The best tattoo artists in Mexico


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The best tattoo artists in Mexico

  1. 1. ==== ====Download Tatto Piercing & Designs,%20piercing==== ====Background to Tattoos & Body Piercing in Oaxaca, Mexico, Through the Eyes of a LawyerLawyer Kaireddyn (Kai) Orta began fabricating his own, rudimentary tools for making tattoos in1996, while still in high school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One day a neighbor saw him carrying ashoe box, and asked him what was in it. Kai showed him the adapted motor, needles, ink andother paraphernalia. The neighbor was the recipient of Kais first tattoo. Kai then began doingtattoos for his schoolmates.Kai had been interested in tattoos (tatuajes) and body piercing (perforación) since boyhood. It wasnatural for him, since his father was a history teacher, constantly recounting stories of rituals ofMexicos indigenous populations. There was no shortage of books around the house with imagesof pre-Hispanic peoples who were accustomed to self-adornment. Kai ate it up.But throughout Kais youth, seeing tattoos in the flesh was a rarity. Aside from in books andoccasionally coming across a tattooed person on TV, he would only have an opportunity toactually see real live people with tattoos and body piercings when he would catch a glimpse ofmainly North American and European tourists walking the streets of downtown Oaxaca, a Meccafor international tourism.The modern tradition of tattoos and body piercings had been established in countries such asCanada, the US, Spain and Britain, long before it arrived in Mexico. Like so many representationsof emerging subcultures, it takes upwards of a decade for them to catch on in Mexico, especially inthe more isolated and conservative regions of the country, like Oaxaca.The state of Oaxaca was by and large physically isolated from the northern half of the country, andindeed the broader world, until the arrival of the pan American highway in the late 1940s. Whilethe odd adventurer would make his way down to Oaxaca between then and the early 1960s, it wasthe hippie movement later that decade and into the early 1970s which opened up southern Mexicoto the concept of North American and European counter-cultures, including tattoos, and then bodypiercing. However the prevailing sentiment of the Mexican middle classes was that their childrenshould be insulated from foreign youth, and all that its subculture stood for.Leap forward to the 1990s. Change would begin to emerge in Oaxaca. Tattoos, body piercingsand other non-traditional forms of self-expression had begun to be perceived as mainstreamthroughout the Western World. The silver screen and magazines promoting its pierced andtattooed stars had become commonplace. Oaxaca had to take notice. And that included its oldergeneration, which was then forced to recognize if not accept that the ritualized behavior of theirgrandchildren (and to a much lesser extent their children) could no longer be equated withsomething devious, dirty and wrong, simply as a consequence of changing their physical
  2. 2. appearance through piercing and painting their bodies, permanently. Many in the Oaxacan youthculture were becoming critical thinkers through higher education, therefore better able to makeinformed decisions, stand up for them, and celebrate them.Kai is thirty years old. Practicing law wasnt for him. By the time he had graduated and had a tasteof the working world of attorneys (less than a year), he had already become an established tattooand body piercing artist, with his own studio, albeit quite smaller than his current digs. Andbesides, most lawyers in Oaxaca do not earn the level of income that provides for a middle classlifestyle, at least by Western standards.Kais current studio, Dermographics, in the heart of downtown Oaxaca, consists of:•The reception area with long desk and computer, tropical fish filled aquariums, display caseswith mainly jewelry relating to body piercings, wooden African floor sculptures and masks (as wellas a few Mexican masks), a bookcase filled with albums containing drawings and photographs ofmainly tattoos, and two comfortable sofas where customers can browse through the "catalogues"at their leisure•A similarly adorned middle room with supply cases by now of course filled with modern,commercial equipment and supplies, and a small adjoining workroom•The back room, with chairs and "operating" table, for attending to tattoos and body piercings"Here in Oaxaca we dont refer to ourselves as artistas, Kai explains. "In the United States theresmuch greater acceptance of the art form and those who are dedicated to the skill, so in the US andother countries such as