There are not many local tattoo artists who have been in the game as long as Moog from Otherworld Tattoos and Piercing. He started tattooing way back when in a shop in Hillbrow, Joburg. Times were different back then and this interview will bring you his story of how he got to where he is today.
We’re proud to feature Moog as our Tattoo Artist of the Week.
Age: Past the halfway mark
Hometown: Wilderness/ Knysna
Shop: Otherworld Tattoo and Piercing
Years tattooing: 20 years professionally but started dabbling in ’91
Tattoo Style: A good all rounder
Hourly Rate: R800 per hour
Tell us your story of how you got into tattooing?
I don’t quite remember how old I was, perhaps 7 or 8, when I got to see my first tattoo shop, in the legendary underground flea market in Hillbrow. I’d always been fascinated by the crude designs I had seen on the occasional “skollie” friends of my father, but this shop was something else. One could see the floor to ceiling designs and photos littering the walls through the window, stars, panthers, eagles, red devils, the works. Full colour flash and polaroid pictures of tattooed people everywhere, it was the coolest shit I’d ever seen, even though I was so young. Obviously the place was closed and I’d have to wait a while before seeing this inside of it. Little did I know that I’d get some of my first tattoos there as a teen and be operating the place at 21. My good friend Julian Spaan and I ran that place till ’96 and then Hillbrow turned to shit. We were self taught, picking up tricks from the older tattooers we would get tattooed by and devouring info in any tattoo publications we could get our hands on. There was no such thing as apprenticeship in those days, so it was pretty tough.
My lucky break came, in ’97, when I got a job working for Alain Reymond, the founder of that original tattoo shop in Hillbrow. I worked in his new Norwood shop as well as his other studios in military hotspots around Africa. We tattooed French Legionaries, soldiers, sailors and the other rabble you find in these places. I learnt a lot of neat tricks and secrets working for Alain, something I’m always grateful for. I left in 2000. I took a couple years break from tattooing, pursued other interests, then moved to the Garden Route. I got myself settled before I started up full time again by opening the shop in Knysna. That was in June 2007. I’m still there.
When getting into tattooing, what did you find helped the most when learning how to tattoo?
Getting tattooed by other artists. Just watching them, asking the occasional question without stepping on any toes. My pal Julian had left SA and was becoming a successful artist in the states. He would send me letters with drawings of needle configurations and machine setups. That was holy grail stuff. Magazines also helped, they were the only source of information about international tattoo trends and art. No double clicking at that time.
What do you do to progress in your tattoo styles, work and career?
I try to keep an eye on current tattoo trends, techniques, products and see what the new guys are getting up to. I’m always networking and chatting with artists all over the world as well as attending conventions and other related events. And of course, I’m still watching other people work. In this business you never stop learning. Anything new I learn I try to bring to my studio for us and our clients to enjoy. I also try keep a sense of humour, it helps.
What are your thoughts on the progression of machines and inks? What types do you use?
I use Infinity Pro, Fusion and Eternal inks. I’m amazed at how large our colour palettes have grown in the last 15 years, there really are no limits now. As for my thoughts on machines and progress? Let’s just say I use coil machines.
What tattoo style do you enjoy doing the most?
Japanese influenced stuff is probably most enjoyable for me. Clean, simple, bold and easy to read. Lines that tell a story, colours that draw you in. Also Traditional style tattoos that look like tattoos. I really love doing flowers, any flowers, and skulls! Who doesn’t love skulls? I could go on and on.
What’s the vibe like in the shop and what can new clients expect from it?
Expect someone to ask you to flip the record over because they’re too busy tattooing! No, actually we’re quite an easy going bunch. Besides myself tattooing, we have Odie, who has stuck it out with me through his apprenticeship, bought into the business when we expanded and is now my partner. His forte is more the darker side. Give him dead shit and zombies to tattoo along with rotting eyeballs and anything satanic, that’s your dude! He also happens to be the king of small script. Then we have our piercer and manager, Gaby or ‘Leafy’, as we so lovingly call her, who deals with walk ins and appointments as well as making our clients feel at home while they wait. The shop itself is a mix of old and new. We have a front section and waiting area that is covered from floor to ceiling with various flash collections and artwork we’ve collected over the years, as well as a merchandise section with various brands of tattoo related clothing and accessories. We have a large tattooing area with 2 workstations and drawing area, spacious and relaxing with a view of the street below. Both work areas can be closed off for privacy if need be. We also have a separate and private piercing area where Leafy works her magic.
What has been your most challenging tattoo to date?
I tattooed a guy called Barend on his penis. The whole damn thing, with a wood grain pattern. Outeniqua Yellowwood grain. Obviously it was a challenge as it’s another guys pecker you’re holding, plus the skin is very different and difficult to work with. I saw him recently, 6 years later, he’s still showing it off to everyone.
Where would you like to see your tattooing career go?
I’m happy where I’m at. Glad I have work all the time and enough clients to keep me busy. I’ve done my share of travelling but I’ve settled down with a good woman and we have a family now. So just being able to still do what I love most and own my own shop is good for me. Its fucking fantastic. As for the art part, that will never stop evolving. It’s a never ending process that one just keeps working on to keep growing.
What is the tattoo culture like in Knysna and how has it changed over the years?
Tattoo Culture? Honestly, locally it’s not huge but it has improved. People here, just like everywhere else, have access to the same tattoo media, references and imagery through the internet and television. So they do manage to keep up with all the new trends. We get the same requests you’d get in big city shops. Plus we have a lot of people from all over SA and the rest of the world passing through here. A couple million a year, so we do a lot small stuff as well as large custom pieces. As far as “Knysna Tattoo Culture” goes, you’d have to walk through our doors to experience it.
What is it like working in a small town like Knysna?
It good. It’s obviously seasonal being a holiday town but we do well. It’s crazy from November till May, I’m usually booked 3-4 weeks in advance during this time plus we do a lot of walk ins as well, so yes its busy! Winter is a bit more chilled but we get plenty support from the locals. We tattoo people from Mossel Bay through to Plett, and in between so there’s enough work for us to survive.
You’re into making tattoo equipment. Tell us about that and how you got into it?
I only make machines, really. Coil machines. Old school handmade style. I design and make all the parts – frames, coils, springs and fittings. Everything is handmade. Made the same way the old masters did. I make them to order for professionals only from established studios. The artist can tell me what style of work they do and how they would like their machine setup as well as what finish or artwork they would like to incorporate in their machine and I’ll do that for them. I suppose these days it might seem specialised but when I learnt to tattoo we got to learn every aspect of the industry. Machines were the most important part. Imports were almost practically impossible to get, spares didn’t exist, so we made things. Just about everything. So I’ve just taken it a step further by making machines for others. Kind of a way of giving something back to Tattooing.
Which international shop and international artists would you like to guest appear with?
Hands down, Filip Leu. That dudes got it so waxed it’s just ridiculous. I’d just love to watch him work and pick his brain. Other than that, the whole ‘international’ thing is kak. We have plenty artists of ‘international’ level right here in S.A. Those lines have been blurred ages ago. We have more than enough ‘international’ artists right here on our doorstep. Lots of brains I’d like to pick.
When you’re not tattooing, what do you get up to?
Make machines and hang out with my family as much as I possibly can.
What’s the deal with anyone wanting to book a session with you?
Easy. Just contact me through the usual channels.
Otherworld Tattoo and Piercing Knysna Details:
Tattoos by Moog
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