Walking into Six Fathoms Deep for the first time, as a New Orleans native I feel strangely at home among the faux-altars stacked with skulls and dripping candles. Lurid cartoon art, 1980s-vintage toy action figures, and all-original tattoo flash fill in the rest of the four walls enclosing Six Fathoms Deep’s cosy main workspace.
Seated behind a table piled with yet more flash is Nick Mudskipper, founder of Bangkok’s most ‘inter’ tatt studio, which is billed on its Facebook page as ‘Tattoo Studio, Procurers of Interesting Toys, Art and Vintage Goods’. A Bangkok Knights video doc called it ‘Captain Nemo meets He-Man meets Fangoria on acid.’
The burly young South African, who displays a substantial array of black ink on his bare arms and legs, was raised in Cape Town, where his mother had her own art studio and his uncle drew cartoons for a living.
Nick’s early exposure to drawing led him to a job in the film industry as a storyboard artist, a trade he abandoned six years ago to take up tattooing. “All my favourite rockstars had loads of ink,” he says. “I was also into graffiti and other street art, and eventually started learning how to tattoo from local artists.”
Nick has been in Bangkok four and a half years, and opened Six Fathoms Deep two years ago.
Asked how he chose Pan Road as a location, he says “I was living in Sathon, and looking for a place that wasbetween BTS stations. A friend’s wife used to go to the Indian temple on this road all the time, so we strolled along one day to see what it was like. “The scene had a really good feel, busy in the daytime but quiet at night. The Kathmandu Photo Gallery made it kind of a scene, and since we’ve arrived here it seems like it’s getting trendier, with a couple of backpacker hostels and interesting new restaurants like the vegan Bonita Cafe and Social Kitchen moving in.” Nick and his three artist partners see a steady clientele of foreigners and Thais.
“We’re not a street shop, where people pass by and get inked on a whim. We’re more of a destination, a place people hear about or read about and then seek out. “As our name gets around, we’ve started hosting artists who stop over in Bangkok and spend time with us, tattoo heroes like Simon Erl, Cokney, Adam Vu and my homie David Chaston. Sometimes guys like this post online that they’re coming to Bangkok, so I’ll send a message inviting them to stop by. With photos of major artists giving us a thumbs-up, we’re seen as legit, and people start looking for us.”
Nick says there’s also a lot of crossover between tattoo tourism and the international graffiti scene in Bangkok. “We might do fewer tatts per week than a street shop, but we tend to do larger designs. Most tattooers in thiscity are copying designs from other artists, while here we custom-design our own.
Most of Nick’s clients are foreigners, he says. “I do jiu jitsu and box at Fighting Spirit Gym [nearby on Silom Rd], and a lot of those guys want to get tattooed.
We also get local hipster kids, and people who want a tattoo as a souvenir of their time in Bangkok.” Speaking of his two foreign partners, Nick says “I ink mostly traditional-style tattoos, while Big Matt Adams does a lot of portraits and realist stuff, and David handles Japanese and traditional.”
The fourth and possibly most locally well-known partner is Miss Ink, a young Thai woman who has been with Six Fathoms Deep for a year.
“When I first met her, she wasn’t tattooing here yet but I could see she had her own niche style,” says Nick. “So I took her on and she has bloomed into an awesome tattoo artist.”
Also known by her Thai nickname Pla, the striking 28-year-old artist’s designs favour the depiction of powerful, sexy women and Gothic florals. She cites Mexican artist Frida Kahlo as a major influence. “Each of us has a different following,” says Nick, “and we see a lot of Thai clients who like to collect work by Miss Ink. Between the four of us, you can get pretty much any type of tattoo you want, plus we have at least one guest artist a month.”
Six Fathoms Deep usually charges B3000 per hour, with an average medium-size design taking an hour or an hour and a half. For larger, more involved work, clients may negotiate a per-design fee. “What our best clients understand is that you’re not just paying for a tattoo,” says Nick. “You’re paying for an experience.”