Life has a funny way of derailing plans, and in Keith Yeo’s case, it is particularly true. Growing up in Shanghai, he’d planned on becoming a concept artist for video games. Sniggering to himself, he tells us that it was the more “normal” route that his parents had hoped he’d take. At 16, however, he got his first tattoo and the artform piqued his interest. A couple of years later, he returned to Singapore for National Service, and at the same time took on an apprenticeship at Bada Bink! Tattoo Firm.
Unlike many artists today, Yeo had a more traditional apprenticeship. He didn’t get to pick up a machine and start right away. No, he spent a couple of years learning the ins and outs of Bada Bink! Tattoo Firm. He’d come into the shop, clean the area, help the other artists set up, run errands, and assist with the management side of the business. It was only two years into his apprenticeship that he got his hands on a machine and began practising.
We’re curious as to why he decided to take up a traditional apprenticeship when many artists today favour the “self-taught” route. Yeo ruminates for a second and then tells us it’s about the culture and gaining self-confidence. He spent two years learning everything about the tattoo shop by watching and listening. “The shop is like a machine, and we are the cogs. Learning how it operates gives you confidence in the systems in place and allows you to focus on your craft”, he says.
Even though the 23-year-old has technically only been tattooing for just over a year, he’s totally confident and looks completely at ease tattooing an intricate design while chatting with us. He credits his training but is quick to add that he doesn’t get ahead of himself and knows that there’s still a lot to learn, especially for the style he wants to specialise in.
Yeo is quickly gaining popularity for his traditional-styled tattoos. As he chats with AUGUSTMAN, he is putting the finishing touches on a beautiful swordfish design. “I chose to do traditional tattoos because it is the style that speaks to me. I love the bold and clean designs, and it matches my style of drawing”, he affords. He doesn’t plan on switching styles anytime soon. Like a true craftsman, he plans on perfecting his work.
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