A tattoo addict has spent £28,000 covering his entire body with inkings – including his eyelids – but says he’s fed up of strangers mocking him the street.
Chris Dalzell, 33, who got his first tattoo when he was 16 and has had another 600 since, says he will only stop if it starts affecting his children.
The chef, from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, says when he finds a bare patch of skin in the shower, he gets it covered as soon as possible.
But he admits that his face tattoos – which he started getting done in 2016 – have left him open to ridicule and he often hears people say ‘look at the state of his face’.
However Mr Dalzell doesn’t regret any of his artwork – in fact he’s booked in for another six hour session next week.
He wants to get every inch of himself covered in tattoos including his eyeballs, the soles of his feet and his even his penis.
It comes despite his eyelids swelling up so much when he got them tattooed that he was ‘blind’ for three days.
Mr Dalzell said: ‘I’ve always wanted to be covered in tattoos. I never considered how other people would perceive me.
‘I’m fascinated with the pain of tattoos and the different levels of pain. For example I got my eyelids tattooed – and I was blind for three days.
‘People are so blatant about [criticising me]. I walk down the street now and they don’t even wait for me to walk past, they’ll just openly say ‘look at the state of his face’.
‘The impression was, if you had tattoos it was gang-related. Especially in Northern Ireland where gangs are associated with terrible violence.
‘Just because I’m covered head to toe in tattoos it doesn’t mean I’m in any way a violent person.
‘Sometimes people will come up and speak to me – by the time we’ve finished they’ll say ‘I was completely wrong about you.’
Chris says he has had 48 hours of tattooing on his face alone, 120 hours on each arm and an excruciating 160 hours on his left leg.
His first tattoo was tribal skull design but the ‘turning point’ was when he had a skull inked across his face.
‘Once you go to the face it does completely change the way you look,’ he said.
‘But I still feel the same as I did before I had it done. I forget I have the tattoos on my face. I’m the same person inside.’
Chris said he never expected his tattoos would make him such a target for judgement.
‘It never even crossed my mind,’ he said.
‘I didn’t think about how people would react. If I’d sat down and thought about it I might have done it differently.
‘It was what I wanted to do, I just didn’t think about what other people thought.’
He says the most painful of all his tattoos was his eyelids, in after which he was blind for three days.
‘I drove to get them done,’ Chris explained.
‘I got out of the tattoo shop and I was completely blind. I walked into a lamp post on the way home. I couldn’t find my way to the car.
‘I was stranded in Belfast for four hours until my partner came to get me.
‘It was scary being blind, putting frozen cucumbers and ice packs on my eyes.’
Despite the ordeal Chris says he wants to get his eyelids tattooed again.
‘I enjoy the pain,’ he explained.
He said that he finds peace when he’s under the needle.
‘My daughter has had health problems. At the time getting tattoos was almost a coping mechanism,’ he said.
‘She was going through such pain in hospital. I’d go into the tattoo shop and say, ‘what’s the most painful place to get tattooed?’ and they’d say the face so I’d say, ‘give me that then’.
‘It sounds silly but I felt like I was taking a bit of pain away from her because I was inflicting it on myself.’
‘Its not self harm. I love it – it’s art and when she gets better I’ll go on getting tattoos.’
The only thing that could ever stop Chris’ tattoo habit is love for the kids.
‘As the kids grow up, if my tattoos ever affect their life I’ll get them all laser removed. It’s something I wanted to do for myself but if they didn’t like me doing it I would go to the extreme of getting every single tattoo removed.’
But that doesn’t seem likely, Chris says his two-year-old daughter likes to colour-in his few remaining bare patches of skin with felt-tip pens.
‘Jamie, he’s seven – he was four when I started getting tattoos – he’d love seeing my new tattoos. I even got one of the Hulk because he loves it.’
So what’s next? Chris says he won’t be happy until every inch of his body is covered: eyeballs, soles of feet, hands and even his privates.
‘If I want to get my privates done I’ll have to go to England. Here in Northern Ireland they won’t touch it, he said.
‘I want to one-day look in the mirror and not see any skin.’
While Chris accepts his ink marks him out as different, he says he doesn’t want to be exhibited like a freak.
He explained: ‘I’ve had offers to go on TV, on Jeremy Kyle and Judge Rinder but they just wanted to exploit me.
Chris says he wants to share his message with the world on his own terms – that it’s OK to be different.
‘I just want to be treated like a person,’ he said.
‘It has affected me. I work as a chef, I have done ever since I was 14 – I’ve even done a bit of work with Jamie Oliver.
‘I give CVs to people and they’ll call up and invite me for a trial shift. And I always reiterate, ‘I am covered with tattoos’ and they’ll say ‘oh, actually we have other candidates’.
He says even having a mean out with his girlfriend can be a struggle because of the judgement he faces.
‘Restaurants have stopped me eating in the past.’ he said.
‘They say its acceptable to have tattoos on your hands but they don’t want me in there with tattoos on my face.’