Canada its acceptable to use the term tattoo artist. But in Oaxaca we justrefer to ourselves as tatuadores."Kai & Colleagues Participate in Twelfth Annual Tattoo Fest in Oaxaca, Summer, 2010During the course of a 3 ½ hour interview at Kais studio, his friends and fellow tatuadores fromMexico City, Daniel (Tuna) Larios and his girlfriend Angélica (Angy) de la Mora, were in the shopworking and otherwise serving customers, while for part of the time Kai was out running errands.Tuna has been a tatuador for 12 years while Angy began doing tattoos only a year ago, when shebegan living with Tuna. Together they opened up a shop, called Toltecan, in the nations capital.Before then Tuna had been doing tattoos for customers at other studios. He was introduced to thetrade from having had his body tattooed. Angy learned the skill from Tuna.But for Angy learning to be a tatuadora was a natural extension. She already held a degree in finearts from a university in Chihuahua, and had participated in several collective traditional artexhibits. "But its easier to make a living doing tattoos than as an artist," Angy concedes. Asdistinct from Angy and Kai, most tatuadores in Mexico do not have advanced training for othercareer paths options.Tuna and Angy had come to Oaxaca to participate in the twelfth annual Tattoo Fest, held onAugust 21 & 22, 2010, a couple of days earlier. Kai is one of three festival organizers, and was onthe ground floor of the concept when the first fest was held back in 1998. "Until this year the eventwas called Expo Tatuaje," Kai clarifies. "We decided to change the name with a view to attractingmore foreigners. But back in the early years we held the exposition so that we could meet to
  3. 3. exchange ideas, improve access to modern equipment and supplies, and raise the level ofconsciousness of the Oaxacan community, so that hopefully there would be a greater acceptanceof what we were doing. Now the purposes and functions of the event are much broader, since weare well on our way to achieving our earlier goals."The success of Oaxacas Tattoo Fest 2010 was evident from the crowds (hundreds by allestimates) and sales. Tuna and Angy between them did 11 tattoos over the two-day period. "Ivebeen coming to the fair for the past four or five years," Tuna explains, "but this is the first year Ican actually say that it was worth my while, profit-wise, to come to Oaxaca. You know I had toclose my shop in Mexico City to come here. I think this show has finally turned a corner."This year there were approximately thirty booths, about a dozen of which were dedicated to doingtattoos. In the course of a one-hour visit on the Sunday, during that entire time each and everytatuador was kept busy working - and in many cases there were onlookers in queue awaiting theirturn.Many vendors had come from other parts of Mexico to participate. They converged on Oaxaca tonot only do tattoos and piercings, but to also sell a broad diversity of related materials including:•Tattooing and body piercing equipment, supplies and other paraphernalia•CDs, DVDs and posters all with alternative themes (both Bob Marley and Alice Cooper liveon in Oaxaca)•Body piercing and other personal adornments, wrestling masks, and clothing, custom-painted while-u-wait.The event was much more than a sales opportunity for retailers, however. It provided a chance forthose in the business to promote their industry, source state-of-the-art and otherwise importedequipment and supplies (since many tatuadores dont get to Mexico City very often, and mostimported machinery, needles and paints arrive initially in Mexico City), and entertain tattoo andpiercing collectors, aficionados, and the curious, all under one roof, the Salón Señorial locatedacross from Oaxacas renowned Abastos Market.As Kai contends, there appears to be three classes of people in Oaxaca, and presumably in othercountries, who get tattoos:•The colecionista who usually ends up filling most parts of his or her body, attempting toadorn with as broad a diversity of designs as possible, or with a particular class of design orartistry (i.e. demons, pre-Hispanic figures, animals, famous faces), often seeking to get the workdone by several different top tatuadores from various states and countries if possible•The aficionado who wants a few tattoos strategically placed on select body parts•The casual individual who desires one or two tattoos for self-expression or to make somekind of statement, having seen a tattoo he or she likes, whether on a celebrity, friend or strangeron the street, or electing to do a specific design; a tattoo of the logo of ones favorite sports teamexemplifies this type workIts not unlike other hobbies and interests. Human nature remains the same. The first categoryrepresents an obsession with collecting, just as in a class of antique, salt and pepper shakers, folkart, weigh scales, and so on. The second is an enthusiast who imposes boundaries, either by
