Spider Sinclair owns Two Hands Tattoo and Flash City in Auckland. Unlike most tribal tattoos that come out of New Zealand, Spider’s work takes from the American biker-era, straying from bold colouring to delicate, fine lines. From outlining to shading, he uses a single needle. Last year Spider spent eight months on a motorbike and rode 11,134 miles around the U.S. He did 246 tattoos along the way. We’ve been fans of his for years and thought it was time to collaborate.
Photographs: Olivia Jaffe
Interview and words: Taylah Kleid
Recently, you finished another big trip riding around the US. Can you map it out for us?
I started the trip with a month in LA, then moved on to stop and work in and around San Francisco, Portland and Seattle before riding east through Montana and Idaho. I worked in Boise, then back to LA to meet my girl at Born Free. After that I flew to New York and tattooed out there for a couple months. When I got back to LA, I jumped back on my bike to New Mexico and Colorado, followed by Austin, Tucson and back to LA.
That’s a lot! Besides damn tiring, how was it?
It was sick. Some of the best roads I've ridden are in Montana. It's so beautiful up there. I made new friends all over the country, did some of the best tattoos of my career and I didn't crash or die. I had this weird premonition before I went, that the trip was doomed. So many bikers in my circle of friends and acquaintances were killed and injured last summer so I was fucking relieved to make it back to LA unscathed.
For sure. It’s not the first long ride you’ve done, what inspired or made this one happen?
The last trip just felt unfinished. I spent four months on my bike the year before, rode from LA to NY, through the South and back to the West Coast. I pushed way past homesickness on that trip and by the end I would crave the feeling of waking up and having to remember where I was. I really wanted to go up north and see the big sky country, mountains, giant trees and wilderness, so I went back to finish what I started.
What do you ride?
I ride a 2001 Harley Davidson Dyna Low Rider. I picked her up in Little Rock Arkansas in 2015 after I blew a head gasket on another bike. I've set her up for both high speed interstate touring and inner city lane splitting. She's taken me safely through 27 states and 15,000 miles; through torrential rain, hail, snow, dust storms, heat waves, LA traffic and everything else I've thrown at her with fuck all complaints and no breakdowns. She's a keeper.
Where was your favourite stop along the way?
New York is always my favourite. I've been going to East River Tattoo for so long now it's like a second home. New York has this energy that I can't get anywhere else. It’s inspired me as far back as I can remember. I used to hang pictures of of the Manhattan skyline on my bedroom window when I was 8-years-old and pretend that was my view. That city inspires so much of what I do.
Does the travel take toll on any of your relationships?
It's tough being away from my fiancé for months at a time. At one point last year we hadn't seen each other for almost three months. Sometimes she is able to travel with me. In 2015 she rode from NY to LA with me but she’s also insanely busy with her own career. But that’s what makes it work. We are both so focused on making our art that we can spend time apart without going too crazy. And then we genuinely appreciate the time that we can spend together. She’s been my girl for six years and we never take our time together for granted. I think that's pretty rare.
We assume Instagram played a helping hand in making aspects of the trip possible?
Instagram is what makes all this shit possible. It's the best portfolio a tattooer could ever have. I used to have a little photo album on the front desk of Two Hands. That's how you could view my work. Now anyone in the world can have that photo album in their pockets. If you'd tried to tell me that 10 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to comprehend it.
So what’s your relationship with the internet like?
I love the internet but I hate technology. Or technology hates me. Computers and iPhones seem to know when I'm using them and become as complicated as possible. I'm trying to simplify my life by reducing the number of devices I use. Right now I'm down to just my iPhone and I only use Instagram.
We’ve spoken about America a lot but you grew up in New Zealand. What’s it like there now?
I grew up in central Auckland in the 80's and 90s. Like most inner cities it was way different then and has been transformed from one thing into another. My memories of Auckland inform my aesthetic a lot, the types of tattoos I would see as a kid, the old red light districts, sex workers, glue sniffers, gangs and fashion at the time.
I hear that same story all over the world. That's actually one thing I like about LA. The gentrification is slower. You’ll still find derelict streets and abandoned buildings within minutes from Broadway. And free parking! That's pretty rare amongst the western world’s major cities.
Let’s talk about Flash City. You can’t book an appointment, you just rock up and choose something off the wall. How did that plan come about?
I think it just popped into my head when I was in New York one time. I wanted to try something different, like the industry had moved from flash to custom work and I just wanted to bring back a little bit of the way it used to be.
And Bert Krak opened the store with you...
Yeah it was only meant to be a one-year pop up but it went so well that Flash City just had her 4th birthday this year.
