Sam Weiming - Skin Label Tattoo Studio

Published: 01 July, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 162, July, 2008

I first came across Sam and his wonderful work whilst covering the first Liverpool Tattoo Convention; wandering past the various artists’ booths I was stopped in my tracks by his portfolio. His work is very distinct but at the same time is diverse in its style. Sam manages to create tattoos with such gentle tones and shading that for me, they really capture the essence of Japanese culture.

Sam is such a very gracious and friendly guy that you can’t help but feel calmed by his demeanour, which can only help the nervous tattoo customer to feel completely at ease. During his very short stay in the UK, Sam and I managed to catch up for a chat about his life and his tattoos.

Can we start with a bit of history, what inspired you to start tattooing?
I used to hang out in my friends studio; sitting and chatting all day long and I really liked the atmosphere in the shop. I also felt that tattooing was a very unique occupation, as most people in Singapore dislike tattoos and that appealed to me.

When did you start and where?
I started to tattoo in 2002. I first tattooed in a studio called Bugis Tattoo in a small town of the same name.

Who has done the majority of your own tattoos and did you have a definite style I mind when you started to get tattooed?
Oh my tattoos? They were done by my mentor, I like to have a mixture of styles, as I have an oriental sleeve and a western style sleeve and not forgetting a new school tattoo on my neck. But there are still spaces on my body, which I really hope can be filled by other talented artists in the UK.

Did tattooing come easy to you from the start?
Of course not, I would have to admit that I did quite a number of awful tattoos in the beginning and I feel very embarrassed when I look back at them now. At that time tattooing was not well accepted by the public and there were very few tattoo studios open and I didn’t have a good opportunity to learn from a better artist.

Did you get an apprenticeship or are you self-taught?
For the first two years it was all self taught until I found a shop, which was providing an apprenticeship.

Do you think that an apprenticeship is the best way to learn?
Of course, it is a must to learn the proper way; and it is good if there is someone you can approach when you have a problem with either your drawing of tattooing. It also takes a lot of discipline.

What is the atmosphere in your studio like?
Very cosy with warm feelings. It feels more like a personal art studio than a tattoo studio.

Do you have a favourite style of work and can you describe your tattooing style?
Honestly I don’t have any specific style, as I like to do pieces that I find are beautiful.

How do you go about designing a tattoo? What processes do you go though to get from the initial idea to the finalised design?
Firstly I will find references on-line, sometime from a different artist that might be related to the design I will be doing. Then I fuse the ideas and references together and customise it myself.

Do your clients tend to have set ideas of how the tattoo should look, or do they give you a concept to work from and let you control the outcome?
Most of my customers let me control the outcome of the tattoo and sometimes the images they show me will be used as a reference but also some of my customers want the tattoo to be exactly how they have specified it.

Have you worked any tattoo conventions?
Last year I participated in the Frankfurt convention and also the Tokyo and Beijing tattoo shows. So far this year I will be working at quite a few shows home and abroad.

>You came over to work at the Liverpool convention recently, how did you find that and was your work well received?
The Liverpool convention was fun, I met many different artists there who specialized in different themes, and from the convention I gained new experiences and tips. The people at the convention was also very welcoming and not forgetting there were also many talented artists there who did very beautiful pieces.
I’ll definitely be there for the 2nd convention in Liverpool!
Yes, I guess I could say I was well received, because on the both days we were quite busy, I did two oriental arm pieces, and both the customers were very pleased and happy, they are looking forward to seeing me again next year at the convention

What sort of work were you asked for at the show?
The customers had an idea of what they wanted, but I helped and gave them a few other ideas but of course it is related to the theme they wanted, they really liked the idea I suggested to them. And I would describe the pieces as a combination of realistic and oriental pieces, which I myself really enjoyed doing. Pictures such as a Buddha and flowers with an oriental background and flow.

Is there a big tattoo scene in Singapore?
It’s getting bigger and bigger in Singapore, though some people in Singapore still have a bad view on people who have tattoos, more Singaporeans are getting tattooed, and from what I can see things are starting to change slowly, and I believe that with time to come the society in Singapore will start to accept tattoo more openly and have a different view on tattoos like foreign countries. Oh yeah, not forgetting there will also be a tattoo convention in Singapore next year in January, well I guess that is a good start for the tattoo industry in Singapore, it will really help the tattoo industry in Singapore to go to a higher level.

Do you get asked to tattoo more Eastern images and Western style tattoos?
Hmmm, actually people who look for me to do the different styles are equal, even though many people in Singapore come to me for oriental pieces there are also people who come to look for me to do western style tattoos, as for me I don’t stick to a certain style because I would do any piece that is nice or beautiful.

During your trips abroad have you noticed any particular areas that are more welcoming to tattoos and tattooists than others?
I’ve noticed while abroad that European countries seem to welcome us more than Asian countries do and I’m not too sure why.

Who are your main influences including both tattooists and the more traditional artists?
There are two artists that have had a really big influence on me. Firstly Donald from Utopia Tattoo Studio in Singapore; he is the one who guided me with my career and is like a mentor to me and I’ve learned not only the techniques of tattooing but also about life and discipline through him. Secondly Yang Zhuo from YZ Tattoo in Beijing, China. He has influenced me a lot and because of that I have a different view of the difference between Singapore’s tattooing standard and the standard overseas.

There are a lot of great artists from Eastern Europe gaining worldwide recognition, with the likes of Kamil Mocet and Zsolt Sarkozi creating incredible work. Are there still a lot more to come from your part of the world?
Definitely, especially in Asia as there are many strong art based tattoo artists there; they have their unique style, which represents their culture.

Do you work in any other mediums e.g. sculpture, painting? Do these pursuits influence your tattooing at all?
I like to work with pastels and charcoal and also painting. Yes it does influence my work as with such mediums you can do stuff that the tattoo machines will never be able to do and therefore I will be able to apply the drawing techniques to tattooing.

Where do you want to see your tattoos taking you in the future?
I hope my work will be well received by many different artists around the world, and I hope to become a travelling artist, where I get to participate in different conventions around the world where I will be able to meet many different artist who specialize in different styles and I believe travelling around will help me gain many new skills, and make new friends.

Is there anybody that you would like to thanks for helping you over the years?
Firstly Donald and Kirby from Utopia Tattoo Studio in Singapore, as they helped me a lot in both my life and in tattooing; they brought me to my first overseas tattoo convention so that I could gain more experience. I want to thank them for the life lessons they taught me throughout the years. I would also like to thank my girlfriend for giving me such support and encouragement.


Interview: Karen Brady - Photography: Sam


Skin Deep 162 1 July 2008 162