“This kid came in and said, ‘I want a tattoo of a bull. Getting jerked off. By a farmer. Into a shot glass.’ I thought he was joking.”

The kid wasn’t joking. People don’t joke with Stefan Sinclair when it comes to tattoos. The parents who wanted their son tattooed for his 12th birthday weren’t joking. “I didn’t really want to do it, some other tattooist did it. It was a tiny thing on his foot. Like a smiley face.” The kids who come in wanting tattooed eyelids to emulate American rappers aren’t joking. “I’m not gonna do that.” The convict who wanted the part-Maori Sinclair to emblazon ‘White Power’ across his chest wasn’t joking. “I was like, ‘What are you, colour-blind?’”

 So what was the verdict on the bull tattoo? “I got it drawn up, and it actually looks really cool,” Sinclair laughs.

While bull phalluses were not the initial aim of the game, Sinclair started out by  teaching himself how to tattoo and practising on friends. “I just got completely obsessed with tattooing . . . Once I started getting tattoos myself and reading about the history of tattooing, especially in the context of being a New Zealander and Maori as well, [that] got me into it.”

Sinclair’s favourite tattoos are the portraits of his mother and father on each forearm. Sinclair’s parents have been wholly supportive of his trade but are not customers – yet. “I don’t know if Dad ever will really, it’s not so much his thing. Mum really wants to get tattooed but she’s just so scared of the pain. But she’ll do it eventually,” Sinclair says with a convinced nod.

The oldest person Sinclair tattooed was 76 and felt no pain. “She got some kind of bird, like the mythical phoenix. Her skin was really fragile and wrinkled, it was the first time I’d tattooed skin like that before but it went in so easily, it was like a total dream.”

Sinclair is now based in Auckland at Two Hands. There are no charts or folders of pick-a-number tattoos, much to Sinclair’s relief. “Almost everything I do I’m really into these days. I’m quite lucky having my own shop, we run it like a custom shop, we’re not really doing people who come in off the street and pick something off the wall. Pretty much everything I do I get to put a little bit of myself into, you know, because I get to design most of the stuff. I’m pretty happy doing most of the work I do.”


 by Rebecca Gin  |  NO Magazine  |  Issue 3