Kamikazee members express love for body art at Tinta 55
For Jay Contreras, Led Zeppelin Tuyay and Puto Astete, getting inked to become a walking canvass is a higher form of expression not limited to artists or musicians like them.
That is why the members of the popular band Kamikazee opened their own tattoo shop, Tinta 55, at the artist-friendly Maginhawa Street in UP Teachers’ Village.
“Bata pa ko sabi ko na sa sarili ko gusto ko magpa-tattoo kasi may tinitingnan ako na picture dati. Yung unang tattoo ko pinalagay ko sa kaklase kong babae sa UP Fine Arts dati. Meron kasi siyang machine (I was still young when I told myself that I like to get a tattoo of a picture I often saw. My first tattoo was done by a girl classmate at UP Fine Arts. She has a tattooing machine),” Jay says, showing a star tattoo on his upper left arm.
Tinayo namin ‘to not as business, kasi we look at tattoos as a form of art expression and gusto naming magkaroon ng shop na affordable para sa mga tao (We put this shop not as a business because we look at tattoos as a form of art expression. We wanted a shop that is affordable to people),” he adds.
When the shop opened in December 2008, most clients were celebrities and friends of the band including actresses Angelica Panganiban and Diana Zubiri, as well as members of local bands like Pupil, Franco, Urbandub and Parokya ni Edgar.
“Yung iba libre kasi libreng promotion na rin sa shop pag nakita ng iba at nagtanong kung san nila pinagawa yung tattoo (We gave free tattooing for the sake of promoting the shop, especially when people ask where the tattoo was done),” says Jay, whose latest tattoo is a floral-inspired design covering his throat down to his chest.
Less than two years after, Tinta 55 has been inking clients seven days a week. The four in-house and guest artists grew to seven. Most clients would schedule after-office sessions and pay a minimum of P1,000 for a simple black design or P1,500 for a colored design.
The age group of Tinta 55 clients ranges from 18-year-old first-timers to 50-year-old people looking to add on to their body art. One time, a group of 40-year-old dads went to the shop to get inked one after the other.
“Nung binuksan namin, yung kinikita para sa supplies and bills pero ngayon kumikita na at saka may reputation na yung mga artists (When we opened the shop, our earning were spend for supplies and bills but now, the shop is earning. Our artists also built a good reputation for themselves),” says Jay, referring to the Muziklaban awards and other citations earned by the shop’s artists.
One of their artists, Dyun Tats Depasupil, Jay’s former classmate in UP, started as a guest artist at Tinta 55. He still maintains his own tattoo shop in Fairview.
Dyun says more Filipinos have accepted the meaning of a tattoo beyond decorative purposes. Some say tattoos served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, and adornments during ancient times.
He shares that more and more people are having “real” tattoos instead of simply henna. “Tattooing is now accepted as an art form to express individuality,” he says.
For artists like him, tattooing also serves as a challenge because unlike painting on paper or canvass, the human body is much more delicate. Dyun says getting a tattoo is most painful when done on one’s ribcage, throat, neck, the back of the kneecap and the back of the hand.
That is why sanitation is important in all tattoo procedures, adds Jay.
The shop applies for an annual license issued by the Department of Health. Disposable needles and gloves, autoclave sterilization (which heats up reusable stainless ink tubes for 30 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius), UV sterilizer, and tongue depressors, are used.
“It is standard procedure that when a patient gets irritation after the process, we refer them to a dermatologist. As for the inks, we dispose used ink immediately because when you dip the needle there, it mixes with your client’s blood. We also advise clients to stay indoors often, especially if the tattoo is fresh to prevent the color from fading or to apply sun block if they really have to stay outdoors.”
Jay points out that their shop does not allow tattooing of minors.
Aside from being a source of income, Dyun says tattooing forms a “bond of trust” between the client and artist. For him, tattooing is not just a hobby but a profession that requires continuous learning and mastery of the craft and its technologies.
“You have to remember, a tattoo is permanent and there is a story to every design. As an artist, I am proud to make that design a permanent part of them.”