I have always been fascinated with tats, each one bears the spirit of the tattooist. It’s a feeling. Its the vibe the artist gives off and I think, “Yes its you. I’m supposed to be imprinted by you.” It may take me months to decide on a design, sometimes a year and one time it was instantaneous. Then the feeling connects somehow when I come across the right artist, ” I choose you”. My first was at 14. My first tat. Bending over an old dentist chair in some grotty part of Rome, with my boyfriend then (I think he found one in the Pagine Gialle , Italian yellow pages). I was so fixated about a rose and it should be my first one. The tattooist resembled an Italian version of a young Confucius. When he asked where I was from he was taken aback because he was trained the traditional way in Sarawak. The whole experience was full circle, the grottiness of the neighbourhood, the novelty, being 14, the boyfriend (as nervous as I was) , the Italian Confucius and his association with Malaysia, bending half naked over the dentist chair…summer, I would not have it any other way! A few decades later, a few tats later, my rose, now, looks like a droopy ginseng root, on my ass, , but I STILL LOVE IT and YES it still makes my heart smile!
Personally, I feel that people with tats are deeply sentimental, its not enough to feel and express a moment or loyalty in words or actions. Its an act of dedication to a fantasy, an idea, a love, a time, a belief. For me a reminder of who I was, what I felt at that point in time that helped shaped me what I am to this very moment.
Come 2013, some 20+ years later, I was able to organise a high school reunion, in Rome. It was just a handful of people who were there while I revisited my teen years in Italy. One of the most meaningful characters to me , as a teen, was Kubo. He was a curious creature , warm, funny, indescribably to me; beautiful, and mysteriously magnetising. I remember that magnetism til today, maybe thats when my curiosity and love for tats began to seed. I think he had every thing to do with it. He would come and go, disappear and reappear at school. We all knew he had this abnormally obsessive pull and at such a young age for everything in the world of Tattoos. I thought he was the happiest soul because I realise now, that the calling came early for Kubo, and his soul is being led by it. Today he is the owner of Roma Tattoo Museum . For my birthday, Kubo gifted me a dragon fly, funnily enough I dragged my ex-boyfriend who was at my first tat with me!
One day soon, after all this nightmare is over, I’d LOVE the chance to sit all day with Kubo, my magical being. A phone call wouldn’t be enough, and although Kubo was warmly open to this blog , I wanted to see his face and hear his stories in the same room in the same time zone.
Will Brito is Weshmagul
I reached out to Will and ever so grateful that he was able to give me time for my questions. Will was passing through Penang. I remember this dynamic Venezuelan well. Will is a very tactile person, his hugs are huge, his touches sincere, his laughter comes from deep within his belly. His energy is so contagious, we would see him bounce about, it was hard not to get sucked into his energy. I relate to him so well, I think we share some characteristics, I believe it is how we express our love to the people we love in our lives, we LOVE LOUDLY, in action and in words, we love in stereo, like King Kong when he beats his chest. We miss him and he’s left a big big colourful hole when he left our island for his next adventure.
Will took pride in sharing food and way of life from his home country …music , drinks, always so much rhythm in him. He now lives and works in the heart of Brussels, Belgium as tattoo artist Weshmagul and if you’re lucky, you will find him working on clients at one of the prominent studios in the region , Aargh tattoo shop.
It was Christmas 2016 and he had a design in mind to let loose, so I volunteered.
For the benefit of some non-inked folks who think people with tats have a) identity issues 2) need to show off 3) they are mostly “rebels” etc…here are some insights from talented artistic professional passionate souls in this industry.
Will, what are the reasons you think people want tattoos?
“When I think about this, I have in mind the need to show what is considered important to us individually, like hobbies, experiences and opinions, or/and collectively, like family, associations and such, come to play the key role on the decision of getting a tattoo. Now, more and more the subject of aesthetics and beauty, balances the why, having almost an endless way to express each idea in a piece of art. “
What was your first tattoo and why?
