This week’s Art of the Craft is about a fantastically talented man and all around gentleman – Stephen Kennedy, owner and tattoo artist at Galway Bay Tattoo on Dominick Street. I’ve known Steve for a few years now. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to him as he worked on my tattoos. In fact by my count we’ve sat beside each other for something in the vicinity of 45 hours and still have a few more to go. And yet despite all this time together it was only when I was chatting to Steve during taking these photos that I got a real sense of how he got to where he is now.
Anyone who knows Steve will know what an absolutely nice guy he is to be around. His enthusiasm and love of what he does exudes from him when working and carries across into other aspects in his personality. He’s a great lover of music and its impossible to leave a session with him without learning about some new band and a list of albums to listen to. My musical education has been broadened significantly thanks to Steve.
Steve started his career in his native Australia as an apprentice at age 23 in a studio in Ballarat. This is a small gold mining town about an hour from Melbourne. If you go to see him for a tattoo I’d recommend asking him all about it, he can tell you some great stories about his time there and the characters around. He spent 10 years there as a tattoo artist. During this time he worked with a colleague from Bangor. This prompted him to make a trip to Belfast to see what it was like.
Steve enjoyed the trip enough that he decided to come back and do a 3 month work visa. It was then that he met Nancy, his future wife, co-owner of Galway Bay Tattoo and fellow artist. Nancy and Steve then worked and travelled together in a lot of different countries and studios. Back to Australia, next Edinburgh and then Canada. But Steve felt that Ireland was the place they could make a go of having their own studio. They made a trip to Galway to see what the scene was like here and Steve tells of how he knew it would be the right place for them .
They visited the studios that were already operating in Galway and found them very supportive and a great sense of community spirit. In fact, the original plan had been to work elsewhere for a few months to get some money together. However Steve was overwhelmed by a generous offer from Sean at Inkfingers Tattoo to work in their studio until they were ready to open so that they could familiarise themselves with the Galway scene. This sense of camraderie between them and the other local studios has continued to this day. I’ve often been in Galway Bay Tattoo and heard Steve refer potential clients to other studios as he felt they might be a better match for what they were looking for.
The guys opened initially on Lower Fairhill Rd where Pearla Na Mara is now located, before making their move to their current premises on Dominick Street. Here you can find them open 6 days a week and always with a warm welcome. Nancy and Steve have a great approach to what they do. The studio is kept impeccably clean at all times and is also a wonderful showcase of artwork as well as a tattoo studio. In fact they’re great supporters of local artists such as Daire Lynch whose wonderful Day of The Dead painting can be seen in the photos. The fact that Steve is constantly booked out 3 months ahead of time is a testament to his abilities and the loyalty of his clientele. The development of his skills over time means that he is exceptionally skilled at portrait work. But he also feels that due to his diverse client base he has broadened his skill set to include skills in other areas too.
One aspect of Steve’s workflow that makes him unique is his use of custom handmade machines by his colleague Dmitri. Dmitri is another artist in the studio and in his spare time he makes these beautiful one off machines in the guise of Red Shamrock Handmade Tattoo Machines. Theres just something about them as you can see for yourself in the photos. Once Dmitri made one for Steve he made the switch completely to using only his machines and has quite the collection now. He says that the feel of the machines just works better for him and he likes the authenticity of them as well as the customisability. To top it off if Steve is busy, Dmitri is an excellent artist as well. Calm, quiet and concise he’s a great man for first timers who may be nervous about getting their own ink.
I’m not the first to do a feature on the guys. Check out this video “In Skin” to see a feature on them. If you fancy getting your own tattoo you can call the guys on 091528897, message them on Facebook or see their stuff on Instagram. For Steves own Instagram you can go here. Just remember to be well ahead of time as they are always extremely busy.
You can also see all the previous Art of The Craft installments here
If you’re interested in this project or know someone who would be a good candidate to have their skills showcased please contact me on [email protected] or call me on 0867279638. For general enquiries or prices for photography packages feel free to get in touch as well or use the contact form.