Spade makes his mark with tattoos

March 15, 2018
Orville 'Spade' Swaby focuses as he does a piercing on one of his clients.
Orville 'Spade' Swaby gets to work.
Orville 'Spade' Swaby works on a design.

Once upon a time in Jamaica, tattoos were frowned upon. But these days, this type body art is providing quite a bit of business for tattoo and piercing artist Orville 'Spade' Swaby.

"Both tattoo and piercing are a growing trend, and it is something that is here to stay," he said, as his tattoo gun buzzes on the skin of a client.

"This trade is what helps to pay my bills. It won't make me rich, but it put food on my table and in my belly," he added.

The Seaview Garden-based artist told THE STAR that he did his first tattoo while he was still a student at Penwood Comprehensive High School.

"I like to draw, and me did have to find sup'm to do with me talent. Me used to paint first, but never really into it. So, me continue to search until me find me a liking in tattoo art. Me do the first one on myself when me a go school, and of course it never turn out as well as me did want, but practice makes perfect," he said.

According to Spade, his clients are not only limited to the inner-city areas. He said he often gets a lot of clients from corporate Jamaica and as far as Japan.

"A lot of corporate people link me up for designs and piercing, but because of their job titles, dem do it on parts of their bodies that are hidden," he said.

He pointed out that on occasions, he has declined several requests and advised prospective clients to try better options.

"More time some customer come and me have to turn them back because them stubborn. Sometimes they have really dark skin and would want a tattoo with blue or purple ink. If that's what they want, I will turn them back because dem colour deh nah go show. Me take pride inna me work, so it's not just a monetary ting for me," he said.

This level of pride is also seen in the safety measures that he puts in place to prevent the spread of infections.

"Every tattoo is done with a new needle, and the materials are sterilised properly because a nuh like you can always look at a person and tell if he or she is sick," he said.

And as summer approaches, Spade is preparing to have one of several piercing specials because, he said, it is the busiest time of the year for him.

Other Jobs to Go Stories