April 30, 2023 6.00 pm This story is over 14 months old

Lincolnshire mum with 14 face tattoos says others shouldn’t judge life choices

She first took the plunge after a health scare

A mum-of-four in Lincolnshire with over 60% of her body covered in tattoos, including 14 on her face, believes people should stop judging others for being themselves.

Claire Elsie-Rose started working at Illusions Tattoo in Bourne around five years ago before later taking over the established business.

All the tattoos she has mean things to the 33-year-old and are part of her life journey, including going through teenage anorexia and being told she had a lung tumour.

Most of them she had created down south but, more recently, one of her colleagues in Lincolnshire has done them.

Claire has even done some of her own tattoos despite being “a wimp with pain”.

“I just don’t think we should judge anyone by how they choose to look,” Claire said. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

How tattoos have changed Claire’s life

When Claire was a teenager, she suffered with anorexia and started getting tattoos to cover herself up as a “security blanket”.

The first tattoo she ever got was of a fairy on her wrist when she was 16, which cost her £10.

She regrets having that particular one done at that age and has had it covered up.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone that young to make those decisions,” she told The Lincolnite.

“For younger people, they need to think hard about what they are getting and the possibility you’ll change and mature when you get older and also have fun with it.”

After being told she had a lung tumour around seven years ago, Claire went through a “very scary time” and “didn’t know how bad things were or how long I’d have, so I wanted to have a face tattoo done”.

Before she knew if the tumour was serious, and while she was waiting in limbo for tests and scans, she had the tattoo done. She later received the good news that the tumour was benign and was then given the all clear.

Claire says she has been called “attention seeking” but she gets the tattoos done to “be me”. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

Her first face tattoo was the word Queen, which Claire says “is a very powerful statement for women, to say here I am, and it gave me strength.”

Other face tattoos include words such as Love, Hope, PMA (positive mental attitude), and Belle Ami.

Her favourite face tattoo is one that says Mama along her jawline. She also has small designs on her face including a butterfly, a heart, a rose, and a diamond.

Claire, who is originally from Aldershot, said: “It’s just who I am. It makes me feel more comfortable in my body. Changing hair colour can make someone feel more confident. This is just who I am and part of me.

“I don’t do it for attention. I do it to be me. All the tattoos on my face if you look closer, and know the meaning behind them, are very positive and powerful words. I am very much a pro-woman girl.

“It’s also art and being an artist as well I’m very passionate about it. The tattoos are a lot deeper than a lot of people realise.

“I am massively involved in the work with my clients. It is a beautiful thing to be part of their journey, and you can see them come alive.”

She has had ‘black work’ done on one of her arms. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

Elsewhere on her body, she has the handprint of her 10-year-old daughter on her leg, as well as the dates of birth of three of her children. She plans to add the date of birth of her new baby in the future.

Some drawings done by her 10-year-old daughter have been turned into tattoos, and she also has the words miracles and blessings on her palms.

Claire did 80% of her leg tattoos herself. “I used my legs as my practice canvas for tattooing and, for me, that tells a story as it got me to where I am now,” she said. “Other people will look and see scribbles, but it is my hard work to get me where I am.

“It is definitely hard work tattooing myself and I’m also surprisingly a wimp with pain, so it is hard to put the needle in myself.”

Claire has the word loyalty tattooed on her arm. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

Claire also has the word loyalty tattooed on one arm, while the other is completely black.

“It’s covering up the old me,” she said. “It’s called black work, it is a style of its own, and me slipping into who I am.”

She loves almost all of her tattoos, but isn’t so keen on the skull on her back. “It is funny because I don’t like skulls now,” she added.

Claire Elsie-Rose runs Illusions Tattoo in Bourne. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

Public stigma over tattoos

When she has previously spoken about her tattoos, she experienced hateful and negative online comments. She says she doesn’t understand why anyone would have that mindset.

“There is still a massive stigma with tattoos, but it is getting better and becoming more acceptable,” she said.

Apart from the odd comment, and having the impression security guards followed her in shops sometimes thinking she might do something, Claire hadn’t experienced many problems until recently.

Claire said her story recently “blew up” and she was surprised by the amount of negative comments.

“I just ignore them. It makes me giggle a bit as there is a lot of naivety and misunderstanding,” she said.

“I used to get the odd comments here and there, but nothing like since it blew up online in the last few days. I just don’t think we should judge anyone by how they choose to look.

“I’ve even seen comments saying my tattoos aren’t good, but they are me, and my decision to make. Anyone should be able to make their own decisions.

“All comments made to my face are positive, the negative comments are online behind the keyboards. I do find it confusing how people have that mindset and jump to conclusions.

“There is still a massive stigma around tattoos, but it is getting a lot better. It is becoming more acceptable. Before people used to have to cover them up at work, but now employers can’t do that as much, or shouldn’t be able to.”

A tattoo Claire did for one of her clients. | Photo: Claire Elsie-Rose

So what is Claire’s message to the online trolls? “Look deeper and let people be who they are or want to be,” she said.

“People said I look unhappy or am attention seeking. I have a lovely life and I’m grateful for everything I’ve got. I have a beautiful family and work hard for a nice life.”

MyLocal Lincolnshire is the new home of The Lincolnite. Download the app now