Local magazine Community Bridges made Rich Knightly their cover star last month with an in depth interview about his journey to creating his tattoo studio; K-Ink, at Copeland Park. We loved the interview so much that we wanted to share it as a Guest Post. Written and interviewed by Koko Oloko for Community Bridges. We hope you enjoy.

I found that family finds you, you don’t necessarily find your family. Just like your biological family is chosen for you, so is your spiritual family and they will find you in this world.

It’s not every day that someone crosses your path who you instantly feel a strong connection with, but that’s what happened when I met local business owner Richard K. Our encounter began two years ago when we were standing in front of the late White Elephant Café on Choumert road, the part that is often referred to as ‘Little Nigeria’ because of the mini market stores and shops selling Nigerian produce.

Rich K is the proud owner of K-Ink tattoo parlour. I say proud because where Rich K is today, and what it took for him to get there is something we all need to hear. A transformation so big that he describes it as a metamorphosis. It shows us all that no matter where you start in life you can build your life into something beautiful that you are proud of.

Rich’s dad died of an overdose when he was young and at 15 he left the family home and found himself homeless. As you can imagine, as a homeless teenager Rich dipped into a different life than what he has now, he lived in ‘crack’ houses and ran with gangs. And that’s all we will say about that, because what is more important, is where he is now.

How did K-Ink begin?

‘I had been working at [CLF Art Cafe] for 9 years and I was getting to the point where I wanted to find my own way you know, but I didn’t understand how to do it. Tattoos for me were the only thing that made sense. At that point, I also saw a gap in the market in Peckham where there weren’t any tattoo studios representing the kind of work I wanted to see coming out of tattoo studios, which was strong, solid, contemporary, black work.’

Rich opened K-Ink on a bit of a wish and a prayer and works harder and longer than he did before but like he says ‘I’m running something that’s been literally my dream. The life I have created for myself makes me happy to be alive, which hasn’t always been the case.’

What’s the ‘K’ in K-Ink?

‘Whilst running limes over to the bar when I was working at [CLF] I was thinking about when I did performances and where I would go to get the audience’s words tattooed afterwards. I was thinking, I need to get this idea off the ground, but it needs to pop. The name had to encompass a lot of ‘safe space’ kind of ideals; it had to indicate that it touches on the more obscure side of things, whilst giving a little bit of something that people like, but not what is already out there. So when suddenly the name ‘K-Ink’ came in to my head. I screamed it out KINK and dropped the whole box of limes and they went everywhere. That’s basically how the name of the tattoo studio came about.’

After all he has seen and experienced, some good and some really not so good, Rich is more sure than ever that you have to treat everyone on a level, and that is the vibe he is bringing to K-ink in Copeland Park. That’s why K-Ink is a safe-space studio where all artwork is respectful to different groups and where a lot of different groups who may have traditionally been ostracised from society are welcome.

‘I treat everybody on the same level always, there is never any change to that for me. I’ve always tried to live my life with complete love, it’s very hard to constantly do it, it has vulnerabilities. But, it’s how I am, it’s how I try to project myself.’

The positivity Rich and his artists are putting out there is coming back to them, with a list of guest artists waiting to work at K-Ink and a strong presence in the community Rich is already talking about expanding.

‘We house guest artists from all over the world and we work with a strong team of resident artists, we have shown that K-Ink works and it is constant; it generates a lot of love and energy. We are looking for more to space to champion emerging artists and give them exposure, and invite our guest artists on the waiting list. That’s why we are looking to expand, we are looking to expand everything that K-Ink represents, in the community, for the artists, for the safe space, for the haven, for tapping into undiscovered potential; it would encompass all of that.’

And in full circle, Rich wants to support vulnerable young people in and around Peckham by giving them a way to express themselves through art. So that even if someone has experienced something hard and ugly they can transform it into something beautiful and share it with those around you. Rich will be looking for a place to display his young artists work in the coming months.

Find K.Ink on Instagram 

Community Bridges SE15 is a non-profit volunteer run magazine, on a mission to get people more involved in their community to support their health and well-being. They are funded through highly targeted and affordable online and physical advertising, so if you are a local business and want to find out more, email: sandra@communitybridges.co.uk

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