Interview with Martin Šrámek about a very unusual method of tattooing; the color is injected into the skin with the help of a pike tooth. The method is very lengthy, and unlike classic tattoos, it offers only very simple motives.
A standard question to begin with – where are you from and how long have you been tattooing?
I’m from Znojmo. I’ve been interested in tattoos since I was about 4 years old. I had a heavily tattooed grandfather. He was a part of Technical auxiliary battalions. I’ve been scribbling with a ballpoint pen since I was a child, but I remember when I was 13 years old I already knew what kind of tattoo I wanted. I have been tattooing for the third year and I started tattooing using bones straight away.
Your tattoo method is very specific and unique. Can you bring it a little closer to the readers? And where did you first encounter this method?
I have had a relationship with nature and animals since I was a child, then, when I was 13 years old, I saw the film The Last of the Mohicans and became more interested in tribal people and especially Urukez. Later, I tried to get to know Polynesia, etc. At the age of 16, I started collecting bones from dead animals and re-creating them into jewelry. Then I started cleaning the skulls and sprayed them with an airbrush, or made various collages of bones. As well as cleaning, I have exchanged shark teeth with a native Cape Verde man for a doe skull. He was supposed to supply me with shark teeth that are used here for ritual tattooing, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. So I started thinking about what kind of teeth would be best to use, and one of our predators – a pike, was the most suitable. It took me about seven months to try to tattoo myself by this method. Most tattoo artists need to be able to draw. In my case, it’s not necessary, I do simple and blurry things, even though I have some realism from Daksi in my skin, with which I placed a few conventions. But that blurry tattoo is more important to me. So I offer blurred simple things that can be done with bones.
Where do you get the bones from? And are they just bones from fish, or also bones from larger animals that can be adapted to the process?
People do tattoos with a large number of types of bones, previously they used also tattooed fish spines or, for example, with a chipped pig’s tooth. There are many ways. I personally do tattoos with a pike tooth.
What does the tool preparation look like? Grinding, some machining of the tooth itself, or fitting into a tattoo wand…?
I boil the head, take tweezers, a magnifying glass, and a scalpel. The whole tooth goes to the sterilizer, I use the broken ones for various bone things. I try to use everything, even the jaws. I make my mallets by myself, I use oak wood. Before I started tattooing, I first discussed hygiene with friends who are more experienced in this. Many people immediately think about getting infections, but everything is sterilized.
Is the tooth tattoo itself injected under the skin, or is the so-called knocking or other method used?
I use one tooth and a mallet for tattoos and I work by the method of needling. I have it all for one use and after the session, I give it to the customers for a memory. So that no one thinks I’m beating a pike tooth unnecessarily. On the contrary, I have it calculated so that I don’t take much or a little, I do two to three tattoos a week and I do other things from bones. For example, now I have an order for the bone interior of a restaurant and guest house in Salzburg.
What were the beginnings, did you just tattoo yourself, or were there enough volunteers who wanted to try this unusual method?
The beginnings were such that I tried everything on myself. I also had a scalpel ready if I bent a tooth deep so I could open and pull it out, but in the end I wrapped only small pieces, and over time, when I learned not to wrap, I started tattooing my friends. I have a few bent teeth in my thigh for the memory.
How about today, do you still have work to do? Or what is the frequency of people interested in this kind of tattoo?
I still have work to do, and when I’m not tattooing, I make bones, but customer interest is still rising. I make myself known on social networks, which is great advertising, but sometimes it takes personal life away.
How about the price for this kind of tattoo? Does one have to prepare an extra amount due to the time required, or is it a standard average an hour job?
There is always a session with me for the whole day, so I take the whole session and it takes about 5 hours on average.
Tattooing with this method is a very ritual matter, how does the whole session go?
I have a few conditions. One has to come at 9 o’clock in the morning, turn off the phone and leave when the tattoo is done. We will first talk and try to come up with a motive from your personality that suits you, then we will have something to eat, followed by a break, then food again, everything is calm, no stress, just cool. I try to make people not just leave with tattoos, but to have a relaxing day too.
The choice of motive in this case is probably very limited to simple patterns. Is this always solved on the spot, or do customers sometimes bring their own motive?
It’s different, someone sends a topic and someone wants to create a motive in a personal meeting. The motives are simple, I don’t do realistic tattoos with a bone. Usually lines are made and a little filled up.
And are there any motives that dominate? Maybe animals or some shapes?
It’s different, something from everyone (here you could write a little about what is most often tattooed).
Do you have an overview of how many people you have already tattooed with this method?
It won’t be hundreds, more dozens, but I don’t remember the exact number.
Any message, „wisdom“ or a thank you in the end?
Thank you for your support and trust. I will try not to disappoint you. I would like to thank everyone around me who helps and supports me, and especially Ondrash and Daksi, who have had patience with me in these matters, and I would also like to thank you for the opportunity to express yourself and introduce people a little to what I am doing.