By Rebecca Alaise (PhD Candidate, Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies)

Housed in Lloyd Street’s Fabric Building, Flesh Tattoo is poised to draw inspiration from all that Mancunian culture has to offer. Specialising in realism, dotwork, illustrative, blackwork, Kawaii and traditional tattoo styles, the ten-strong team at Flesh Tattoo welcomes all customers.

Flesh tattoo sign

With its location between John Ryland’s Library and Manchester Town Hall, the tattooists and customers of Flesh Tattoo have been taking in some of Manchester’s best gothic architecture on their way to and from the studio since it opened nine years ago. The idea to open a tattoo studio near Spinningfields came about because it seemed time to spread Manchester’s fantastic tattoo artistry beyond its traditional Northern Quarter hub. Location means a lot here and not just because of all the awe-inspiring structures that surround the Victorian era building that the studio is in. Proximity to Deansgate and St Peter’s Square means that a variety of customers have an easy base for new tattoo work, whether it’s a simple tattoo they can pop in for after work or a full day sitting they can plan the design for in a lunch-break consultation with an artist. According to team member, Becky:

“We wanted to create a space where people that might not know loads about the tattoo process could get information from really talented and creative tattooists while not being at all intimidated by their surroundings. Getting a tattoo can seem daunting enough as it is, so it was a huge priority to make sure that the open plan studio seemed like a laid-back place where people could still get really professional advice. It’s great that we found this amazing Victorian building to have the studio in and then had the freedom to design this wide-open, super-hygienic workspace within it. 


While the main aim of Flesh Tattoo is for customers to have a great experience and a custom tattoo that will stand the test of time, the atmosphere of the studio is thanks to the talent and diversity of the team that work there. Tattoo artists from various parts of Manchester, Italy and Greece bring a variety of artistic outlooks to the designs they create. For decades, tattoo studios have offered an environment in which things once deemed as ‘counter-culture’ are actually just the norm. Flesh has a friendly, creative atmosphere where the whole team appreciate that no two customers are alike. And at Flesh, customer enquiries about custom tattoo designs that may seem a little niche in their subject matter are met with total enthusiasm. Whether it’s an homage to some rare anime or an obscure band, there are few things the team enjoy more than creating original designs that might also speak to their own tastes in art, film, literature and music. At Flesh the tattooists create designs based on themes so diverse that no two days are the same and there is rarely a dull moment. 

Tattooist at Flesh

“There aren’t many things that the people working here won’t be into. We’ve got a receptionist who’s interested in Sci-fi and classical mythology and an urban explorer who’s worked her way into most of Manchester’s underground passages. It’s good because if customers are feeling a bit nervous and want to chat to distract themselves there is always something the team will be excited to discuss. The list of stuff that the team are into in here reflects the wide mix of things that the people of Manchester get excited about. We have poker enthusiasts, Doctor Who superfans, musicians, true crime buffs, Pokémon card traders, loads of cat lovers, a boxer, weird food fanatics, and obviously everyone’s into finding new ways to create and present their art.”

Whatever the theme or inspiration for a tattoo might be, the overall style of the tattoo is just as important. This is why Rosie, the receptionist at Flesh, recommends having a look at the different artists’ styles on social media and the online galleries before sending over tattoo ideas, as most customers find they’re naturally drawn to specific artists for certain pieces.  


With popular culture references still a mainstay of tattoo production, one theme that unifies most of the team is an enthusiasm for horror and the gothic in all its forms. The artists are always excited by opportunities to conjure Manchester’s ‘murkier’ side by creating designs of lore and legend as well as more direct representations of popular horror. Sharing horror film recommendations and upcoming cinema releases with customers is seen as a perk of the job, and the high number of horror-informed customers that come into the studio means that the team are never far from a new source of spookiness.                                       

Tattoo artist Holly, who has been part of the Flesh team since 2018 when she joined as a junior artist, has an illustrative style ideally suited to evoking the aesthetic temperaments of nineteenth-century artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Rackham; a style tinged by the gothic and other-worldly. Tattoo designs with a gothic edge are a year-round staple at the studio, whether that tone comes through a specific design theme or the signature style of the tattoo artist, but as Autumn falls on Manchester the spooky vibes of an impending Halloween are always welcomed. The annual Flesh Halloween window display is always a talking point for businesses and pedestrians on Lloyd Street. Whether it’s a fully decked out bleeding Zombie bride or a screeching horror dragon called Priscilla, the last weeks of October are a special time when the studio can channel its gothic sensibilities.

