Les Skuse

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(1912 – 1973)
Les Skuse was born, lived and died in the port town of Bristol, England. He became the town’s most famous tattoo export and was almost as well known on American shores as he was at home. He visited the United States in 1956 and corresponded with many American tattooists. He was a big admirer of the Coleman School of tattooing as practiced by Paul Rodgers, Huck Spaulding, Al Schiefley and others.

In 1956, Skuse stated in a letter: “English tattooists were using a single needle. This caused a lot of bleeding and pain. This finished design looked very thin and scratchy when compared with the strong, well-shaded designs done in the United States.”

The right-handed Skuse started his tattoo career in 1928 at the shop of Joseph Hartley, who was probably Bristol’s one and only tattoo artist before Skuse. Hartley was a long time tattooist/supplier in this area and was located at 2 Blackfields, near Stokes Croft, Bristol, England.

Skuse stated: “Professor Joe Hartley fixed me up with a Japanese hand tattooing outfit, and began to work on some of my friends. It was not long before I had earned the price of a six-volt combination tattoo machine.” Skuse is said to have stayed with Hartley until World War II, when he enlisted in the Royal Artillery. After five years of tattooing the troops, he got out, settled back into Bristol and opened his first shop. Les Skuse was located in at least three different storefronts in Bristol; 57 and 97 Lower Ashley Road, and 71 Mina Road.

Undoubtedly two of the major accomplishments that etched Les Skuse’s name into tattoo history were the formation of the British Guild of Tattooing and the Bristol Tattoo Club. These organizations were given worldwide publicity by both the British and overseas presses, and kept Skuse in the limelight during the 1950s.

Riding on this wave of popularity, Skuse was voted the Champion Tattoo Artist of All England in 1955. The next few years brought an international exchange of tattoo ideas, with Skuse visiting the U.S., and Milton Zeis and Al Schiefley visiting England.

Les Skuse died in 1973. The most fitting tribute I can find for Les Skuse comes from a 1957 letter: “I have always been ready and willing to learn, never thinking I knew it all and continually searching for ways in which to improve my work and equipment. It is my firm belief that the more tattooists meet, correspond and exchange ideas, the better it will be both for the individual and the profession.”

3 more genersations of bios coming soon for Danny, Billy, Jimmie, and Danny.