Tattoo Artist Interview with Chaim Machlev

10 July 2014


chaim machlev 150x150 Tattoo Artist Interview with Chaim Machlev

Chaim Machlew, article and photo gallery in Tattoo.1 Tribal #79

Look at Chaim’s tattoos, visit the tattoo gallery

How long have you been doing this job?
Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, moved to Berlin 2 years ago to learn how to tattoo.
I started tattooing 2 years ago, in spring 2012.

My studio is located in Berlin, it is private which means that there is just one person at a time there, I don’t take walk-ins and tattoo one person a day.
I think that it is impossible to tattoo more than one person a day as a tattoo artist that tries to go through a spiritual experience together with the client and to create something positive out of it from the psychological aspect as well as from the creative aspect.

How did your passion for tattoos first start?
I never had any artistic background, never created art besides playing the guitar as a hobby and for sure nothing that has to do with drawing / tattooing.
In fact I was not attracted to tattoos so much before I started to think about getting one, so I can’t really explain why it happened.

I got my first tattoo 3 years ago by Avi Vanunu in Psycho studio in Tel Aviv and it was for me one of the strongest impacts of my life, as I found the procedure super spiritual and life changing.

I started to see it in my dreams, every person that I saw I thought about lines that go through their body and how interesting it could be to actually be a tattooist that decides which lines flow better for an individual body, and dedicate your life to the experience of changing people’s body as a routine.

How did you learn to tattoo?
Landing in Berlin was easy, finding a place to live and a shop that would take me was very hard.
I didn’t have a portfolio to show and had no experience of drawing, just a lot of motivation and a lot of hope.

Finally I found a place that opened the door of opportunity for me and allowed me to have a little room in the back and practice on punks that didn’t care what their tattoos would look like and to clean the place in a reward of it.

After 2 months of practicing I started to feel more and more confident with my tattoo machines and started to get customers.

What was the first tattoo you created?
My first tattoo was on a friend that was kind enough to let me practice on her by doing a little sea star, which looked actually pretty good.

My second tattoo was horrible actually. It is funny to talk about the first approach to tattooing because when it comes to reality and you hold your tattoo machine for the first time in your hand and aim it towards someone you don’t really know where to gain the confidence to actually do it so you really find yourself trusting just instincts. And those instincts become habits during time and with experience.


Can you briefly describe your technique?
I make my designs according to the body structure of my clients. I can’t ever make a sketch before, because it could look pretty nice on the paper but wouldn’t fit the body. I don’t see most of my clients before, because most are travelling here.

I use black as the main colour for my tattoos simply because I think that it is the only colour that will look timeless on a timeless design, I also think that it looks good on our body more than any other colour, I do use red sometimes but it is very rare.

And your style?
It is hard for me to categorise 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 categorised into a certain conventional style pattern.

I actually started to make those designs because it was weird for me that people try to categorise tattoos and other art forms. Sometimes people waste more energies when they stand in front of an art creation by trying to understand to which gender it is connected to and to under which category it should be defined instead of enjoying the endless opportunity of having something undefined.

I could say that I have that split into 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.

How much important is the design on paper and how it is different on skin?
I do a lot of free hand with my tattoo designs and the process of designing is sometimes longer than the tattooing process itself.

It is sometimes very hard to find the right lines that float through the body, especially when we talk about geometric designs. Our body is 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.

If you choose to deal with geometric designs it has to be the right size, the right place and the right movement. Otherwise it simply does not work.

How much does the person asking for the tattoo influence your creation?
As long as the client that I have in front of me is open minded I create something more individual for this person, and the creations that I feel the most comfortable with and love the most are the ones that I created on people that actually came without any idea of what they wanted to get but with a strong desire to get tattooed by me.

I never tattoo the same design, I don’t tattoo when I don’t feel a positive connection to the customer, I don’t make designs before, I do everything together with my clients and take them as an active part in the tattooing process. I found out that it is the most honest way to complete this process.
I guess that it was like that for so many years everywhere on this planet, but I think that this is something that we lost in the western world as it comes to tattooing.

There is nothing wrong with going to a shop and choosing a design from a book or a flash, there is just another spiritual way to do it which is longer, more abstract, takes more energy and trust, but rewards you much more with an individual, custom design that fits to your own body.

What inspires your art?
I get inspiration from nature, I think that it is the most honest thing for us artists to get inspired by. Of course I get super excited when I see tattoo designs or other art forms which stimulate me, but I really get most of my inspiration from a wider aspect, just observing or thinking about nature, as mathematical as it is, as spiritual and abstract as it can be.

I try always to balance my designs, as nature does with its creations. When a design is too geometric it is often creates a cold feeling, the goal is to get the right balance into it.
When I take a project I always always want to create something that will look super cool from far away and when you will come closer it will have a lot of dimensions in it and will stimulate the viewer’s eyes in the strongest way.
It doesn’t have to be too complicated, it can simply be made from one line that flows through the entire body, it is all a matter of personality and what the customer is like. How he moves, how he talks, how he describes himself and how he wants to be described.

What are you working on now?
I am always open for collaborations with other artists, not just tattooists, as I think that this is a major thing when talking about development art, instead of repeating the same designs, making more interesting projects with artists around the world.and my goal is to develop more and more as I am very far away from where I want to be artistically.


When does a tattooist become an Artist?
For me art is all about sharing and creating new stimulations to people’s senses.
The problem in the art world to my eyes is that there are a lot of artists who enjoy the title of being an artist much more than actually fulfilling their duty as an artist and developing themselves artistically, which is a neverending process.

What is your philosophy?
I know how hard it is to learn how to tattoo, but its possible, and the way is not necessarily has to be a hard years of apprenticeship, it is more about how you really want it and how much you are willing to sacrifice for it. Actually just like every dream that people have.
We dream of something, but most of us think that it is impossible to achieve it so they give up before even trying. If I can manage to be a tattoo artist that people actually travel to get tattooed by, then really, everyone can be whatever they want, you just have to dream and to fight for it. Actually, if you don’t fight for your own dreams, what will you fight for?
Peace & Love

Dots To Lines
Berlin (Germany)