They’ve got grand designs for boosting their business.
And Liz Burns and Scott Laidlaw are also singing the praises of Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade, where they run Diamonds & Dusters, a venture combining tattooing and body piercing with a trendy independent clothing brand.
“We love Byram Arcade,” says Liz. “I have been in here seven years. When I started, there were very few units taken, but now it is always full.
“However, we could do with more publicity for the arcade, which is a beautiful building. We have monthly tenants’ meetings to discuss what’s going on and we try collectively to put on as many events as we can. For instance, we are discussing events for Freshers’ Week and we have been involved in the Festival of Light and the Food and Drink Festival.”
Diamonds & Dusters occupies premises on the second floor of the Victorian arcade alongside other “quirky” stores, including ones selling vintage clothing. Says Liz: “It’s not just regular stuff you can get on the high street.”
Liz, 30, who attended All Saints’ High School and Greenhead College, worked in the NHS for a few years before training as a body piercer and opening a studio with her former partner. The business grew into a highly reputable studio, employing eight people at its peak. Having completed advanced training, Liz also became a teacher at a training centre in Salford, Manchester.
When Liz and her partner went their separate ways, she decided to strike out on her own. “It was inevitable that I was going to set up on my own,” she says. “It was what I wanted to do.”
Scott, 36, had also been in partnership – at Slawit Ink, which also became a well-established business. When he decided to move on, Liz – who already knew Scott’s reputation as a skilled tattooist – offered him a role at Diamonds & Dusters and they joined forces. “We’ve been working together now for a few months and it is going really well,” says Liz.
The duo attend major tattooing and piercing events across the country. They will be taking part in the biggest, Tattoo Jam, which takes place in Doncaster next month. “It’s a good opportunity to look around and see what all the othe artists are doing,” says Scott. “And they are always good social events. There’s always something to inspire.”
Liz also finds such events useful. “You can see what the trends are in clothing, too,” she says.
Scott attended Colne Valley High School but was offered a place at Batley College to study graphic design before he had even left school. “I really wanted to study architecture,” he says – but for seven years he had a variety of other jobs, including working in a warehouse and making office furniture. He also worked as a technician for a firm making roof windows.
His skills as a graphic designer led to him becoming a tattoo artist. “I had won quite a few drawing competitions from an early age,” he says. “Everyone thinks that if you can draw, you can tattoo, but I know lots of people have tried and can’t do it.”
Scott enjoys the challenge tattooing presents. “There are so many things you can learn,” he says. “If you think you know it all and think you are at the highest level, you soon find out that you’re wrong! There’s always something new to learn. There are a lot of tattooists who think they are the best, so they don’t progress.”
Working with pencil, pen and ink is very different to working with tattooing equipment. “It’s a different technique,” says Scott. “Technology has also changed in terms of the equipment.” And you can’t make mistakes!
You also have to know your customers, he adds. “What you do reflects on the artist,” he says. “Certain designs on someone’s body won’t look right. While ‘tribal’ was popular for some time, a lot of people are now looking for realistic stuff and 3D tattoos.
“I also get people of all ages, mainly people aged 20 to 35, but also people aged 60-plus having their first tattoo.
“And it’s rare you see people with just one tattoo. I don’t know what it is, but people like to get tattoos.”
Says Liz: “People like the experience of coming into the shop, sitting down and chatting. By the end of the day, you’ve heard their life story! It’s like being a counsellor! Customers having a tattoo can be here anything from half and hour to seven hours, depending what it is.”
Tattooing and piercing are both painful experiences, but Liz says: “With piercing, it’s a different kind of pain. It’s more instant and before you can complain about it, the job’s done. You tend to get younger people coming in for piercings – college students and university students. It’s also one of those jobs where nothing surprises you.”
Liz and Scott adhere strictly to the rule that customers have to be 18-plus to get a tattoo and 16-plus for piercings. “We are very strict on ID,” says Liz. “We also have a booking system for tattooing – we don’t want people who are doing it on a whim and are going to regret it the next morning.”
Building up Diamons & Dusters keeps both Liz and Scott busy, When she gets the chance, Liz likes to catch up with friends and socialise with other arcade tenants. “All the guys on our floor will go out for a few drinks and the weekend after work,” she says. “It’s great to put your feet up and have a couple of drinks. She also devotes time to her dog Ruby and recently enjoyed a holiday in the Costa Brava.
Scott, who has two children, Kelsii, 17, and nine-year-old Khai, is a dedicated “drifter”. Next year, he hopes to compete in the British Drift Championships – a sport where cars are driven sideways round a track at high speed. The aim is to drive with as much speed and angle as possible while driving the line as instructed by the event judge or judges.
Scott heard about the sport while tattooing the girlfiend of a BDC champion – and became hooked.
“It’s all about having control of the car while going sideways round the track,” says Scott. “The more ‘angle’ you get, the more points you are awarded.”
Scott is working on getting his car – an RXS fitted with a 600hp BMW engine – ready to compete in the next few weeks. He says: “It’s taking up all my spare time – and money! This car will enable me to compete and build up more experience. I’m hoping to take it round the track at midnight on New Year’s Eve at the Teeside Autodrome.”
Meanwhile, Liz and Scott are on track to build on their business partnership.
Diamonds & Dusters
Work: Tattoos, piercings and ownlabel clothing
Site: Byram Arcade, Huddersfield
Phone: 01484 431145