Som Nakburin, aka @missorange, is a tattoo artist from Thailand – now working at Little Tokyo (in Sydney).
Her Oriental style is influenced by the traditional Chinese elaborate art and the simplicity of Japanese tattoo: she tries “to combine them together with a hint of western flow” and so she creates her own unique style…
Hi Som, nice to meet you and thank you for this interview! Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers of Tattoo Life?
My names is Som Nakburin aka @missorange I am originally from Thailand, I live and work in Sydney Australia. Currently working at Little Tokyo Surry hills. I grew up in the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. My family had an orange farm when I was born so they named me *Som* which means orange, hence the origin of my Missorange label.
How and when did you start tattooing and what about your artistic background?
It began when I was about 15. I’ve always liked the look of heavily tattooed persons. It was such a cool thing for a typical rebel teenager like me back then. There was one local tattoo shop near my house called Plaitattoo.
I remember telling my older sister that it excited me just walking past the shop. One day my older sister, who is 10 years older, said she wanted a tattoo so we went to that tattoo shop. It was my first experience seeing someone get tattooed. I went back a couple times to get some random piercings, then the shop closed down. It took me a long time to save up for my first tattoo.
I was 17 when I saved enough money for my first tattoo.
When I finally got it done, this unexplainable experience inspired me to become a tattoo artist. My life in Thailand was like any typical rebel teenager’s. I did have interest in drawing art, I was into rock music and stuff. But my parents never agreed with me pursuing art and I did what they told me. I studied for 1 more year and I got kicked out. That was when I began to take my own path. I decided to enroll in the Rajabhat Valayaalongkorn university Faculty of art.
This University is known for its fine art such as still life, oil painting, landscaping, and a few units of sculpture. I got to learn various things but none of them to the extent. But I actually really enjoyed it. I normally would hate school but this time I actually got up early and make it to uni. At uni there was one of the most important persons, Mr. Amorn my uni teacher who past away many years ago. He taught me a lot of things and influenced me as an artist and he told me “Never stop creating art.
Whether it’s a good time or a bad time, just draw. Even if you’re sad, use that energy to create something”. It was the greatest time, I had a wonderful 4 years in uni. Life in uni was somewhat extraordinary. I got to paint something so large, up to 4 meter long. It was something that took months to finish, so most of the time we had to stay up quite late working in the workshop.
We just hang out there, that was when I was thinking about buying my first tattoo machine and I had to sale some of my things just to pay for the cheap kits from China.
I didn’t even know how to make a needle or anything, I just went to the tattoo shop and asked to buy a 3 liner so I could watch them how to make a needle again.
I went back a week after to buy more of a magnum to see how they made it. Later I tried to make my own needle from that little knowledge I had, I tattooed all of my friends in that workshop. They were all really excited and yes, we had done shit loads of tattoo.
After graduation I started to take tattoo a bit more serious. I was looking for a job as a tattoo artist in Bangkok and I got really lucky. Ton and Yui from Y2J tattoo, located in the famous “Patpong redlight district “gave me a job. All of the clients were tourists, most of the time came in drunk. I was rostered on the night shift from 5pm- 3am. I work there for a while then I moved to Australia seeking a tattoo career with the help of Tong Plaitattoo.
How would you define your style and how did you develop your personal visual language?
I would say my style is an oriental style. I got my influence from traditional Chinese elaborate art and the simplicity of Japanese tattoo. I try to combine the two together with a hint of western flow, which in turns I think became my own style. Growing up in Chinese-Thai household made it easier for me. It’s not far off from my roots. I tend to favour towards Asian style since I like to lean towards Asian books, arts when I do my research. Research is the crucial part of designing a tattoo and I invest most of my time into it. I jot down things that inspire and tend to search for the ideas the people overlooked.
Your personal interpretation of Japanese style is so feminine and elegant. How do you choose your subjects and your color palette?
The subject is purely from my personal preference. I like to draw human face figures and female facial expressions especially through the eyes. I don’t like to complicate my works and try to keep my works straight forward and easy to understand. While I draw soft female features I’d use a few strong key colours or just black. Not only in my tattoo works, my hand-drawn arts are the same. I never use the colour straight from the tube without reducing the intensity. My colour preference is from Japanese Ukiyoe to Art Nouveau, sometimes if I see window frames with great contrast colour door frames I’d take a photo and use that as inspiration.
What about your techniques?
I don’t have a specific tattoo technique. I hardly ever change my machine. If I like it, I’d keep using it for a few years. Also, it’s now muscle memory since I’ve been tattooing for more than a decade. The main part would be planning the work, like choosing the size of a needle, the size of lines, the design, the steps and overall colour scheme.
Do you prefer small or big pieces?
A bit of both. Actually, I like the moderate size like A4 size or works that can finish in one or two sessions. Sometimes big pieces are fun and challenging like full backs, full sleeves or full leg works. These are long sessions, I get to spend time with a client and sometimes gained a new friend from it. Having said that, I put full efforts in all sizes of my works. A lot of large-scale works can take a toll on you mentally, so small works in between can ease the tension.
I see you also paint: what’s the difference between creating a tattoo and a painting?
The difference is that painting has no rule or limit to it. There’s absolutely no limitation so I enjoy spending my time painting as it’s also a therapeutic session for me. I separate the two completely, so I don’t think about how it’ll be on a person. Paint works are for paper only, not for the body. Unless flash designs that may be used for tattoo then I’ll design them with a different perception so they can look good on both paper and on skin.
What is the tattoo scene in Sydney like?
Mostly all the artists are busy doing their own thing. A lot of people want to get a tattoo these days and they all have their own preferred artist. I do have lots of friends who work in different tattoo studios. Tattoo artists compete with themselves. I work in a private studio, a large studio with proper system in place so we only look after ourselves. We only need to plan our work flow. In short, we only have to be responsible. There’s not that many tattoo shops/studios in Sydney compared to Thailand. We only need to be responsible of ourselves and our works, that is enough to maintain our career until the day you can no longer lift your machine to tattoo.
Any future projects you’d like to share with us?
I would love to launch a sketchbook one day or have my own exhibition. Right now I’m just collecting the works I have done and continue to paint until I have enough to release a book.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you want to add?
I’m answering these questions during Sydney 2nd lockdown. It’s such a stressful time so unfamiliar to us all. The only good thing about it, is that I get to do things I don’t usually have enough time to do like painting, cook all three meals, and work on personal growth and health. I really miss travelling and I wish this tough time will end soon so we can all go back to our usual lives. I’d love to travel and tattoo at tattoo conventions again.