Introducing Sheldon Shaw of Fine Line Tattoo and Piercing Studio in Durban. Get to know more about his life as a Tattoo Artist, his work, and more here…
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Name: Sheldon Shaw
Shop: Fine Line Tattoo and Piercing Studio
Years tattooing: 4 1/5 years
Tattoo style: I’m happy to tattoo most styles. I just love tattooing
Hourly rate: I charge per piece. The style, size, detail and design determines the price
Give us some insight into your journey of becoming a full time tattoo artist?
When I was in Matric my goal was to become a sound engineer. Then met my old mentor, Warren Pearman, from the Little Shop of Horrors Tattoo and Piercing Studio and that’s where it all started. I would hang out, make coffee for the staff and clients, and slowly started learning the basics. I became an apprentice and the rest is history. I studied Fine Art at Wits while doing my apprenticeship, which was about four years before I picked up a tattoo machine.
What first attracted you to the industry?
Just seeing art on people’s bodies blew my mind, it is there forever, it tells their story. I mean it is just so awesome that one can wear their art with them all the time. I was completely attracted to the look of tattoos on people’s bodies, found it fascinating and out of this world beautiful.
How old were you when you got you first tattoo, and what was it?
I was 17. It was a kanji (Chinese) symbol meaning courage and it does mean courage [laughs]. My brother and I were in Port Shepstone on holiday with my mom and while we were all playing pool my brother made a bet with my mom that if we beat her that we could get tattoos, and she surprisingly agreed. We won and she actually took us the next day to get tattooed.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get their first tattoo?
Take your time, really think about it. Do your research on the studio/s and the artist/s. No matter how big or small the tattoo, an infinity sign means just as much to that person as what a full/ half sleeve means to another. Make sure you feel welcomed and comfortable with the artist and ask to see their portfolio, do not be shy about that. And, just have a blast, have a laugh, and have the best experience while getting a great tattoo.
Tell us about Fine Line Tattoos – the shop, the vibe, etc?
I haven’t worked in many shops but what I can say about this tattoo studio, it is something else. It is clean, sterile and smells really good (scent machine). You are always welcomed with a smile and it is just one big happy family, yes we have our times here and there but that’s life and we work through everything together as a team. I feel that brings us closer together and closer to the goals that we are striving towards. We are all here to work hard, do the best work we can, push one another to do better and push our limits to go as far as we can. We all want to see the world, so we strive to do our best while giving our clients the most comfortable and fun experience that we can. I honestly couldn’t think of working anywhere else, Fine Line Tattoos is my tattoo family.
How do you like to make sure you keep progressing as an artist?
I love trying different styles and different techniques, whether it is watching one of my colleagues, meeting with other artists and getting insight on how they do things. Got to keep up with the times and always progressing and pushing oneself. Practice makes perfect. I feel keeping humble is a strong point for anyone to progress with anything they want to in life. I always keep exposing myself to different styles, art, techniques, meeting people, going to art galleries, finding street art, etc. I like to surround myself with people who want to push one another and keep each other inspired.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy doing the most?
That’s like asking who my favourite band is [laughs].], I can’t choose one. I love so many different styles but my favourite styles are black and grey realism, trash polka, watercolour, and geometry/mandala.
Where would you like to see your tattoo career take you?
I want to be able to travel the world with tattooing. I see myself being able to have my main studio in Europe, but would love to tattoo all around the world. I would just love to see the world and meet different cultures. So that is the goal.
What do you like to do with your downtime?
If it isn’t have a few cold ones with the boys and girls then it is definitely sitting on my couch at home playing PlayStation and really just chilling, and listening to every genre of music. Music inspires me greatly. I enjoy reading, mostly autobiographies and spiritual enlightening books. I also do boxing at Coach Big T’s Gym. One of the goals this year is to learn how to surf, just terrified of the ocean being a Joburg boy [laughs].
Which local and international artists do you feel are at the top of their game at the moment?
Locally: I feel at the moment Terrel Gouws (TradeMark Tattoos), for time he has been tattooing, he is out of this world and taken the country by storm, and really become one of the top artists in the country for me. Also Roxy Foxtini (Sally Mustang), Lily Ink (Fallen Heroes), Pepi Dimevski (SA Hardcore Social Club), Tony Barcelos (Awhe Tattoo Lifestyle Studio), Sean Lewis (Rumble and Hum), Angelo (Rising Dragon) and Paige Beckett (Artrageous).
Internationally: Sabrina Sawyer, also been tattooing for about 4 years or so and wow, just incredible artwork. Carlo Torres, Carlos Rojas, Nikko Hurtado, Khan, Bob Tyrrell, Ryan Ashley, Simone Pfaff and Volker Merschky, Matt Jordan, Jaded Moon, Keegan Sweeney, Paul Acker, I mean the list can go on and on. These are just the ones I can think off the top of my head.
How would you best explain the changes and progression of the tattoo scene over the past 10 years?
It has changed and grown exponentially. I mean I got my first tattoo ten years ago, and it was still walk in and pick something off the wall, use Zam-Buk to heal the tattoo – dear lord [laughs]. Today, artists are able to create, draw and tattoo that onto people. People want works of art created by the artist and not something created and stuck on the wall to choose from. We are able to make that tattoo so much more personal for that person. The styles, the machines, the inks, the artists are all taking it to the next level. It is inspiring and exciting to be a part of. We get to meet and tattoo so many different styles of people, getting to know them for 30 mins or over a few years. It is amazing to be a part a culture and industry.
For anyone wanting to book and appointment with you, what’s the next step?
First step is either call or email the studio. You can also message me on Instagram @sheldonshaw14 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send an email with the idea/ reference and sizing, so we have idea of what you are looking for, but best would be to come through the studio first and set up a consultation, no matter how big or small the tattoo is. I feel it is always best to meet in person first and discuss from there.
Tattoos by Sheldon Shaw
Photos by Ballyhoo Agency.