It’s probably fair to say that the ancient art of tattooing has over the past decades reached a zenith in mainstream popularity across the Western Hemisphere. Far from being confined to a niche or a sub-cultural statement, tattoos are a well established feature in many areas of modern popular culture.
In more recent years, the art form has also transcended the fashion fads of Celtic bands, ‘tribal’ markings and – let’s be honest – thoroughly naff and poorly rendered Tweety Pies, giving way to a whole new perspective on body art, with a huge range of often beautiful and striking styles and designs being embraced by folks from all walks of life.
With so much choice, though, can come pitfalls. A tattoo parlour on every other corner means you’re bound to get both wheat and chaff, and when you’re considering commissioning a piece of permanently-worn art, it pays to be discerning. A haircut, this is not.
I’ve always been drawn to artists that recognise the heritage of the art form, taking inspiration from styles within their historical context and adding their own character to it. A fine example of this philosophy incarnate is Tacho, of Follow Your Dreams Tattoo Parlour.
So, I went to talk to him to get an idea of what his craft means to him and to his team. I find him working on a full chest piece for a chap called Oliver, a regular client of his.
I’d like to start by asking you to tell me a little bit about yourself, if I may? Firstly, what’s your background in tattooing, and how did you get into it?
Well, I’m originally from Argentina and have been tattooing for fifteen years now. My background, really, was street art. I was into the Hardcore Metal music scene, so my tattooing is really coming from the street.
I see from your portfolio of work that there’s a very distinct aesthetic throughout. Would you say that you have any specific stylistic influences and if so, what are they?
Yes, yes definitely. Pretty much Japanese… Traditional Japanese. I can do all of the styles, now and these days I’m focused on the large pieces (gestures to Oliver’s chest, see picture). I like to work in the darker, grey and black and white as well as really vibrant and colourful. As long as it is classic styles, I love both.
Something that really strikes me when walking into your studio and looking around is that you really seem to live and breathe visual art. The canvasses, the sketches, the photography of your work.
Oh yes, we do. I suppose we like to think that, if we had an ethos, it would be to make art. Our own art. Everything in here is done by us.
So a big focus on originality, then?
Yeah, so it’s our style…our take on things. So we talk to each person and really get an idea of what they want and bring our ideas to each piece. We really like to keep to the tradition of doing things by hand. We don’t use much computer really, we try to keep the tradition alive.
No pointing at the wall and picking a tattoo ‘off the rack’ so to speak, then?
Precisely. That’s not for us (wry smile).
It really shows. So, how many artists do you have in your team, stable… I’m not sure of the collective noun for tattooists I’m afraid.
(Chuckles as if this has come up before) Yeah, we’ll say team. There are four, and we have friends who come in to guest for me all the time, mix the styles… But we are four, which is David, Vic, Catriona and me.
And how does it work for anyone looking to get in touch?
They can call or hit the website, but best of all is to come in to see us. If we are not too busy we will take some time, have a talk, see what we can do for you. Always we want to talk first, see what people want so we can prepare.
Interview by Ben Jackson.