Who's Who is back with another Cheongju face. This time, it's your friendly neighborhood tattoo artist, Lewis! Read on to learn about where he comes from, what he does, and what he envisions for the future.
How long have you been in Cheongju? What do you do here?
I first came to Cheongju 2 years ago, with a 6-month break in the middle to work in Australia. I'm a part-time English teacher but my main job is training to be a tattoo artist at Mega Tattoo in Shinae.
What did you do pre-Cheongju, and what brought you here?
I spent a lot of time teaching graffiti in youth projects during and after my studies in art university. These were with youth groups, schools in disadvantaged areas, and troubled kids, so there were wild kids and memorable experiences. As an end piece, I got to do murals with them. Thirty teenagers running around with spraypaint--you can guess what that's like.
Immediately pre-Cheongju, I spent a summer teaching English in Italy; that's how I got into ESL education work.
What do you do for fun?
For fun I read, draw, drink, go for dinner with friends and ride my motorbike.
We know you for your work with the tattoo shop. How did that happen?
I got involved through my friend, Ursula, who is a tattoo artist in Cheongju. She had tattooed me before and knew that I was interested in getting a tattoo apprenticeship. In fact, that's been my goal since I was like 16.
She introduced me to her teacher, Kim Ji Hoon, at Mega Tattoo in Halloween of 2014 and from there we organized for me to start training with him. I had to go work in Australia for a while between English teaching contracts, so my training began in earnest when I returned in May of this year.
What were your first impressions of the tattoo scene in Cheongju, and has that changed?
My first impressions of the tattoo scene here is that it reminded me of stories about the New York scene during the 1970's and 80's when there was a ban on tattooing due to the health laws there. It's the same here in Korea because it's a grey area in the eyes of the law. With time, things are coming more into the open in Korea about tattooing.
In regards to the tattooing itself, there is a serious amount of super high-level artists out here, especially when it comes to some of the more famous tattoo shops producing photo realistic tattoos. There seems to be a very high level of technical skill here.
When I came here initially, I was unaware of this, but as with many things, I'm learning more about what Korea has to offer as time goes on. As an apprentice, I have been treated with a huge amount of respect by my teacher Kim Ji Hoon, his wife and my coworkers.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future?
I just want to develop my skills as a tattoo artist, learn as much as I can and produce some good work.
I must say that all the foreigner folk here in Cheongju have been very encouraging in that regard, be it as customers or friends. It's a great feeling to be able to have some people leave here with a memory that I've inked on them.
What's your favorite time and place in Cheongju?
Right, my favourite time and place in Cheongju is sitting at a makkeolli bar on a Saturday night with a large group of friends. Everybody should try that once.
Any more advice for Cheongju-ers?
Check out the view from Suamgol at sunset/nighttime.