Artists: Maxime Buchi
Sang Bleu London Tattoo
29b Dalston Lane
London, UK e8 3df
What year did you start tattooing?
Officially in 2009. I was as an apprentice a couple of years earlier.
How did you get into tattooing?
I always liked tattoos as a kid. Then I got into graffiti, and then later graphic design, photography and fine arts. Finally I decided to try tattooing.
Do you have any special training?
I apprenticed with Filip Leu.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
I did the Bay Area Tattoo convention. It was really good. I don’t usually like to work at conventions since my type of tattooing requires a lot of material that is not really available usually. But I have to say that for the first time of my life I had a blast as a tattooist. As an attendee, I like Paris, London.
How do you describe your style? How did you come to know that this was the type of art you were looking to create?
It is a mix of all my influences and interests. Growing up in Switzerland, I was never confronted by sailor or military tattoos, but I did grow up around Gothic cathedrals, Roman ruins, LeCorbusier houses and pharmaceutical industries. I try to bring together these elements at the same time as a real understanding of the tradition of tattooing from Japanese to tribal or black and grey!
Out of curiosity, have you ever used color?
I have. My first back piece was a blue and purple tribal tattoo which contained a mandala based on the Metallica logo. 100% true. I was trained old school style—being able to do everything. I love traditional tattooing.
Do you ever feel limited working only in black?
I don’t limit myself to anything. I just think in forms, textures and shapes rather than nuances.
Can you tell us a little bit about the importance of placement when designing a piece?
It is crucial. Placement and size is everything. The same design at a different place and scale is a different tattoo. I apply teachings from Japanese and tribal but also tailoring, jewel design or even armor or architecture and try to apply it to tattooing—as long as it’s relevant to push the boundaries. I am not obsessed with creating new designs. I mostly work from references. It’s all about how they’re used. The same design on different people or different spots can be either very good or very bad.
Some of your most inspiring work is spread out over two different limbs, what sort of unique difficulties do you face when creating tattoos like this?
It is all about perception. We tend to think of limbs as separate because we learn “head, shoulders, knees and toes,” but the body is fluid, dynamic and so is the perception that we have of it. The front and the back of the legs are much more different than the back of the right leg and back of the left leg. Most of the time both legs will be seen at the same time as a whole. I try to think like this. But it is very challenging technically. Once again, many solutions have already been figured out by the main tattoo traditions such as Japanese or tribal tattooing. You have to compare tattooing to music; anyone who wants to make music on a very high level needs to study classical music. It’s not about liking German music from the 1700’s, it’s just that they had figured almost everything there is to figure about music from a technical point of view. Why reinvent the wheel? What is hard is figuring out how to apply this knowledge to new approaches. My tattooing is like Jazz.
What subject matters do you prefer? I do not deal with subject matters as such. I don’t like tattoos that say something. But I am drawn to certain themes. Nature, romance, kink, spirituality, monuments. Things that are beyond the simple human nature.
What inspires you as an artist?
I would say that I think a tattooist has a certain duty to react and vibrate with his/her time and so I am inspired by my environment and events of my life. I love traveling, studying things, watching the news. Anything really. I am very empathic and emotional but also very driven and disciplined.
What other mediums do you work in?
I still do a lot of graphic design and typography, I draw but I also work on computers a lot. And on the other hand I am also working on clothes and sculptures.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Generally I am happy to do very large-scale work now. But I often think about trying new styles. I would love to do straight tribal or old school. But I also love fine line work…
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give to them?
Choose the tattooist, not the tattoo.