DOLPHINS, chains, teabags, and even the infamous McDonalds golden arches – tattoo artist Clive Harvey has had some remarkable requests over his 20 years in the business.

And although trends change all the time, the demand for tattoos has not abated.

Tattoo Inc, in Short Wyre Street, has been run by Mr Harvey since 2002 when he was in his early 20s, and next month marks two decades at the helm for the former bricklayer who admits he can’t even draw.

Although he has long been obsessed with tattoos, Mr Harvey always feared his lack of artistic ability would stand in his way of chasing his dream – but when he got his foot in the door making cups of tea at the tattoo shop known as Body Piercings in the early 2000s, he realised he might be able to carve a niche for himself.

He said: “I was a bricklayer by trade and I worked for Ipswich Council – I’ve loved tattoos all my life, but couldn’t really draw.

“I had to quit bricklaying because I was having problems with my back, and I went around all the tattoo shops I could trying to get trained up.

“I said I would work one day a week, or seven days a week – I said I would do whatever, so I started off answering the door and making 40 cups of tea a day.”

Then in his twenties, and ever the eager student of the trade, Mr Harvey started picking up tips from the experts simply by looking over their shoulder.

“I started watching and learning – I started doing the tracing,” he explained.

“I was doing Saturdays, then Saturdays and Mondays, then Saturdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

“I went from one day a week being a gopher to going there four days a week staying until whenever they finished.”

Still standing in his way, Mr Harvey thought, was his inability to draw – if he couldn’t master the basics, then how could he master the fine arts?

The answer, however, was that one was not a prerequisite for the other.

“I said to the guy doing the tattoos there, ‘I would love to do a tattoo’, and he said, ‘do it then’.

“I said ‘But I can’t draw’, and he replied ‘well, neither can I’ – the two things are not the same.”

Buoyed by the removal of what seemed an insurmountable barrier, Mr Harvey set to work buying his own kit, costing him hundreds of pounds.

Read more:

• Colchester mum had to wait months for repairs to new home

 Colchester councillor 'horrified' by Berechurch Road assault

• Drug dealing duo helped Clacton gang make £8k in profit

He started his own tattoo shop, now well-known in Short Wyre Street, Colchester, as Tattoo Inc, in 2002, and since then he has received requests for all sorts of tattoos.

“It’s changed over the years – at the moment, it’s a rose on the hand or a religious sleeve, but there have been so many different phases.”

Mr Harvey, now fast approaching 50, then lists off some of the craziest – and most popular – requests he’s had.

“Chain symbols [were very popular], dolphins – when a footballer or a pop star gets a tattoo, you’re then doing that for everyone for the next six months.

“Rihanna had stars on the back of her neck – then she got 20 stars so everyone started coming back.

“I’ve done the Nando’s symbol, the McDonald’s arches, Wile E Coyote… I had more than 100 people wanting the five stars after Liverpool won the European Cup.”

And although many people will have their first tattoo done when they’re young, there are some who join the craze later in life – Mr Harvey has had women in their 70s and men in their 80s come in asking for their first tattoo.

With Friday, July 22, marking 20 years since Mr Harvey opened his business, he is determined to mark the occasion.

“The standard charge was £20 back in 2002, so we might make an offer like that next month.

“We will have a bit of a collaboration and hopefully we will have all our regulars back."

Even much of Mr Harvey’s personal life has a direct link to his profession.

Many of his friends – not to mention his wife, Hollie – he met after they came into Tattoo Inc over the years.

“I’ve got some really good friends, and I’ve met them through tattoos – I wouldn’t have half my friends if it wasn’t for tattoos, so I feel very lucky.”

Even his wife was a once a customer at Tattoo Inc, after one of her friends had a piercing done at the shop and recommended Mr Harvey.

“I only met my wife because she came in here – she only came in because her friend got a tongue piercing here and said it was worth coming here.”

Notching up 20 years running his own business in just over one month’s time, tattooing can certainly be said to have made an indelible mark on Clive Harvey’s life.