By Katy Pearson

Sam Ford, 34, is a tattoo artist and owner of Silver Needles Tattoo Studio, in Southend, and Cult Coffee and Tattoos, in Leigh. She was recently named one of Essex's 50 most inspiring women in business by our sister publication, Essex Living magazine.

A second-generation tattoo artist, Sam Ford is one of the leading ladies in the tattooing world.

Named Best UK Female Tattoo Artist at the 2018 Liverpool Tattoo Convention, the mum-of-one was also a guest judge on the semi-final of E4’s Tattoo Artist of the Year last year.

"Silver Needles was originally established way back in 1988 by my dad Tom Ptolomey," explains the mum-of-one. "It spent nearly twenty years situated along Southend seafront under the pier arches however it was no ordinary seafront tattoo haunt. My dad quickly became widely recognised as someone who was pushing the boundaries in the art of tattooing and the studio with people travelling from far and wide to get tattooed by him.

"In 2008 with me now at the helm, we moved Silver Needles away from the seafront into central Southend with the emphasis being less on the holiday makers tattoos and more on custom designed artwork for the clients.

"Over the years tattooing has become more and more integrated into the lives of everyday people, it’s less taboo now more than ever. With this change we’ve been able to step forward even further with the format of the tattoo studio. This year we’ve launched a sister studio in the heart of Leigh, combining a family friendly coffee shop at the front with a private tattoo studio. With this new venture we’re bridging the gap between tattooed people and non tattoo people. Hopefully destroying any stigma and preconceptions along the way."

So what's her role in the business/

"I currently split my time between both studios," she says.

"Tattooing most days but also spending time serving coffees front of house at Cult on Sundays and Mondays.

"Luckily I have a great team of people in Southend who take care of the day to day running of Silver Needles so now I able to just oversee and make sure everything is running smoothly.

"Cult was opened in partnership with my friend Andy Yates. Having another person to rely on has made a huge difference on the pressure of owning a second business. Andy’s passion is coffee so he’s taken on the day to day running of the coffee shop with me just running the little studio."

And what is her day-today business routine?

"When tattooing I only work with one client per day, usually getting to the studios around 9am, depending on the school run," she smiles.

"Having had email consultations prior to our appointment, I will sit down with my client in the morning to finalise the details of the design, usually over a good cup of coffee!

"Then we’ll head into the tattoo area to settle in for the day. It’s a fairly informal process, led by the needs of each individual client."

What’s the toughest bit of her job?

"Balance is the most difficult element for me in my job," she says. "Because I love what I do I find it very difficult to switch off, to even want to switch off. Which is great in itself but I have a little five year old girl and time with her and even just for myself is precious.

And the best bit?

"That I have complete control over that work/life balance and also the connections we make with people. And nothing compares to the trust your client gives you to create a piece of art that means something to them and for them to then allow you to place that artwork on them for the rest of their lives. The process of tattooing is sacred and beautiful and I’m truly grateful that that’s how I get to spend my days."

TOP CAREER TIP: Be true to yourself and go for what you believe in without being swayed by naysayers.


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