The Butcher's Hook - La Boucherie Moderne, Belgium

Published: 04 April, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 197, April, 2011

La Boucherie Moderne is one of the most infamous tattoo studios in the world. WIth Léa, Guillaume and the other protagonists of the shop all in the same place for once, along with an entirely new set of tattoos to be flaunting at the world, what better time could there be to find out what the world holds for them across 2011…La Boucherie Moderne was opened in 2005 by Kostek and Jef, who intended to solely promote their own work. Shortly afterwards they increased their numbers with the addition of Léa, Guillaume and Piet du Congo. 

At the end of 2010, Kostek and Jef decided to travel more and escape from the business pressures of running a shop leaving Guillaume and Léa to keep on with the store. Despite leaving for the call of the road, Kostek and Jef are still linked to La Boucherie and work the convention scene under the banner of La Boucherie.  Léa Nahon brings us up to date:

How did the shop become so successful and how did it come to deserve the recognition of people from all around the world? Apart from the undeniable talent of its creators - Jeff and Kostek - do you think that it’s the right place and time for the graphical style that the shop stands up for?

"I think the particularity of La Boucherie Moderne, besides Kostek and Jeff’s new ideas for tattoos of course, is not necessarily the right place at the right time, but rather the fact that they wouldn’t compromise. They would “only” accept pieces in their own styles and suggest another tattoo artist if they weren’t sure they could do something of their own with a tattoo idea.

Some would say it’s not right, elitist, that you can’t spit on flash tattoos because that’s how we all started and how we lived for a long while, I respect that point as well. I myself enjoy coming back to flash work here and there to remember a rose is not that simple, but I guess that’s what made Jeff and Kostek pop out of the tattoo bag at the time.

Europe was also just starting to evolve very fast tattoo-wise, with new artist coming out. Yann Black was already very famous and has been a huge influence and help for the opening of La Boucherie Moderne, Navette was getting there as well, Lionel (Out of Step), Topsi Turbi - some of them have worked at La Boucherie doing guest spots since the very beginning, so from that perspective, I guess people were waiting for that to happen in Belgium too and they came out at the right moment indeed...

Is the term “art brut” too simplistic or is it appropriate to define the graphical style of the shop? The tattoo pieces that were created by La Boucherie were a major factor in generalizing this distinctive style - who were the precursors in your opinion?

"The starter would of course be Yann Black. Kostek has been very influenced by him even though their styles are totally different, but I don’t think “art brut” is a good description of La Boucherie Moderne. Most of what comes out of the shop is actually very realistic... Jef, Piet, Guillaume and myself are mostly tattooing characters and things taken from photos. The style is different but most of the time very figurative and when you think about it, Kostek’s style comes from the silk print process so very far from “art brut”, even though the result looks like it..."

When you (re)discover the books of the artists who worked in the shop, you can see there are different styles but also a common touch. How would you define it - both artistically and as far as the relationships between the artists are concerned?

"I guess the guidelines are in the fact that the shop always wanted to let artists focus on what they really want to tattoo. The goal is that people come to the shop specifically because they want an artist from here. We’re very open, so whatever is asked, we try to find which artist is able to adapt it the best. Sometimes, people don’t know us and don’t like our style, so we send them to some other artists in town - or further - that could do it better. But I hope La Boucherie will continue to be a place for artists to really express themselves the way they want to. It’s been such a good place for me, so I hope other tattooists will enjoy it as much as I did and still do."

There seem to be more emerging tattoo artists than ever before - do you think that’s related to the fact that new generations feel more concerned about visual arts? Is it a fad or is this really the beginning of a new tattoo era?

"I don’t think it’s a fashion - a little bit of course but people now have a larger canvas of artists to choose from this makes a larger canvas of needs and people don’t hesitate to travel to get tattooed by a particular person anymore. They take tattoos as art a lot more than before. As you say, there are more and more artists coming out with their own style - thanks to those tattooists that dared start it and get out of the traditional. These new guys always drew their own way but they tattooed what was asked and seen before. Now, they dare to take their drawings out of their sketchbooks and put it on skin and people like it. I guess both tattooists and clients were just waiting for that in a way, so now it’s started, let’s see what’s going to come out next. I’m telling you the next generation is gonna kick ass!"

