Introducing Max Eru as our featured Tattoo Artist. Specialising in handpoked tattoos and working out of Obsidian Black Tattoos in Durban, we get to know more about Max and his style of work in our interview below.
Brought to you by Zappa.
Full name: Bryce Louw, aka Max Eru
Shop: Obsidian Black Tattoos
Years tattooing: 3
Tattoo style: Graphic, Contemporary, Handpoked
Hourly rate: R500, although I usually price based on the piece.
Tell us about your journey into becoming a full time tattoo artist?
I’ve always been drawing, studied Graphic Design at DUT, and when I was living in London I was given a tattoo “kit” by my good friend, Tom “T-dubs” Williams. I didn’t know how to use the machine at all so I started handpoking myself with the needles and a bit of ink to try it out. With guidance and direction from the tattoo artists I worked with at the time (at a bar in Hackney). That moved onto my friends and then to clients from a home studio in Leytonstone. I moved back to Durban last year and now I’m working from Obsidian Black. I’m currently working on my machine skills which has opened up a whole new world to me!
What first attracted you to the trade?
The art part of it. That I could put cool things into my skin. That an artist gets to express themselves and then permanently have walking, moving, developing canvases. I love art that evolves and changes over time.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
I’m not sure about a single highlight, but that wipe of paper towel that reveals a clean line that you just layed down is a glorious feeling. And getting messages from clients like: “I can’t stop looking at it”, is pretty damn up there! Also getting to see people you’ve tattooed doing great things in their lives with your tattoo on their skin, that’s a good feeling too.
How would you best explain the experience of tattooing a client for the first time?
I’m guessing you mean someone I didn’t already know. If so, then goddamn nerve-racking.
How would you rate and compare the tattoo artists in South Africa to some of the best artists from around the world?
The world of art is so international now, I don’t think rating or comparing in such general terms makes that much sense. There are some South African artists that are incredible, boundary breaking and on top of their game, just like other people from other places in all corners of the globe. We’re all just artists trying to be good artists.
If you could have the opportunity to guest work in any international shop, which would it be and why?
Oh jeez. Either Old Habits in London or Future Berlin in Berlin, because both of their approaches is one where it’s about the artist doing what they do, because they’re an artist, not just a person who can print tattoos on people. They’re both major European cultural hubs and the clientele there are much more open to tattoos of a less “normal” nature.
I think I’d also most love to guest in South Korea as I’ve not yet been to that part of the world, and the art there is on another level, I’d love to be surrounded by it.
Which tattoo artists inspire you, and why?
Om Karma Tattoo – super clean, super culture-conscious tattooist, great close-up photography of their work.
Oozy_Tattoo– incredible skill, awesome anime/ manga style.
Pitta_kkm– colourful, fun, incredibly well done, beautiful tattoos
Duhovka.ink– awesome aesthetic, love her broken up, super body-form conscious, sketchy style.
Servadio– Love that he does what he does and that he doesn’t give a f*ck, as well as his inspiring live shows.
There are way more than this, but I’m so bad at recalling the names of the artists.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy doing the most and why?
At the moment I’m really into tattoos that use the shapes and form of the skin/ body as a guide, or at least consider the body as a 3-dimensional canvas. Otherwise I’m into characters, landscapes, comic panels, anything in the realm of manga and Japanese illustration. Especially the contemporary, more tradition-breaking work that’s coming out of Europe and South Korea at the moment.
How do you like to make sure you keep progressing as an artist?
I keep myself busy with multiple artistic disciplines, and I feel like each discipline feeds the others and keeps it all moving forward in some sort of direction.
What are some of the weirdest requests you’ve received?
I guess the inside of a bottom lip?! Although that’s pretty cookie-cutter to be honest.
Tattooed the back of someone’s head, that was fun! I’d love to do more wild pieces.
How would you best describe the feeling or pain of getting tattooed?
Handpoked – little ants having a chomp every time that needle hits your skin – although you do have to endure it a little longer.
Machine – a few more ants, but fire ants this time, having a non-stop chomp.
For anyone wanting to book an appointment with you, what’s the next step?
They can either email me at email@example.com DM me on my Insta @max_eru_tattoo.
Include what you want, where you want it, what size and we’ll work it out!
Tattoos by Max Eru
Photos by Ballyhoo Agency.