Artists: Chaim Machlev
Chaim Machlev – DotsToLines
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing last spring, 2012.
How did you get into tattooing?
I got my first tattoo three years ago from Avi Vanunu at Psycho Tattoo Studio in Tel Aviv. It was one of the strongest impacts of my life, as I found the tattoo procedure super spiritual and life-changing.
Do you have any special training?
I never had any artistic background, never created art besides playing a guitar as a hobby, and for sure nothing that has to do with drawing or tattooing. In fact, I was not really attracted to tattoos before I started to think about getting one—I can’t really explain why it happened. I think that there is a stage in life in which everyone thinks about getting a tattoo.
What was your first shop experience like?
I decided to copy my life over to Berlin. I’d never been there before, but I had a good feeling about the place, and to take the chances to learn how to be a tattoo artist there seemed more realistic than it would be in Israel. I sold everything I’d ever had and landed in Berlin in search of the opportunity of an open door. Landing in Berlin was easy; finding a place to live and a shop that would take me was very hard. I was couch surfing for three months, and after finding a place to live I started my search for a shop. I didn’t have any portfolio to show and no experience in drawing, just a lot of motivation and a lot of hope. Finally, I found a place that allowed me to have a little room in the back and practice on punks who didn’t care how their tattoos looked, and I got to clean the place as a reward for it. I guess they didn’t really believe that I would succeed as a tattooist, but they really couldn’t resist the motivation I showed. After two months of practicing I started to feel more and more secure with my tattoo machines and started to get my own customers.
How do you describe your style?
It is hard for me to categorize my tattoo style as a certain style. But as weird and minimalistic as this style is, it is like it is being asked not to be categorized into a certain conventional style or pattern. I actually started to make those designs because it was weird for me that people try to categorize tattoos and other art forms. I could say that I have that split in my designs, just like in my personality: I make those art-minimalistic lines—the computer kid inside me—and very detailed mandalas, the spiritual man inside me. I do a lot of freehand with my tattoo designs. Most of the lines are designed, and the process of designing is sometimes longer than the tattooing process itself. Our bodies are not symmetric, and to try to put a symmetric design on a non-symmetric object most of the time ends with it looking like a sticker. I experiment a lot, like on a daily basis—which is a bit risky when it comes to a non-reversible form of art, but I guess that is the only way to develop your own style as an artist and create something individual daily. I use black as the main color for my tattoos simply because I think that it is the only color that will look timeless on a timeless design. I also think that it looks good on our bodies, more than any other color. I do use red sometimes, but it is very rare.
What inspires you as an artist?
I get inspiration from nature; I think that it is the most honest thing for us artists to get inspired from. I try always to balance my designs as nature does with its creations. When a design is too geometric it often creates a cold feeling; the goal is to find the right balance in it.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I am a very spiritual person; I traveled in India for a year, and since then I’ve adopted a very Buddhist way of life. On the other hand, I was a computer guy who saw the world in a drastic and definite way.
What is the tattoo culture like in Berlin?
It is pretty hard for me to talk about the tattoo culture in Germany, as I was not raised here and I have been exposed to it for just around one and a half years. The answer will be a surprise for me as well.