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Talking Tattoos: Part I

Posted by on Monday, 2 November, 2009 at 11:14 AM. Filed under: Profiles


By now, tattoo enthusiasts in KL would have heard of the unfortunate cancellation of the KL Tattoo Convention which was slated for the 6th till 8th of November. A few weeks before the convention was canceled, I returned to Kota Kinabalu for a short break and took the opportunity to meet up with two Sabahan tattoo artists, Bobby James and Aaron Crispin (see next post!). Bobby James had registered as one of the participating tattoo artists for the convention and I met up with him at his tattoo studio, King James Tattoo in Lintas, Kota Kinabalu.



Give us a little background on yourself.

I apprenticed as a tattoo artist with Dragon Pearl and Skin Design in Singapore and I came back three years ago to open my own shop in KK. I liked to draw since I was a kid and that’s how I got into tattooing. I was it doing for friends and experimenting with it. I learned by looking at how people do it.


What’s popular among your customers?

The ladies prefer butterflies, faeries which is pretty boring (laughs); the guys prefer dragons and phoenix, mostly Japanese style tattoos.

What’s your opinion of the tattoo industry in KK?

I can’t say much because after three years of tattooing here, I don’t see any progress, so in the next few years I don’t think it’ll be any better. The problem is there’s too many wannabe tattoo artists here. They do a lot of lousy tattoo work and then I’ll have customers coming here wanting cover-ups.


Would you recommend tattooing as a career?

Only if the person knows how to draw. Otherwise, better not. You also need to have a lot of discipline and patience, basically a lot of patience, since you’re going to be dealing with your customers’ requests.

What’s your advice to people who wants to be a tattoo artist?

Draw until they puke. (laughs) A lot of people come to me asking for an apprenticeship but the problem is they can’t draw. So I usually ask them to learn how to draw properly first.


What’s your advice to “virgin skins” who are planning to get a tattoo?

Just get a small one first. You have to know what you want but if you don’t, get a small one first so it’s easier to cover up if you don’t like it in the future. Also, never get tattoos of your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife and gang tattoos. (laughs)

How do you know if a tattoo artist is a genuine tattoo artist?

You should bring a friend who knows tattoos and art to take a look at the quality of the tattoo artist’s artwork.

What are the common misconceptions people have about tattoos and people with tattoos?

It’s usually the police who stereotype us. When I go out, everyone thinks I’m “ah long”. In fact, most of the time, the parents are okay with tattoos. I have customers coming in with their parents and family, and then they would all decide to get tattoos, even the mom and the kids!


Any parting words?

Cheap tattoos are not good. Good tattoos are not cheap.


Bobby has since moved to Petaling Jaya to set up his new tattoo studio, St James Tattoo. To see more of his work, go here.

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  1. i maggee nasi says
    02/11/2009 9:54 PM

    not having thematic or stylistic unity doesn’t seem to bother this fler:P

  2. mohd k. says
    03/11/2009 12:20 AM

    the theme is “tattoo”
    and the style is “drawings with toning”

  3. millaz says
    29/11/2009 1:33 PM

    im looking for making tattos but its to hard to find a place to do it,and did the needle are highgine or cleean up propely.aftr use up by many people

  4. millaz says
    29/11/2009 1:42 PM

    so where is the king james tatto studio in kk?i mean what is the adress?and where is the place about?how could i find the place if i wanted to do tatto,doing tatto not only for showing up but its a part of arts,dont think tattoos making ur body ugly..so if u wanna to arts think twice..

  5. patricia says
    29/11/2009 9:30 PM

    millaz: King James Tattoo is now known as St James Tattoo, located in PJ (no longer in KK). The address is No 19-2, Jalan Pju 5/10, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya .

  6. Bobby James says
    19/12/2009 11:26 PM

    thanks patricia! :) can also contact me at stjames168@gmail.com. Cheers!

  7. Bobby James says
    19/12/2009 11:31 PM

    and a reply to millaz questions, 1st the equipment is well sterilized before doing any tattooing,so there’s nothing to worry abt. And 2nd, we use NEW needles for every new tattoo. Never re-used, used needles will be disposed. :)

  8. louis says
    01/12/2010 11:55 PM

    i was make angel tattoo at my back, but after fully healed its look small, i have asking 4 other tattooist opinion, but they said so hard to decorate..

  9. kazza says
    09/03/2011 8:32 AM

    Oh nooooo! I am from KK and I was looking for a tattoo artist! Why did you move :(

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