Torbay Tattoo Tales

Is there such thing as a ‘Torbay Tattoo’?

So, are there any observations we can make about Torbay Tattoos? Are there any trends we can identify among the tattoos that have been submitted from this area? What sets them apart, if anything?

Here’s a few trends:

Flying Things

People in the Torbay area like things that fly. There is a wonderful selection of butterflies, the odd bee, and a collection of gorgeous birds (swallows and crows and all sorts). Besides these natural flying creatures are hot air balloons (including my own Victorian steam punk version!). Here, for example, are Aimee’s butterfly, Brixham-born Sophie’s three swallows, Queenie’s bee, a butterfly, and my hot-air balloon.

Nautical themes

you would expect there to be a number of tattoos having to do with seashores, ships, and seas. And, in Torbay there are, from Woody’s Popeye ‘Live Fast’ nautical image to Rob’s ‘boats, sea, and women’ to Susan’s simple anchor. Then there is Adam’s lighthouse or Jordan’s detailed image of the Stanley Beau.


Are residents of Torbay particularly aware of the march of time? There is a strong sense that many tattoos with clocks are not only marking a particular event but also, as Louise says of hers, that our planning and sense of control sometimes gives way. As for Mark’s surreal Salvador Dali-inspired tattoo, time itself is melting, stretching, liquifying, warping…

Photo of Professor Corinna Wagner

Written by Professor Corinna Wagner

Associate Professor in Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter