With a well-known TV series based on the Bondi Ink studio it’s easy to be caught up in the everyday happenings and drama of a studio.
Based in one of the worlds most iconic beach locations a lot of attention is given to the studio’s location or it’s clientele and many of you average punters may be put off by the studios high profile but lets not loose sight of the fact it is just a studio (well maybe not just) and the foundations of a studio is it’s artists and without good artists you have nothing!
I had the opportunity to catch up with several of the Bondi boys and Sweets the gorgeous shop manager to find out if the studio lived up to all the hype.
Walking into the shop it was a buzz with the sound of guns in the background and it was then you knew you were in a real studio.
My first impression of the shop was how cool it was and with real estate at a premium on the beach how big it was there are several stations for the artists and even room for rack upon rack of clothing merchandise.
Making my way through the gate that separates the foyer from the studio to the first station I got to meet Dennis Enrily.
Dennis is one of those lay back cool characters who you can tell just by looking at loving life and happy to chill, his Tattooing career started out in the western suburbs in working class Mount Druitt a far cry from glitzy Bondi 8 years ago and over that time has migrated to and from Queensland studios and has been at Bondi Ink for the past 2 years.
As a kid Dennis drew pictures just as much as any other kid in his spare time but it wasn’t till he spent time with some artists in a studio that he really appreciated the art and went about honing his skills and it wasn’t until he actually started working in a Tattoo studio that he could call himself an artist.
As for favorite styles laid back Dennis has no real preference’s when it comes to styles ‘’I have favorites but they could change by the month, at the moment it’s black and grey, but it depends on the client and the work they want to get done. I don’t really have a style I specialize in I’m pretty much adaptable and it is a matter of whatever the client wants when they walk through that door, people don’t come to me for one style, I love them all!’’
So begs the question is there anything you don’t like? ‘
’ The worst part of the job is when someone comes in and thinks they are funny when they have just lost a bet and want their arse tattooed.
Why not the neck?
If you want to have a real bet get your mates name tattooed on your neck, they think they are funny and get it on their arse but it’s the same joke every time turn it up a notch and get it on the neck!’’
Shaun Bones was the shops first full fledged apprentice ‘’I had to do the hard yards to get a start here but it has really paid off, we have our own show and its very successful and now its easy streets’’
Shaun has his father to thank for his artistic stroke as a child growing up back in Ballina, Shaun’s father would rouse on the kids for sitting around and not doing anything so he would draw and try to recreate his Marvel comics. The artistic stroke runs through Shaun’s uncle and cousins are also artists.
He has always loved tattoos and puts it down to his love of metal bands such as Corn and the whole stigma and lifestyle preconception that attracted him to the art. He is glad he left it a little later life to pursue, much of his younger years were spent partying and surfing and it was only by chance he pursued tattooing as a career, Shaun had a friend he worked with in a retail shop who worked at Bondi Ink and one day he was walking pass and he decided to drop in, he got to talking and said he was between jobs at that time met the boss and started work as an apprentice the following week and completed his apprenticeship a year later.
Shaun enjoys laying down thin lines and geometric designs and whilst he likes colour prefers black and greys and realism.
The weirdest tat was Jesus on a dinosaur ‘’Jesus was holding a light saber and there were laser beams shooting from the dinosaurs eyes, all because the girl wanted to be controversial she wanted Jesus to be black but I had to tell her it was too small for Jesus to be black so she kept it white’’
Carl started tattooing back in his homeland of Sweden after he got his first tattoo at 21 years old in Thailand and that was all it took to inspire Carl to pursue a dream.
He started by drawing tattoo flash cards and looking for a tattoo apprenticeship in his hometown. It was very hard at first but he was very lucky to meet a good friend whom took him under his wing and provided him in a ‘’sink or swim apprenticeship’’. He served 9mths of that apprenticeship and that was when he decided to travel with his first stop being Australia, that was seven years ago.
When he arrived he walked into the only studio he knew of and got the number of another studio and landed his first job, since then he has also peddled his craft in Perth and Melbourne ‘’Sydney is the best by far, especially Bondi Beach! I’m a Bondi local’’ he says with very little of his homeland accent.
Carl has his on take on traditional Japanese “I prefer Japanese only with a European twist to it. Traditional Japanese has a lot of rules and the subject matter has a lot of mythology and I don’t know much about it so my art has no rules!’’
The honest fact is Moses got into tattooing because he needed the job and he was ‘’pretty good’’ at drawing.
In the pursuit of a job tattooing he ended up here in Sydney, that was 2 years back and now Moses is an artist in his own right.
Moses has drawn since he could hold a pencil and hasn’t put it down since.
The story goes Moses had just finished his Fine Arts degree at University and he was at the airport with a few friends and they suggested he go buy some tattoo equipment and start tattooing.
