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Work of art . . . Tattoo artist TJ Mulvihill gets ready to tattoo Oamaru man Yogi Newbery. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Tattoo artists from across the country will flock to Oamaru for the annual Tattooed and Proud competition tomorrow. Reporter Tyson Young talks to tattoo artist TJ Mulvihill, who owns and operates Oamaru-based parlour A Touch Of Ink.

Q Where do you hail from, TJ?
I come from Timaru originally.

Q What brought you to Oamaru?
I came down to the tattoo show about three years ago after being asked by the judges and a few people to take part in the event. At the same time, I approached the owner of a tattoo shop that used to run here and offered to buy it because it was a never open a lot. He told me I’d never sell to an idiot like you, so that became my personal vendetta. On the day of the show, I approached Spivey Real Estate, signed the lease for this place and have been smashing it ever since.

Q How are you finding Oamaru?
I love it. It’s a good wee town, and there’s a lot of people that get tattooed here.

Q What is it about the town that you enjoy the most?
There’s so many different age groups down here, and because it’s such a small town it probably isn’t promoted as much as what it should.

Q What sort of clientele do you get at your business?
All sorts. You couldn’t just say that you tattoo young people, because you tattoo older people and even really old people. Tattooing is getting a lot more accepted in New Zealand. We’re one of the most tattooed cultures in the world now.

Q What’s the craziest request you’ve had from a customer?
Tattooing people’s private parts are definitely up there. You can’t turn it away, but it’s definitely eye-opening.

Q How long have you been a tattoo artist?
I’ve been a tattoo artist for about 10 years.

Q What got you into your field of work?
When I was at school, I was always into art. My old man used to run a pub in Timaru, and lots of tattoo artists practically lived at the place. After seeing the lifestyle and being taught how to draw from them, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Q What’s the best part of the job?
It’s definitely being able to express the art form and it’s also the challenges that go along with it. People will just come in with an idea, and to be able to freehand draw something and then map it on their body for the rest of their life is a credit to itself. I love it. I couldn’t go back to doing just a normal 9-to-5 job.

Q What’s the hardest part of the job?
I’d say the hardest part of the job would be trying to talk people out of getting backyard tattoos. That’s the one thing they need to crack down on in New Zealand. It’s so easy to buy a cheap tattoo kit, and everyone can just say they’re a tattooist. It’s so easy to get infections and diseases from these kits. Scratchers are a real problem here, and even in this town there’s a lot of scratchers. It’s your body – you shouldn’t be letting just some Joe Blow have a go when you’re going to have to live with it for the rest of your life.

Q Are you excited about the tattoo show?
Absolutely. I’ll be entering in the ink wars event, so I’ll be representing the town while I tattoo my partner in the event. It’ll be me and nine other tattooists from around New Zealand. I’d say that it’s one of the best battles of the year. No matter whether you win or lose, it’s still a great day.