The 25-year-old founder of a tattoo studio established as a “safe space” following her mother’s attempts at suicide is looking to expand just eight months after setting up shop in Carluke High Street.
Chloe Isaac chose Self Love Club Tattoo to honour her mum, who battled mental illness during the Covid epidemic. Ms Isaac – who began her tattooing apprenticeship between the second and third year of studying criminal law at the University of West of Scotland – said it was during this period that she came to appreciate that tattoos “are a lot more than just images on your body”.
Raised in Blantyre and a graduate of Calderside Academy, Ms Isaac moved back home during the lockdown. Still, she didn’t realise the magnitude of her mother’s problems until she first attempted to take her life in August 2020.
“One day, when I was about to leave for work, one of our best friends called me and said that [my mum] “Had tried to commit suicide the night before, and I was there for her,” said Ms Isaac.
“I didn’t realise how bad things were getting, and she wouldn’t talk to me about it for weeks, so I thought that the only thing I could do was give Mum some small tattoos as it is something we can discuss.”
Circumstances seemed to improve for a while as the two spent time together in these sessions, during which Ms Isaac created artwork of positive messages. A second suicide attempt brought her mother back to “the beginning”.
Ms Isaac explained, “I started tattooing her and tried to get her open up about it.” “When tattooing someone, you have to sit right next to them. You’re in their space. [to withdraw].
She opened up to me and got better over the three years since the pandemic. It helped her to gain confidence and made her open up more and closer.
Ms Isaac worked in a call centre at the time. Despite her law degree, she had decided that a legal career was not her “dream”. Having always been interested in art, it was a conversation with her mother about two years after the first suicide attempt that convinced Ms Isaac to set up her own business.
“My mum had a full sleeve top-to-bottom of really, really small tattoos that had built up like a patchwork,” she said, “and I was standing there one morning in my house coat pouring myself some cornflakes, and my mum was standing beside me, and she said to me, ‘Chloe, when are we going to add some more tattoos to my self-love sleeve?’. And I was like, ‘What did you just call it?’ she said that’s what she called it – her sleeve of self-love.
“She said there are tattoos on it from the first year of Covid when she was at her severe worst, and then there are tattoos on it from halfway through when she was getting better, and there are tattoos that are present, that she just recently acquired, and they all showed different stages in her life.
“She said they were a timeline of what she had been through and how she felt, and she was proud to wear it and look at it every single day to see how far she had come.”
Ms Isaac started her business in March last year after quitting her call centre job with “zero pounds in the bank”. She found her current premises and successfully applied for a £2,500 Lanarkshire Business Start-Up Grant with assistance from Business Gateway, and the studio opened in October.
Self Love Club, a business that employs several tattooists, has created a space for people to feel comfortable. Ms Isaac describes the salon as being mindful and easily accessible. She also mentions that they pay special attention to customer comfort, including noise-cancelling headsets.
“It’s probably about 500 or 600 sq. ft., so that is enough,” said Isaac, who works alongside two other artists. But I would want to go with something like 1,000 sq. ft. to give us more breathing space and comfort.
Where are you most at home?
Hart and Soul are my two Golden Retrievers. Both dogs have a calming, loving energy that makes them the perfect companions.
What job would you like to have if you were not in your current position?
Since I studied criminal law at university, my next job would likely be in this field.
What is the best quote or phrase that has inspired you?
“Whit’s fur you’ll no go by ye” – something my Granny always said to me growing up and something that I’ll always live my life by.
What’s the best book that you have read? What makes it the best book?
A Glasgow Kiss by Sophie Gravia is a book that made me belly laugh and helped me realise what life is all about.
What was the most challenging moment you faced in your life or career?
In life, I had to learn how to live without my Granny. She helped me grow up. Self Love Club Tattoo is a business I started without knowledge about how to grow or start a business. It was hard.
What would you have liked to know when you first started your career?
Tattooing is the best job I’ve ever had, but it takes up a lot of time. It is a career that will majorly impact your mental health. It’s a 24-hour job that I would not change for the world.
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