Today we are publishing an interview with a tattoo artist Melvin Tay from Singapore with his own unique style.
Hi, Melvin! Tell me your story: how did you start tattooing?
My name is Melvin Tay. I was born in Singapore. I started tattooing at the age of 23. I got my first tattoo at the age of 19 and I was in love of tattoo ever since. I was struggling from 19-23 about 4 years trying to be a tattoo artist, I know I couldn't do it without the support of my family. I was doing other part time job for 4 years but wasn't happy. And at 23... I decided to be one. From 19-23 I got a couple a few tattoos from a few very renowned artists in Singapore & I was strongly affected and inspired by them. This is one of the reason why I strongly believe I will be a tattooist one day.
How do you think, what is the main difference between tattoo cultures of Asia and Europe?
In 2006, I went out Singapore to understand a little bit more about tattooing outside Singapore. The first stop was in Malaysia and follow by Thailand, and follow up I went to places like Hong Kong, Macau, China, Indonesia, Philippines... I was doing a lot of convention and I have completed about 40 shows in Asia. There were no breakthrough at all, then I understood that I need to know what Europe is doing after all. So I decided to travel even further this time. My first time in Holland, Europe was in 2009 when I understood that there will be more things for me to learn to get myself out from Asia. Ever since 2009 I was in Europe every year until today 2017.
I understood, there will always be a difference in cultures and art form between Asia and Europe. Europe opened up my mind a little bit more compare staying at my home town. Also I changed my style and discovered more about myself, more on what I can do and what is really inside me after I went to Europe. I became more honest to myself in term of art when I was in Europe. Because I'm a Chinese, people from Europe have more rooms for me to express myself in what I'm doing, what I'm thinking. Style that I'm doing, people always thought it is very difficult for me to sell especially in a tattoo form in Europe but to my surprisingly, it was easier for me. It is very easy so long you are honest to yourself, honest in your expression and honest in your art..
Do you have any patterns in tattoos? I mean, some images with strong symbolic meanings?
I try to make every tattoo powerful and impact. I have a lot of female clients who get my tattoos. Compare my style with traditional Japanese style, Japanese have more male clients, so I started to think of the reason behind... the only reason is because my style is soft, no hard solid lines and I usually build up by soft shading. So I understood and realized I need to have a title and a story behind to support every tattoo I make. So I started consultation with my clients before tattoo. Every tattoo I make 1 st appointment just to listen to their story and reason of getting this tattoo. I explain to all of my clients the style I'm doing and why I am doing my tattoos by this way, once they can understand my style, then I will arrange 2nd appointment for design viewing. All my tattoos are customized and I do not repeat my tattoo design. Every tattoo carry a story to individual clients.
Tell me a little bit about tattoo culture in Singapore? Is it mainstream nowadays or still kind of a taboo?
Compare to 2004 when I first started, Singapore have a better acceptance today. Even Europe, I think they have better acceptance today. I strongly believe people are accepting tattoo in a better way, more positive way. I suppose in the next 10 years there will be more tattoo suppliers, more tattooist, more tattoo clients and more younger people carrying tattoo art.
How сan you start tattooing in Singapore? Do you need to obtain a license or something like that?
It is not very easy to start tattooing in Singapore. You have to get very strong passion for sure, then you need to apply a license from the government to have a studio. Big or small - it does not matter, but hygiene standard is very high in Singapore. Government body that control tattoo studios hygiene is strict, I think it is very good. Home artist is not allow, there isn't any license issue to anyone operating at home. All artists working in legitimate well organized operating studio with license.
Tell me about your art plans? And about your vision of the art of tattooing in general?
I have a big dream for myself in my tattooing career. I have already completed about 70 shows & conventions as for today. I will travel to different convention to explore, improve and learn from different artists. I hope more people can accept and believe in the style that I'm doing today. I hope there will be more artist doing the style I'm doing in future.