Rhys Gordon

I became enchanted by the world of tattooing in my early teens. Coming into contact with heavily tattooed people planted the seed. Getting my first Tattoo at 15 even though I probably looked 11, I knew this was what I wanted to do. The sound, the smell, the atmosphere of tattoo shops had me hooked. In a time when they were the opposite of today, worn by outsiders, sailors, crooks, the list goes on!!!! Always a sense of fear mixed with excitement when entering this hidden world, almost like walking into a rough pub. Not knowing what to expect or who would be in there. Tattooing has always had its own filtering process, to gain an apprenticeship you didn’t produce a portfolio of artwork like today, I think it was more a test of character that opened the door. Well these are my observation's. For somebody to bestow some information on you was quite an honour and meant you had earned a level of respect, a great feeling and sense of achievement that I think can be taken for granted today, with everything so available and readily shared. 

I spent the following years honing my skills tattooing. I began getting tattooed by some of the leading artists of the time , like Little Mick , Paul Braniff , and Trevor McStay in search of knowledge, but instead of asking questions I simply watched and tried to remember everything I could. Around this time I moved on to work with Kenny Mac at his old Brunswick studio. Still a working class area and on the first floor above a sex shop. The next 2 years were an amazing time, coming into contact with more artists, and lots of interesting people. I joined the P.T.A.A around this time, where I had to attend several meetings then present photos to be judged by my pears on artistic skill and character before becoming a probationary member. I went to conventions, visited other artists and treaded respectfully through this world. 

Melbourne were I grew up had some great tattooists with names like Shaky Bill and Inky Rick. I walked into a well-known dodgy Flinders street Tattoo shop along time ago, met by the owner leaning in the doorway smoking a cigarette. I had to squeeze by him to get in. Without missing a drag he growled "what do ya want?" I replied "I’m just looking", His reply, was simply, "Make it quick then!!!" Great stuff, a time were flash was the industry standard, and you were likely to get kicked out if you asked any questions regarding how to become a tattooist. 

My entry came via a close family friend, Tattoo Charlie. I did my first Tattoo with home made machines at 15. Then spent all my spare time hanging around his Tattoo studio, watching, cleaning, listening, getting tattooed, absorbing as much as I could. A time of no Internet, no tattoo magazines, so everything known was a well guarded secret. A sleeve wasn’t constructed of your favourite images from the Internet or some celebrity you want to look like, it was chosen from the designs on the walls. A time where wizards and castles reigned supreme. My own arms were carefully picked out from the latest J.D Crow flash sheets that were the money makers of the day. Every few weeks I would either get an outline or something completed. My half sleeves were made up of about 4 major pieces then filled in with a bit of biker dust or some other random scribble. A far cry from what’s being Tattooed on skin today. This was all part of my learning process, and my arms are a messy gathering of a bygone era and the only story they really tell is the time I’m from. Tattoos can simply look good and be just as valid with no meaning, as to some that have emotional attachment that gives them justification. Guys have always wanted to look tuff and girls sexy. Simple!!! 

I always loved Japanese Tattooing from the beginning wanting a bodysuit from first sight. So when Paul Jefferies of Smiling Buddha in Canada came to Australia to work with Trevor McStay at Dynamic Tattoo in 1995, I immediately booked in for a big dragon on my thigh. This experience opened my eyes to what could be done both artistically and professionally. The dawn of custom tattooing and appointments had arrived , as opposed to lining up outside a tattoo shop before it opened to get in . I then had Trevor tattoo me adding new pieces to my arms and kindly reworking some older tattoos. Luckily for me Trevor took an interest in me, giving me the help he could along the way. He has remained a mentor and friend over years. In 2009 I had a black dragon back piece done by him, completing my bodysuit. A true gentleman of the Tattoo Industry who has been there and done that. Still maintaining incredible enthusiasm and work ethic.

1995 saw me leave for London in search of adventure and knowledge. I went to the Dunstable Tattoo conventions, the opening of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, visited as many shops as I could, absorbing everything possible. Working in London exposed me to opportunities that have been invaluable in both tattooing and life in general. I worked in a super busy street shop in the heart on Kensington Market which was the alternative mecca of the day. I had no foot switch, just a hard wired machine, our floor guy would put the stencils on then bandage people up once I tattooed them. I tattooed flat out all day 6 days a week. People were lined up in the morning before we opened and it didn’t stop, I was in heaven. I really began to hone my technical skills here and art began to re enter the scene. Either correcting a shitty stencil or quickly re drawing a customer's design. Total production line tattooing, my record was 23 tattoos in a day!!! 

