Stay Cold talks to Matt about changing careers, moving to the USA without speaking English, and his biggest fears.
Did you always want to be a tattoo artist?
Not at all, to be honest I never thought about tattooing until I turned thirty. I used to draw all time when I was younger, I went to art school, but I was more into design and digital marketing. I loved tattoos for such a long time though, I was heavily tattooed, but I didn’t think about going into it. But after years of working in the digital industry, I became tired of being on the computer and working for big clients, and I really wanted to draw again, to do it for myself, to have my own vision. My friends brought up tattooing, I was probably not ready for it before, but it felt right at that moment, so I looked for an apprenticeship.
What was your journey of finding an apprenticeship like?
Well, I was already thirty-years-old, but I really wanted to find a shop where someone could teach me the basics. I didn’t want to start off on my own. It was so hard in France five years ago to find a shop that could give me the advice I needed. I tried so many times, but nothing came of it. I became tired of living in France, living in the same place for so many years. I was bored and I knew I needed to change things in my life. I decided to move to the US to try to find a shop. I worked a full year in different shitty jobs to make some income, so I could try my chances in Los Angeles. I went there the year after, without being able to speak a word of English, and after some searching, I found a place that offered to give me some help. The owner of Golden Daggers Tattoo saw my portfolio and liked my work, so they asked me to come in three days a week to work in the shop, to clean it, to draw with the guys. I stayed there a year as an apprentice. I watched four talented guys while they worked and helped out. It was there that I learnt to speak a bit of English! It was the best apprenticeship ever, a real one, right from the basics. I will be always grateful to those guys for helping me out so much.
Were all your friends and family supportive of your choice?
All my friends were crazy supportive, probably because they wanted free tattoos! My family was ok because they knew I had lots of tattoos on me and I liked them. I was already old when I started in this industry, so it wasn’t complicated like if I was a kid who want to stop school to start tattooing. It was just doing something artistic in a different way than designing on a computer, anyways the digital industry was becoming more difficult so I thought, why not try something else? Moving to another country was a real necessity and people knew that. They were more worried about me because of the travelling and leaving France.
What is the best part of being a tattoo artist?
I think I will say the same thing as everybody else! It’s the freedom of course, to be able to manage your life as you want. But there's many other things too, I have met so many talented people, I have travelled a lot. It's really the best way to travel and to improve my skills at the same time.
What is your biggest challenge as a tattoo artist?
Like I said, I started late at thirty-years-old, so it was such a big challenge to start something totally new at that age. I have been doing tattoos for five years now, so I'm still a beginner, everything is still a challenge for me. Every trip for a guest spot is a challenge, but it's the best way to learn.
What kind of designs do you enjoy working on the most?
People usually ask me to work on dark things – demons faces, burning churches. I really love to get inspired by old legends, demonic ideas, satanic images...so thanks to my customers, they ask me to work on all the good things!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I don't really know yet, I just want my own style to evolve, to try new things, and to continue to work hard and learn. I’m also thinking of moving away from France again, it has been five years now and I travel a lot everywhere. It’s tiring to take all these trips, so why shouldn’t I move somewhere else to stay more focused on my work? We'll see.
What is your biggest fear right now?
Probably to lose my inspiration. It's hard to create new things all the time, so I guess my fear is to run out of ideas to draw. I think it’s cliché, it's probably the biggest fear of all artists.
What gets your adrenaline pumping?
Travelling. Being out of my comfort zone is the best adrenaline hit ever.
What is your advice for people wanting to get into tattoo industry?
To do things step by step, don’t start working on big tattoos without any skills. You need to find someone to teach you well, not those with three years of experience, but a solid teacher, with a lot of experience, someone who can give you the right feedback. You need to stay humble and you can’t stop watching others in the profession, even if it's not a style you like, you can learn from everyone, so never stop focusing on learning. You need to draw a lot before you start to tattoo. And you shouldn’t copy other artists, even if it's hard to find your own style. Just take the time it needs.
What sets you apart from other tattoo artists?
I don't know, it's hard to tell. I'm not sure that I stand "apart " from others, but I guess I’m a part of this style called Blackwork. I just try to do my own things with my own vision and I try to not copy people. A lot of artists are inspirational to me, but I'm just trying to find my own ideas to put in my tattoos to make them look different.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
Legacy is a big word! I just want people to recognize my work when they see it, even when I stop doing tattoos. Actually, it's not about leaving something for later, I'm more into the now, doing things now, the best way that I can.