Janet Rusty Skuse - A true great of British tattooing history
Before she became the wife of British tattoo artist Bill Skuse. Rusty was plain old Janet (Rusty) Fields Having her first tattoo in 1961 - (which saw her put on a charge when her employers ‘The British Army' found out about it)
This didn't stop her though and 18 months later she added a second tattoo – a devils head on her upper left arm - and by 1964 aged 20 she had 62 tattoos and was a driver in the ‘Women’s Royal Army Corps’. Rusty’s tattoo’s also got her noticed in the British tabloid ‘Daily Mirror’ newspaper of the 14th of March 1964. Under the headline – ‘Tattooed Army Girl Gets Show Offers’ – telling of all the tattoos Rusty had tattooed all over her body.
There were also other reports in the papers – with one giving its readers the groovy little title ‘Tattoo Girl Covers Up – Army warns its Miss Rainbow’ – Stating the Army had warned Rusty - that if any of her tattoos started to show from under her uniform she would be discharged from the service. Her passion soon saw her spending half of her pay on getting tattooed - as it became clear early on - that Rusty was getting into tattooing in a very big way. She also started to spend as much time as possible at future husband Bill’s studio.
It must also be said that Rusty gained an incredible amount of publicity in not only the British but also the overseas press - because she was one of only a handful of heavily tattooed women in the western world during the 1960’s and 70’s.
And it was after an offer from a showman in Glasgow, Scotland to become a tattoo attraction (he was turned down) that she decided to go the whole hog and get tattooed completely – And on her 21st birthday her Mother gave her £100 pounds as a present – Which Rusty gave to Bill, (they were not married at the time – well we hope they weren’t) so that she could get more tattooing put upon herself, even though she did have quite a few tattoos - but no where near enough (in her opinion) at the time.
This did not go down well with Rusty’s Mother though - as she never did come to terms with her daughter being a tattooed lady. After leaving the army Rusty became a tattoo artist herself – working at Bill’s tattoo studio at 15 High Street, Aldershot, Hants, England.
And in 1970 Rusty gained an entry into ‘Guinness Book Of Records’ as Britain’s most tattooed woman. During Rusty’s time in the ‘Guinness Book’ – the world’s most tattooed lady (until krystyne kolorful came along) was (probably) Japan’s Mrs G. Ohwada the wife of the tattooing legend Mr Mitsuaki Ohwada (Horikin) – who was also completely covered in tattooing himself - and was the chairman of the very exclusive ‘Tattoo Club Of Japan.’
Rusty appeared in the ‘Guinness Book Of Records’ for over two decades and at one time there was a life sized manikin of her displayed outside the ‘Guinness World Of Records’ exhibition at the ‘Trocadero’ in Piccadilly, London, England – with the little known fact that the staff at the ‘Trocadero’ had a terrible job in dealing with the public - who would pull the bikini bottoms down all the time - to see if there were any tattoos on down under. Rusty also went to Japan twice to appear on Japanese television with other record holders - and on her first trip over - Rusty took her sister along with her – when she appeared on the ‘What’s My Line’ television show of November 1978.
Later Pat Bone (British tattoo artist George Bone’s wife) accompanied Rusty when she was a guest on a second Japanese TV show as a record holder - Rusty who enjoyed both experiences later recalled ‘that the Japanese people treated her like a Queen’.
On retirement Bill and Rusty opened and run a boarding kennels and stray dog’s home – She did however return to tattooing part-time - running a private tattooing studio at Bushy Cottage, Litcham Road, Gressenhall Nr. Dereham in Norfolk, England for a while.
And just some of the tattooists who tattooed Rusty in the past have been; Bill and Les Skuse, Ron Ackers, Chris Connett, Lyle Tuttle, George Bone, Cash Cooper, Dennis Cockell and Bob Maddison to name just a few – And the tattooing Bill and Rusty did on George Bone helped to get him into the ‘Guinness Book Of Records’ and also enabled George to secure third place in the ‘Men’s Beauty Contest’ at the Sacramento (USA) ‘National Tattoo Club of the World’ convention in 1980.
Janet (Rusty – nicknamed because of her hair colouring) Skuse who was born on December the 20th, 1943 is a former holder of the Miss Tattoo title (Awarded at the 1989 Dunstable Tattoo Expo) - passed away on December the 7th, 2007 – Bill died in 1995.
Copyright Paul Sayce.