Tattooers from Kochi-based Cosmic Ink Studio talks about ethical tattooing
Tattooer Shyam Raj encountered two youngsters while returning from the iconic Goa Tattoo Festival. They hardly knew to sketch on paper but planned to start inking tattoos from their homes in Kochi! Upon hearing this, we dig deeper and find that it’s an alarmingly common practice. Many Indians simply learn the basics of handling the tattoo machine and capitalise on it, especially in smaller cities like Kochi where people’s idea of tattooing is less evolved.
In the absence of a proper licensing agency in the country—which would help identify the right practices—we speak to two local artists, who are participating at South India’s first tattoo convention named Inksoul, to find out about the ethics of inking and wrong perceptions surrounding
“Always ensure that the person you approach for getting inked is primarily someone who can sketch on paper. Don’t trust anyone who prefers readymade designs,” says Anil Menon, who invests his eight years of experience into running Cosmic Ink studio on MG Road.
He believes that a diligent professional always perceives a design as the reflection of one’s personality and will strive to create something unique for every client.
The allure of the business aspect of the art is evident in the widespread belief that tattoos are charged per square inch and not for its intricacies and effort. “People look at the size of the work and give their ‘likes’ (on social media) without being able to distinguish between a good artwork and a bad one,” says Shyam, who has been practising the profession since 2016.
Both the individuals agree that it’s essential to understand an artist’s expertise and adaptability with various styles like tribal or neo-traditional before approaching them for inking.
Apprenticeship is pretty much the only way (and the most essential one, according to the duo) through which anyone can learn to tattoo in India.
“Each skin is different—from the tone to the texture and the challenge is in acquiring the sagacity on how to approach a new one,” says Anil, asserting that training on fake skin initially is imperative. Two to three years of apprenticeship is also necessary to understand the processes including design selection and stencilling.
“Lone practitioners sometimes don’t understand if what they’ve done is a proper line or if they have ruptured the skin and they don’t have anyone to turn to,” says Shyam, whose recent clientele includes a surgeon who flew in from Bahrain. On a closing note, they say a great artist will be constantly learning and evolving by capturing the pulse of the international ‘scene’.
Inksoul festival begins today at Bengaluru.