“I remember being 17 years old, and I desperately came up with the need of having a tattoo. Actually loads of them. I was in art school, gay, still in the closet, and I really wanted to stand out. Tattoos were still a hard subject in my country, and I didn’t really know anyone with tattoos. But I was determined. So my father was ok, as long as I was the one who paid for it. So I saved up some cash, and got the cheapest tattoo I could afford…a couple stars on my shoulders. They meant nothing, but the fact that I was the one choosing for myself… felt great. 3 weeks after I came back for a second one, bigger. “
What was the most interesting tattoo you’ve worked on?
“Well, I can say that this question being the hardest, …won’t have a concrete answer, I’m fond with every piece, some with more zazz than others. I have to say that one of my favourite things to do is to help people change a tattoo they regret. I believe everyone deserves good tattoos, and if I can help them to change that, I will do my best. I had a guy coming with a terrible lion tattoo, really unhappy with it, so I took the challenge. I couldn’t work on the script because he was leaving two days after, so I focused on reconstructing the lion’s head. He was very happy, and so was I.
How did you learn ?
“The first two years I had to work on my own, a baptism by fire, I had a trusted and excellent friend who really believed in me, I would say more than myself, and he allowed me to practice on real skin, his name is Luis, and he ended up with my most bizarre work. For this I will be ever thankful…. After this I moved to Ireland, and I met who would become my mentor and friend, Kryshko, one of the most talented human beings Ive ever met. “
“It should be a very personal journey, what we see that has been done could fuel your inspiration, but if it has been done, it may well mean it belongs to someone. It is not just a picture to model online, so instead of getting a tattoo that everyone has, better get the tattoo that everyone wish they had.” Weshmagul , on choosing your first design
Weshmagul : Independent artist , Brussels, Belgium
Instagram : @weshmagul E : email@example.com
Who is your favorite tattooist?
“Out of the artists I know, not to be bias, I admire the work of Philippe Fernandez, who I got the chance to get tattooed by, on my 34th birthday as a present to myself. His work is indubitably beautiful, from design to execution, hits all the marks. Also, a wonderful guy, He is currently working at AKA Berlin.
How do you advise a first timer on the pain?
“That they will be experiencing pain indeed. I never go around his, they have to know what they are about to experience, to understand what the body is passing through and act accordingly. Also pain is different for everyone, most people behave well during a full session.”
Randall Westwood (R)
Randall is an old soul, deep with quiet intensity. He comes from a long line of artists, his family consists of musicians , wanderers, historians, gallery owners… they are also prominent people from media and well known in our community. I know his aunts , uncles and cousins, who all have the same driving DNA and strive to make this world a better place. Randall works independently learning from the bottom up as an apprentice from one of the experienced professionals in this country.
“…they do it for the liberation through identity. Their expression through the pain of getting a tattoo and the permanence of this symbolism.”
Randall Westwood : Independent artist
Contact : +6018-463 5376
FB: Randall Westwood
Misi Chea (M)
Misi started Monsturo Arts studio on the 1st of April 2019. I find her intriguing, and I find her brave. Like most industries, particularly this trade, is very much a male dominant industry. There are many women with tats, obviously, but too few have been mentioned as professional tattooist. A no-nonsense person, her approach to life and advise to clients are simple and true, as you can appreciate from her responses.
“Being given the honour to imprint others’ imagination onto their body has always been a passion for me”
Misi Chea : Artist , Owner
Contact: +6019 385 9346
FB: Misi Tattooer
Studio: Monsturo Arts
Why / what are the reasons do you think people want tattoos?
R People get tattoos to identify with themselves. Whether it’s their horoscope, a thought or a memory, their favourite character from a story , their animal spirit , the month specific flowers, lettering or quotes….they do it for the liberation through identity. Their expression through the pain of getting a tattoo and the permanence of this symbolism.
M Various of reasons actually. Different people have different perception on tattoo. Some may be purely for arts purposes while others may be for sentimental reasons. Don’t be surprised that some may be for the fun out of it.
