Jaka, alias Jackass, a 25-year-old tattooist at Mad Ink in Kuta, shared his day with The Bali Times’ Laurane Marchive

I have to be a bit like a psychologist, to calm customers, and tell them how to control themselves, control the pain and their own body.

Every day I wake up at 9am, and then go straight to the shop before the first customers come, as it opens at 9. The shop is not mine; it belongs to an Austrian girl, but I manage it. I do the tattoos, and make the designs.

Then I start my working day, spending an hour sterilizing my equipment; this is really important for me. Hygiene is one of the main aspects of my job, and that is why I use medical sterilizers, and ultrasonic cleaners. I want the customers to feel safe and comfortable.

When I finish, it can be 10:30am or 11. Afterwards, if I don’t have an appointment yet, I just stay in the shop with my friends, waiting for people to come. There are two other guys working here with me, helping for the designs, or to bring people. We only have four or five tattoo customers a week, and around seven who come for piercing. So while waiting for customers, I draw new designs. I try to find news ideas. Sometimes I go to the internet to get some inspiration. I also watch a lot of movies when I’m home. For example, one of the tattoos on my arm comes from the movie The Nightmare before Christmas.

After lunch, people often come to see what the shop looks like, if the place is safe, if they can be tattooed here. Sometimes they ask me to draw something for them, but most of the time they already have the design. Anyway, when they come here, they can have it made in the afternoon if they want and if I don’t have an appointment.

For a big tattoo on an entire arm, it can take me five hours, but if the customer wants it to be colored, it can last 10 hours. Some people feel ready to do it in one session; that’s why some days, I tattoo from 3pm to 1am without stopping. But I also can do it in two sessions, because the pain can be hard to bear. Occasionally, people think they can handle it, but I soon as I begin the work, they start shaking so much I cannot tattoo them. When this happens, I have to be a bit like a psychologist, to calm them and to tell them how to control themselves, control the pain and their own body. My job is not always easy, but rewarding – for example, when I work, I can use a stencil or just do it freehand. It takes a lot of training to feel confident enough to draw like that on people’s skin, but as soon as you can do it, the result is worth it.

If I don’t have big tattoos to do, I can close the shop at 10pm, after which I spend another hour sterilizing everything. It always takes a lot of time, but I have heard about people getting infections from tattoos in Bali, and I don’t want that in my shop. Most of the time when they come, people ask about hygiene – they want to examine the instruments themselves, and I let them, because afterwards they feel more confident. And when I am doing tattoos, there is only me and the customer in the room, because I want it to be sterile.

In the beginning, I was not a tattooist but what I call a body modificator. That’s why we also do piercings and implants here. Actually, there are a lot of tattoo shops around Kuta, but only a few piercers – that’s why we have so many customers. If people want to be pierced, we can do it, so they come to see us, and then they sometimes come back, alone or with friends, for tattoos.

A few times a year there are competitions and exhibitions all around Indonesia, and as there’s one in less than two weeks from now, I’ve started preparing, thinking of designs, looking for models – this is also part of my work. If there’s a moment where I don’t have anything to do during the day, I start thinking about it, to be ready for the competition.

After I close the shop, I go back home, change clothes and go out with my friends. I sometimes go with the people I have just tattooed, because they often want to thank me, so they offer us drinks and everything. I get back home at 3 or 4 am, so everyday is a holiday for me. Meeting a lot of different people, doing want I want, designing my own tattoos, it was my dream when I was small, and now it has come true. This’s why I love my job.

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