The London scene was great. I met Lal Hardy who is the godfather of modern English tattooing. What Lal doesn’t know about tattooing probably isn’t worth knowing. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun than at New Wave Tattoo. Lal along with Trev have seen me grow from a little boy in the tattoo world to where I am now, and can call on either for advice when needed. Another big influence on me was the late great Dave Ayres and Ozweld of Skin Deep Tattoo in good old Bristol. Through these guys I traveled to many convention's and Rock 'n' Roll shows having a blast. Through this meeting I also had the fortune of becoming friend's with the late Danny Skuse , the son of Les Skuse and British Tattoo Royalty. All pivotal people in a time were I was coming into my own and all helped shape my outlook upon Tattooing and life. 





Amsterdam was good to me , working at Dikke Dennis' Tattoo shop in the Jordaan was an eye opener to say the least. A huge and charismatic man who sing's in a great Dutch Rock 'n" Roll band called Peter Pan Speed Rock. I came into contact with alot of great dutch and international artist's as well as the city's best and worst that humankind has to offer , made it a memorable time. Tattoo's , Rock 'n' Roll and laughter are the daily theme. I am blessed to have spent 2 years in this studio and city.

The millennium saw me travel to Thailand for the first time, something I continue to do to this day. I ended up working during the English winter season's on the island of Koh Samui. I did three back to back years chasing the sun, and while there worked with Chilli Joe at his beachside Tattoo shop. Maintaining a busy schedule with many tourist's passing through the studio allowed me to keep improving and work on my tan. I would visit many local temple's and began to develop and appreciation for the beautiful artwork and Buddha. Thailand has it's own unique traditional tattoo style of Sak Yant. This and the many international tourist's and backpacker's coming through the tattoo shop maintained my inspiration.

After 8 years in London, Amsterdam and Thailand I retuned to Australia. Back in 1995 I was tattooed by Paul Braniff a few times, so upon my arrival home I visited Skin Fx and was lucky enough to work on the Gold Coast for him. I spent the best part of 4 years working at Skin Fx doing the night shift. This was a time of great improvements by being along side some of the countries best artists. Working alongside the like's of Bryan Brady, Tod DeBrower and Tony Ranger really kept me on my toes.

When the opportunity arose to work in Sydney at Innervision Tattoo for Cliffe Clayton, I made the move and it was a great step for me. Being able to be apart of one of the cities leading studios and being introduced to the great work's of Kian Forreal, Meagan Oliver and W.T Norbert was invaluable. Working at Innervision for nearing 5 year's enabled me the opportunity to create a lot of larger pieces in the Japanese style I love. Coming into contact with a lot of quality travelling guest artists, and great customer's along the way. I thanks Cliffe Clayton and the Innervision team for my time there.

Tatudharma become my new home for 8 month's before unfortunately closing it's doors in April of 2011. The great crew lead by Josh Roelink and Nathan Puata have disbanded and gone in different direction's. Tatudharma has been a great benefit to me both professionally and personally. Time cut it's legacy short but been invaluable in opening my eye's to knew possibility. I thank Josh Roelink, Nathan Puata, Tong ,Alex (Rusty) Cairns , Garth B Neale and Brett Hayes for continual inspiration.

This has lead me to creating my own private Tattoo studio , honouring the tradition's of the best studio's I have worked in and Japanese Tattooing in general. I continue working by appointment only in a peaceful surrounding. I look forward to concentrating on Japanese and Eastern based  tattoo design's, and this knew direction my career has taken

So even after all these years, and working in over 20 studios worldwide, I am now more enthusiastic than ever before. Tattooing has come full circle and with the new talent around has a great future, and I look forward to contributing to it in my own way. Tattooing has given me a great life, I have filled up 2 passports, spent 8 solid years living, working and traveling throughout Europe and Asia, meet so many amazing people, on both sides of the needle, gained some great friendship's, had a lot of fun and done a lot of tattooing along the way. 

I was told along time ago!! "Be good to Tattooing, and it will be good to you". I’ve seen this done and dismissed over the years, and I believe this to be true. 

Rhys Gordon.

Sept 2011