Opening a business in the place where he grew up was a dream for Ashley Inkz who turned his love of body art in to a reality and opened his own studio.
What’s even more inspiring is that Ashley jokingly admits he can’t ‘draw’ not even a ’stick man’ but that didn’t stop his ambition to open Addicted 2 Inkz – tattoo and piercing studio.
Ashely pays the bills through his 9-5 job as a gas engineer and relies on the talents of his four artists to run the studio day to day.
Now among the Brigstock Road based studio’s growing clientele are premier league football players, musicians, including rappers from America who make a special pilgrimage to Thornton Heath to get a tattoo designed by Ashley’s award winning team.
All business is through ‘word of mouth’ or Addicted 2Inkz instagram account which shows off a stunning array of designs and has almost 25,000 followers.
Clients who have had tattoos include CPFC winger Wilfried Zaha, who recently got a head tattoo and former Palace ace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka who now plays for Manchester Utd.
Both Wilf and Aaron grew up in Croydon as did rapper Konan, of Krept and Konan, who is in the process of having a design worked on . When Aaron wasn’t able to get to the studio he invited Addicted 2 Inkz team to his home in Manchester.
Ashley, said: ”I was 20-years-old and developed a bit of a passion for body art work and tattooing and used to go to a tattooist in Sydenham. I was going there and kind of in my head thinking about running and owning my own shop.It was my long term goal to do that by the time I was 30.”
In 2018 that goal came true when while still only 29, added Ashley: “Thornton Heath is somewhere where I grew up and have lived since I was a very young child. I grew up seeing every day the shops on the High Street and I guess in a sense I wanted to have my first business in the area I came from. I really enjoy having a business in the local area. I feel comfortable in my back yard.”
American rapper Pop Smoke, with an Instagram following of 2.7million, visited the shop twice on the last occasion just a week before he was tragically shot dead in a suspected robbery in LA.
Ashley admits this year has been a ‘tough one’ and Covid has placed extra pressure on this fledgling business. During lockdown Ashley didn’t get a rent break and he admits ‘it’s been lot’ but this hasn’t stopped him looking to the future and offering opportunities and apprenticeships to the younger generation so they can learn the craft or work in the reception area.
Ashley is keen to diversify and the studio offers piercing and vape products. He is also helps other entrepreneurs; with a room rented to a gold tooth maker and a space for a barber, rent free, until he builds up his client base.
He has been working with a fostering agency and has been able to give a young man with autism the chance to work in the shop and the experience has transformed him.
Ashley, whose body is fully covered in art said: “Thats what it’s all about providing a service. That’s what I try and drill in to the artists as long as the customer is happy so am I.”
For Ashley his favourite tattoos feature the names of children and he says that most people tattoos represent something ‘meaningful’ or a ‘life’ experience’.
He has plans to expand but says he wants the first and only Addicted 2 Inkz in London to be in his home town of Thornton Heath. In the meantime he is having a new leg sleeve designed which is likely to take six hours to complete and as for the pain he says: “Part of the whole experience is you have to feel a little bit of pain!”
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