An Adventure North of Winter

An Out of Town Tattoo

I am the very proud owner of nine and a half tattoos. Last week I travelled outside of Manchester to get a cheeky little pied wagtail added to my right arm – tattoo number nine – by an artist who had done the flowers already there. I won the flowers in an Instagram giveaway and I still remember how thrilled I was and how lucky I felt. We were on a short holiday in Aberdeen and my excitement is plain on my face in our sea-side photos.

As soon as the flowers healed I knew that I wanted to return to that artist and have her create another tattoo to go with them. My impending move gave me a hard deadline and kicked my ass into action.

The artist, Char Small, is part of a studio called North of Winter that is located outside Manchester city centre in Mossley. The train only took 17 minutes but as soon as I stepped off I knew this was not a normal periphery town. The station was barely more than two platforms; there was a long-closed waiting lounge built into a rock wall and a small covered room showing time-tables.

My plan was to walk the 13 minutes from the station to the tattoo studio and I was nervous because the outskirts of Manchester has a rough reputation. But my walk through the town was down a street lined with charming, small stone buildings and the kind of smiling eye contact I never find in the city centre.

About five minutes later I left the town behind and walked along a winding road next to a small river, as if I had not been in a city for miles.

During our email conversation Char told me the studio was located in an old mill and the reality of the building was even better than I imagined. The mill itself appeared abandoned as I walked up and through an unremarkable door was the absolute coolest tattoo studio I have ever been to.

Based on the name and logo of the studio I was quite keen to ask Char about its possible connection to Game of Thrones and of course they were inspired by the visuals of the show in how they have decorated an already pretty epic space.

I am a sucker for a building with walls so thick you need to measure in feet.

When getting a tattoo the artwork itself is of course very important – it will exist on your body for the rest of your life – but because of this permanence I find the experience of getting the tattoo is an aspect that’s underrated. When I take the time to examine my tattoos I immediately remember the day I got them, the artist who did them, the studio, and what I did that day.

The day I got my first tattoo I also went to see Hairspray at the movie theatre. The day my sister and I got our matching tattoos we were eating tapas in San Sebastian before heading to the studio. The artist who created my cat tattoo was the warmest, loveliest woman and was recommended to me by my master’s thesis adviser.

My adventure to North of Winter to get work done by Char was as close to a Westerosi fairytale I’ll ever get. If you’re around Manchester and looking for an artist or studio I cannot recommend them highly enough. The town of Mossley, the walk to and from the studio, and everyone I met whilst getting tattooed created a perfect atmosphere for me to remember when I look at my arm.

And the tattoo itself is perfect. My shoulder needed this cheeky guy.