Kyle: Good bro really good, back at work now it's all been pretty good.
Mon: So how did you get into tattooing? Was it kind of like a natural progression from sketching and drawing?
Kyle: I've always loved art and drawing so that's been a passion forever. But I think around the age of 16 was when I started considering whether I wanted to do something artistic-ish as a career.
Mon: Something creative.
Kyle: Yeah something creative, but I wasn't really sure, I'd always loved drawing but I was aware that just doing commissions to make a living would be pretty hard. So as you know, I kind of got into a whole bunch of different creative pursuits.
Mon: Yeah, didn't you study shoe design at college?
Kyle: I did! I studied shoe design, which feels like the most random thing ever now to be honest. Then I did some freelance graphic design stuff and also worked at an interior design studio called Noise Noise Noise with Blair Cooper for a year.
The tattooing thing came up through keeping in touch with a friend I worked with in retail and she mentioned that she was going to be the new store manager at a tattoo shop. So we kept in touch and eventually at some point, she let me know that the store was offering an apprenticeship so I went in with my portfolio, which mostly consisted of realism portraits, and one or two random bits of flash, applied, and I was fortunate enough to get the spot.
Mon: Obviously, anything close quarters or close contact in this pandemic is usually a no-no – tattooing can't avoid this. How do you think the pandemic has affected the tattooing industry?
Kyle: In Melbourne, we got shut down pretty quick so that put an end to work for quite some time. I think in a broader sense it really gave us time to sort of work on stuff that we usually might not have had time to dedicate to.
It gave us a bit of time to breathe (although possibly too much time) because usually your tattooing all day and then you get home and start drawing for the next day, it can be a bit of a grind. It was nice to step back and have some space for new ideas and to draw some flash.
Mon: Are there new changes that you think are here to stay? (to the industry) Virtual consultations maybe?
Kyle: Um no so... we never really have virtual consultations or at least no one that I know.
Mon: That was kind of a guess from me I'm likely way off
Kyle: No no, but that's the thing when you say that it sounds like a really good idea. I think that the tattoo industry as a whole just isn't really... tech savvy enough. But it does make a lot of sense. I'm sure there are shops that do it, but Australia has been strict with its lockdowns, everything just got shut down completely and honestly pretty quickly, there wasn't room for those kinds of hybrid working conditions.
Mon: Where do you think the future of the tattoo industry is going?
Kyle: I think the continual progression of ink is where a lot of growth could come from. I think that we'll be able to have brighter white inks over time, whites that retain in the skin longer. Some white inks at the moment can fade pretty quickly or they can discolor as they age, sort of like an of off-white, beigey color, not like a pure crispy cloud white.
Even UV tattoos, whilst they are pretty out there haha, are basically inks that glow in the dark under certain UV light. I think that inks like that, more novelty ones, will start popping up here and there as new technologies evolve and people explore the possibilities.
Mon: I've seen certain inks out there where it only lasts for a year?
Kyle: Yeah, I think there are some inks out there like that, cosmetic tattooing is a bit like that from my understanding. The ink fades a lot faster than normal inks and you generally need more touch-ups for those sort of tattoos because they aren’t made to last forever. There's no reason why in a few years we couldn't develop some ink pigments that are designed to fall out, like just completely drop out. There would probably be a huge market for that.
Another thing is needles, when modern needles are used to tattoo classic styles it always evolves the style to a certain extent. The precision and consistency of new needles probably allows us to now pull off some level of intricacy that wasn’t really possible not so long ago.
Mon: What tattoo styles do you see becoming popular next?
Kyle: It's a good question, it's constantly evolving and it's always interesting to see styles come back and get repurposed a bit. Like for example, a lot of tribal is coming back into the trendier side of tattooing.
Mon: It used to be big in the 90s right?
Kyle: Yeah for sure, I mean I think across all design levels the 90s is coming back in a big way at the moment. Even like chrome-style and metal style tattoos are coming back, honestly its always hard to predict trends, If I could know what's coming next I'd probably just start getting ready for it now haha.
The tribal tattoos, for example, they're no longer like these big slabs of black on someone's arm; usually on the arm of some dude who wants to fight you at a bar. Now it's kind of evolved to where trendy guys and girls are getting smaller more intricate tribal incorporated into more fine line work. So a dad and his daughter could both be rocking a similar bit of tribal but its turned into something completely different.
Mon: Can you imagine a world where you get a tattoo removed one day and then the next day you can replace it straight away?
Kyle: One thing that I do always find interesting in terms of future technology within tattooing is definitely the rise of laser – tattoo removal. Who knows in ten years if the technology gets so good that instead of say 10 sessions to remove a tattoo it can come off in 1.
I would say if there ends up being enough money put into it I can envision that being a reality. Which would definitely change the whole culture around tattooing. I'm not sure if that kind of shift would make us artists busier or not? Even if tattoos inks come out that are non-permanent as opposed to easily removable, I think those could be pretty big.
Mon: You could get a face tattoo for a year.
Kyle: Haha just a year and then it fades out… maybe I’d be brave enough to do it if that was the case.
From an artists perspective it would be strange and kind of sad to do a great piece but then know that it's going to be gone in a year. But I guess there would be some beauty in that too, you'd have to appreciate it more because after a year it would be gone.
Mon: A French company has developed a 3D printer that can tattoo people called Tatoué. Do you see a future where artists draw the sketch and then feed it into a machine to do the tattooing?
Kyle: It's a hard one because everyone's skin is so different, so I think it would be difficult to program the machine to do the tattoo. But I think you could program it to do the motions for sure, like on a piece of paper? Easy. But, it could be a bit of a horror show on people's skin.
Mon: It seems like its too custom for a computer.
Kyle: Exactly, even doing the same tattoo on your forearm as opposed to my forearm, it’s going to be a completely different thing. Let alone however many other people are out there. But it is a cool concept.
Mon: Do you have any particular creative inspirations you wanna share?
Kyle: There are so many artists out there that I love, I wouldn't even know where to start... A lot of my favourite artists at the moment are from South Korea. I don't know what they're all doing over there but for some reason all of them are insanely good.
Kyle: My personal favourite tattoo is a hard one to answer, I feel like I love all of mine for completely different reasons, but my most recent is a piece from Nami who works at Three Tides in Japan, it’s a foo dog on the inside of my upper arm and it still blows my mind at how well it’s done.
Mon: Plans for 2021?
Kyle: Just get better, just keep grinding. I think that's probably going to be my goal till I'm like 40, pretty much forever. Meet more clients, meet more artists and also travel and tattoo. I think that probably can't happen for a while until Covid is hopefully a distant memory, but travelling and tattooing is up there on my to-do list.
Hey, enjoyed reading this article? Sign up to the newsletter for more
Sign up to Grafik Paragraph to receive monthly interviews from leading creatives and agencies, as well as design writings by yours truly.