Tattoo Parlor Malaysia
A tattoo parlour is a place where people surrender themselves – or their skin to be precise – to be modified by artists. Not too long ago, a career built within a place that is basically legal grounds to evoke pain to a person was considered negative, but in recent years, tattoo communities – both local and international – have managed to shift said perception into a more optimistic one, which has led it to be widely accepted by a wider range of folks. A huge portion of this change was made possible by passionate artists who continuously fought the fight of educating people outside of its own circle of misconceptions.
To be a tattoo artist, one needs enough patience to earn themselves the title of a Saint when they retire. Next is good workmanship (but that goes without saying), though to achieve this, artists need to be mentored or be part of a principled team that’s able to ensure such results. In Malaysia, there are a few studios that have a reputation for creating beautiful pieces and grooming stellar artists, such as Pink Tattoos, Borneo Ink, Bloody Ink, and another one which we’ve just added to our personal list, Tattoo Parlor Malaysia.
What Tattoo Parlor Malaysia offers in terms of comfort and professionalism is on par with many seasoned studios, though what sets them apart is their friendliness – it’s quite unlike any other place we’ve been to before. Here, the artists along with the owners invest in their customers as if they were friends; they get to know what their customers like, they don’t hesitate to point out if an idea is silly, and most importantly, there’s no bravado or any sense of hostility. This alone makes the experience for tattoo virgins that much better. There’s no denying the anxiety felt when an inexperienced person walks into a room filled with professionals – often people feel intimidated or too shy to ask questions, but owners Prinz and Cheryl are so extremely laidback that talking to them feels like you’re speaking to someone you grew up with.
The studio offers various styles, from Americana to black and grey to calligraphy and many more. While customers will be spoilt by choice here, the owners do emphasise that it is crucial to know what it is a person likes or dislikes – not having a solid idea of what design a person has in mind is manageable because that’s where the tattoo artists prove their creativity. However, knowing the styles that you’d like to have permanently stencilled onto your skin is important. Inking aside, Tattoo Parlor Malaysia plays a range of genres at its premises, most prominently being rock with music from the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Breaking Benjamin, and Alter Bridge. Plus, they have a pet crow!
The Tattoo Parlor Malaysia is located at 31-1, Block C, Zenith Corporate Park, SS7, Kelana Jaya, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
O: 11am – 7pm and 8pm – 9pm (Monday to Sunday)
T: 016 353 4340
E: [email protected]
Prinz & Cheryl
Tattoo Enthusiasts Turned Business Owners
Some businesses begin after years of careful planning while others are born after a series of random events. Prior to being owners of a tattoo parlour, Prinz (yes, that’s the name he was given at birth and yes, that’s how it’s spelt) and Cheryl both worked in fields that have no association to what they’ve invested in today. But their decision to operate a studio such as this was a natural transition as the two are self-proclaimed tattoo enthusiasts. JUICE spoke to the married couple about their first tattoos, one of them being a witch, and the growing tattoo culture in Malaysia.
How did owning your own tattoo parlour happen?
Cheryl He came up to me two years ago with a random suggestion of opening our own tattoo store.
Prinz I had the opportunity to open it with somebody who I thought could work with me on it, so, I convinced her to allow me to get into it. It was just random-lah basically. We figured if we were going to spend this much money on our tattoos – I’ve got tattoos all over me – we may as well invest in a place that we can get our own tattoos done. So, even if anything happens, at least it’s in our own shop.
Did you realise what you were getting involved in at the time?
P We knew most of what we were getting into – along the way we learnt the backend of it as well.
C We wanted to make the store different. Like, the whole community – the tattoo community – here is very quiet, you don’t hear about it much.
P But it’s growing-lah.
What are some of the misconceptions of tattoos that you’d like to change?
P Tattoo culture in Malaysia is active. The stigma isn’t as strong as it use to be – when I got my first tattoo, the comments I’d get is, “Oh, you’re a pailang (gangster),” but these days, there are aunties and uncles who compliment tattoos instead, so, it’s definitely changing.
What age did you both start getting tattoos?
C (Laughs) My first one was at 13.
