Megan McMillan and Sean McKinney have exciting plans for the future of the industry in Derry.
Sean lived in Africa, America and England before moving back to his hometown to begin a new chapter in his life. Megan is the artist behind the studio’s colourful designs, and Sean is the local business brain.
“Megan is fantastic,” said Sean.
“She does the very best colour tattoos like realism and portraiture. Every piece we do is totally unique and custom designed. We also offer a free touch-up on every piece.
“Megan’s apprenticeship in England was really bad. She had a lot of struggles and troubles particularly because she is a woman.
“We’ve come here and started a paid apprenticeship. As far as we are aware it is the first one in Derry and the north west who pays tattoo apprenticeships.
“We want to do that to raise the standard of entry to inspire new artists and creative people to come join the trade and to raise the standard and culture across the north west.”
Megan has been a tattooist for 12 years and says “tattooing is all she knows”. Originally from England, the tattoo artist moved to Ireland with Sean in December 2021.
“We met through Tinder, and we haven’t stopped seeing each other since,” she said.
One of the first things I said to him was ‘I am not looking for anything serious!’ but Sean and I are just meant to be.”
In terms of what clients want, demand in Derry is quite “traditional”, says Megan.
“It is really strange moving here; the industry is like 20 years ago, and it’s going back in time. I did a bit of tribal the other day, and I haven’t done that since I was like 17 years old,” she says.
“I love revamping work, I love covering and fixing tattoos. Anything that people are uncomfortable with, I will try my hardest to make them like it. I recently covered a lumpectomy scar on a woman’s chest.
“One thing I am good at is art, there has to be another generation. I’m still only 30, so I want to be able to pass on my knowledge.
“I want to do more interesting things really, and push the boat out as much as I can.”
Amethyst Tattoo Studio has three artists currently based at the studio on Blucher street in the Bogside. Megan is the head artist, Maighread McKelvey is apprentice, and Latvian born Sandija Selegovica is a junior artist. Sean believes the pandemic has taught people lessons in life.
“We are coming out the other end,” said Sean.
“People have got a new normal. The pandemic taught us a lot of lessons, which is good. This is just the start of it. Brand new businesses and more people pulling through. If you’re capable of doing something for someone else, then you are capable of doing it for yourself.
“We want to put a shout out to any creators, painters, artists, nail technicians and beauticians. Anybody who wants to come and work and enter the industry; send us a message. If we can’t help, then we will point you in the right direction.”
Rachel Sheerin, a customer at Amethyst Studio, recently got a memorial tattoo on her back. She feels there is a need for more female tattooists in Derry.
“I love the environment and how welcoming the studio is,” said Rachel.
“It is a beautiful space. I feel comfortable here and it’s so relaxing. Megan’s voice is really soothing, and I think girls in Derry would be more comfortable coming to a woman for a tattoo.”
The art of tattooing can be traced back to ancient civilisations like the Mayans. Women and men of that time designed tattoos depicting shapes of the gods, different animals and spiritual symbols. In the Mayan world ‘Acat’ was a Goddess for tattoos.
The Maya people believed Acat blessed the ink, needles, and the hands of the artists who drew tattoos.
Megan believes tattoos help with people’s mental and physical health.
“When people are getting a tattoo, I would like them to really think about it, and not just get the most popular or generic thing,” she said.
“I just want people to do their research and really think about getting something that’s really meaningful to them. Quality over quantity. We are generally passionate about tattooing.
“There is so much going on in the world, there’s not a lot people do for themselves anymore. Tattoos are a form of expression.”
Amethyst Tattoo Studio is located at 16 Blucher street and is open: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. To book a slot please message the crew at www.facebook.com/amethystattoostudioderry or on Instagram at: @amethysttattoostudioderry.