We’re always on the look out for inspirational people in their craft. A few months back we covered Nasir Sobhani, a barber who provides the homeless with a free haircut and a shave, but, more importantly, human interaction and companionship.
We love to search for new stories, new people who truly love what they do; people who produce things with a passion and a purpose. Now, after hearing about another legend in their field, we’ve chosen to cover Doc Price, the oldest tattoo artist in the world.
We first heard about Mr Price through Sunlife’s ‘Welcome to life after 50’ series whereby they introduce us to a number over 50’s putting old on hold and making the world a better place.
Doc first took an interest in tattoos from a young age when he met a former sailor with a butterfly tattoo on his hand. He was memorised by the butterfly tattoo and the process to transcribe the art onto the skin. Soon after Doc got a tattoo of his own by a gentleman called Billy Knight in Cardiff. This first tattoo was at the age of fourteen and it was dedicated to his mum. Recalling this monumental event, Doc lightheartedly reminisced that ‘if you went home to mum with a tattoo and it didn’t say mum, you’re in trouble.’
With a keen interest firmly established Doc eventually embarked on a career within the industry channeling his superb creative talents. In 1954 he initially set up a tattoo business in South Wales after a successful few years he decided to showcase his skills on the other side of the world and in 1967 he flew out to Sydney. In Sydney Price broadened his creative spectrum, meeting artists such as Tony Coen, owner of The Illustrated Man Tattoo Studio but Doc was always hungry for more.
Following his stint in Sydney Mr Price set out on a new adventure to spend some time in Japan. He had a great interest in Japanese tattooing and martial arts. Whilst studying Japanese tattooing with tattoo master Caso Orgori, he also learnt kendo, judo, aikido and even represented Australia in 1969 in the World Kendo Championships. Years later, at the age of 75, Doc again participated in the Japanese Kendo World Championships and came first in this age group… To this day Japanese culture and tattooing has a special place in his heart.
These days Price is back in good old Blighty. After taking time to explore the world, the world’s oldest tattooist is still going strong in Plymouth where he opened Doc Price & Bill Price Tattooing back in 1970. Having just turned 85 Doc’s style and imagination are still as sharp as ever favouring free-hand technique rather than modern day artist stencils.
As the godfather of the tattooing world he’s watched the industry grow and flourish. His passion for his art is still clear to see as he discusses how the industry has evolved to where it is today:
‘Young people are dressing themselves to the world today – and it is just fabulous… The quality is enormously good and the versatility is wonderful. It has gone from being something interesting to being something very important to people.’
Doc’s take on life is something that really strikes a chord with us here at OTC. His style is refreshingly original in a world where true creativity is hard to find. Price doesn’t want to create copies of copies of copies like some modern artists do. Most of his work is freehand ensuring originality.
‘You don’t want to do 12,00 of the same thing… You want to do it for them and them alone.’