A tattoo artist has shared issues many businesses in East Lancashire are experiencing as a result of the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

James Monnery, owner of Tattoo Heaven, has been located in New Chapel Street, Blackburn for almost 14 years.

After building a loyal client base, business unfortunately slowed down for James after the pandemic, when bookings were put on pause, and then the cost of living crisis saw the cost of energy bills soar.

While post-pandemic the crisis hasn’t affected footfall at the moment, James’s energy bills have quadrupled, and Covid-19 caused the cost of PPE to triple.

James said: “Electricity is a big problem, it’s gone absolutely stupid so that’s hit us quite hard and the studio sanitation bill has gone up.

"We’re lucky because we’re sponsored for needles and inks but that’s not the case for everyone.

“Covid shot the prices of gloves and hazardous waste materials through the roof, and they just kept them there afterwards, they never went back down.

“We used to pay £3 for a box of gloves, now it’s £15, it’s ridiculous.

“On top of all that, you get people prioritising price over quality and people are resorting to going to houses to get tattoos done illegally just to save money.

"But in the end, we end up having to fix or cover them up so you’re paying twice. And you can’t get a cover up on hepatitis.

“While that’s always been an issue, we see it a lot more now than ever before.”

James says he has been inundated with cover ups, with around four bookings a week being with clients who are hoping to fix a botched tattoo.

He added: “It isn’t just tattoo businesses that are dealing with this either.

"My partner has a hairdressing salon and people are cutting their own hair to save money but then coming to her when it goes wrong. It’s across the board.

“The problem for us is, tattoos are a luxury item, not essential.

"If you’ve got bills to pay, then you cancel your tattoo appointment or just don’t turn up, so that’s the main issue, the cancellations.”

James shared that despite his shop offering reasonable prices, particularly compared to tattoo artists down south and even elsewhere in East Lancashire, a lot of people are unable to afford the pieces they actually want.

He said: “We have regular customers asking for the price of a very large, intricate piece and when we quote it, immediately coming back with a smaller tattoo and less quality.”

James Ford has run Giant Peach Tattoo Studio in Accrington for 17 years and believes that some artists may be feeling the pinch because they’re overcharging.

He said: “Most tattooists are people who overvalue their abilities and charge a fortune for something that could be done for a more reasonable cost by someone with a lot less ego.

“The self employed who can charge whatever they choose for work are not the ones affected by any change to the cost of living.

"As long as the fashion of tattoos continues, then it’s the people paying for the work who are likely to be further affected by any rising cost of living crisis.”

Fern, a 24-year-old from Burnley, says she has been waiting four years to get a tattoo in memory of her grandma but hasn’t been able to because of struggles with money.

She said: “I’ve been meaning to get one for ages but I’ve put off booking for so long because if I need to cancel then I’ll lose my deposit which is money that I’ll need.

"It’s not a necessity obviously it’s depressing that this is the case.”