Joel has never been good at having a ”job”, he says. Being part of somebody else’s structured nine-to-five environment was, for him, stressful enough to encourage him to take the plunge and embark upon what would transpire to be an extremely successful career as a tattoo artist. Joel picked up a tattooing machine for the first time in 2006 and, since that day, his technique, unique style, and attention to detail has gone from strength to strength.
”The better you get, the more fun it becomes to get even better.” Says Joel.
His first paying customer, at Tumba Tattoo in 2007, requested a string of Roman numerals. Joel tells me that he was extremely nervous, and locked himself in the bathroom to hyperventilate for a brief moment while his customer was waiting for him in the studio. The Roman numerals must have turned out well considering his current customer base; fast-forward a decade, and people are travelling far and wide to have a back piece inked by Joel.
Dan Higgs was, and is, one of Joel’s biggest inspirations. He remembers a few hectic years between 2008 and 2012, when a particular trend within the tattoo industry was to ink the weirdest, or most extreme, tattoo design on a customer. This is also how I first came to hear about Joel, a tattooer who twists traditional tattoos into something you would probably only otherwise see while high on acid.
Joel has spent some time travelling the globe, inhabiting guest spots at a number of different studios. He acquired much knowledge of the industry while travelling, and has took inspiration from many different kinds of tattoo artists. He returned from his travels one year ago, settled down somewhat, and is now the co-owner of Sanctum tattoo.
Hanging around Sanctum Tattoo is endless fun, and you will feel totally at ease inside the studio. It feels like entering a family home, with jokes flying around between the tattooers while they create their world class designs. This is undoubtedly one of the many reasons that people keep on coming back to this place.
“Good social skills are crucial to survive in the tattoo business, as you are meeting new people every day.” Joel says. ”I love people, and I am also the most kind and humble person that I’ve ever met!” he jokes, with a smile.
Joel wanted to tattoo in an environment where he felt comfortable and unrestrained. The only way for him to do this, he felt, was to open his own studio; Sanctum Tattoo.
So, what can we expect from Joel in 2017?
Many more back pieces, and also the release of ‘Horiheibon’, his book about half-sleeve tattoos that he started putting together in 2015.