For many people, getting a tattoo is a nerve-racking and painful experience. But when Sandie Tweedie visited an Edinburgh studio in 2012, he found an exciting distraction from the buzz of the needle. “I was told that the usual guy who did my tattoos was in a coma after having an accident,” he remembers. Instead they asked if he would like Noemi Sorrentino, a talented recruit from Italy, to be his artist. “The studio was crowded but we found a quiet space to discuss the design. As soon as our eyes met, I sensed a connection," él dice. He was booked in to have his tattoo two weeks later.
Noemi had been living in the UK for only a year and says her English was “not good”. Sandie tried to strike up a conversation to take his mind off the pain. “I was really concentrating on doing a good job so I was ignoring him,” she laughs. For Sandie the situation was awkward: “I fancied her but she was jabbing a needle into my ribs. It felt like such a cliche being one of those clients who chats up their tattoo artist.” Four hours later the tattoo was complete and he went to get some cash to pay. When he returned, Noemi and the receptionist were smiling. “I had told the receptionist I thought he was cute," ella dice. “I liked him and felt 15 again.” However, she didn’t think it would go further. Noemi was a single mum to a baby at the time and was concentrating on her career.
A couple of weeks later Sandie was in Glasgow and spotted some Jackson Pollock street art. “We’d spoken about it when we met so I decided to send her a message via her Facebook page.” They began chatting online regularly over the next couple of months. He worked up the courage to ask her out but she never responded. “But she carried on texting me which was odd," él dice. “I didn’t want to be creepy so I thought I’d try once more to see if she wanted to go out.” It turned out Noemi had been struggling with the language barrier and had no idea he was interested. “I said yes straight away when I realised," ella dice.
Sandie was a student with a demanding job, so it was a while before they got a chance to meet again. Eventually, in February 2013, he planned a date. “I had no money at the time so I took her to a bar where I knew I could get half-price drinks. I thought we’d eat less if we drank more,” he laughs. But when they headed to a restaurant, Noemi ordered steak and expensive wine. “I had to run outside and call my brother to borrow some money.” Despite the mishap, they got on brilliantly and shared their first kiss that night. Over the next few months they took things slowly, meeting up during the day so that Noemi’s son, Leon, could come along. “I wanted to make sure things were right before I moved a new man into his life," ella dice. “But they had a good relationship from the beginning.” The couple moved in together in 2016 and two years later Noemi fell pregnant with their son, Vincent.
En 2018 they opened a tattoo studio together. “It was hard managing the shop with a newborn,” she remembers. “But somehow we did it.” Sandie is now in the process of adopting Leon and the couple plan to marry in Las Vegas when they can. After lockdown, Sandie will move back into the vocational work he was doing before they opened the studio, supporting people with disabilities.
“Sandie has a really good heart,” says Noemi. “In many ways we’re opposites but we manage to complete each other.” Her partner agrees. “She’s loud, smiley, energetic and happy and I’m quiet, but we learn from each other. When I first met her she was a single mum making her career work in a foreign country. I thought she was such a strong woman and knew I wanted to be part of her life.”