why they've chosen a particular design.
Do you want to grow your studio though?
I would eventually like to move into a space on the high street and maybe have one more tattooist. Maybe a piercer a well? But, at the same time, I want to keep this very calm, relaxed environment.
Hand poke tattoos can be relaxing! I put music on, give people a CBD drink if they want one, and encourage them share stories or simply sit back and relax. I’ve had people fall asleep on me!
Tattoos can be therapeutic and transformative. There’s a powerful alchemy in tattooing that turns the ink into a sacred symbol for the wearer and that is something that is at the heart of my work.
Favourite tattoos you’ve done so far?
My dad, who is 70, had no tattoos. Now he’s like my number one customer! Every time he comes to stay, he gets a new one.
In fact, my mum got one last week as well. That was really cute.
Okay, on to the usual questions… Where do you go to have a great time?
A hidden gem for me is the members club The Upstairs, Brixton (below) on the top floor of the old department store. It has a great atmosphere, food and drinks plus loads of cool events and a stunning roof terrace that on a sunny day literally feels like you're in the clouds!
Would definitely recommend it if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Brixton high street.
Where do you go to cheer yourself up?
My studio. I honestly love meeting new people, hearing their stories and creating tattoos for them. I can easily lose hours in that space. Any niggling thoughts I might have just evaporate once I start work and whilst tattooing is intense in terms of concentration; I wouldn't change it for the world.
It's a genuine pleasure to do this work so you can’t help but feel cheerful afterwards.
Where do you go that's within walking distance of your house?
I like to take a walk up to The Rookery, a formal walled garden at the top of Streatham Common. It’s very peaceful and absolutely stunning in the summer. The white garden is a particularly favourite section.
Then we’ll walk over to Norwood Grove and take in the views. It’s a bit like a miniature Hampstead Heath and I love that it’s within walking distance.
Where do you go when you can afford it?
Sketch on Conduit Street. I love the interiors, the atmosphere and the fact that the building has such a rich history. The Royal Institute of British Architects used to have their headquarters there [fun fact: the bronze doors at their Portland Place building have a picture of the Conduit Street building on them - ed]. Before that it was the home of the suffragette movement, and at some point it was the London studio of Christian Dior.
You can really feel the creativity in the walls. It’s a magical place and always such a treat to go there.
Where do you go if you want to switch off?
My favourite place to go to switch off is Brockwell Lido for cold water swimming. I can walk from my house through the park.
I prefer the colder months when the pool is nearly empty. The clarity you get from a short dip in icy waters is incredible. The blue of the water and the focus on the movement of swimming is like a meditation, I love it.
Where do you go to get inspired?
Ever since I was a little girl my parents would regularly take me to the V&A. The sheer volume of items there is mind blowing and I was always and still am obsessed with the jewellery room.
I can happily spend the whole day there on my own. It might not be an obvious choice to get inspiration as a tattoo artist but I often leave feeling refreshed and bursting with new ideas.
Where do you go to think?
I’ll head to my studio (again!) It's such a peaceful space. I have tunes on, I’m surrounded by little trinkets that have meaning for me and lovely artwork on the walls.
When I’m not with clients I can work on designs and my drawing practice. It's also a great space for me to plan out my week and work on my side project of creating a one-day therapeutic retreat that combines healing, creativity and tattooing.
Follow Charlotte on Instagram.
Get in touch with her about getting a tattoo using this form.
5 little bits
Harrow Council has launched a new public space protection order (PSPO) consultation, which is what a council has to do when it wants to introduce new rules to “tackle anti-social behaviour’ in their area. Except Harrow’s consultation includes a PSPO for Pinner Memorial Park to stop “particular issues” with duck feeding. In short, they want to fine people £100 for feeding the ducks, because “not only can this be harmful to ducks and contaminate the water, it can also attract vermin.”
Around a year ago transport secretary Grant Shapps blocked TfL’s plans to build 351 new homes (40% of which would be affordable homes) on a car park at Cockfosters Underground station because he thought it would make parking at the station “inadequate”. Then it was reported that the government had been asked to ‘call in’ the scheme, which could have meant a public inquiry into the plans. But last week the government decided not to ‘call in’ the council’s approval of the scheme. This is good news for the developers and council, but still means they have to find a way around the former transport secretary’s veto.
The British Museum has finally ended its 27-year-long sponsorship deal with BP. According to papers seen by the Guardian, “there are no other contracts or agreements in effect between the museum and BP” and this marks “the almost complete retreat of the fossil fuel giant from the British arts world” (BP still funds the Science Museum’s educational academy).
The Met has released a statement regarding last week’s ‘raid’ on the Autonomous Winter homeless shelter in Shadwell. The statement says that as well as the property being “illegally occupied” they had also “received a number of complaints from local residents about anti-social behaviour linked to the property”. As for why they needed around 100 officers there, that was “because of the lack of engagement from those inside it was difficult to know how many people were present, so we had to prepare accordingly. No one was arrested.”
Alexander McQueen’s childhood home in Newham is going to get a blue plaque at the end of the month.
A couple of bonus links, 1) because they’re paywalled; and 2) for sending out the Roundup on the wrong day! First, the Telegraph has gone into arguably far too much detail about the effect Ted Lasso is having on Richmond; and second The Times looks at the why “Istanbul’s monied elite are buying up elite postcodes in London”.