  4. 4. design or subconsciously based on personality trait. The third does only selective thinking about it,whatever the product, holding some interest, often fleeting but long enough to result in a purchaseor two.In the course of the two day celebration of all that is still somewhat considered counter-culture inOaxaca, there was:•Live entertainment including seven predominantly rock and reggae bands, as well as bellydancers and other forms of choreographed performances•An outdoor makeshift restaurant serving beer, soft drinks, and real barbecued hamburgers•Panel discussions and forums with themes including methods for advancing the reputation ofthis alternative art form in Oaxaca, and dealing with allaying health and safety concerns throughthe adoption of US-style normsHealth & Safety Issues a Concern of the Body Piercing & Tattoo Trade in Oaxaca, MexicoThroughout the US there are health and safety regulations relating to tattooing and body piercing;not so in Oaxaca, though its a hot topic throughout the Mexican tattoo and body piercingcommunity. The word "normas" is constantly being bandied about. The tatuadores at Tattoo Fest,and more particularly Kai, Tuna and Angy, made a point of indicating that most in the industryfollow US norms for health, safety and hygiene. According to Tuna, the United Kingdom has thestrictest, all-encompassing laws relating to tattooing and body piercing, which he views as a goodthing.It appears that virtually all tatuadores are sensitive to the clout carried by the authorities, evenwithout specific laws relating to tattooing and body piercing. In Oaxaca its the Secretaria de Salud(ministry of health) which does in fact conduct spot checks of studios, much the same as it does ofrestaurants in Oaxaca. It has the ability to shut down a restaurant, eatery or comedor, on the spot.And the same holds true for a tattoo studio.The threat or perceived threat of incarceration perhaps serves a positive function in the tattoo andbody piercing milieu. While Oaxacas inquisitorial, Napoleonic legal code is slowly changing (oraltrials arrived in the state of Oaxaca in 2007, albeit for only the most heinous criminal offences), theattorney generals office still has the right to jail alleged offenders of virtually any rule, law orregulation, where a personal injury has resulted. Without specific laws relating to tattooing andbody piercing, perhaps Oaxacas current legal system, as high-handed as it might appear, servesan important function for the tattoo-buying public. Certainly it appears to keep those in the industryin check."We wont work on a minor, plain and simple, without parental authorization," Tuna stresses. "Andin fact, rather than relying on written permission from a parent, for me, I personally want the fatherright there in my studio when Im working on his son or daughter."Having been trained as a lawyer, Kai has a special appreciation for the implications of notensuring a clean, safe work environment in his studio, and following health, safety and hygieneprocedures established in other jurisdictions, "to the tee:" packaged needles; equipment keptunder wrap; gloves and masks; first aid, fire and related health, hygiene and safety equipmentclose at hand; a "surgical" workspace segregated from the retail portion of the shop; etc. The back
  5. 5. of his business card lists steps that should be taken by recipients of tattoos from the moment theyleave the studio, to reduce and hopefully eliminate the risk of infection or other complication. Othertatuadores hand out leaflets listing the same or similar precautions that should be observed.According to Tuna, in Mexico City one can take courses in tattooing and body piercing at a coupleof different institutions. But they are for learning the trade, and are not government regulated.Tuna views an inconsistency between government treatment of dental offices and tattoo andpiercing studios, and unfairness: "There are a lot of dental offices around which are much lessclean than our studios, and whose staff do not follow the most sanitary of practices; and yet thedentists are not subjected to the suspicion and innuendo that we are." [At least dentists arerequired to have a minimum level of training regarding matters of health, safety and hygiene.]Kai, for one, is clearly an expert at his trade. From the outset, dating to his high school days, hewould invariably read and otherwise learn before starting to work on someone. He would alwayswork in consultation