You’ve also spoken before about the traditional Western, Sailor Jerry style that we see a lot of now, was something you were made fun of for when you started tattooing.
In the late 90s, in NZ, many people saw traditional western as kind of a joke. Like silly, naively designed antiquated tough stamps. Which was exactly what I liked about them and why I kept it going.
What is it about knowing something came from somewhere that drives you?
That’s hard to explain. I think it's my Dad’s influence. He's a real history buff and I was really good at history, especially art history, in high school. My art teacher told me that I think in a way that puts events in chronological order. Actions and reactions. Everything is influenced by what came before it, and new movements are really just reactions to what was presently popular. So for me, something that comes from heritage or draws from the past, or reacts against the present has more substance.
You dubbed 2016 as the year of the rose. Do you know how many you tattooed throughout that year?
I lost track. It was a lot!
Roses aside, you’ve got a tough style. Has there been any shifts in the amount of women who come to you for your work and are you ever surprised by that?
I want my tattoos to look tough. I want them to scare people. I'm not surprised that I'm tattooing equal numbers of men and women. Girls wanna be bad asses too, ya know?
Tell us a bit about what’s behind the Crawling Death collaboration.
I've worn Crawling Death for years, I pretty much always have one on my head. And I tattooed F.T.W on CJ years ago so I'm stoked to be doing this collab. Our aesthetics work perfectly together.
Interview and words: Taylah Kleid
Photographs: Olivia Jaffe
Chloe Kovska’s work spans colour and arousal in perfect stylistic execution. From cum-covered characters, cartoon peep-shows and sexualised fast-food objects, her work invites the viewer to “do it”, if it feels good.
For a while she kept anonymous behind the screen and behind her work, until now. We’ve been lucky to know Chloe for a long time though. She’s cheeky, calculated yet unpredictable and likes to live life as authentically as possible.
To coincide our collaboration, we sat down to get under her skin.
Interview and words: Taylah Kleid
Photographs: Ben Clement
Your work references a lot of tattoo culture and vintage cartoons. Can you talk us through your ideas and where they come from?
Mostly I get inspired by tattooers that I know and sometimes can have a similar aesthetic to them but it’s a lot more than that. The rest comes from the banned TV cartoons but I also think inspiration is constant and ever-changing.
I pull things from my surroundings but I wouldn’t even say it’s a conscious choice, it’s just something that hits you and stays with you when you see it, or conjure it up and grow it like a baby until you’re ready to birth it out.
So would you say your art is a creation of your fantasies, an extension of an alter-ego or something different entirely?
I’ve grown to believe in doing whatever one wishes, in every sense. Some of these pieces would be my fantasies, some may be other peoples’, some may be realities. I enjoy what I enjoy painting, just like I enjoy what I enjoy viewing.
And people are apparently often surprised to find out its female behind the work?
When I started, I tried to be relatively discreet about my gender because I didn’t want to be judged incorrectly. And I also wanted to be seen for my art, amongst other paranoia. So at that point, yeah people were surprised. But I’ve gotten over that and don’t care about hiding anymore.
You grew up in an artistic environment, it was your Dad who taught you how to paint?
I'm an only child and growing up my mother worked days and my father worked nights, so we spent a lot of time drawing and painting together. He has four brothers that all are painters too so I think it was just natural for him to want to do that with me. Growing up painting with him and getting to paint with him still now is something I wouldn't change for the world.
He taught me a lot of traditional techniques and styles like landscapes, portraiture, still life. Most people kinda assume I can’t do that stuff because I only parade cartoons. But I’m a loner and spending so much time alone, the cartoons just became my way of entertaining myself.
What does your Dad think of your art now?
My dad is my number one fan.
In the last year you’ve exhibited in Los Angeles (Top Guns, Paul Loya Gallery) and San Francisco (Acting Funny, 111 Minna Gallery), and at Miami Art Basel. Where can we see you next?
Who knows! Hopefully all over the world!
You’re very authentic and your creations seem to come from a very genuine place, even though the scenes are bright and exaggerated. What do you want people to feel when they see your work?
Arousal? (laughs). I want people to feel open and have a giggle. To not take things or life so seriously.
Alright, social media - the love/hate. It is how you started sharing your work with the world, connecting with people and selling your pieces. We’re in this era now where it’s almost like people are creating shit because they know it’ll get seen. Everyone is so desperate to be liked. How do you feel about that?
I try not to focus too much on the people advertising their desperate cookie-cutter egos and replications of one another. I don't really gravitate to those who grovel to be 'cool' or who tread on people to get where they need to be.
