I got into tattooing by chance really. I was taking evening courses at the Royal Fine Arts Academy in Brussels while working another job. I used to hang out at the tattoo shop on the corner of my street, and the guy saw my drawings and said I should get into it. Went on an extended holiday to Greece that summer and met a few people from a local tattoo studio, they wanted to see my drawings and then offered me an apprenticeship.
Q. How long have you been a tattooist?
I have been tattooing now for just a bit over 4 years
Q. Is the industry like you thought it would be ? What surprised you about it?
I didn't quite know what to expect coming into this industry. I just thought it was a bunch of people who could all draw real well and liked to have a good time. I suppose what surprised me most when I got in, is that not all tattooists can draw, and some are just here for the partying and because it's "cool" to call yourself a tattoo artist. What also surprises me, is that tattooists here are not just competitive, but very jealous of each other, so instead of getting together for a drink and laugh about some stories that can happen or share experiences, they'd rather talk shit on each others backs. Makes me happy to go to conventions now and see that it's not like that for every one at least.
I learned on friends and myself.
Q. Were you always interested in other types of art or specifically tattoo art?
I was always drawing growing up, then in high school did a major in arts, and then became an art teacher for a couple of years. Did a few odd jobs painting murals for discos and restaurants, motorbikes, helmets, jackets and t-shirts. then got even more interested in other mediums while at the fine arts academy. And finally fell in love with drawing right on peoples skin.
Q. Did you start off as full-time, or did you start tattooing part-time?
I first started part time.
Q. Was it difficult to build a portfolio? and how did you get your name known? did it take long?
Q. How did you get in touch with clients initially, is it different now?
When starting up, it was just friends and friends of friends, so i didn't publicise or anything, I wanted to get to a certain level before tattooing any strangers. Then I moved countries and worked in an already existing studio who had just lost their tattooist. This made it easy to start building up a customer base. Now that shop is mine and relocated one road away from the original one, which places us right on a busy street to be visible, even though now I tend to get more custom pieces rather than plain flash, and it is extremely rare that I will do a walk in due to schedule reasons.
Q. Have you ever had to deal with difficult or frightened clients? how do you put people at ease or deal with difficult customers?
For frightened customers, I tend to offer them a lolly and explain everything as it goes along, from the set up until the end if need be. They usually get fine the minute the needle touches them first.
Q. Do you prefer tattooing men or women or doesn't it matter - who responds better?
Being a man, I would have to say that I prefer tattooing women, for obvious reasons. But in reality, it doesn't really matter so long as the skin is good. Women tend to take the pain better.
Q. Do you normally use flash or plan custom designs or just improvise when you arrive ? have you ever planned to do one design, and then had a new idea when you met the client?
Yes, it has also happened that we planned a design, and that by joking a bit before the tattoo, I come up with a totally new design, i would explain it more or less to the customer, who usually leaves me free hand to sketch it on them there and then.
Q. What was the hardest part technically to learn? eg, lining, shading, blending colors etc, and have you developed your own style ?
I would have to say, that for me, the lining has been the hardest thing to learn.
Q. How important is using the right equipment, and how did you afford it initially?
Using the right equipment is what can make or break a tattoo. My first machine was one bought in a kit, but not one from china or those shitty ones on e-bay. this one was actually tested in my friends studio, and ran better than his old Mickey Sharpz. That kit cost me a full month's salary and had all the necessities there, but only one machine.
Q. How important is hygiene? How did you learn about it?
Q. What advice would you give on how to find work as a tattooist?
Learn how to draw, draw a lot, ask a studio for an apprenticeship, be patient and be persistent. If a studio believes you have what it takes, you will eventually land an apprenticeship, if not, feel free to ask them for their advice on what to do and be prepared to hear the harsh truth if you can't draw.
Q. Is it a very competitive industry and have you worked with other tattooists?
It is an extremely competitive industry. I am the only tattooist in my studio, but do sometimes have guest artists and guest spots.
Q. What's your proudest tattooing achievement so far?
Being the first person ever to tattoo Paul Allender (Cradle Of Filth)
Q. What are the best & worst things about the industry and tattooing?
the best thing is doing what I love to do for a living. The worst is the home tattooists that don't respect anything.
no big difference, only when you are at a party and people are starting to get drunk, they all want to talk about their "great tattoo ideas", always makes for good stories, and free drinks.
My family has been very supportive of me in this matter and were 100% behind me.
Q. What would you like to achieve in tattooing in future?
Just to get as good as I can get by learning every day. as long as I can do good tattoos on people and make them happy that way, that's what I need.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to give people who want to become a tattooist, what would it be?
First of all, see question 15 above (Q. What advice would you give on how to find work as a tattooist?). Then remember, it's a lot of hard work and harsh criticism, be prepared for that, and make sure you listen to the right criticism to improve your work.
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