“This is a job for a man not a woman” was Kanthima’s first reaction to the idea of becoming a tattoo artist.
Now she is a well known, award winning tattooist who also runs a school for budding tattooists. Her students come from all over the world.
Self taught, in the beginning, Kanthima studied all day, everyday. She watched videos, read books, watched other tattooists and spent some time in Germany learning technique. Her first tattoo was for an ex-sailor, a boat and a woman, old school, traditional and very different from the style of tattoos she makes today. But that tattoo is still a fine piece of work.
The ethos for her business is best summed up in Kanthima’s words,
“Yes this is a business but that is not the most important, we work from the heart.”
And that shows in the detail in the original designs, the willingness for the tattooist to put in the extra time to ensure that the tattoo is the best it can be because they love doing the work.
The studio is extremely hygiene conscious. The tattoo artist wears gloves and his/her skin is covered, the inks are imported from the USA where the contents are listed by law. With other inks the contents cannot be verified which leaves the possibility of infection open. So the Thailand Tattoo School pays the extra cost of customs duty rather than put their customers at risk.
Although Thailand’s image is modern, male to female attitudes are traditional, I asked if Kanthima had experienced prejudice as a woman in this profession. Her husband told me of one.
‘Kanthima was invited to do tattoos at the Bike Week in Hua Hin. The man who was sent to deliver the invite, saw Kanthima and her daughter Gitta, who also tattoos, and told them that ladies could not come and do this work, but invited me. I have never made a tattoo in my life.”
The mistake was rectified immediately after Kanthima spoke to the organizers.
When her husband first mooted the idea of tattooing to the shy Thai woman (as Kanthima was then), he was worried about her future security. Now Kanthima not only runs a well respected tattoo school and has international clients for her work, but both her daughter Gitta and now her son Dimon are producing beautiful original tattoos.
She has made this into a successful job for a Thai woman.
NB The image of Ganesh behind the lower photographs is Kanthima's own favourite, original design.
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