There are no right words to describe his style: he’s dedicated to “an intuitive, instinctive and magical activity, practiced around the world by various people and cultures – to celebrate life and its mysteries”. Meet Tomas Tomas and discover his tattoos, which he defines as “spells, curses, talisman, trophies, weapons, shields, gates” not just images, and that’s for sure. Find out more in this beautiful interview… Enjoy!
Hi Tomas, how would you introduce yourself to the readers of Tattoo Life?
Tomas Tomas 108, eternal tattoo apprentice and humble servant to the tattoo gods of earth and beyond.
When did you start tattooing and who was your mentor?
As a kid I grew up around tattooed people, so I always expected to get tattoos at some point, but it was being exposed to Alex Binnie’s and Curly’s early work, in the mid 90’s, that inspired me to get tattooed heavily and go on the other side of the needles. At the same time, Chris Wroblewski’s books: “Skin Shows” introduced me to other forms of ancient tattooing, still being practiced around the world at that time (Polynesia, Thailand etc). It was a huge eye-opener in a pre-internet era. After the usual self-experiments and a traditional apprenticeship in Manchester (UK) in the late 90’s, meeting Jason Saga (RIP) and Xed Le Head in London, in the early 2000’s, was pivotal in taking my tattooing to where it is today.
How would you describe your style?
My inspiration is, and always has been, what is sometimes called “Tribal” tattooing: an intuitive, instinctive and magical activity practiced around the world by various people and cultures, to celebrate life and its mysteries. For that reason my designs always remain two-dimensional. They are spells, curses, talisman, trophies, weapons, shields, gates… whatever, but never just an “image”. You can get posters or t-shirts for that. In that way, it differentiates from what is nowadays called “Blackwork” that I see as purely ornamental. This is how I saw tattoos as a kid, and this is how I try to keep seeing them now.
Does it match in a way with your lifestyle, your way of living?
Tattooing and life are multi-layered, I also operate in the very mundane everyday world. Having your head in the clouds and daydreaming is vital to grasp the divine and grow artistically, but having your feet firmly on the ground is just as important. It is a balancing act few people manage successfully, and I fail regularly at staying in harmony between these two kingdoms.
Is there any deep meaning, spiritual researches or hidden symbols in your tattoos?
If anyone has to ask: “what does it mean?”, then my work is probably not for them. The message can’t be successfully explained verbally: it doesn’t really “make sense” in a logical way. I noticed years ago that the common thread to a lot of tattoo imagery (buddhism, vikings, oriental, celtic, american indians, etc.) was the element of “mystery”… My designs are just an extension to that, I guess. I am lucky to be from a generation of tattooists who had very little references to work from.
In that way, we had to find our inspirations very instinctively and outside tattooing itself…
It generated a good and strong “message”. Good art makes you “dream awake” and creates a bridge between the “magical” world and a more grounded reality. Like good music for example. That’s what I try to achieve when I create tattoos. Whatever meaning you want to give to these dreams is up to you.
How do you study for your composition?
“Nature is the teacher”.
What about technique? Is there any particular rule you follow in order to get the best results?
I see the skills of tattooing as a series of “formulas”, a chain of events where each link can be looked at, polished and improved… I regularly force myself out the “safety zone” – with all the risks that come with that. Once you discover a comfortable, winning formula that has an audience for it, it is easy to get trapped and repeat yourself endlessly. From a purely technical point of view, I keep in mind that tattoos blur out to f**k after 30 years regardless of what you do… I try to make designs that look even better once blurred out.
What about your typical customer – if there is one?
I see each client as unique and individual… it took me a long time to realize tattoos should be about the person wearing them, not the artist.
Where are you at the moment and what are you working on?
After working in London for 20 years (first at Bugs’s “Evil from the needle,” then at Alex Binnie’s “Into-You” for 15 years, and finally at Jondix & Deno’s “Seven Doors”) I had the opportunity to relocate to Japan, and escape for most parts the Virus situation. I understood very quickly at the start of the pandemic that the changes in tattooing and society in general would have been permanent, deep and irreversible…
You can now find me tattooing at “Black Moon Tattoo” in Japan (Kumagaya, Saitama prefecture) just an hour away from central Tokyo, where I work alongside another Tribal tattoo old-timer: Chisaki Matsushima.
Any plans, hopes or projects you want to talk about for the future?
Like everyone else, I am looking forward to travelling at some point, and especially spending some time again in London (UK) at “Seven Doors Tattoo”. But I am also very much enjoying my time in Asia, painting and starting a new chapter with my tattooing. Starting a new clientele from scratch – on unfamiliar grounds and with a new approach – is both very intimidating and exciting.
The Japan tattoo scene is quite different from what I have known in Europe in the last 20 years.
It is not “internet centred”, which is refreshing. And the tattoo pseudo-reality TV shows were never made here. So, in many ways it is still frozen “in the 90’s”, which is both equally positive and negative, I guess… just different.
Does the new environment inspire you?
I am very inspired by my new environment, and I can’t wait to see its effects on my work. Great things are happening already. Large scale tattooing is a patience game, like gardening. It will take a while before I can present new large projects to the world again, but I see no real rush this time around. I often remind myself that tattooing isn’t a race or a competition to be won. What’s the big prize anyway? More “likes”, money, glory?… No. The prize is the blood, the ink, the sweat and the tears. That’s it!
Do you want to add something before we say goodbye?
ONLY DEATH IS REAL.