I'm in my 30s. I am a father, a husband, a tattoo artist and a body piercing artist. I do everything that a client would need, from portraits, tribal, maori, word and gothic tattoos. I am also a lover of art and I enjoy what I do for a living.
When did tattoo art bug bit you?
I have always held a fascination for the arts when I was young, drawing on walls and books. In 2006 I met a man, Kama, who worked at Dimples Tattoo Shop and mentored me into tattoo art. Two years later I opened up my own tattoo shop at Kenya Cinema where I have worked ever since.
How was this transition; from drawing on books to drawing on skins?
It required a lot of practice. This is because one cannot afford to make a mistake when drawing on a client’s skin. With books, I could make errors, erase them or flip a page. This is not the case with tattoo art.
What is the common reason why people get tattoos?
Most people do it for beauty, others to serve as a memory to an important event about their lives.
What is it that make good tattoos?
Tattoo art business is perfected through experience. Clients will troop at your doorstep only when you have good experience in a work like this. I get most of my clients through word of mouth from previous clients. It is only when you are good at something that previous clients could recommend you to another person. There are also clients who come back.
Who are your popular clients?
Women between ages 20 to 35 and a good number of them want eyebrow tattoos. In a good day, I can receive an average of seven clients who are all women. Men have so many things to budget for, that could be the reason they are very few. Women quickly decide to get a tattoo and get one while it can take a lot of time for men to think about making that decision.
What is unique about tattoo enthusiasts in Kenya?
Kenyans prefer to browse in the internet to look for tattoo images to copy and do not come up with their own ideas. Foreigners who I have given my services to invent their own images they would like to see on their skins.
What are your successes in the eight years of your career?
This business has been the source of livelihood in my family. I train one tattoo artist in a year, this totals to eight artists. I train them on hygiene, drawing, client relations, after care tips, and self-caution when using needles.
What challenges do you face?
It is hard to fulfill certain expectations of clients and even harder to explain that to them. For instance, I have found it hard to explain to dark-skinned clients that detailed designs will not work for their colour or that there are dark parts of the body such as chest that does not work for tattoo and a tattoo on the arms is a better decision. There are also clients who are not yet decided on what they want when they visit the shop. There are others who compare your fee with other tattoo artists. They fail to understand that I have years of experience compared to the artists they find by the roadside. I believe that good tattoos are not cheap.
What lessons have you learned from your art?
It has taught me that life is too short and I should show appreciation to the people around me. Every person who walks in to get a tattoo has a story behind it. When I converse with my clients, one told me that she is going through divorce and wants to keep her mind off it. Another one told me that she lost a child and this is her way of keeping memory. Another found out she has cancer and a tattoo was a way of giving her boost in life. Others were to hide scars as a result of accidents and fires. Most of the clients have good reasons for their getting a tattoo.