Grum Reapur: Origins
Something I am always interested in is peoples stories, it is what I consider to be my "superpower". I have people tell me openly about thier own experiences with depression, suicide, not fitting in etc. Everywhere I go I will encounter people that I have never met before who will tell me all about their deepest worries and circumstances in life.
To this day I still have no idea what makes this happen, but it is a daily occurrence. I think people know I am going to listen and not judge them for it, somehow, I certainly don't look that way. One thing I have realised in my time living with this sort of emotional magneto-ism is that people are dying to be heard, dying to get things off their chest and maybe I just offer an outlet, but I don't say anything that gives this impression, it just happens.
Maybe "superpower" is a little egotistical, but it certainly feels like one. That is the origins of the idea behind the Grum Reapur. For years I have helped people out as much as I can, whether they were homeless and needed somewhere to stay, whether they were facing the darkness without any hope, whether they had lost a loved one and were at a loss as to how they can move forward I am just there as much as I can be.
I used to be a tattoo artist for about 5 years, but always thought my designs were too weird to go in peoples flesh. When I was tattooing I would often spend a lot of time talking to my clients and connecting with them on a deeper level (luckily I didn't charge by the hour).
I would ask them a series of questions: What do you do? Often people would respond with their jobs, which always intrigued me, after all we are often doing more than the jobs that we have fallen into.
The second question: What do you want to do? The responses to this were often things of ambition from "tattoo artist" to "nurse", but the resounding response was that people wanted to do something beyond what they were doing now.
The third question, one that opened them up, one that revealed many of the hangups we have about ourselves: What is stopping you? The answers to this last question were always ones that gripped me with pain, a lack of self belief, perceived availability of time, skill, access to education. What I learned from asking this was that I needed to try and be me, authentically, without prejudice against myself or others and the most amazing lesson I learned was that we are all the same deep down. We all feel the same things and had the same beliefs just with different subjects of concern.
There was one particular client that I am going to call Bill that changed things for me, changed them for the better as it helped me realise this "superpower" that I had. If you walk into a tattoo shop and smell like alcohol you will not be getting a tattoo, simple as. Well Bill absolutely stunk of alcohol and was quite dishevelled in appearance, but me being me wanted to try and help in some way. So I sat with him for awhile, spoke to him about what tattoo idea he had, which was an Om(Aum) symbol. Bill knew quite a lot about spirituality and told me about how he was alienated from his family and how he was an alcoholic, which touched my heart (even as I type this I have tears in my eyes remembering his story) as I had a problem with alcohol when I was going through the darkness myself. I explained to him that I can't tattoo him unless he hadn't drunk in at least 48 hours. I didn't take a deposit from him, but booked him in for 2 weeks from that day and he assured me he would be 2 days sober when he came in for the tattoo.
2 weeks later he comes in for his tattoo and is definitely different from when he first came in. The cloud of alcohol that clung to him was no longer there, I even smelled his breath to make sure. I got setup, had him fill in a consent form and called him over for his tattoo. Our conversation went deeper into the things he wanted in life and how he wants to reconnect with his family, particularly his daughters. We spoke of his feelings of shame, guilt and I offered some of the things I had used to lift myself out of that place myself (at this point I hadn't touched alcohol myself in 4 years). The tattoo came out wonderfully, there was no excessive bleeding that you'd get with someone who had alcohol in their system, his skin was perfect for it. I think the tattoo took around 2 hours due to how much we were talking in between the buzzing moments of the machine. I finished my tattoo, gave him a massive hug (and I hug like you are my family no matter who you are) and he went on his way. The tears fill my eyes as I recall what came a few months after.
I was walking through town around 2 months later to get lunch when I bumped into him again], he was markedly slimmer, his hair was looking nice and he no longer had the dishevelled look he did when he came in to the shop for the first time. I got speaking to him and he told me he hadn't drunk since that day, as though our conversation and the tattoo were a turning point for him. He had also reached out to his daughters and they were tentative at first, but were giving him an opportunity to prove himself to them. I remember standing in the high street as tears rolled down my cheeks hearing how he had improved so much since he came in. Bill is one of the people that truly sticks out in my memory as this "superpower" became apparent.
It is stories like this that served as the inspiration behind everything I do now. I created the Grum Reapur toy back in 2016 when I was going through a particularly gloomy period and all my art was trying to make people view themselves through a different lens, trying to capture that superpower in imagery. I had no idea what I was doing with social media, no idea how to setup and operate a website, business accounts, marketing, branding or anything. I then started the Princes Trust Enterprise program, where I was given guidance and a mentor to help me bring it to life.
The story I am writing behind the Grum Reapur seeks to capture a lot of these stories and tell them through a narrative of a superhero, one battling with powers beyond his own recognition and also fighting the demons that plague humanity. I really want to tell you more about the story, but feel if I give too much away it will ruin the epic that I hope it will become.
There are many facets of my life that go into the Grum Reapur and I hope this gives a little insight into what is behind it. Maybe it is a superpower, but as Uncle Ben would put it, "with great power comes great responsibility" and I try to bare it as best I can, through the turmoil, tests, trials and tribulations that life is often want to throw at us.
All the best