Dueling tattoo legends & bosom buddies– Al Schiefley (left) & Les Skuse (right)
Yep. On a tattoo kick again. Check out these sick pics and you’ll know why. This ain’t no Miami Ink — this is Olde School, Hard-Ass Tats.
The legendary tattooist, and founder of the Sandusky Tattoo Club, Al Schiefley lived and worked out of Sandusky, Ohio where he opened his famous Pearl Street shop that dutifully operated for over a quarter of a century. The photo above was taken back in mid 1950s during Al’s travels abroad, and shows him seemingly double-teaming a well-inked young lady (with a strange sense of humor) alongside his host and fellow tattoo master — Les Skuse, President of the famed Bristol Tattoo Club. While in Bristol, Al had the honor of being tattooed by Skuse, as well as the respected London tattooist, Rich Mingins.
The Skuse family have a rich heritage in the art of tattooing — dating back well over 80 years. It all started with founder Les Skuse, who started the Bristol business back in 1928. Through his years of inking that brought him recognition in Bristol and abroad, Les Skusee was ultimately awarded the title of Champion Tattoo Artist of all England for his advancements in tattoo artistry and techniques.
This 1950s pic of Les Skuse and members of the Bristol Tattoo Club shows them holding their club’s calling card. For recognition purposes, every member is secretly inked somewhere on their body with the club insignia — a black bat.
From The Skuse Family History–
Les Skuse was born, lived and died in the port town of Bristol, England. He became the town’s most famous tattoo export and was almost as well known on American shores as he was at home. He visited the United States in 1956 and corresponded with many American tattooists. He was a big admirer of the Coleman School of tattooing as practiced by Paul Rodgers, Huck Spaulding, Al Schiefley and others.
In 1956, Skuse stated in a letter: “English tattooists were using a single needle. This caused a lot of bleeding and pain. This finished design looked very thin and scratchy when compared with the strong, well-shaded designs done in the United States.”
The right-handed Skuse started his tattoo career in 1928 at the shop of Joseph Hartley, who was probably Bristol’s one and only tattoo artist before Skuse. Hartley was a long time tattooist/supplier in this area and was located at 2 Blackfields, near Stokes Croft, Bristol, England.
Skuse stated: “Professor Joe Hartley fixed me up with a Japanese hand tattooing outfit, and began to work on some of my friends. It was not long before I had earned the price of a six-volt combination tattoo machine.” Skuse is said to have stayed with Hartley until World War II, when he enlisted in the Royal Artillery. After five years of tattooing the troops, he got out, settled back into Bristol and opened his first shop. Les Skuse was located in at least three different storefronts in Bristol; 57 and 97 Lower Ashley Road, and 71 Mina Road.
Undoubtedly two of the major accomplishments that etched Les Skuse’s name into tattoo history were the formation of the British Guild of Tattooing and the Bristol Tattoo Club. These organizations were given worldwide publicity by both the British and overseas presses, and kept Skuse in the limelight during the 1950s.
Riding on this wave of popularity, Skuse was voted the Champion Tattoo Artist of All England in 1955. The next few years brought an international exchange of tattoo ideas, with Skuse visiting the U.S., and Milton Zeis and Al Schiefley visiting England.
Les Skuse died in 1973. The most fitting tribute I can find for Les Skuse died from a 1957 letter: “I have always been ready and willing to learn, never thinking I knew it all and continually searching for ways in which to improve my work and equipment. It is my firm belief that the more tattooists meet, correspond and exchange ideas, the better it will be both for the individual and the profession.”
When Les Skuse died in 1973, Les Skuse Junior (Danny) took over his shop on Mina Road. Danny worked up to 1990 when he retired from the day to day running of the studio. He did however decide to work along side his lifelong friend Ron Ackers of Portsmouth and traveled around the world working at conventions, which he is still doing today. Danny is Jimmie’s Father and Brother of Billy.
At the time when Danny took over the Mina Road shop, Les Skuse Senior’s other son Billy was tattooing in Aldershot, Hampshire, alongside his wife Rusty Skuse, who was featured in the Guinness Book Of Records for being the most tattooed woman in England. Billy is Jimmy’s Uncle and Brother of Danny.
Jimmie Skuse started tattooing over 30 years ago when he worked alongside his father Danny at the age of thirteen. Jimmie established the Temple Street shop in 2004. Prior to that he worked as a guest artist in many studios throughout the West of England. Jimmie is the Grandson of Les Skuse.
The legendary Janet “Rusty” Skuse
Another English tattoo legend – Ron Ackers
One thought on “Bristol Tatto Club”
This is a brilliant post! I think I spot what is now Az’s Convenience Store on Lower Ashley Road, Bristol – I used to live just round the corner from there, and Mina Road in St Werburghs, Bristol. The character of these people just oozes from the pics and it’s a little bizarre to see the fifties style. I love the first pic ‘Sweet and Sour’ – breastfeeding mums would have a good giggle at this! Thank you for sharing – love to learn something new about Bristol!