C Yeah, I regret it. It’s a butterfly on my lower back – yes, it’s a tramp stamp.
Oh no. Why?
C I just wanted a tattoo at 13. My Godmother brought me to a tattoo shop but I’m covering it up slowly.
P I was 17, right after SPM.
Is there a sentimental story behind your first tattoo?
P Not really. As a kid, I’d draw on myself in school with markers and stuff like that. I was always obsessed with the tattoo culture, then I had the opportunity to do it, so I went for it.
C Mine I think, at 13, was because it was cool to have a tattoo – so, I was a cool kid because I had a tramp stamp but after that I began falling in love with the culture.
Do you regret any tattoos?
C Of course… Oh no, Ragnar’s out!
Who, what now?!
C Ragnar’s our crow.
You have a pet crow?
P How cool is that, right?
C Yeah, he comes to mommy.
P She’s a witch.
What does that make you then?
P I’m just the innocent man who got married to her.
“… when I got my first tattoo, the comments I’d
get is, ‘Oh, you’re a paling (gangster),’ but these days,
there are aunties and uncles who compliment tattoos instead.” – Prinz
Lies! Birds of a feather flock together.
P Every time she goes out, he’ll go to her. He’s really attached to Cheryl. He even plays fetch with her!
C Yeah, like if I throw a ball, he will pick it up and bring it back to me.
When did he start living here?
C He came in two weeks after we moved in.
Oh man, imagine if he’s the spirit of Brandon Lee. Moving along… what kind of artists/styles does this studio have?
P Rayner – who’s Sabahan – he’s more of our traditional tattoo artist, really indulges in oriental, Americana – thick lines. He’s a believer of bold lines, so, what you see on our walls, this is pretty much what I want us to be known for.
C Then there’s Juwei – he’s concentrating on his black and grey pieces, mostly realistic portraits.
P His colours are great as well. He’s a colour nerd, but he’s trying to build himself in terms of his name and things he wants to be known for; his black and grey stuff. Kei is into modern art. He’s an illustrator-cum-artist, so, he knows his colours pretty well. He knows how to blend colours well, modern style of tattooing. And we have Hosea [who] is a very nice calligraphy artist. So, we have a blend of artists really.
C Yeah, all different but it’s balanced-lah. So, we are able to cater to everybody.
You mentioned earlier that you’d like this studio to be different — different how?
P We’re trying to create quality work – bring in new stuff, trying to introduce a different culture, and break free from the norm of coming into a tattoo shop without having an idea of what to do. We enjoy creating custom designs, we love challenges, give us one that we can put on your skin.
That sounds very sadistic but accurate.
C We’re honest with our customers, if we know if it’s gonna look like shit, we’ll tell them. If you want it, you can get it, but it’s gonna look like shit.
And that’s valuable advice.
P Most of my customers will have the wrong perception of me during our first meeting because if I don’t believe in something I’ll be like, “B, can you do this? I can’t-lah. It’s just not going to work.”
C Because it’s coming out from our brand, we don’t want to produce something that we wouldn’t be proud of.
P I’m very particular – that’s the part where we both step in each and every tattoo, we actually do sit through most of our tattoos getting done.
How do you choose which artists to work with?
P Based on their work, experience, if the stuff they want to do matches the stuff we want to do. And personality – personality is #1.
What does this studio want to do?
P I want to build the brand, so I need people that want to do that too.
C Building the brand and Juwei are [some] of our priorities.
How do you plan on building the brand?
P Honestly, I’m trying to build a place where artists are comfortable when they come in here. I want artists to feel comfortable enough to express themselves – to be themselves, do the kind of work they want to do – basically what I do is I try to build you if you want to be built. If you want to grow, let me help you get there. That’s the concept we adapted when we started and that’s pretty much why we have a tight-knit time at the moment. We’re a small family – I help you and you help me, it’s nice.
Why did you want to be the platform for artists?
C To build names.
