Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Isobel Varley: A New Breed of Septuagenarian

December 7th, 2008 by

Isobel Varley is one hot mama…er, make that grandmama. The British woman has spent the past twenty-two years covering every available inch of her personal canvas in tattooed art and is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the “World’s Most Senior Tattooed Woman.” 

Varley’s love affair with tattooing started in 1986 – when she was 49 – at a tattoo convention in London’s Hammersmith Palais. Surprised and amazed at the beauty of the art, the stories of the artists and wearers and the diversity of the tattoo community, Varley’s life “was turned upside down and changed forever.” Excited, she made an appointment with local tattoo artist Bill Cooke for the end of the week. Varley chose a small bird for her shoulder blade and was so enthusiastic over the results that she had Cooke tattoo an orchid on her thigh immediately after. Barely a month later, Varley visited another local artist – Ed Tibbitts – for some more work done and Tibbitts added to her fast-growing collection with small pieces on her thighs, arms, back and lower stomach, eventually extending down to her genitals. A 1987 trip to an Amsterdam tattoo convention introduced Varley to another Yorkshire-area tattoo artist named Brent and not long after both of Varley’s breasts, upper arms, back and hips were covered in Brent’s handiwork. 

By this time Varley was so enamored with tattoos that she committed to having her entire body save her face covered in diverse works. After three years of commitment to Brent’s designs, Varley fell into the hands of tattoo artist Alan Dean, who was given “carte blanch to tackle each area as he saw fit… He covered every accessible spot on my vulva and around it and it was a mammoth task for us both due to the flexibility of the skin in this area but once started I was adamant that no spot should be left without pigment in it. Following this he tackled different areas ranging from legs, ankles bum, thighs, back and stomach plus he added some extra work on my breasts.” 

For the next 18 years Varley’s body was worked on by a multitude of national and international (and several world-renown) artists – Dave Fleet, Ron Ackers, Spider Webb, Chris Cougar, Paul O’Connor, Filip Leu, Pilo Mo’o, Herbert Hoffmann etc., etc., etc. – to help her achieve the goal of having a body fully covered in art. 

71-year-old Varley is inevitably running out of space to tattoo. “At the present the only areas not completely tattooed is my face, the soles of my feet my ears and some area on my hands,” she says on her website. “Although I now have some tattooing on my forehead and beside my eyes, I do not expect to fully cover my face.” Varley told the Daily Mail that this is because she wants “people to able to see what I look like.” She does admit though, that this is not a hard and fast rule, saying, “I recognize that the pressure is there to go further and I am aware that frequently over the years I have imposed limits on how far I would go. Then, later I have relaxed these limits, so I just don’t know for certain what the future holds as I am definitely addicted to tattooing.” 

Varley is constantly traveling, attending tattoo festivals and conventions all over the world where she proudly displays her ever-growing collection to enthusiasts and seeks out new artists and ideas. You can check her online diary for the dates of events that she’s attending near you.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.