Cardiff Character: Shaun von Sleaze

A Cardiff based tattoo artist from Keep The Faith, discusses the impact of Brexit on the tattoo industry

Shaun upstairs at his workstation in Keep The Faith

This passionate, friendly tattoo artist from Llanelli is bringing colour to the arcades.

Shaun von Sleaze has been a tattoo artist for 11 years.

Now at age 29 he is the director of tattoo shop Keep The Faith which also doubles as a barbers in Royal Arcade.

Growing up in what he describes as a dying town, Shaun moved his work to Cardiff for the broader minded spectrum of people.

After a long day, Shaun, wearing a beanie and a massive smile, with tattoos peeking out his collar and sleeves.


Starting young

He got his first tattoo at 13 on holiday and now has around 22, some covering huge areas of skin.

His career started at 18 when he undertook an apprenticeship while attending Swansea University.

Shaun appeared shocked when he said his career spanned 11 years.

But he got to where he is today through sheer hard graft.

“It’s such a cliche thing to say, but it is just hard work, I’ve done seven days a week for the past eight years” he explained.


The worst part of the job

Tattooing is not an easy job to do.

“You can hit an artistic block, which sucks, I have to draw, I want to draw, but I can’t, that has a knock on effect on confidence and eventually it leads to a spiral.” 


“You can hit an artistic block, which sucks”

Shaun doing a face tattoo for a regular client (see video below)

Working seven days a week, for Shaun, no day is the same, and it’s because the days are constantly changing that he doesn’t get bored.


Tattoo stigma

Shaun shared his thoughts on tattoo stigma in modern Wales. Evidently it’s going to change, just quite slowly, people are wary of anything ‘different’.

“There are a lot of people out there with tattoos who aren’t nice, but most of us are just people – with tattoos, I don’t get it.”

“There are a lot of people out there with tattoos who aren’t nice, but most of us are just people – with tattoos”

Whats new in the tattoo industry?

People of all ages are now getting inked.

Shaun recently tattooed a woman of 87 who wanted her first tattoo after the passing of her husband who disapproved of them.

Tattoos in the workplace are becoming more accepted too. Shaun recently gave a hand tattoo to a woman who works high up in the government.

Breaking the mould

Shaun describes how Keep The Faith is fighting masculine stereotypes.

“I don’t want anyone walking in here to think it’s a boys club, that’s why it’s all painted white,” he says.

Shaun said that none of the artists at Keep The Faith have a ‘macho man’ mindset.

They make sure to play a mixture of music to be more inclusive for customers. Shaun laughed because Taylor Swift was playing in the background.  

What does the future hold?

When asked if Brexit will affect his business, Shaun said getting guest artists over and attending tattoo conventions abroad are going to become hell.

Hoping to attend upcoming events in Sweden and Germany, Shaun says that getting visas for these in the future will possibly take extra time and money.

Shaun noted an ink he uses, Electric Ink from Spain, will become more difficult to buy because he usually imports this.

Prices will go up because products will have to be bought from UK distributors.

Shaun talked about the difficulties the shop will face as they are sponsored by a Dutch product and want to continue being so.

Although Shaun says there are plenty of times when you start out that you want to quit, because the industry can be tough and impact mental health, he tries to stay positive.

“There’s lot to be said for being bottom of the pile for some time and that’s the hard bit for the industry now because it’s hard to find people that will stick that out,” he said.

Shaun said, “It takes a lot of mental strength and you’ll find a lot with any artistic field you’ll get a lot of mental health issues.”