I focus on the people that are doing what they want to do. The ones where I look at their stuff and think, fuck! That's awesome! Spreading positive vibes and support to one another. It weirds me out that people use social media to create new personalities for themselves, instead of utilising it properly.
Have you had any struggles that are internet related?
Not really anymore. When I did they were with people who were pussies and wouldn’t actually speak up. They just suck the lime light out of anyone who’s got it. I hate seeing people follow trends, instead of following what they truly desire.
But either way I’m just going to keep doing whatever I want. My biggest problem with the Internet is not being ‘Internet’ enough or tech-savvy enough.
Tell us a bit about what inspired the Crawling Death collaboration.
I had seen Crawling Death around for a while and always thought they were well-presented, not cheesy like other brands become. And even better that they’re Australian. When they asked me to collaborate with them, I couldn’t possibly say no. I’m really happy with what we’ve done.
Interview and words: Taylah Kleid
Photographs: Ben Clement
Two-time felon, polymathic artist and owner of the renowned tattoo shop Staring Without Caring, Isaiah Toothtaker is not your average and that’s just how we like it. Hailing from Tucson, Arizona with quite the varied resume, Toothtaker is a dad, has released over nine hip hop albums, directed multiple videos, co-founded the record label Machina Muerte and had a book of emoji designs published all while running his own shop.
To coincide the release of our ‘Don’t Care’ collaboration with him, we sat down and got to know the modern day renaissance man a little better.
A lot has been said or written about your music but let’s focus on your art. You first learnt to tattoo over 10 years ago by the president of the Tucson chapter of the Hell's Angels. How did that come about and what was it like?
We had mutual friends and were into similar street shit. I wasn’t really into motorcycle culture but we found common ground in tattooing. I worked 50 hours a week, setting up and breaking down the stations of 6 tattooers in addition to the tough jobs – making everyone’s needles, scrubbing everyone’s tubes, cleaning the entire shop. Back then it was very difficult to earn a sense of worth but it was a staunch apprenticeship, more traditional to that era. I can appreciate how hard it was now because it gave me a deeper work ethic and a humility that helps me continue to improve.
Fast-forward now and you’re the owner and operator of Staring Without Caring. How did the shop get started? What was the shop born from?
I needed to make a place that had the right energy for me and stimulated my creativity. I opened the shop to continue my progress and try to further develop, to grow. Being ambitious, wanting to better provide for my twins, create a work environment of my own design and to build a space for my friends to prosper.
What's it like being your own boss?
A gift and a curse. We’re given the war we deserve, right? As much freedom as there is in not answering to anyone I also have impossible expectations of myself, it’s sometimes hard to take a break from the responsibility. Being hyper critical I’m able to trust my own opinion and don’t need additional management to finish things. I’m also very meticulous so it helps my process to have less bureaucracy or supervision. It’s easier for me to execute shit without validating it every step of the way.
You've got a history with violence and bad behaviour which seems to inform your aesthetic, can you tell us a bit more about the kind of art you're drawn to?
I really enjoy all art and feel there’s artistry in everything but I’m drawn to more outsider art or things that seem strange or rare. I like having to evaluate things or discover distinction. I also really enjoy things I don’t practice myself or feel are regular for my nature, things that are completely separate trajectories to my inspiration. I don’t have a specific influence but I also don’t think I can remove natural tendencies my art might display. I try not to be myopic.
We're living in an era now where everyone is so desperate to be accepted and liked and because of that, everyone jumps to trends very quickly. But you're not concerned with that at all...
Strive for respect not attention. I came from poverty and violence where nothing was given to me and everything could be taken if I couldn’t protect it. Your actions proved your value and most of those actions weren’t likable or accepted by the majority. I’ve had to earn my existence and gained the knowledge to survive through difficult experiences in almost every way. Most things of importance aren’t easy or quick. The truth don’t have many friends. I’m concerned with doing my best and doing better, I don’t need reassurance to venture into anything. I’m comfortable with being independent and figuring something outside of the obvious.
You’ve carved your own path, which is the kind of attitude that inspired the patch you designed for the Crawling Death collaboration, right?
Yeah, I think it was also a play on the shop’s name. The design was equally Crawling Death and myself. All the Crawling Death designs have a subversive tone and strong visuals. It’s a perfect collaboration.
Collab hat available now
Interview by Taylah Kleid
We are stoked to be releasing a limited edition collab hat with our friends The Shrine to celebrate their tour Down Under in 2015.
We will also be presenting a show at the Bendigo Hotel Collingwood, Melbourne. Check the poster below for details
Photo: Olivia Jaffe
Shots of our new release...
A few shots by photographer James Whineray...