From a young age, Elson Yeo, owner and artist of thINK Tattoo at Far East Plaza, found himself drawing on his friends.
His interest in art, and love for the skin as a canvas, led him down the road to tattooing.
But in the midst of doing guest spots and visiting conventions worldwide, being an artist isn’t always easy.
In addition to the trials of apprenticing, Elson balanced tattooing with completing his Bachelors degree in Political Science in the National University of Singapore.
He started tattooing in 2000, and finally, with the support and blessing of his family, opened his shop at Far East Plaza in 2008. He also organized two tattoo festivals in Singapore last year and this year.
And while everyone knows the safety tips about clean, sterilized needles, Elson brings his advice for people who want ink, one step further—think, before you ink.
Writer: Why name your shop thINK tattoo?
Tattoos are made to last forever. I believe that a design should carry more than just being visually aesthetic.
One needs to think it over before getting inked. That’s why my shop sticker and slogan reads, “start thINKing. now.”
Writer: So what’s important for you when you do a tattoo?
I believe that every tattoo must be customised for the individual wearer.
I have never repeated a design, and don’t I wish to start now.
In essence, every tattoo has a story to tell.
I see to it, as much as possible, that the wearer’s voice can be displayed through my interpretation in ink.
One must understand that a tattoo is a powerful way of communication too.
The average person who views your ink should be intellectually or emotionally engaged. Putting thought into a tattoo, shows, hence thINK!
Writer: That said, have you rejected any tattoos?
Yeah! No genitals. It’s a personal no-go for me. I am perfectly fine if you want to get yours inked, but the inker will not be me.
Also, no gang tattoos. I did not sign up to be a gangster tattooist; this simply goes against our war against the stigma of tattooed people being gangsters! C’mon!
And, no hatred. A big black swastika on someone’s forehead is neither my cup of tea nor my idea of peace of mind.
Writer: After 2 conventions in Singapore, how do you see the once taboo art of tattoo evolving?
The Singaporean tattoo scene has evolved much over the last two decades.
It’s going in a great direction and paths and opportunities are constantly opening up.
This is due to our geographical location where multiple cultures meet.
This produces a refreshing, hybridized form of tattooing comprised of east, west and everything in-between.
Personally, I enjoy doing fusion styles between the east and west. I aspire to gel the two into what a tattoo amalgamation would be—like the phoenix half back piece, for example.
Also, the general public tends to associate inked folks with illiteracy and misdemeanor. I intend to change that labelling!
Writer: Fiona Liaw