Reverend Simon White, The Holy Roller
I was born in Redditch, England in 1964, but my life of wandering started early, when my family emigrated to Johannesburg, ZA in 1976.
Reverend Simon White, The Holy Roller
- The boring stuff: formal education
I was born in Redditch, England in 1964, but my life of wandering started early, when my family emigrated to Johannesburg, ZA in 1976. I like to think of myself as a gifted child: I hated most of school which didn’t challenge me, but loved art, technical drawing and woodwork which allowed me to use my hands and explore my creativity. I developed a reputation amongst my friends as the resident 'artist', and was coerced into doing a few “hand poked” tattoos. Unbeknownst to me this was my first foray into a lifetime in the business. I knew I wanted to follow my creativity after school, and attended the Johannesburg Art Foundation, where I spent a year learning different art techniques. I followed this with studies in EMS, mechanical engineering and then civil engineering drafting while working for Jeffares and Green. After that I worked at The Drawing Office, as a technical illustrator, and worked on a workshop manual for Transnet, detailing train under-carriages exploded views and part listings, as well as mechanical detailing and service manuals for various engineers. To round off my academic exploration I did a National Diploma in Interior Design at Witwatersrand (Wits) Tech, where I focused on architectural construction and detailing. Little did I know where my first tattoo, obtained during a trip to London from “Bugs” in Camden town would lead… But I wasn't ready yet. I spent a couple of years working for various architects and interior designers, refining my construction methods and project management skills. I moved to Cape Town, but couldn’t find a job in architecture, so I worked as a waiter at one of the city's best ‘ethnic’ restaurants, where I spent the next few years in the kitchen after the grill chef took a sabbatical.
- The REAL formative years: a tale of trial and error, determination, and good luck (for some!)
But all this time I was continually drawing and painting for pleasure, and for a bit of profit. Some friends were getting tattooed and looked to my help with designs. I wasn't happy with the crude work commercially on offer for my own designs, nor with the existing artists' lack of skill in translating my designs into passable tattoos. With my background in design, and my dedication to detail I was sure I could learn to do better, and scouted around for apprenticeship. But I was given the cold shoulder by most of the old school guys, who guarded their trade jealously. I was a bit disillusioned and considered giving up, but then met “Permanent Mark” and got my third tattoo. The bug bit hard, and I focused again! But how to get equipment? As luck would have it, “PM” broke his arm in a bike accident (well, lucky for me, if not for him). He still needed to pay the rent so he parted with some basic equipment: a Spaulding machine, a few needles and some splashes of colour. I took the equipment home and started to tattoo myself and some (mostly) willing friends. But the doors were not yet open for me, particularly thanks to some of Cape Town's established artists who I was hanging out with, who were not too keen to help out. So I looked for greener pastures, and moved to Lisbon, Portugal. There I worked as a body piercer at “Bad Bones Tattoos”, after attending a course in Bristol. I was tattooing in my spare time, and getting quite a reputation amongst the thousands of sailors and soldiers stationed at the big NATO base there who were looking to get inked by a tattooist that spoke the same language. These guys got to know me through my second job, at a bar/bistro as a “cooler”. (It's easy to avoid conflict if you don’t know you are being insulted! And my Portuguese has never been THAT great!), and through the English pubs. I did a lot of old school military tattoos, which gave me a good grounding in classical tattoo design. In 1994 I returned to ZA and started Wildfire Tattoos. After a brief stint in another city centre shop, the business became recognisable in its offices above The Purple Turtle on Long St. To this day, some people still think of Wildfire as the 'studio above the Turtle .But the bar became an issue, thanks to having to chase customers out after they'd consumed too much courage before daring a tattoo! We moved the shop out to Burg St on Greenmarket Square and dragged ZA tattooing into the mainstream. Then, in 2002, Canal Walk approached us about opening up in the mall. After much deliberation we took the best step we could ever take.Simon opened No Regrets in 2015, his by-appointment only studio in Claremont.