Judd Ripley Feature

When he isn't hanging at home or fishing, Judd Ripley is doing some down right amazing tattoos out of his family shop, The Sailors Grave in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Thank you for your time Judd, whats been happening?

In the past two weeks, i have been suffering from swine flu and kidney stones. otherwise, business as usual!

For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

These days im a regular johnny stay at home kinda guy. Im in the twighlight years of my thirties, with rapidly failing mental and physical health (see above) I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to make more time for fishing and surfing.

How did you first find out you had a talent for art and tattooing, at what point did you decide to persue it as a career?

Hmm, i dont think i ever found out i had talent at all. like a lot of kids, i grew up drawing. I was lucky that at least i wasnt discouraged by adults, so i kept at it. Art school on the other hand made me realise that i didnt have any talent at all, and i was never going to make it in the art world. Besides, the cartoons and comic books that i liked to draw were considered too lowbrow to be considered real “art”. These days, an astute art teacher would probably recognise the potential for a tattoo career in what i was doing. I actually had a very secure and well paid career in film and television when i discovered tattooing, and it was an uncomfortable transition for everyone, including me. tattooing definitely wasnt an acceptable or “cool” career path to choose then, so it was kinda hard convincing friends and family that i knew what i was doing! which of course I didnt, but my attraction to tattooing was so strong that i knew i had to chase it down to whatever end it had in store for me.


I guess you could say Tattoo’s have become accepted in today’s society, possibly even expected, obviously there being more people for you to tattoo is a good thing, but do you think there is a downside to it?

I suppose the most obvious thing is that the mystery has had the shit beaten out of it. There are no secrets anymore. Which has good and bad points. Tattooing has always been somewhat mysterious. There has always been an element of the unknown, and the unknowable, unless you were part of the inner circle. Nowdays, everyone who watches tv pretty much knows all there is to know about tattooing. Being informed is good, it helps people make informed choices about what they want and who they want to do it. On the flip side of that, every asshole has an opinion on how it should be done!

How do you think certain “reality” tattoo shows on TV have effected tattooing on a broad scale?

Pretty much what i said in that last answer i guess! It sounds like I am doing a lot of bitching, which i probably am, but most people seem to agree that reality tv shows have had a bitter sweet effect on our business. The overall popularity and absorbtion into mainstream society has definitely created a lot more customers, however, it has created just as many wanna be tattooers, so it kinda evens back out to square one again! It really depends on what mood i am in at the time as to how i feel about this whole issue. If i am having a particularly bleak day, its easy to see the negative side of everything, but for the most part, i have no complaints at all! I have a steady stream of 99% awesome clients, who dont seem to be influenced by whats happening on tv! People are much more inclined to seek out custom tattoos rather than flash now i think. So maybe it is tougher on the guys working street shops.


How would you say your style has progressed from when you first started, not only as a tattooist but as an artist as well?

Well, Its progressing! For that i am thankful. I am in a stage of transition at the moment, one day soon im gonna wake up and my tattoos will be BADASS! Until then, im gonna keep chipping away at it, and keep pushing myself every day to make those small changes, and to keep moving forward and ultimately, as a tattooer and an artist, to hopefully develop a style that is true and unique to me. Easier said than done!


What other tattooists and artists are you into or influenced by?

My biggest influence is my wife. She is a seriously talented little freak. She inspires me every day with her prolific, effortless ability to draw and tattoo. Just being around her pushes me to think about being less lazy and get off my ass and try harder! . I am also a big fan of our Swedish neighbors, there are so many talented guys over there, and im lucky enough to be friends with some of them. I feel pretty deadly just knowing em! Otherwise, I really like traditional japanese woodblock print artists from yester-yester year, and if i had to pick one, i would have to say HORIYASU is my favorite japanese tattooer.

You tattoo a fairly wide variety of tattoos, from Western Traditional to Traditional Japanese work, do you have a style you prefer?

I really like em both. I tried for a period there to mix the two together, but we will never mention that again! It can be done, and some people are very good at it, but i like to keep the two disciplines separate. I love both styles, and have an equal passion for them. There are similarities with the two, and they are both very challenging. I do more japanese style on a day to day basis, probably about 80%.


Where do you, or what do you draw inspiration from as an artist?

These days its almost exclusively from all the books i have on old japanese prints. Sometimes i will see something completely random that will spark an idea for a more traditional western design which could quite literally come from any source at all. Once you have a formula for drawing traditional style designs, anything goes.

Greatest accomplishment as an artist/ tattooist?

Without doubt, the privilege of being able to do exactly what i want to every day, and having clients who allow me to do it! and paying the rent of course!

No doubt you have seen some pretty fucked tattoo’s in your time, what is the worst tattoo you’ve ever seen?

Jesus. worst tattoo. Ive seen some real stinkers. I dont think i could pick just one. It would be an insult to all the other pieces of shit to exclude them!

How is the tattoo scene in Denmark, compared to the rest of the world?

Well, up until right now, as i am spilling the beans right here online on your site, it is probably one of the best kept secrets! Denmark has a long tradition of tattooing, the clients dont have leathery handbag skin, they pay through the nose, and treat you like a star. Sweden too. The scene here is very good. There are a bunch of very talented people up here in scandinavia, which makes for healthy competition. Unlike other countries, tattooers here are very open and friendly for the most part, and treat the competition as a positive motivational force.


Favourite place to hang out?

My favorite place to hang out is at home, or on the lake, gettin my fish on.

What was your first tattoo, and who did it?

My first tattoo was a fruity little crop circle thingy. I didnt plan to get a tattoo, so it was the only design on hand at the time. Me and my buddy Ben made a tattoo machine from a battery operated fan, a guitar string and some household items. We threw down in the living room with ink out of a biro. It turned out super fuckin gnarly. crazy infection, and i was running around showing all my mates going, Check it out!! I still have that tattoo today. Its a great momento!

What’s in your pockets right now?

My iphone. it has magical properties.

You recently spent some time in Australia, what did you get up to here, and did you enjoy Aus?

I went surfing with my bros! and fishing, and bbqing. all the things you would want to do on a trip to oz! Plus i did some nice tattoos. Though i would have traded them all for more surfing and fishing time!


There are a lot of fucked up things happening in the World and amongst society in general at the moment, what are your thoughts on that?

I am oblivious to all of it. Charity starts at home, turn the other cheek, and love thy neighbour.

Name 5 things you couldn’t live without.

My beautiful wife
My stinky little dog
Everything else is optional!

What’s been pumping through your speakers lately?

I think the name of my playlist says it all. its called, “strictly country”

Advice to aspiring artists/tattooists?

Get an apprenticeship, and good luck!


If you weren't tattooing you'd be…..

Behind the bar (or in front) of a tiki shack somewhere in the tropics

Anything in the mix or coming up that we should know about?

Well, Im pretty lazy by nature, but luckily people keep giving me deadlines, so i manage to end up getting invited to participate in some cool book projects and stuff now and again. I feel like im doing the best tattoos i have ever done, and my progress is really satisfying right now. Marija and i are planning on spending a lot more time in Australia in 2010, so I am looking forward to seeing how that develops!

Word association, you know the deal, say the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the word.



Terrifyingly fleeting

















Judd Ripley

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