Interviewer: Jinnan (Yichun) Xie
Interviewee: Maxime Plescia-Buchi
Date: 21st May
Note: The interview was for research purpose only. The transcripts were recorded and put together by interviewer.
Do you think tattoo artists have the responsibility to guide their clients about how to mentally prepare for a tattoo decision?
In the world of tattooing, I don’t want to say there’s a responsibility, more or whatever, to all tattooists, because what makes tattooing so amazing is its diversity. What your duty is, is to be honest. Be honest to yourself, and honest to the people around you. The only duty would be to allow other people to do their thing. Tattooing is not a culture, it’s a practice.
It’s a tool [tattoo]. It’s a thing people do. And people have done that, through history, in different countries, with no link to each other's, like music. You can't say that music is a culture. But there’re a lot of cultural movements cultural coherence coaches that use music as a base, as a sort of banding element. And this is what tattooing is as well. So, to answer the question more precisely would we have to define, are we talking about China, are we talking about England, are we talking about you? What kind of scale we're working on? And then, what kind of tattoo is that we’re talking about.
In my opinion, everyone needs to just identify how they would like to work. And at the end of the day, work towards that basic sort of resetting of their own. The idea is to set your own prerogatives your own moral duties for yourself, based on what you would like to achieve.
If the way you’re able to do tattoos that are meaningful to yourself is by being very old school about it. Be old school about it. Tell people, this is what tattooing is, this is what your tattooing is. But this is the tattooing you will be doing and be honest about it. Don't try to sell it to people who will not connect with that. Be honest.
I don’t think that all tattooists have a duty to educate people. You know, they might want the opposite, they want people who come very ignorant to the thing. And other people might want to work to be standing the frame of reference tattooing, and to bring more people to appreciate tattooing, which might be your case which is definitely my case. Then yes, a little bit of education can be helpful. But I am never going to judge someone who does not feel that they have that duty because that might be the right thing for them.
So, now moving on to the second sort of part of my answer. I think that there’s something happening in the tattoo world. Tattooing is now getting more and more mainstream attention and interest, worldwide.
But the tattoo industry never really bothered to deal with, you know, making itself more accepted or more official. It exists de facto, but people never care because things were going well.
If this situation (Covid-19 lockdown) happened 50 years ago, tattooists might just have kept working because they were living in the parallel world, in the underground. But it's not 50 years ago, it's today, so the tattoo industry was hit really bad by the current situation.
If we want the tattoo industry to keep growing and thriving, then that kind of prosperity comes of some sorts of responsibilities, at least exposure that will make you more vulnerable. We are not off the radar anymore. Good for them if that's what you want. If you’re enjoying raising your prices and make a lot of good clients, being on big on Instagram, then you’re mainstream. Whether you think tattooing is an underground thing or not. That’s another question but, in fact, the people you tattoo every day, they are normal people. And you’re a person, offering a service for them. The tattoo industry will suffer even more in the future if we don't start updating the perception that we have of the tattoo industry.
So, when it comes back to moral duty in education-- I think, at least for myself as a shop owner. At least, I feel that It’s my responsibility to help my artists that are just working with me to help them navigate those things and be a bit more educated about those things. Because otherwise, that exposure does make people very vulnerable. I feel that I do have a bit of duty because I am able to deal with those things. I have a duty to share this knowledge and disability, and I'll do this as a sharp person but I also try and do this by TTTISM and my magazine. I try as much as I can to not just to capitalize on that, but also trying to give back. I share and trying to empower and help people being able to navigate.
As a part of updating the perception, do you think that tattooists should introduce more about the history and culture background to help mainstream understand tattooing?
That will happen naturally because you cannot stop progress. People with negative perception don’t really think about what It’s. They are not looking at who you’re, who most of the tattoo artists truly are. Their preconceptions are often inherited from a different time when things were different. Those people will be proven wrong. You can help make the change fast, but you don't necessarily have to be extremely proactive about it.
The simple fact is that someone like yourself will talk to the people around them. How often did you hear a person may be in the 50s say “well, I never liked tattoos until my 20-year-old son or daughter showed me what it is. I've got tattooed and now I want to tattoo.” You don't need to educate those people, you need to educate the people who like you, your own generation. You don't need to go very far; this will happen naturally. And the people who are not ready to change, they are not ready to change about anything. The world will take care of that. You don't need to become extremely proactive. By just being honest about who you’re, and make sure that the person next to you, or who comes in front of you understands that and will carry that with them.
You can help your clients get that through the process. Other people will deal with the other people.
Chinese tattoo history does not share the same consistency as the western counties or Japan. Could you give me some advice in terms of tattoo heritage and tradition from your perspective?
If you come to work in the occidental country, of course, you need to adapt to that. You can spend a few months in Japan, a few months in England or America learning about tattooing, or you can read some books. It’s important to be aware of those things. But there’s no right or wrong.
I personally value, sharing knowledge and I think It’s great to respect and. But at the end of the day, your duty is to create something that’s relevant to your context. There’s no reason to bring there a different culture. It’s cool to know about the traditional Japanese or American side of the culture, but I think It’s more important to take a few elements such as the technical side of those things. Occidental tattooing learned a lot from Japanese tattoo in the same way. Not stylistically, but in the way of compositions are made or on the technical aspects, such as what kind of size, or a tattoo design must be able to age well.
There’s a term that we learned from Japanese tattooing, but we have been just adapted to what was relevant to western tattooing. What you’re doing right now is going to work out in the future. I think it’s incredibly exciting to imagine the amount of innovation and the potential of tattooing in China.
I think it would be a matter now, like the next ten, twenty, thirty years of defining what the Chinese version of tattoo culture will be, and there’s no way it can happen faster. It’ll happen by itself over time, and then maybe you can help to guide this. The same way that I wanted to guide the evolution of tattooing towards mainstream but not as a sell-out, but in the sense that accessible to people in general. But I didn’t want tattooing to just be commercialized and to lose its soul in the process. And that’s why I started SANG BLEU magazine fifteen years ago.
It’s going to happen anyway. This is the moral duty that I find for myself in such a major change; because I am conscious of it and now that I am a part of it. I came from another type of cultural background, just as myself getting involved in it in some ways as part of the gentrification and 'mainstreaminization'. I want to do it in a very respectful way. And in a way that we benefit from the people that I was sort of inheriting it from, not just taking it from them but like okay, this is happening now but look, it doesn't have to be against you, it can work for you.
© DITA, Plescia-Buchi at SANG BLEU, London