with a doctor, a relative of the family. The doctor was a most valuableresource for Kai in terms of guiding him through all the appropriate health and hygieneprocedures, for every step. Kai has never worked on anyone without approaching the task with ahigh level of confidence. But, he acknowledges, "you never stop learning."The Economics of Tattoos and Body Piercing in OaxacaAngy is working at the counter, doing a pencil drawing of a 1950s pin-up - with a twist. A youngwoman had come into the studio the day before, wanting a tattoo on her leg of a vintage pin-upgirl, but part of the body to be non-traditional, as in one leg and half the head perhaps with skeletalbone exposed, the rest shapely and feminine; as in a Mexican catrina, as Angy puts it, "but with abit of flesh on her body." The customer is due back today at 4 p.m.Two men in their twenties come in to look at tattoo samples. They sit down and browse throughtwo albums for about 40 minutes, then arrange for one of them to come back the next day for afairly large black tattoo of the Pumas Mexican soccer team logo. Then two younger girls come inlooking for eyebrow rings or other similar adornments, in the 250 - 300 peso range.Kais studio does a brisk business. He charges a minimum fee of 400 pesos for a simple tattoo, atribal, literally "tribal," as theyre known, or perhaps a letter. It was the same minimum charge atthe Tattoo Fest: "Sure, some tatuadores will do a tattoo for 150 - 200 pesos, but most of us preferto start with prices where we can take our time to do quality work that the customer will definitivelyappreciate, and therefore want to come back, show off to friends, and so on. Ive been doingtattoos long enough, and my quality is such that I should command that kind of price, and thecustomer is more than satisfied."Kai and Tuna charge within the same range. They both are happy to work by the job, or per dailysession. Kai charges 1,000 - 1,500 pesos per session, which can result in a fairly substantial,detailed, color image. Tuna will do a full back for 10,000 - 15,000 pesos. Each has done large,complex multi-color tattoos for as much as 20,000 pesos. That seems to be the top price inOaxaca.There appears to be a desire to reinvest profit into securing a better work environment, and higherend equipment. Regarding the latter, in most cases its simply a matter of imported machinery and
  6. 6. supplies commanding a higher price, and the fact that the options for Mexican-made equipmentand supplies are much more limited. Hence the desire to search abroad for more diverse productlines. "Dont get me wrong," Tuna cautions, "there is high quality equipment manufactured here inMexico, but we lack the range in products, and of course everything imported is perceived asbetter and therefore fetches a higher price."Continuing education also seems to be a priority for tatuadores. A few years ago Kai traveled toGuadalajara to take an intensive course. According to Angy, sometimes tatuadores will take abrief, area-specific art or drawing course to enable them to keep up with market demand. Mosttatuadores do not have training in fine arts, so seizing the opportunity to learn is something towhich many aspire. In some cases rather than turn away a prospective customer for lack ofparticular expertise, its better to invest in learning a new aspect of the trade through training.Its rare for a tatuador to turn away business, but it does happen. Its usually a result of the artistnot being able to do quality work based upon the requested design, than finding it repugnant.Perhaps its simply that tatuadores do not often encounter someone who wants, for example, aswastika on the forearm. "Usually what happens is someone comes in and wants a small tattoo, ofwhatever, on a finger or arm, and I know that I cannot do a good job given the requested size, orthat after a short period of time the quality will diminish," Kai admits. "So I suggest somethingdifferent, something larger or with a different color scheme, or for a different part of the body.Sometimes the customer agrees, sometimes he leaves, and sometimes he insist, in which case Idecline the job.""We can all use more business, but its a skilled trade which we want to elevate in terms of itsreputation, so we must all strive to maintain standards, as well as our personal integrity;" Kaiasserts.The main reasons that customers do not return is lack of funds for either additional tattoos or tocontinue with the same project, or pain. "Different people have different pain thresholds," Tunaadvises. "The sex of the customer sometimes is a determinant of the pain one can expect will befelt, depending on the particular part of the body. Working on the same part of the