Hexagon Tattoo Project: Martin Dobson |

Martin Dobson is a self-confessed tattoo addict and owner of the incredible hexagon tattoo project. An enterprise that starts life as simple outlines of  hexagons that are then filled by various tattoo artists from around the world.  We caught up with Martin to find out more about his inspiring tattoo collection and the thinking behind it…

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What was your first tattoo and how old were you? I got my first tattoo when I was 17, yes I lied that I was 18. It was a tiny piece of terrible tribal flash on my arm, which has since been covered by a slightly less terrible tribal wrap around which I got a few years later in Thailand.

What inspired you  to get tattooed in the first place? I don’t really remember what inspired me to get a tattoo. I lived in a provincial town in the UK and in 1997 there was no one I knew or anyone I was even at school with that had a tattoo. I think it must have been a rebellion thing but I was just drawn to it. Something that 22 years and over 60 tattoos later I understand was the start of an addition and calling.

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How did your hexagon project come about? I travel a lot with work and a few years ago whilst on a long trip taking in NYC, LA, New Zealand, Oz and Singapore I starting thinking that it would be cool to mark each country or city I go to with a tattoo from a local shop. My first (probably bad) idea, was to get the logo of the shop tattooed in a circle on my leg, like a passport stamp. Whilst discussing with my wife this morphed into what it is today. My wife, Dawn came up with the hexagon shape so that they tessellate.

Do you go to tattooists with a design or let them have free reign with the space? No I give them complete free reign. We usually talk about their options and they ask my opinion. But honestly I love that I don’t know what design I’m going to get when I wake up on the morning of getting a new tattoo or even when I’m walking into the studio – sometimes even when they are starting the tattoo! It’s my experience and I think a universal understanding that you definitely get an artist’s best work if you allow them the freedom to do something they like doing or that challenges them. It’s been fun to see seasoned, highly talented artists freak out about what they are going to do in such a small space. All bar none have completely nailed it too!

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You’ve got some amazing work from some incredible artists, who else is on your list? My list is endless. With Instagram people’s work is so accessible, it’s crazy – my wish list gets bigger everyday. It also gets longer every time I go for a session and the artist I’m working with starts recommending their friends and peers. I’ve had to stop talking about new artists! I put out a post on International Woman’s Day recently asking for recommendations of female artists as I’m embarrassingly low on woman tattoo artists compared to men. I got over 125 comments with atleast 200 artists tagged, it’s taken me hours just to look at their profiles let alone start contacting them.

Some big targets currently are Filip Leu who is up for adding a design next to his friend Tin Tin’s but I need to go to Switzerland – I might just have to turn up on his doorstep! Nikko Hurtardo says he’s up for adding a piece but again he’s hard to tie down. I’d love to get something from Boris, Kahn Tofi. I have a long list of Japanese artists, but I’d like to go to Japan rather than doing it at a convention in London or Europe. There are a load of good artists in Korea that i’d like to get hexagons from too. Lastly I grew up watching Miami Ink, I know it can be derided in the industry but Ami, Chris, Darren and Chris are super talented and their show is how I got introduced to tattooing. Ami and Chris Garver have added hexagons and I have two spaces free next to them. Darren is visiting the UK in the summer and is going to add his – now I just need to get a line to Nunez and hopefully I can have them all together.

Do you plan on covering your whole body?  I’m about to extend to my other leg and do a full sleeve which should give me at least another 50 hexagons – after that it will be a conversation with my wife! She didn’t marry a heavily tattooed guy so I have to respect that. She loves the project and actually came up with most of the ideas but I’m not sure she’s up for a husband completely covered in hexagon tattoos!

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What sorts of reactions does your project get? Amazingly positive – I think I’ve been quite lucky and stumbled on a reasonably unique idea in a tattoo world that doesn’t have much left as far as new ideas on placement or collecting go. It’s even got to a point where there are a few people out there copying the idea exactly!

It’s amazing that pretty much every artist I contact is into the idea and usually fits me in to their schedules at short notice – even when they have long waiting lists. As I say I’m a lucky guy and feel humble that an idea that started off as a bit of a punt has turned into something that a lot of people are truly interested in and want to follow to see the outcome.

Photos by Dan Lowe

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