Artistic flair and diversity is at the heart of everything Skins and Needles do
Tattoos of Snow White and a fairytale castle juxtapose with skulls and poker cards.
Sitting pretty in the busy backdrop of one of Middlesbrough’s award-winning business empires, the creativity and boldness of Sam Grierson’s inked skin epitomises what Skins and Needles is all about.
Sam runs the beauty arm of the multi-faceted business on Linthorpe Road, founded by her partner Matthew Salvin.
Earlier this year, the 36-year-old won the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the prestigious Hair and Beauty Awards for her innovative lock-down beauty venture, INeedThatKit.com.
At the same ceremony, Skins and Needles was named the best barbers in the UK.
Visitors come from across the region and indeed the UK to experience the Skins and Needles treatment, bringing valuable footfall to the town centre.
“It’s not just about the latest tattoo trend,” Sam explains.
“Matthew started the business 10 years ago when he opened up the barber shop and he built a loyal customer base. He then expanded into tattoos and body piercings, and things really took off from there.
“As the years have gone by, we realised we didn’t want to be just your average tattoo shop and stop there. We wanted to create a whole brand for Skins and Needles.
“People come from miles and they often end up spending half the day or even the whole day here. They might get a tattoo, a haircut and then have lunch next door, and they’ll often go shopping in town while they’re here too.
“We wanted to create a whole experience for people, and that’s really what we’re all about.”
As well as bringing more visitors into the town, the brand’s business model is based around raising aspirations, while developing skills and opportunities for local people. For Sam and Matthew, it’s also about bringing something a little different to Middlesbrough’s social scene that everyone can be part of.
“We’ve got some really talented people working for us who are all local and want to see great things happen in Middlesbrough.
“One of the main things we want to do is to train people up so they can learn their craft and discover their own creativity, and then we often help them get into local employment.
“Earlier this year we opened the barbering academy across the road and we’re now able to help students get the skills they need in barbering, as well as offering aesthetics training.
“We always encourage people to get in touch if they want to collaborate or work for us, we’re always looking to bring something new and exciting to our brand.”
Based next door to the main tattoo studio is Ta Moko, a trendy bistro and bar that is also part of the business.
It’s adorned with quirky interiors and offers an impressive brunch and cocktail menu with flavour combinations that can’t be found elsewhere in town.
Their Tattoo Fuel package offers clients the chance to fill up on a hearty breakfast or lunch before their tattoo for just £10 with unlimited super smoothies.
“It’s important that clients eat properly before a half day or full day of tattoo work, so we’ve offered the package just for them, it’s proved popular so far.
“Even if you have no interest in tattoos or piercings, Ta Moko is a welcoming space for anyone and everyone,” Sam continued.
“We have an incredible chef and we’re proud that we’ve created a relaxed vibe that embraces individualism.
“I’ve lived all around the country and spent a lot of time away from home, but there’s something special about coming back home and fulfilling your dream of creating something that any people can benefit from, and it’s something that our friends and family can also be part of too.
“We wouldn’t want to be doing what we’re doing anywhere else, there’s no place like home.”
We are words: Anne-Marie O’Donnell
We are pictures: Mike Sreenan