Each week our intrepid artist liaison and generally jovial Eikon staffer Patrick Coste, sits down with a tattoo artist to get to know them a little better. This week, he's catching up with Montreal artist, and owner of Imago, Safwan.
Safwan’s a pillar of the tattooing community and gives true meaning to tattoo life. He’s generous, he’s mastered the craft and is humble about it. Most of all, he appreciates all that surrounds him. A tattooer true to the trade - Patrick Coste
Patrick Coste: Hey, Hey Safwan, thank you so much for your time! Without conventions happening, we’ve got to find ways to talk to each other eh? Thank you for doing this interview with us. It’s most appreciated, especially in these strange times...Last time I saw you was at your shop. How’ve you been?
Safwan: I’m great actually. Yes, crazy times. Many things I’d rather be doing, but we’re gonna enjoy this time and hang and chat a bit. It’s gonna be fun!
PC: How are you spending your time these days?
Safwan: Well, I've been trying to study and anticipate what's coming, which seems impossible to do, attempting to plan and make the proper moves on a financial level. Trying to see how I can patch things and keep the boat afloat during this confinement... Administrative stuff you know, boring stuff... Hah. Luckily I can spend a lot of time with my daughter.
I’m trying to motivate myself and build machines, but for whom? You know? People won't be able to use or afford them even, so i’m gonna create for the love of it. I’m currently drawing a bit for good friends, and I had few project that were on ice for a while that I’ll now have a chance to do. The rest of the time I’m doing home stuff, you know; repairs, cleaning. I have a good bit of time to read too. I’m surrounded by lots of books that I’ve not read yet, I’m enjoying that.
PC: Please do!! hah!! We’re gonna have a definite setback... Our generation and most of our parents never lived through a crisis really. No wars, so this is as rough as it gets for us. We have friends overseas, at the other end of the country, and in the states, we’re all in the same boat.
SAF: It's a weird time, definitely a nasty moment to go through. I see impending socio-economic failure coming at us fast if these measures are maintained. I just hope tattooing won't be stopped for too long or we'll have a lot of "kitchen magicians" around. Situations like that tend to force people underground in a hurry and then you get more tattooing done in subpar conditions.
At IMAGO, we spent a lot of time building a safe and creative environment, and have an approach that we consider top in 2020. We hope to be able just to weather it and soon go back at it. There will be scars from all of this. We’re hoping to get back to it and do what we love.
PC: Do you think tattooing is ready for post-COVID-19 tattoos?
SAF: Yes. Definitely. What's neat is we already understand and apply an aseptic procedure on the daily. We have the tools and products to maintain a safe space. The understanding of the concept of cross-contamination is part of the basics for any serious tattooer. We definitely can't lower our standards now and the sanitary habits we have in a situation like this. It's funny cause it could go two ways and force people to up their work method... Simple things like thorough disinfection of surfaces, the ABC's really, might become more systematic for everyone.. Silver lining I guess.
PC: Listen to tattooers folks, they know about gloves and surface disinfection!!
SAF: Yes, you know this knowledge is important and is carried through. I’m so glad to work with tattooers that I can count on in matters of safety and cleanliness.
PC: Alright enough COVID talk!!! Let’s see what you’ve built lately!
PC: You’re amazing at all sorts of Asian-style tattooing, and I see you’re doing like step-by-step videos and frames of your tattoos for clients. Very neat!
SAF: SAF: Yes it helps big time. Preparation like that help us visualize all the steps of the process. It puts me and the client on the same track. We have a common mission at each session and people seem to never wanna tap out now. They wanna reach the session's objective. Personally I find that kind of preparation makes me more efficient during the actual paid tattoo hours. Gets us all pumped and ready you know? I'm happy to do this for people. Tattooing people that are passionate and dedicated, really into it, is a great thing!
PC: One last one man! Conventions are a sure thing we’re gonna miss - if there’s one you would bring back, which would it be?
SAF: It would be Le Mondial du Tatouage. For sure. It has all the right things and it's truly a world class gathering that pushes the craft upward. Plus I have a special relationship with Paris. That city's been very generous to me and it has a special place in my heart. It's probably the place I tattooed in the most, besides Montréal of course.
I have history and real good friends there. Tin-Tin, Dimitri HK, Steph D , Sacha... I have many good friends there, guys that I grew with, brothers in arms. It really makes me feel that I have to be there for that one. As long as they'll have me there I'm in! Winnipeg too I'll try and do it again if it's going down. It's awesomely run, full of friends and tattooers I love, it's in Canada (gotta support!) and it's my man Rich who puts it on!
PC: Safwan, can’t wait to see you around once more! I know you will be found at Imago when all is back online!
SAF: Thank you Pat! It was a pleasure to talk to you as always. Times like these are worth it.
Follow Safwan on instagram: @safwanmtl
****Transcript from a live conversation