There are many different art forms in the world but few can compare to that of creating art on a persons body: whilst other forms of artwork are subject to ever changing fashion, being in one season and out the next.
Noi Siamese 3 is tasked with the job of creating artwork that will last and be wanted for a lifetime! Having created his own unique style of tattooing he has not only become world renowned but also has 140 tattooing trophies to his name.
This is his story about how he has achieved so much and how other aspiring artist can too.
Who are you, how long have you been tattooing and why did you end up tattooing?
I’m Noi Siamese a Tattoo artist living in Norway. I grew up in a poor family in Thailand and out of four kids I was the only one who attended school and university. I was given this opportunity as the smartest, maybe knowing this has helped me to work harder? I feel I owe it to my family to be a success.
I started learning to tattoo at the late age of 31. It started when I got my first tattoo. I’ve always been interested in art and majored in art at university but somehow I ended up in the tourist industry instead of continuing with it.
After getting my first sleeve I went back to start the second one – it was done by traditional bamboo tattoo. About half way trough I stopped – I wasn’t happy with the work and decided that I could do better. That’s how I ended up on my search for a master who could teach me. I luckily found my master Sid Siamese who lived in Sweden at that time, every time he came back to Thailand he would teach me. At first I opened my own shop in Phuket – I had the money for the shop but not the knowledge, so I hired a tattoo artist and slowly learnt to tattoo from them as well as Sid Siamese. After some years I moved to Khao Lak and opened a shop there and ran it for some years before the Tsunami forced me to move to Hua Hin. This is where I met my former wife (from Norway) and the reason why I ended up here.
My first year in Scandinavia I worked mostly with Sid Siamese in Sweden, after a year I opened a small shop in Oslo, Norway. It was a real risk to take – but I believed that if I did good work people would start talking and the business would grow!
What I didn’t know is how fast this would happen. I believe in hard work and work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day – I can safely say that I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and after just 1 year in my first shop I moved to a better and bigger location with space for 5 artists in Grünerløkka, Oslo. I still have it today and In addition to this I’ve just opened a new shop “1969 Tattoo Thailand” –
It’s always been a dream to open a big shop in my home country. I will still live and work in Norway but I’ll also spend 3months of the year working in Thailand: the rest of the time the shop in Thailand will be run by an amazing team of Tattoo artists.
Why have you chosen to do oriental style? Do you see oriental style as the greatest style for tattooing?
I started doing traditional Thai style tattoos and had a dream of becoming one of the most famous artists using this style. One problem with this style is that people outside of Thailand aren’t very familiar with it. I slowly moved towards the Japanese style, but with my own take on in – that’s why I don’t say that I do Japanese style – I do more of a new oriental style that’s inspired by Japanese and other Asian art. In the last year I’ve started mixing other things into my style – I’m open to changes and love to try other styles as well – but oriental is what I know best, and what people know me for: especially the strong colors I love to use in my work.
I have a couple of new projects in progress that aren’t oriental style – I´m really looking forward to finishing these to see how people react to me doing something different, and to see what they think about my work in other styles. But these won’t likely be ready until 2013/2014.
How important is it for you to stick to one type of style and should aspiring tattooist master one style or try to become great at multiple styles.
My style is Oriental and that’s what I’m known of – it wasn’t what I started with: I started with Thai style and moved onto Oriental style: this is, and will be my main style and what I specialize in. But when you do a lot of the same style, sometimes it’s an extra challenge to try others.
I believe that an artist should focus on doing one style well and when he has mastered that: he should focus on that; if customers are willing he can experiment with other styles. You may have to try different styles on the road to finding “your” style. We all need variation in our work but there are probably only a few artists who are able to master multiple. Most good artist specialize in one style.
On the road to you being as good as you are – how much credit goes to your master and how much goes towards your own training?
I of course learnt and a lot from my master but if I’d been lazy: I would not be where I am today. A teacher can be good – but unless you want to learn, listen and practice on your own, you will not improve. Of course having a master and learning from someone is the way to go – but this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. But you will have someone to guide you on your way, sometimes you listen and take their advice and sometimes you have to follow your heart and do what feels right to you.
What are your tips to people who wants to be better at tattooing? How should they start off and how do they for example choose their gear?
First of all you need to be working in a studio with someone who has experience in the business. The worst thing that you can do is to think that you can do it on your own – it’s a tough business so a big advantage is having someone to learn from, not only the first year, but maybe even the first 5, you never stop learning.
Choosing gear is difficult as there’s a lot to choose from. It depends on what style you work in. You should always buy your equipment from reputable suppliers and not order copy supplies from China – especially not machines and colors. Order from the suppliers that follow the rules and regulations – not ones that you don’t know the contents of. Watching other reputable artists and seeing what they use is a good idea!
Do you have any tips for where people can find resources on drawing, tattooing and the art in general?
For drawing you can pretty much draw inspiration from the Internet. You can use other people’s tattoos, photographs and other art as inspiration – but remember not to copy. Its one thing getting ideas and inspiration from others, but try to put your own twist on it. It’s not only more fun for you but also for your customer who will get an original tattoo.
When it comes to actually tattooing, this should only be done in a professional studio. It is illegal to tattoo in places that aren’t approved by the Norwegian health department in advance.
What’s your ultimate goal as a tattooist?
I was really happy when I first opened my shop in Oslo, Norway and also when I started winning tattooing competition. One goal or dream I had that I set early on was to reach 100 trophies… I’m now up to over 140! Another dream was to open another shop in Thailand – and I just had the official opening in October 2012.
My next goals are now to try to get a trophy from other countries outside of Europe. I want to try to become better known in the USA, as well as around Asia and Australia. I hope to open a tattoo school in Thailand at some point in 2013 where I’m going to start a 1 year program for those who want to learn more about tattooing and possibly one day become tattoo artists themselves
My biggest wish is that people will remember me, and my work in the industry after I’m gone. It probably sounds stupid, but maybe if I work hard enough it will happen. I believe that by having goals you can reach for will help you to work harder. My biggest motivation for working hard and developing, is tattoo competitions – it’s kind of what drives me to work harder, just as an athlete would when working towards a sporting event.