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Female tattoo artists flourishing in Bali

Luh De Suriyani

The Jakarta Post

Kuta  /  Thu, October 5, 2017  /  09:10 am
Female tattoo artists flourishing in Bali

One dot at a time: Lidya Adventa(right), the owner of Be No Square, makes a tattoo for her client in Bali. (Be No Square/File)

Caecilia, who likes the dotting concept of tattooing, has been archiving her tattoo designs on her personal computer and on her IG account, @chrysantialyra, for the last two years. She uses her archive to showcase her designs to potential and existing clients visiting the Altar tattoo studio in Canggu, north Kuta, where she learns and works.

Among her best tattoo designs are several versions of the legendary chief minister of the Majapahit kingdom, Gajah Mada, and realistic pictures of animals and humans. She is also experimenting with unique and humorous design ideas, such as a man applying makeup in a feminine gesture.

As a tattoo artist, Caecilia creates her own niche by only using black and white designs.

“I don’t like colors, I prefer black and white,” she said.

Not all her designs are chosen by clients. Many of them bring their own designs.

The largest design she has ever worked on is a crow, with a diameter of around 30 cm spanning the upper chest of Viona, her female colleague.

As a tattoo artist, Viona is known for her hand poking or non-mechanical tattooing. She manually synchronizes the rhythm of the pressure device with the swinging of the hand as practiced by traditional Mentawai, Nias and Dayak tattooists.

Viona has also swapped tattoos with Caecilia, whose scalp now bears a Mandala, a tribal-geometric design. Caecilia shaved her lower scalp to enable Viona work on her tattoo.

Living her passion: Caecilia Lyra Chrysantia is one of the female tattooists at Altar Studio.Living her passion: Caecilia Lyra Chrysantia is one of the female tattooists at Altar Studio. (JP/Luh De Suriyani)

Prior to become a tattoo artist and living in Tangerang (Banten), Caecilia was a loner but was fond of drawing.

“I never went out,” Caecilia said.

Her uncle noticed her hobby and proposed that she should move to Bali to find an opportunity for her artistic skills. So, she found the art of tattooing, which infuses life into her pictures on the skin of others.

“In Tangerang it was hard to practice,” Caecilia said, who was acquainted with this art via a TV documentary.

Caecilia first learned the art of tattooing from Ezy, the owner of Altar Studio. Her mentor was also the first to give Caecilia her first big tattoo, which is located on her left arm and depicts a chrysanthemum.

At Altar, male and female tattooists work together according to their appointments. Lyra and Viona are the only two female artists.

“There’s no discrimination. The quality of work is what matters most,” said Ezy.

Nowadays, more and more female tattoo artists hone their craft and make a living from their art in Bali.

One of the showcase events featuring their work was Magic Ink Tattoo Expo, May 2017, which was organized by the tattoo industry and community magazine, Magic Ink.

One prominent booth was Be No Square, a studio which employs three female artists. The booth was furnished with an elegant table where flowers, a folder of designs and an information kit were neatly arranged. A staffer was ready to give information while the artists were tattooing bodies from a queue of waiting people.

Detail: A tattoo by Lidya Adventa, a tattooist from Bandung who has moved to Bali.Detail: A tattoo by Lidya Adventa, a tattooist from Bandung who has moved to Bali. (Be No Square/File)

Lidya Adventa, the owner and tattoo artist of Be No Square, is said to be among those prominent in the Bali tattoo scene.

Her clean and stylish studio with a monochrome interior on Jalan Pengubengan Kauh, Kerobokan, North Kuta, opened in January 2017, following her career as a tattoo artist of two and a half years.

“Previously I worked as a graphic designer and illustrator,” Lidya said in an email interview on Sept. 9 while on vacation.

Her first place of work was her apartment, relying on social media for clients by using her portfolio as an illustrator. At the time she operated under LADVTATTOOS, also known as Lidya Adventa Tattoos.

“The client traffic was getting so intense that we needed a bigger place.” she said.

She began to set aside her income to rent a more spacious studio room for creative activity.

After, several novice tattooists emerged for Lidya to mentor.

Alice, for instance, expressed her interest in this profession while working as an interior designer. Elena, who also started her career as a graphic designer, worked until November at Be No Square.

Black and white: A view of Lidya's private studio in Kerobokan, northern Kuta.Black and white: A view of Lidya's private studio in Kerobokan, northern Kuta. (Be No Square/File)

The specific concept of Be No Square is to ensure greater comfort for women wishing to be tattooed.

According to Lidya, female clients often feel awkward when they want to have hidden tattoos on certain body parts considered private, especially if the job is done in a room with people of the opposite sex moving back and forth.

Unlike walk-in studios, Be No Square is set as a private studio, open only by reservation so that the schedule can be adjusted for the convenience of both the artists and clients.

This studio also offers vegan inks, as most professional brands are going natural. Be No Square has replaced ink products with animal based ingredients.

Lidya highlights that tattoos are not becoming an alien concept for women.

“The percentage of female clients getting tattooed has begun to exceed that of their male counterparts,” she said, attributing this phenomenon to shifting social values from taboo to perceiving the skin designs as an aesthetic trend or part of fashion.

Sadly, in Lidya’s observation, not many female tattoo artists come from Bali, while the island is Indonesia’s top tattoo industrial center with its creative resources.

“I hope Balinese women will be increasingly interested in this profession and I’ll be very pleased to maintain media contact with them,” she said.

Bagus Ferry, an editor at Magic Ink magazine that consistently holds tattoo events and contests, saw a growing female market as shown by the rising number of women opening tattoo booths at such expos.

“Bali has just found its market, Jakarta has had a lot. They began with simple tattoos,” said Bagus, who described lines, dots and black-white images as dominant designs.

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