Mulie Addlecoat was in the middle of a session with his client when we came in to see him, and he was kind enough to let us take a look around the quirky Thinking Tree Tattoo studio while he finishes up with the Buddha tattoo. He recently won an award, amongst many others he had won previously, this time it’s for Skin & Ink Magazine as first winner in their flesh contest.
His wife, fashion designer Dita Addlecoat, was the first to suggest to him, if he’s really into drawing tattoo then why not make a career out of it. As for the studio’s unique name, well, let’s just say it started from a game called Fallout, an apocalyptic game where the character got contaminated by nuclear and a tree started to grow out from his head. One thing led to another and people got the wrong idea and he was soon considered a god, in the form of a talking tree. That was the idea – tree of knowledge. Unique story indeed.
I know you’ve probably heard this a lot but, what made you want to become a tattoo artist?
I wouldn’t say I become one. . .I’m more interested in the culture and community, so different from other communities I’ve seen before. Respect in terms of one another, and they care a lot about their heritage and try hard to preserve it.
Was your family supportive?
My family was in denial, they rejected me at the beginning. My mom’s rules was; no smoking, no drugs, and no tattoo. I didn’t do the first two but ended up becoming a tattoo artist. The whole family told me not to tell anyone about my job, and to keep everything secretive.
Now they tell people about what I do with pride, they even posted pictures of the tattoos I’ve done on their social media account, also encourage their friends to do their tattoo with me. I was like “Err. . .I’m confused, I thought you didn’t want people to know.”
What do you usually think about while doing a tattoo?
I think about doing the best for the piece of course. It’s all about creating the best (tattoo), even if I’ve done the same designs hundreds of times. I’ve done lots of bird tattoos but I try to make each and every one of them unique and special.
Do you remember your first time?
*laughs* I was terrified! Back when I was an apprentice, my friend (who was also an apprentice) volunteered to be my human canvas. I broke down in cold sweat. Turns out it wasn’t the same as fake skin you know. . Once the blood came out, and the person moved, all hell broke loose.
Who is your idol?
Bowery Stan. He was the guy who made it all possible.
What’s your tattoo DOs and DON’Ts
Do your research well on the tattoo artist and the design you want to get. Don’t do it high or drunk cause it’s never a good idea. Don’t use celebrities as a reference – I mean this is the Google era, honestly if you want a tattoo of an angel there’s surely hundreds of pictures on the internet as reference. Why stick to one?
So your pet peeve is. . .
People coming in bringing a pic of their idol and handing the picture to me saying “I want a tattoo just like this.” Where is the fun and originality in that?
What advice would you give readers who want to follow in your footsteps?
I think it’s important to be an apprentice first with a senior tattoo artist to know the ins and outs also to gain experience. This field of job isn’t the kind where you just want to “try things out” it’s not a job where you think you can be the rock star. It’s a dog eat dog world in this business. Once you screw up, they’re gonna get you.
What is the most absurd tattoo you’ve ever seen on someone?
A ripped vagina, placed on someone’s back. What was the artist thinking to actually enter that in a contest?
What’s the best tune to listen to while working (on a tattoo)?
Chanson. It’s this French song, it’s the best. It calms me down and most importantly it doesn’t clash with the rhythm of my machine.
What’s next for you now?
I’d love to be able to do a guest spot at a convention. I’ve been invited to Singapore, New York, Miami, even to the rural part of town in America. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to accept the invitations until now, but I’ve got hopes for the future.
For more information check www.ThinkingTreeTattoo.com
Interview by Vita Aviandhono
Photos by Yahyakan Natadias and Mulie Addlecoat