Tattoo’s, Tattooists, Tattooed; the rise the of a phenomenon; the legend of the practice, stereotypical and sensationalised association of tattoo design, and whether its culture and its band wagon rolling by, willing travellers jumping on for the ride, or individuals, cultures, entire social demographics defined by such a thing as tattoo, and to be tattooed, taking meaning and significance beyond art for art’s sake, tattoos, come 2014 is a phenomenon, and for a host of reasons of which can, and do, illustrate the fabric of society, the groove in “our” social swagger, amongst other things so much more than just a tattoo alluding to social and human significance. Notwithstanding the social sciences', an historic mention of tattoo culture, and general fascination with tattooing, WhisperMaze, with an interest in “the” social belonging delves into the UK culture of tattoo’s, with interviews from Tattoo parlour owners, Tattooists, Mr & Mrs 9-5, of which the very essence of the review revolves, and evolves, a phenomenon deserving at the very least acute interest.
The word ‘tattoo’ is said to has two major derivations- from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’, history dictating facts; the history of tattoo beginning over 5000 years ago, and the practice is as diverse as the people who wear these markings. And just to give you; the reader, historical significance, such a significance has evolved with the lifespan of many cultures and era’s all very pertinent to the UK demographic. Examples of tattooing have been found in Pazyryk culture, in the high Altai Mountains of western and southern Siberia, mummies found there dating from around 2400 years ago. And then there is Egyptian culture broadening the practice of tattooing throughout the world: Crete, Greece, Persia, Arabia, by 2,000 BC all the way to southeast Asia as far as Japan, earliest evidence of tattooing found in the form of clay figurines dating 3,000 BC or older, and from southern China the practice spread along the ‘silk route’. From Polynesian tattooing, considered intricate and skilful, enraptured to the migrant communities of New Zealand, to the subcultures of Auckland to the Netherlands, to the Hawaiian people and their traditional tattoo art, known as ‘kakau’, serving not only for ornamentation and distinction, such practices in line with the Indonesian Borneo, one of the few places in the world where traditional tribal tattooing is still practiced today just as it has been for thousands of years, notwithstanding cultures in Central and South America, India, Thailand, Africa, to soldiers with hands on bible as early as 1846; the first permanent tattoo shop in New York City beginning a tradition of tattooing military servicemen from both sides of the civil war, consequently reaching the British Isles around 400 B.C., cometh 2014 here the culture of Tattoo is.
Gabor Zsofinyecz, owner of Plan 9 Tattoo Shop has been tattooing for 20 years now, and Gabor has worked all over Europe and for the last eight years in England, learning from some of the greatest tattooist in the trade. Gabor is a descendant of the Hungarian tattoo revolution, inspired by the likes of ‘Boris the Tattooist’, and Zsolt Sarkozy, Gabor comes across as a confident man, confident of his skills and true to the ‘art’; the one man outfit packing a passionate punch with respects to his own impact on the tattoo industry within the UK.
“Gabor, tell me, what is your view on the profession of tattooing today?”
“It’s exciting, sure, more people are getting tattoo’s done, sure, and all kinds of people, the way I see it tattoos has become more of a fashion trend, now it’s fashionable to have a tattoo, now people for whatever reason feel that the time is right, people want to define themselves more toady, whether they belong to a group, or they love someone, someone died, it’s about that too, I have all types of clients, young, old, it’s quite varied, I would say there are too many parlours though...”
“How do you mean?”
“When I say too many parlours I mean too many tattooists are not really good, these guys see tattooing as an easy way of earning money, because if you are good you can earn money, and with the industry the way it is now, as big as it is, I think there are too many places offering bad ‘art’, and still making money, I think this, though it will start to slow down but the interest will still be there.”
“So how artistic do you have to be?”
“You have to know how to draw, yes, but you also have to know how to draw using the ‘tool’. It’s a different kind of art, not like painting but like painting, some people are not really good drawers and it shows on the people they tattoo, I for example went to art school in Hungary, there I honed my skills as an artist, to know how to draw is really important, if you do this well…the art, and you know how to use the ‘tool’, you use the best ink…the right ink, you become not just a tattooist, you are an artist, and that’s what we are, the skill is the art, the trade is tattooing, and that is why it’s really hard to get a really good tattooist to work out of your shop, because they are good, because they are an artist and really appreciate their work as art, that’s why you must do all you can to have them working out of your shop.”
“Right ink? Best ink?
Yeah, the right ink, there are different kinds of ink like there different kinds of food, different manufacturers of ink, always best to get the best ink, not everybody uses the best ink and again it shows, when we say things like the ‘right ink’ we mean the right ink for the different skin tones, you need to pay attention to the pigmentation of all these tones. I mean where we are, in West London, our clientele is mostly of the people living around here, and you get dark tones: Africans, Caribbean’s, and their skin tone is different, Africans tend to have a purple like quality to their skin colour, some ink will not show well here, with the Caribbean’s the same ink will show well, and the you have the Asian skin, you know, that olive like colour, important to use the right ink.”
“So essentially, in your opinion what next?”
People will always want tattoos, it is part of human culture, so, whether it’s just fashion, or it means much more people will always want tattoos, now...yes, it has become stupid, you know, take something as pure as art and label it a ‘business’, but... what can you do, now there is a new fluorescent thing going on, tattoos glowing in the dark, it’s a new science, but I think we’ll see a lot more of that quite soon, and you also have the science where you implant small chip like things under the skin, and you; the person will be able to turn ‘off and on your tattoos, things like this is part of what your project is looking into, the reflection of people? I don’t know, sometimes the tattoo themselves tell you all you need to know.”
Gabor is a passionate man as well as a passionate tattooist, not much into the expansion of his business Gabor sees his work as works of art, to Gabor tattooing is art, it is an intimate way one person can resonate their art, for Gabor it is how people feel about what they inscribe on their skin, this connection, between Gabor and his clientele is the essence behind his drive as a budding tattooist. With new developments already taking hold of the industry, in many ways conforming to peoples tastes and desires, beliefs and way of expressing themselves as individuals, is changing, in essence the very morality of people is changing, and tattoos still the best way to gauge the mood of a people.
You can catch Gabor @ 341 Harrow Rd, London, W9 3RA 020 7286 9555
Catch the next segment of UK Tattoo Culture: Looking at the impact of Tattoos on Youth Culture
Delving into the history of tattooing, tattoo’s, trying to gauge just how long the practice has been around, history telling modern day thinking the phenomenon is nothing new, only thing being new being the human significance associated with tattoos, as history teaches us. How such a longstanding practice, way of life to some has impacted on the fabric of UK culture delves into the one common denominator making up cultural populations- the people – and the people are as varied an interesting as the tattoo’s seen today. Our first look into the UK tattoo culture focused on the ownership of Tattoo parlours, looking at the running of the parlours; the different tattooists employed, down to the quality of the ink and a tattooist tools, consequently WhisperMaze having the pleasure of talking to
Plan 9 Tattoo Shop.
UK Tattoo Culture: Ink, Flesh, Word
by Jahvin Morgan