Your first tattoo, why?
R My first tattoo was a cross I did for myself on the inner side of my left ankle . I was born from an Eurasian Catholic family and most of us get a religious themed tattoo to separate us from Muslims. that was the only way for people could identify us and also the older generation that still find tattoos a taboo can accept the idea and choice of getting a tattoo …also did my first tattoo myself as I knew I was always an artist and promised myself that the first tattoo should and will be done by me . I got my first tattoo kit as a present and it has always been my dream to be a tattoo artist.
M Chucky. The main reason I had this tattoo was because I wanted to cover the scar on my calf. Secondly, I always thought that Chucky was cute rather than scary.
On the most interesting tattoo you’ve worked on?
R Every tattoo is interesting as it has its meaning…sometimes the meaning shows itself in a strong spiritual way . I believe tattoos are connected to the individual’s soul through the rite of passage in tattooing, an offering of blood and ink. From Buddhist child ghost tattoos that helps the bearer to achieve enlightenment, portraits of dead loved ones and pets that spiritually still connect to the souls, protective religious imagery, animal spirit guides, dates or words that remember or remind memories, characters from stories that bring emotions . I find it all interesting.
M I don’t have any specific interesting tattoo that I have worked on before but I put more interest on Lineworks. I personally feel that Lineworks style is a form of meditation and it gives a sense of self enlightenment.
How did you learn ? Where?
R I used to go to a tattoo shop as an apprentice in my last year of school. The artist there would teach me to draw tattoo designs and let me draw designs for his clients and paid me for them. He was gonna teach me but when I finished school he disappeared. I got my first tattoo kit in 2013 as a birthday present . I was personal trainer then and there was a tattoo shop on the same floor as my personal training studio . I paid for my apprenticeship in this studio and another for on and off in 2 years…2016-2018 I had my own private studio that survived solely from referrals as I wasn’t ready to tattoo everything in a walk in shop and the money offered working at shops was very low….from 2018-2020 I worked in the tattoo shop owned by the most famous artist in the country . In 2020, I also was a guest artist at the oldest tattoo shop in Penang after the owner died. Right now I’m still working at that tattoo shop. I’m also in the process of starting my own shop again
M I love drawing since I was very young and hence, tattooing is kind of “second nature” for me. I self-learnt it and if I remember it clearly, it didn’t take me long (about 2 weeks roughly) before I did my first tattoo for my friend. After about 6 months I did the first tattoo, I joined my friend’s shop as a newbie. I started my own studio “Monsturo Arts” on 01st April 2019. Currently my studio is located in Prangin Mall.
Who is your favorite tattooist?
R I don’t have any favorite tattooist as there are so many different styles of tattoos . I do however have favourite artists from the Renaissance Era, namely Leonardo and Michelangelo.
M No specific tattooist but I have lots of admiration towards those with tremendous sense of arts that comes with their passion and experience.
What do you advise first timers on choosing a design ?
R First timers should know what they want to get …have a meaning to why they need to get it. The designs they choose should be meaningful to them and the artists they go to should know how meaningful it is to them.
M Normally I will advise customer to choose something which is memorable or special for them as tattoo is something which stay on body for life. Is great and interesting to get to know my customers interest and give them the professional advise.
Whats your advise on pain? And what pain does it bear on the wallet?
R The pain is painful at first but after about 5 10 minutes in you get used to it and it is bearable.Some people find it soothing and therapeutic . It’s like a hot scratch or a deep tissue massage….I charge for tattoos based on how complicated the design is and the area getting tattooed.Also the time it takes for the tattoo and the amount of needles/colors the tattoo has.
M Choose something really small at the body part which cause the least pain. They say “You can’t buy arts” proves to be true for this question. I charge based on how I value my works.
174, Jalan Dr. Lim Chwee Leong
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Exotic Tattoo and Piercing Studio
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Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR)
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Contact : +6017-4338996 (MC) or +6012-4080825 (Jennifer)
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