Tattooist at Flesh giving a tattoo

The ‘horror’ tattoos created at Flesh show the diversity of the genre. Italian tattoo artist, Klod remembers being commissioned to produce a Nicolas Cage portrait after a customer was feeling enthusiastic about the film 2018 revenge horror film, Mandy. Looking through Klod’s catalogue of work one can see that the subjects of portrait tattoos are wide-ranging, including both high energy celebrity studies and portraits of customers’ individual family members.

While most of the tattoos produced at the studio are custom creations designed to a client’s specifications, traditional holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and (following tattoo industry tradition) Friday the 13th, offer the tattoo artists an ideal occasion to create one-off flash pieces. Flash refers to pre-drawn, ready-to-go tattoo designs that represent the individual style of a tattoo artist through a specific theme that they’re keen to translate onto someone’s skin. Offering flash designs on social media is a great way for training or junior tattooists to advertise their distinctive style and get new customers interested in their work.

Flesh has always been keen to encourage budding artists at the start of their journey to become fully-fledged tattooists. For the Flesh team it’s a real point of pride when someone who started an apprenticeship ends the years of cleaning, learning and answering the phones and starts tattooing real life customers. Recently, the team has been excited that their apprentice in training, Cooper Blue has been able to start tattooing. Delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that thwarted most creative industries in 2020, Cooper is relieved to finally be getting her designs onto actual flesh.

“I’ve wanted to be a tattoo artist since I was a teenager in Cumbria so after years of drawing it’s like a dream come true that I’m finally tattooing my stuff on people. It’s hard to pin down a specific theme that I’m interested in because I’m into all sorts, but my style is definitely all about pop culture, Kawaii and my interpretations of horror. Being at a studio in this part of Manchester is perfect. It’s a great City because of all the different types of clientele and getting to make designs for people from different walks of life. One of my favourite things I’ve designed so far is a gothic anime piece that a customer has commissioned for their leg, I’m thrilled to finally get it on them”

Planning a tattoo at Flesh

Drawing up custom designs while still offering distinctive flash creations at a reduced rate means that junior tattoo artists like Cooper can really let their imaginations run wild when it comes to a chosen theme. In lockdown last year Cooper was inspired to make some flash designs based on Manchester hauntings. Her interpretations of the Cathedral area’s Black Shuck (a ghostly dog) and the screaming skull of Wardley Hall are emblematic of the studio’s local past. Cumbria born Cooper’s Manchester-themed designs show how the history of the City, with its gothic architecture, hidden alleyways and obsession with the ‘unseen’ has become an ideal backdrop for the tattooists’ artistic imagination.

While the studio itself can’t boast of any on site spookiness (yet) its proximity to some of Manchester’s most thought-provoking historical sites adds some intrigue. The Alexandra Buildings (now called Fabric) were erected in the late 1800s on the site of St Peter’s Field. It was here that the tragic events of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, in which eighteen people were killed by a cavalry charge, occurred. According to blackwork and traditional artist, Hanna, who has been tattooing at Flesh for almost 4 years after starting her apprenticeship in the studio:

“I’ve always been obsessed with history; Time Team and Tony Robinson in particular, so it was actually a bit of a shock to realise I’d been working on a street that was built over St Peter’s Field. I remember reading about people trying to escape to the grounds of the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street where some of them actually had their injuries treated. It’s still kind of odd to see that old boundary wall at the back when I’m on my way to work and think about all the momentous things that have happened around here.”

Being in the Flesh Tattoo Studio you definitely get a sense of the strange contrast between the area’s history and the atmosphere of a modern studio space where hygiene and the technical advancements in tattoo creation are at the fore. Despite being housed in a Victorian building Flesh is actually one of the few City Centre tattoo studios that offers full disabled access through a separate entrance on Queens Street.

Tattooing at Flesh

“When we set up the studio it was important to us that we could welcome anyone that wanted to get a tattoo, so the fact that we had wheelchair access here was more than a bonus, it was imperative. The whole ethos of Flesh is that it doesn’t matter how old you are (as long as you’re over eighteen of course) what music you’re into or whatever, we just want people to be well informed before they get a tattoo so they’re confident about the process and can have the most fun possible while they’re actually in here being tattooed with us.

Whatever creative endeavours lie in wait for the artistic team at Flesh Tattoo, the sense of Manchester’s remarkable history will be a force that continues to seep into the studio’s artistic output. As well as Cooper, Hanna, Holly and Klod, whose work is featured above, there is also Anggi (@five_knives_tattoo), Bekki (@lunalana), Louis (@stammerink) and Tasos ( Most of Flesh’s tattooists currently have a waiting list of two to three months, but they’re always happy to discuss designs, arrange design consultations and give quotes for future bookings. If you would like to enquire about a tattoo at Flesh Tattoo feel free to send an email outlining your basic design ideas to