He started by tattooing all of them and looking back at his early work say’s ‘’I owe them an apology, I better go back and give them some freebies’’
Moses art background has helped him pick up the skills a little quicker then most which is evident in his portfolio; it is evident black and grey photo-realism is his forte and comes naturally and he contributes the ability of life drawing from his fine arts training at university. He also likes to do a bit of Japanese here and there and he also said to throw in some realism into the mix ‘’a lot of people like photo-realism style here in Australia. It’s a far cry from the Polynesian tattoo’s we do back home. It’s quite humbling that they come to me for that style, people who want this style want the emotion more than anything in their tattoo. It does get a bit difficult at times because a lot of the references they supply aren’t as good as you would like but we deal with that and I really like portraiture.
The first few portraits I did I was nervous and got a bit sweaty, but now its got to a stage as long as the photo is there and the reference is clear I don’t get nervous anymore because I’m use to doing them and now know what I’m looking for before I actually do the tattoo’’
I asked Moses what the transition from brush and pencil to a tattoo gun is like?
“You can’t compare a pencil to a gun but what helps us the most is the understanding of light, if you have a good knowledge of light foreground and background that’s pretty much all you can take from paper to skin, so that’s the only thing you can apply.
You don’t really shade the same and you don’t apply the same sort of texture as you would with a tattoo gun because different amounts of pressure is applied to get texture and gradients of grey in each style, so you really can’t compare it to drawing or any other medium. The only thing you can take is your knowledge and understanding of lighting, shadows, shadings and all the gradients changing through light and dark, that’s pretty much all you can take and apply to tattooing.’’
Our last featured artist was Will Folau, when I arrived Will was hard at work laying down some Ink on Kieran, Kieran is an Irishman on a working holiday building cranes on the water front on Botany Bay and specifically searched out will for his first tattoo after seeing his portfolio on instagram.
Will as with the others always loved drawing and had an appreciation for art and believes both go hand in hand in tattooing ‘’in a way they are very different (drawing and tattooing). Paper you can rub out, you can’t rub something permanent on a persons skin. You can’t stuff up! Drawing helps with tattooing but they are two very different mediums’’
Will has no preferred styles and just likes styles that think outside the square and push the boundaries and present a challenge ‘’I enjoy styles like Trash Polka and water colours and I’m Polynesian and I love doing Polynesian but I’m not trying to recreate the style but I try to do it in a different style, I want to ad my flair to what has already been done. I want people to say hey that’s cool and who did that, that’s what I like doing.’’
Will is from a Tongan back ground is proud of it but ask Will where he is from and he will tell you ‘’Aussie born and bred! I’m a Wallaby!’’
Will takes much from his Tongan heritage and their tattoo culture ‘’Coming from a Tongan background tattooing was part of our culture that has been lost for many years. When I started there weren’t many Tongans tattooing and I wanted to be part of a group who were trying to revive the art of tattooing amongst Tongans and have an appreciation of our culture in tattoo and we now have young guys wearing patterns not where they would traditionally from the knees to the ribs and the Samoans one of the arms, now we have full leg pieces and back pieces, so its pushing our culture or the art of our culture and displaying it in a number of different ways.
Colours are a challenge but I do all styles and I like to do Trash Polka, which is a kind of propaganda art. Think of a black and grey image and then grabbing a paint brush dipping it in one colour and splashing it all over the place, that’s Trash Polka’’
Will started tattooing back in 2007 at a studio in Bexley Sydney and many of the artist from that studio still keep in contact and formed a group called Brothers in ink ‘’A few of the boys from Brothers in Ink started tattooing at the one studio and started spreading out, we are just a group of artists who started at the same around the same time and had the same passion and we stay in-touch and push each other with different techniques, I learnt this or check this out kind of thing.
It keeps us on our toes but still keeps us grounded’’
Last but not least there was Sweets, Studio manager.
Originally from Chicago USA Sweets has been an Aussie resident for the past 5 years and worked at Bondi Ink for the past 2 years and loves it ‘’The boys are all nice and great artists, the boss Wendy is amazing and is really cool tops to work for (pay rise?) and Josh our other shop manager is cool too.
I’m not artsy, I can’t even draw but I’ve learnt a lot about tattoos since starting here!’’
I thought I would give gorgeous Wendy (Boss Lady) the last say
Bondi Ink Tattoo has been a thriving family owned tattoo studio for the past five years, Bondi Ink enraptures the true Bondi spirit and has become an iconic part of Bondi Beach history and a drawing beacon for aspiring artists, tattoo enthusiasts’, celebrities and the general public.
We have driven our brand and diverse image to be one of the best “Art Studios” in Australia.
We cradle some of the best artists in Australia and from overseas. With such a diverse group of artistic persons, we have been able to cater for a wide variety of clients from all walks of life, religious backgrounds and beliefs. Families, friends or who ever may require our artistic ink views and share a passion for the inked artwork!
Check out Bondi Ink airing Tuesday evenings at 8:30pm on Channel 11