Tattoos have culturally been a part of many Indian tribes since ancient times. Nowadays, people get them as symbols of their past or present life or because they deem it fashionable. There is an ever increasing demand for Tattoos in India, thanks to many youngsters who look at Tattoo as a sign of independence. Today, HatkeStory brings to you, the story of Mr. Ketan Saindane, a Tattoo artist who has made a name for himself and is an inspiration for many upcoming Tattoo artists in Mumbai.
Mr. Ketan is the owner of Inkholics, a famous 15 year old Tattoo studio based in Navi Mumbai that has won several International awards. He has mentored several people who went on to become noted tattoo artists.
What captivated you to learn art?
Drawing was my love and passion since childhood, and despite my low vision, I always practiced it. My left eye has only 20% vision by birth. A pencil and paper was all I needed to go into my creative zone, away from the world of Trigonometry and Pythagoras theorems. I mastered the art of drawing so well that I even represented my school on several occasions and won competitions.
By the time I cleared my school exams, I was clear about what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an artist. A tattoo artist to be precise!
Did you take a course in Arts?
Yes, I immediately joined an Arts course in L. S. Raheja School of Art after my Graduation. It was a five-year course, and I was looking forward to immersing myself in the world of art. And boy, it didn’t disappoint me one bit! I learned so much about art that there were days when I would stay back in college just to work on some creative stuff. It was also a great leveller for me because I realized that everybody was an equally good artist. We had healthy competition between us and learnt a lot from each other.
How did you become a Tattoo artist? Did they teach Tattoo making too at college?
The beauty of art is, once you learn the fundamentals, everything – right from walls, books, and desk becomes your canvas. For me, my canvas was skin. I found tattoo making to be an interesting form of art. I have seen old women with their husband’s name tattooed on their forearms; I had seen people making tattoos with rudimentary equipment on railway platforms. Tattoos interested me, and I decided to explore the field further.
The sad part was no one could teach me to make tattoos. So, armed with the power of the Internet, I decided to learn it on my own! The major disadvantage of our education system is, it never ignites curiosity in our minds. By the time we reach our tenth grade, we have to choose between arts, science, or commerce. There can never be a mid-way. My decision to learn tattoo making introduced me to the engineer within me, which I was never aware of, until I was in school.
The transformation from a creative brain to an engineering mind:
Passion has been my fuel to success. While researching on tattoo making, I realized you need a tattoo-making machine to make a tattoo. The problem was, such machines were not readily available in India. And if I had to import it, I probably would have needed to donate my kidneys!
So, in a split of a second, the engineer within me sprung up, and I decided to create my own tattoo machine!
Wow! You made your own Tattoo making machine? Did it work as expected?
Now, those were the days when the Internet had just started making way into our lives. There was very limited information available on the internet. I knew the basic components that were needed to build it, so I found a fabrication workshop and befriended the labourers who slept in the workshop after work, to teach me to develop the machine. I would daily visit them after college and bribe them with food to learn the process. Within a couple of months, I learned to develop a machine like a pro!
As Indians, we find creative solutions to make things work; when nothing works, we do Jugaad!
Were people willing to get inked with your “Made by Ketan” machine?
Not immediately. Now that I knew how to develop a machine, the next step was to use my designing skills on someone. I could not start on human skin immediately, so I carved designs on fruits, Vegetables, rubber pads and so on to learn the process. Once, I gained confidence, I experimented on my friends.
Was it hard finding your first customers?
As with any unconventional business, I had a hard time finding clients. This was in the early 2000s when families and offices considered tattoos as taboo. I was desperately in need of clients. One day, while traveling by train, I came across a poster baba who guaranteed that he could solve any problem. A crazy idea cropped into my mind, and I immediately called on the number given in the advertisement. After explaining what I do, the baba agreed to send his clients who wanted a mantra or God’s tattoo to me. The arrangement worked well, and we worked in partnership.
How did you secure more clientele?
One thing led to another, and I started earning a substantial income even as I was studying. I realized that you have to try every trick in the book to succeed. The call centre culture, the LA Ink and Miami Ink shows also had a great influence on the youth. They were open to experimentation. I would go wherever my clients would call me – garage, hotel; you name it, I was present.
When did you start your own studio – Inkholics?
By the time I completed my education, I wanted to operate from a studio. My family, who were unaware of my passion, were surprised when I announced my decision to them. They wanted me to pursue animation as I was good at it and it was a safe career. However, I was adamant. With the amount saved from my tattoo expeditions, I rented a small place near my vicinity and started operating from there. Thus, started the formal journey of Inkholics. Even today, the studio is open from 16 – 22 hours a day and is operational day and night for all kind of tattoo lovers. I made more friends than customers in these 15 years. There has never been a single working day in my life.
We came to know that you lost your eyesight. Can you tell us more about it?
February 2011, it was a normal day at Inkholics. I was making a tattoo when I had a sudden blackout. I had lost eyesight. The next one & half year went in making rounds at the hospitals. I had multiple surgeries, 40 stitches in my eye. I could not eat or sleep. My dreams were shattered as I could not tattoo anymore.
It must have been very difficult to see your dreams come to a standstill?
I still get Goosebumps when Ithink of those depressing days. One day, as I sat on my bed talking to myself,I envisioned a seed that grew into a sapling and then a tree that gives sweetjuicy apples. I dreamt of how I would request my relatives and friends not tothrow the seeds and instead give it to me to sow it and produce more apples.Prophetic as it might sound, I drew a parallel between my vision and my passionfor making tattoos. I thought of mentoring tattoo artists and teaching whateverI learned all these years. The vision taught me a vital lesson – it’s importantto share your knowledge to expand the reach of your dream. I believed that Knowledgesharing is the right destination to take your dream to places.
I may have lost my eyesight, but I haven’t lost my passion or my fore sight for making tattoos. I will continue to be associated with it in some way or another forever!
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