Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 12th 2014 Contents 5
Friday, September 12, 2014 • Issue 157
Sitting in the waiting area of Sinful Skin on
French Street in Woodbrook, it's easy to get
sucked into the tattoo studio's slow moving
vibe. The contrast from the busy street out-
side is stark. All dim lighting and heart pound-
ing music, Sinful Skin is a tiny but well curated
escape from the mainstream.
It's no surprise then, when 36-year-old tattoo-
artist, piercer, and owner Ryan Roque tells me that
he doesn't usually give interviews.
"I don't like to feel like I'm exploiting tattoo cul-
ture. It's about being underground and being the
minority. I want to keep the edge going; keep the
art alive instead of feeling like I'm selling out."
But graciously, Ryan indulges me, and we delve
into the origins of his shop.
"At first I did it to keep Gilles' legacy going. I
never thought I'd become a tattoo artist until the
day he died."
Gilles Business, founder of the now defunct Tat-
too Farm was a lion in the local tattoo culture, and
"His death affected me a lot and I wanted to
continue what he'd taught me. I looked up to him. I
liked that he was so passionate about his art. I
learned so much from him without even realizing
it. I love passionate people because I've never been
an open person, so I look up to people who are
brave enough to be open. When he passed it just
clicked that this is what I would do.
Ryan still has the article about Gilles's passing on
the wall of his shop.
"Everyday I get to see him and tell him I'm doing
it all for him. Art was my way of expressing myself
without having to speak. I like to speak through my
art. It's hard for me to express myself verbally."
But now that I've got him talking it's easier to
coax from him the details of his chosen craft.
"There weren't a lot of registered professional
shops in Trinidad back then. I opened this new
shop and brought over the staff from Tattoo Farm
and we've been here ever since."
According to Ryan, tattoo culture is very differ-
ent from an artist and customer perspective.
"The artist does it to keep the lifestyle going, the
clients do it for fun. It's two different concepts re-
ally. But I'm not opposed to it going more main-
Ryan says he's definitely seen a wider main-
stream appeal of tattoo culture in Trinidad since
opening his shop seven years ago.
"There wasn't that big of a market at the time.
Back then, there was a lot of pushback, but not
anymore. People used to be denied jobs for tattoos
and unusual piercings. Now you can't really do that
because everyone has a tattoo or piercing."
According to Ryan, people are far more open-
minded these days. While he used to see kids
sneaking out to come get work done, now they
come accompanied by parents and guardians.
Nowadays heavily tattooed people get stares of
admiration rather than disgust. Tattoos are now
seen as a way to express individuality.
When it comes to the dicier side of tattooing,
Ryan has all his bases covered. One of the risks of
piercings and tattoos and piercing is infection.
While health and safety guidelines are not codified
into law locally, Ryan is meticulous about steriliza-
tion and preventing cross contamination.
"Trinidad is small. Word of mouth is important. You
can't be reusing needles and give someone an infection.
Something like that could sink your business. Hepatitis
is easy to contract if you're using dirty needles."
The biggest issue Ryan says he faces is that
Trinidadians don't seem willing to pay the price for
quality work. But as the local saying goes, "Cheap
ting no good, and good ting no cheap."
Ryan attributes this to the lack of a supporting
tattoo culture. He says tattooing is less a culture
locally, and more of a trend.
"Inks and needles aren't cheap. When you do
things the right way and you have to dispose of
80% of your material when you're done, that's a lot
of cost that the shop has to incur. We have a $600
minimum. People need to understand that if you
want good work, you have to pay for it. I want to
do professional work all the time and maintain con-
sistency. It's hard to work for five hours on a tattoo
when you know the client isn't willing to pay for
the work demanded. I just don't think the market is
big enough to appreciate it. Most people just end
up getting a bunch of tiny tattoos."
Despite the minor woes, Ryan has big plans for
the future of his shop, including a bigger studio, a
clothing line, and a little café. He's intensely focused
on expanding Sinful Skin's brand without losing its
As to continuing the legacy that Gilles began,
Ryan isn't ready to pass the baton just yet. He cur-
rently does all the shop's tattoos and piercings and
isn't training an apprentice.
works the way it is right now. I wouldn't want to
bring in someone now and not like them. I need
someone who's particular like. And I like to think
that I'm still young enough to carry on on my own
for now! I'm very swamped but I like to work. I
don't feel the need to take the edge off at the end
of the day. The shop is the perfect social environ-
ment for me."
Links Archive September 11th 2014 September 13th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page