Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – October 2014
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
It’s funny to see and hear all the various stories and experiences and complaints on social media about the state of tattooing in the world. There isn’t one consistent theme amongst them; in Europe every talented tattooer is a painter, and some of them epic painters! I see more awesome paintings, etchings and prints from tattoo artists in Europe than anywhere else in the world, sometimes I don’t know how they actually have time to be tattooers! I don’t understand how they have that much free time to get so much art done with only so many hours in the day.. as here I seem to have my hands full with tattooing and barely finding the time to get my actual tattoo drawings done. I suppose that’s why the European economy might be lagging a bit 😉 as I recall from my years of living there that ‘working’ amongst the artistic crowd always took second seat to ‘creating’, and for that I am thankful as there are some really beautiful and imaginative works coming out of the continent right now from a host of amazing tattoo artists!
In the USA many people are complaining about the country being oversaturated with amateur tattoo artists and backyard scratchers… yet they keep making new tattoo shows to inspire this syndrome and perpetuate the ‘glory’ of tattooing.. and yet according to ‘young tattoo artist’ logic (akin to stripper logic) they have to sell out to go on these shows to make a name for themselves so they can actually get some clients because there are too many artists buying ebay kits because of the shows they are appearing on. You might need to read that sentence again to fully understand the lack of self-awareness involved. From that mentality I think we just found irony… and to quote The Bondi Hipsters… ‘and if we just found irony, do you know how ironic that would be?’ Holy shit. Can’t we just make tattoos like normal tattooers, develop our art and talent, get noticed for our work and gain clients the old fashioned way, by hard work?… and not on a reality TV show? There should be a support group for whining struggling shitty tattoo artists that don’t have a film crew around them 24/7.
There was once a day a long time ago… when well known or at the very least, respectable tattoo shops in each city worldwide would be considered an embassy of sorts for world travelling tattoo artists, guest artists, serious tattoo collectors and the like. A Tattoo Embassy if you will. During my near decade on the road tattooing all around the world, I would often pop into an unknown tattoo shop in a random European city, as there were far far fewer shops and artists back then everyone had some inkling of who each other were or at the very least the shop they came from. So once there and introduced you’d tell your story, explain your lineage and once confirmed then you were welcomed as if you belonged to the family. So in a city where you didn’t know anyone you now had a large group of like-minded people to have a dinner with, people to drink with, girls to smile at, a couch to sleep on, a chair to tattoo out of, a referral for the next city down your path. If you were lucky you’d be invited back next year or invite them to come to your shop and town. Like a global secret society, it felt special to be a part of it.
Call me nostalgic but these were the ‘Good old days’, and yes they were real. When tattooing was secretive and mysterious.. and yes I miss it. Everyone says what they say nowadays, like tattooing has evolved, and grown up and hit the mainstream, etc… but those old days when it was a small band of curious travellers circumnavigating the globe for work, pleasure and knowledge is how I want to remember tattooing.
I’ve been hearing so many stories lately of young tattooers not doing this style or that style while learning, not finishing already started sleeves because they the artist changed style and doesn’t want to work in the half completed original style anymore. WTF? Can you imagine your tattoo artist deciding he doesn’t like Japanese tattooing anymore half way through your sleeve and refusing to finish it? Blasphemy. Tattooing is a service based art at any level of expertise and respecting the clients is a big part of that.
I’m very lucky with my shop Authentink Studio as we are on the 3rd floor on a side street. Everyone who comes in to see us actually had to look us up and find us on a map, it really filters out the crap that is associated with owning a shop and dealing with the public. Part and parcel of dealing with the public is SERVICE, so many tattoo artists seem to have a problem with that it seems. At our shop we treat everyone the same, client or supporting friend, offer a beverage, we’re polite and courteous to them and offer as much information as we can to help them make their tattoo decision. The clients I see coming in to my shop are educated about the style they want, they come with reference, they ask to see the portfolios.. it is good to see that people are learning and that they are seeking out the good artists and shops. The tattoo gods always make sure that people get the tattoo they deserve.