You told me some time ago that you didn’t want to take the responsibility of opening a shop, what made you change your mind?

"Ahah! That was between us! But it is true and even now, I don’t feel like I’m enough of an adult for so many responsibilities - happily, Guillaume is here! There was no trigger, I guess everything changed when Jef and Kostek told us they wanted to travel and let go of the shop’s responsibilities. I wanted La Boucherie to stay open because I like to work here, I like the flea market everyday. I like the village feeling that’s around it and I didn’t want to give that up. We didn’t have much choice actually but it would have been really bad to give up on La Boucherie, especially right now!"

What are you looking for in the long run? Are there going to be any major changes that will influence the way the shop works? In short, what is the line-up going to look like and what are the personal projects of the artists who are leaving? Among the newcomers, who are the artists that you’ve known for a long time and the ones that you met recently?

"Nothing is going change that much I guess. Jef wanted to move to Berlin for a while so he’s on his way and Kostek wants to travel for long periods, I guess they just don’t want to have to worry about the shop while being away, but still have a place here to work from. I’ve been traveling for a very long time now, so settling down is perfect for me. The timing is right. Guillaume is really good at taking care of a shop - especially that one, because he’s been here since the beginning - and he wants to settle down too to have time to work more on his tattoos, so the main team was obvious.

Piet du Congo and Le Nad are still here - Yann Black and Olivier from Glamort are still coming back from Montreal here and there too. As for the new guys coming, there’s El Patman, from Paris. He’s moving to Belgium so he’ll be settling down at La Boucherie, working mostly black and dot work, also Sophie (All Tattoo, Paris) is coming regularly and Jeffrey Luz from Los Angeles is going to join us soon. There are a lot of artists and friends around and we’re open to new artists always. I want the shop to be a place where they can really express themselves, so everyone with good ideas is welcome."


Artist Profiles

Lea Nahon

Name: Lea Nahon

Nationality: French

Police record: Long

Mentors: Egon Schiele, Alphons Mucha, Jan Saudek, Bruno Kea, Sylvester Stallone.

Other misdeeds: Acrylic, watercolour, stencils, drinking
wine and coffee



Name: Jef

Nationality: French, alas!

Police record: Somewhat of a mess, loads of problems but if I had to do it again, I would!

First misdeed: I tattooed the face of an elephant on a buddy of mine without using any ink (believe
me!). He was OK with me trying out my needles but didnt want to get tattooed.

Mentors: Claude from Lille, Œil (Outer place) and the crazy drummer in the Muppet Show!

Other misdeeds: Sometimes when I go to the mountains, I make drawings
in the snow and it smokes!



Name: Kostek (Stekos)

Nationality: Belgian

Police record: graphic design, punk, silk screening

First misdeed: In 2000 a dragon head on my best friend

Influences: Kandinsky, Shellac, Expressionism, Your Meat is Mine, Jack Kerouac, Pirsig

Other misdeeds: silk screening


Piet du Congo

Name: Piet du Congo

Nationality: Congolese

Police record: I've started tattooing 4 years ago in the shop after less than one year working on
my own.

Mentors: Basquiat, Groz, Middle Age, propaganda movies posters, band posters, russian constructivism, 8-bit and electro music, watching the sun rise, animals, weapons and Andr Kesch

First misdeed: I tattoed my own thigh to try a lettering with a machine that an other artist had given to me
it was a shader, and not a liner.

Other misdeeds: Painting, VDJing and vocal experimentations in Das Pathetick, an electro punk band.



Name: Guillaume

City of origin: Paris

Police record: 5 years in the French army, 3 years as a children educator, body piercer from 2000 to 2009, tattoo artist from 2007 to present.

First misdeed: an oi! on myself 20 years ago with one needle then Felix the cat with a bomb on my best friend!

Mentors: Banksy, Xed Lehead, Léa Nahon, Dead Kennedys.

Other misdeeds: stencils, graffiti.


Text: P-Mod; Photography: P-Mod & La Boucherie Moderne