The Inspirations: Tattooist Mike Harris

April 11, 2012

I always loved sleeve tattoos on women, so when I finally got up the courage to get one done myself I really did my research to get the very best artist I could. Mike, and the London studio he was working in at the time, was recommended to me by a heavily inked friend when I said I was looking for a cartoony, colourful and fun design – nothing to serious, just like me I guess!

After spending 18 hours together I got to know Mike pretty well. I was surprised to find out he was so young but this along made me respect him even more. He is incredibly talented, devoted to his career and seriously inspirational. The perfect candidate for this week’s Inspirations interview if you ask me!

Mike tattooing me. You can see more photos as well as my “yeah right this doesn’t hurt” face, here Photography Credit: Al Overdrive

Hi Mike, can you introduce yourself to my readers?

Hello my name is Michael Harris I am a 25 year old Tattooer, husband-to-be and father to one amazing daughter. I have been tattooing for coming up to 5 years and I work at Churchyard Tattoo Studio in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

How and why did you get into tattooing?

I’ve been very much surrounded heavily by tattooed people since I was young. I was skateboarding at around 13 and going to hardcore punk shows around the same age. Both seem to be full of tattooed people so I was inspired by them for a long time. I’ve also been drawing all my life. Tattooing seems to be the only art form I can relate to.

What is it about tattooing that you love so much?

Just being able to do my own art everyday is amazing. I’m one of the few lucky people that make money from art. I love art in general anyway so there are a lot of reasons I love it.

Is tattooing a difficult industry to get into and do you have any advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Nowadays it is ridiculously hard to get into. More and more people are tattooing badly from home and more and more people are becoming tattooers. I believe the only real advice I’d have is to hone your drawing skills and be the best at it you can be. If you cant draw really really well then there’s no point trying. Also remember its not about money in this industry!

Who are your biggest inspirations – within the tattooing community as well as outside it?

Tattooers like Tim Hendricks, Kyle Walker and Chad Koeplinger. In terms of other inspiration I’ve always been a massive Francis Bacon fan. Also Picasso and Van Gogh. I get a lot of inspiration from my daughter Evie and my partner. They are the reason I live and I love them so much.

Skateboarding is a massive influence and I recently started surfing as well. There’s nothing like ocean to clear your mind.

What motivates you?

My family definitely, and at the minute, surfing. I work hard and long hours so I can enjoy my freedom.

How did you make the transition from working for someone else (i.e. from someone else’s studio) to running your own and do you have any advice for anyone wanting to run their own business?

Basically I’ve always been rubbish at working for other people! Maybe because I can be very unmotivated at times. The studio I am in now is still owned by someone else but he leaves me and the other artists to get on with what we want to do. He doesn’t know that much about the industry and me and the other guys seem to get things done on our own, so it;s kind of like running our own studio. It’s nice working with friends that are motivated in the same way because we all push each other really hard.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

Your family is the most important thing in the world. Work hard for them.

…and the worst?

I’ve been given a lot of rubbish advice haha! It’s hard to remember just one!

Do you feel the internet has helped your career at all? Do you worry that putting your work online might cause copycats?

The internet is the best thing ever for tattoos. People understand good tattoos a lot better because they see them all the time. Work gets ripped off left right and centre though. I don’t think I’m big time enough to get ripped off very often, although and when it does finally happen it will mean I’m doing something right!

How do you find working with people who aren’t really ‘in’ the whole tattoo scene, maybe someone that’s getting their first tattoo? Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get their first tattoo?

It can be tricky. However I often find first timers can be the easiest to work with because the know nothing and will listen. It’s people that think they understand a lot and know all the answers but really don’t have a clue that annoy the hell out of me!

I would say you should always listen and take advice when it comes to getting your first tattoo. Look at a lot of artist’s work and choose someone that does the style you like. Don’t go to n artist that is know for their black and grey work and ask for a colour portrait. Some artists will do any style of work but most artists have something they prefer or are known for. Working with the right tattooer will guarantee that you get a better tattoo if they enjoy it.

What are you most proud of to date?

That’s a really hard question/ I’ve got a lot I’m really happy with but I change my mind everyday haha! I guess I’m very lucky!

What advice would you give someone starting out in business?

Always be kind to people.

Mike works at Churchyard Tattoo Studio in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. For more info on him or his work you can drop him an email to You can also see more of his work via his facebook, tumblr and instagram.