New beginnings: interview with tattooist Daniel Potter

Daniel Potter 2

He’s been looking forward to sharing this one for a while. Inkluded’s Sam interviews apprentice Daniel Potter…

With a talent seemingly only matched by his modesty and down-to-earth attitude, Daniel Potter has been making quite the impression since he began his apprentice at Cobra Club Tattoo in Leeds in October of last year.

Having had the pleasure of being tattooed by him, it’s easy to see why; his passion for creating unique designs and thirst to learn new techniques and skills are as easy to see as the glasses on his face. Daniel joined me for a chat and a pint to tell me how he ended up walking away from the 9-5 and starting again.

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Starting your apprenticeship at 32 seems to make you a relative latecomer to the party. What where you doing before starting at Cobra Club?

I’d been working in retail and retail management, most recently in a call centre in Sheffield selling home broadband. The sort of jobs where you always have targets to meet and someone looking over your shoulder, monitoring your movements and actions.

I guess I’d become stuck in a rut, I had a job and could pay the bills, but there wasn’t a great deal of enjoyment to be had from going to work!

What was it that prompted the change in career path then?

Well I’d moved from Leeds to Sheffield due to a relationship I was in at the time, unfortunately it didn’t work out and all of a sudden found myself in a new city and a new job feeling increasingly isolated and to be honest, depressed with the whole work/life situation.

I’d always enjoyed drawing and at one time drew on a regular basis, so I made a conscious decision to get back into it. It was, at the time, purely a way to break up the repetitive nature that my lifestyle was taking on. I would set myself targets, like to do a new picture every night for the week and then give myself Sunday off!

It wasn’t until I started bringing my drawings back to Leeds and showing them round that the thought that it could translate into a career as a tattooist really took hold.

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Your currently at Cobra Club in Headingley, how did you end up there, back in Leeds?

I was planning on moving back to Leeds anyway, so I started coming back at weekends and bringing my artwork with me, by this point I had nearly a year’s worth of drawings. In the past I had had a mindset that art was either good or bad, it wasn’t until later that I recognised it as being subjective, so it was hard for me to accurately critique my own work as I regularly thought it was bad!

With that in mind I started taking examples into the tattoo shops around Leeds and was pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback I was getting, along with some constructive criticism, it was all helpful stuff!

I’d previously met Luke (Luke Downing) in a non-tattoo related job some years back and was aware of what he was doing at Cobra Club, so I arranged to go along to the shop with some work. I met him and Mick (Mick Miller) and left the studio having arranged to do an art swap with Mick. When I returned the next week, he offered me the apprenticeship!

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When you first started tattooing did you have a particular style or look in mind for your designs?

If I had to give it a style, I’d probably go with bold traditional-Americano, but to be honest I’m not representing any particular style. I like bright colours combined with a lot of shading to produce something really ‘punchy’! It’s all still very much a work in progress… I’m learning new styles and techniques constantly, so I’m just happy and fortunate that people want my work.

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Are there any artists who have inspired you along the way?

In terms of inspiring of me to do better, work harder it would be Steve Byrne and Simon Hook (Dr Inkwells). I have tattoos from both and seeing what guys like that can achieve really pushed me to improve my drawings right at the beginning! Simon is a really good friend of mine as well and has always been a great inspiration.

Did you go straight into the apprenticeship?

Well I started at the studio in October 2014 whilst I was still working in the call centre (I’d gotten a transfer back to Leeds) so I was only there a couple of days out of the week.

It got to a point where I realised I wanted to be in the studio all the time, not just my spare time and that coupled with the fact that I’d kind of reached my limit with the 9-5 office life, lead me to pretty much walking out of my job.

I went straight to the studio and basically said to Mick “I’m available whenever you need me”. And that was that, from then on I was a full-time apprentice!

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What was the first tattoo you did?

It was a black and grey claw on Mick, like an eagle’s claw. It was part of a trade with him; he still hasn’t done his half of the trade!

If you could tattoo anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you give them?

It would have to be done on Arnold Schwarzenegger and it would be a portrait of Sylvester Stallone! I’m a big fan of the ’80s action movie, they just don’t make films like that anymore. Although I’d have to get the pair and give Sly his own Arnie portrait as well!

Is there any part of you that regrets not coming into tattooing at an earlier stage of your life?

I don’t regret not doing it earlier, but I do think where I might’ve been now if I’d done it 10 or so years ago. Probably not at the level I’m at now; those extra years work experience and growing up have given me a level head and good work ethic, waiting has kind of worked in my favour.

And lastly, if you could go back and choose again, would you pick being a tattoo apprentice or a sorcerer’s apprentice?

Definitely a sorcerer’s apprentice! I could make myself invisible and rob banks, plus I could just use magic to do tattoos, someone would tell me what they wanted and PUFF there it is!

Daniel Potter

Words: Sam Berry
Photography: Daniel Potter

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