P Some artists who enjoy doing freelance work find it hard to market themselves and some artists don’t want to be committed to a boss but they don’t want to work from home either. So, what they look for is a studio that they can do work in for a day and we give them the opportunity to do that. Think about it, if you’ve been tattooing for over 10 years, and you’re still not very well known, let us do something about it. Our achievement is their achievement. And we’d like to own a chain of tattoo shops being run by the best artists in town – knowing the fact that our brand helped them get there, that’s enough satisfaction.
Do you recommend artists that would be more suitable to your customers then?
P What we’re trying to do honestly, is for our customers to actually come in, knowing which artists they want. That’s why we have been marketing the artists and like I said, we’re building a platform for artists who want to be known but don’t know how to get there. This is our expertise, so, it’s a guide. You make 500 bucks, I make 500 bucks, we’re all happy. And it’s fun, it’s fun knowing the fact that we have this team of people that really want to go grow together. After three months of working together, they were the ones suggesting that we should move. It’s a gentlemen agreement, it’s a risk for both of us because we’re not artists. And the moment we found the place, they liked it, they said they wanted it, they designed the place – we built it as a team in ten days. So, everyone put in long hours.
C Yeah, we painted the whole place, cleaned up, and everything.
So, what does the tattoo culture in Malaysia mean to you?
P We want to bring everyone together. It’s a small community… actually no, it’s too big (laughs). Now there are too many people calling themselves tattoo artists. They’re losing that whole tradition of tattoos being something mystical, something special, something rare. You know, you gotta earn it. If you guys know we’re traditional tattoo artists – you had to earn it. But now, there’s no value for it and that’s the sad part, but then again, it’s moving forward.
C It’s getting better at acceptance.
P Now there are things like temporary tattoos that can last for a year. Like you’re killing the whole [culture]… there’s no respect.
“Now there are too many people calling themselves
tattoo artists. They’re losing that whole tradition of
tattoos being something mystical, something special, something rare.” – Prinz
Yeah, because now it’s considered to be more of an accessory.
P It’s damn slack.
It beats the purpose of getting a tattoo.
C But then again, we have to cater for everyone, so, you have to adapt. You can’t keep staying there – that’s why we come in, we have to still adapt. Use Facebook, use whatever it is we use.
P We still market the fuck out of the place, but honestly, if you come in and tell me something stupid, really ridiculous, I will just… (trails off)
Give us an example of one of the most ridiculous thing someone asked you to do.
C (Laughs) There are too many. People need to know what they want. We’re not doctors – they’re tattoo artists and we’re consultants, we can help you get what you want if you know what you want. Also, this is something you’re paying to be on you for life, you’re not buying it off the shelf. Like, “Hey, I wanna do an infinity symbol with birds”
P That one is common. It’s a lot of stuff, actually. We have people coming in wanting to get Snoopy on their asses.
P A Snoopy on their asses. That’s okay, that’s pretty cool. So, you get weird stuff, you get irritating stuff, you get people not sure what they want to do.
C For me, it’s the tribal thing. You come in, you don’t know what you want, so you get a tribal piece just because it looks cool.
P People should be a bit more open. Simple as understanding that there’s this thing called Google.
P Simple as that. Get a rough idea of what you’d like to do – it’s going to be on you for the rest of your life, so if you’re going to be so fickle minded about it and can’t even figure out what you’d like to do, then, what’s the point of even thinking about it?
So, what is your starting price?
P We’re a moderate tattoo shop, we’re not a high-end tattoo shop, but we are not cheap.
C RM300 for a cigarette box size.
P That’s pretty much the going rate, right? Some places even go up to RM350.
Or it’s by the hour.
C We don’t push too much too hard.
P Yeah, we don’t want to rip people off. But we have an agreement with everyone – we’ll consult the artist that’s doing it, what they think about it, then find out what the customer wants, and try to find a compromise.
How do you justify the costs?
P The details. The design.
C The size and the details each piece has. And how much time they [the artists] have to put into it.
P But that doesn’t mean to say that small tattoos are simple.
C It’d be even better if the customers came in knowing what they wanted with a budget in mind, so at least then, we can work around it.
P Look at it this way, it’s going o be on you for life, so, if you’re going to be stingy about this then why even bother? Then you might as well take that money and save it.