body can affectmen differently than women." Only 50% of Tunas work is repeat business.Kai has a preference in favor of working on men rather than women. Why men? Men tend to wantlarger tattoos, which translates to more artistic license and a greater ability to produce a truemasterpiece. "But dont get me wrong," Kai adds defensively, "I love working on women, and dojust as high quality work, always."Customers in their twenties make up the largest age group. Otherwise, occasionally a teen comesin with a parent, perhaps 20% of tattoo-seekers are in their thirties, and a much small percentagecomprises an older clientele.Advice for Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Those from Further Abroad Wanting a Tattoo inOaxacaTuna admits that in Mexico there are perhaps two high quality tattoo artists per 300 tatuadores,stating that in the US the numbers are very different, two per hundred. Its difficult to accept hisfigures, having seen several quality tattoos on the bodies of Oaxacans, and having had an
  7. 7. opportunity to speak with many Oaxacan tatuadores and evaluate their dedication to the skill, andtheir desire to elevate its reputation through self-improvement. Tuna contends: "If someone wantsa tattoo that I know another tatuador can do better, I refer him to a colleague. That builds publicconfidence. For me, I know that in black, Im at the top of my game."The triumvirate of tatuadores is ad idem when it comes to passing along advice for tourists visitingOaxaca and wanting a tattoo:•Dont rush; spend as long as required with the "tattoo artist," chatting, looking at his or herdesigns, and examining the surroundings of the studio•Ascertain if the tatuador has a particular specialty, or higher level of competency in one areaversus another (i.e. color as opposed to black)•Address any health, hygiene and safety concerns, since while the ministry of health doeshave rules and regulations of general application, and spot checks of tattoo studios are conducted,no specific body exists for policing the tattoo industry•Notwithstanding the foregoing, as indicated the lions share of the tatuadores in Oaxaca dofollow the American normas, those in the industry wanting to elevate their trade to having a moremainstream perception amongst the Oaxacan populace•Look for instructions regarding how to care for a tatttoo, starting with the moment afterleaving the studio, to reduce and hopefully eliminate the chance of complications - either on a flyeror on the back of a business card•Ask questions, questions and more questions until satisfied that both the process and theend result will meet or exceed expectationsTattoo Removal in MexicoTuna confirms some obvious reasons for seeking to have a tattoo removed:•As required by an employer (i.e. change in job position)•For the purpose of attempting to secure employment•The individual was very young when he or she received the tattoo, and later had a differentattitude towards this type of body adornment•The quality of the tattoo was poor or questionable from the outset•A change of mind regarding the image or towards body alteration, conceivably laterperceived as adulterationWith the modest cost of quality plastic surgery in Oaxaca, tattoo removal in the state proves to bean attractive option for those wishing a return to a tattoo - free existence. In fact in Kais studio ondisplay theres a plexiglass stand filled with pamplets of a Oaxacan plastic surgeon, Dr. FilbertoFajardo, who specializes in laser tattoo removal.Alvin Starkman received his Masters in Social Anthropology from York University in Toronto in1978, taught for a few years, and subsequently attended Osgoode Hall Law School. From 1986 to2004 he was the litigation partner at Banks & Starkman, specializing in family law. Although afrequent traveler to Oaxaca since 1991, it was not until he ceased practicing law that he took uppermanent residence in the state capital in 2004. In his spare time Mr. Starkman takes couples
  8. 8. and families on personalized tours to the craft villages, towns on their market days, ruins and otherattractions including more off-the-beaten-track sights. He also writes articles about life and culturaltraditions in Oaxaca, writes a legal column for a Canadian national antiques magazine, is aconsultant to documentary film production companies, and together with wife Arlene operatesCasa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( ). The StarkmansOaxaca bed and breakfast experience is unique in that their accommodations combine the comfortand service found in a downtown Oaxaca hotel, with a lodging style characterized by quaintnessand personal touch.Article Source: ====Download Tatto Piercing & Designs,%20piercing==== ====