The compassionate art of tatts

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SINCE offering free reconstructive nipple tattoos to breast cancer survivors, Peter “Bones” Bone, owner of Tatts On, Tatts Off in Gungahlin, says he’s been humbled by the response.

Peter Bones
Peter “Bones” Bone… “We will turn people away – we have a strong moral compass and we don’t want to be responsible for destroying someone’s life.” Photo by Andrew Finch

“We get people coming in who have had mastectomies and I wanted to be able to help in some way,” he says.
“I thought we’d try offering nipple tattoos for free – it’s our time and a bit of ink, but it means so much.
“Plastic surgeons with a cosmetic tattooist usually offer the service and it can cost thousands of dollars, but I think we can do a better job.
“It’s usually me that does them now, I seem to have a knack for it.”
Bones says that about 45 women have had the tattoos since they started offering the service in October.
“The feedback we’ve had is that people are very thankful. It seems to give closure in a lot of cases, too,” he says.
Bones says he’s been tattooing on and off for 20 years, having started while he was in the Navy.
“I was always artistic and tattooing became my way to express that,” he says.
“I still make art, but not as much as I’d like because of the workload here – you really have to live and breathe tattooing.”
Bones says he left the military after 19 years when tattooing started to take over.
“When I joined the navy and people found out I knew how to tattoo, it grew and I started a private studio,” he says.
“I found I was able to do what I really wanted to do as opposed to what I needed to do.”
Although Bones says he had intended to run a small boutique studio, demand and popularity meant the business grew to what it is today.
“I’m an old-school tattooist, and we care about the community impression here. We will turn people away – we have a strong moral compass and we don’t want to be responsible for destroying someone’s life,” he says.
“We make sure that the ‘office-worker sleeve’ doesn’t show any tattoos at the wrist, it’s all about playing the game.”
Tattoo regrets are often names, ex-partners, tattoos on the hands or face or those with gang affiliations, Bones says, and that they do about 50/50 tattoo removals and cover-ups.
He says tattooing is about the story people have and their personal expression of that.
“Having said that, tattoos don’t have to mean anything,” he says.
“I like humorous tattoos and I’m happy to let the guys here practice on me if I’ve got a gap anywhere, so I can see how they’re progressing.”
With six tattooists at Tatts On, Tatts Off, and body piercing also available, Bones says tattooing is still the most popular.
“I think we appeal because we have that squeaky-clean image, we’re independent and we cater to normal people.”

Tatts On, Tatts Off, 73 Anthony Rolfe Avenue, Gungahlin. Visit or call 6242 4679

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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