Dela Calzada: The mobile tattoo artist

·4 min read

During the nationwide lockdown, most people discovered new hobbies and unlocked new skills.

Some rekindled their love for homemaking, gardening, and being a handyman to keep them sane during those days. Others were even able to start home-based businesses, offering homemade and handcrafted products.

While almost everyone was busy being homemakers, a 28-year-old graphic designer was busy mastering the art of tattooing.

Vern Liane Dela Calzada, is not your typical tattoo artist. Unlike most tattoo artists who are fully inked, he only has one that is on his wrist. Instead of getting tattoos he desires for himself, he would offer to do it for others because he is not allowed to have a permanent tattoo by his parents. However, it makes him unique—a tattoo artist with only one tattoo.

Vern shared that he has been interested in tattoos ever since he was young.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to buy some temporary tattoos, the kind that you had to dampen with water to transfer to your skin. I liked visualizing my arms with intricate designs, plus, I’ve always had a passion for drawing. When I entered college, I became more interested in tattoos.”

He became involved in the henna culture in Cebu and eventually became a member of one of the famous tattoo shops in Cebu during Sinulog. However he had put his skill on hold for a while.

“I was preoccupied with adulting stuff, but when the pandemic struck.”

One day, he came across “Inked Master” and other time lapse tattoo sessions on YouTube out of boredom, only to discover that they make him happy. After his friends challenged him, he bought his tattoo machine and equipment, and practiced straight on a client’s skin instead of practicing with a fake skin.

“I told my first client—who happened to be a close friend—that I had tattooed a few clients before him when, in fact, he was the first. When the session was over, I told him the truth and we both laughed,” he cheerfully recalled. His very first piece of work was his client’s son’s name.

As of the moment, Vern, who works as a full-time graphic artist doesn’t have a tattoo studio yet but he does home service which is ideal for those who are too busy to step out their houses or those who are more comfortable to have it done at the comfort of their homes.

Vern shared some tips for SunStar readers who are considering getting a tattoo.

SunStar LIVE!: “Where is the best part to get inked on for first-timers?”

Vern: “For me, the best part to get inked on, especially for first-timers, are the parts where the tattoo is hidden. The mystery appeals to me. Face tattoos, on the other hand, are amazing, but I wouldn’t recommend them for first-timers because they may regret it shortly.”

LIVE!: “What are the things people should know before getting a tattoo?”

Vern: “Communicate with your tattoo artist. Be open-minded and speak up about what you like and dislike about the design. Be well-rested and mentally prepared.

LIVE!: “How do you feel about inking intoxicated customers?”

Vern: “I don’t recommend it and I politely refuse it.”

LIVE!: “What’s something you wish clients would stop doing?”

Vern: I’m hoping that clients will stop stealing tattoo designs from the internet and argue with the artist that the exact design should be tattooed on them. I mean, it’s fine to acquire ideas from it but it’s preferable not to copy the exact design so that the art remains unique.

LIVE!: “After-care tips you want to share?”

Vern: “Keep the tattoo clean always and moisturize it but in moderation. Don’t scratch the tattoo when it starts to itch. Instead, lightly slap it. Avoid using a strong soap, and use towels, it’s better to use a fresh paper towel. And avoid getting sunburn on your new tattoo.”

For Vern, who described his art as neat, his favorite part of being a tattoo artist is earning the trust from unfamiliar people as “It feels amazing to be able to leave a permanent mark on my client’s lives through my artwork.”

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