With the recent spike in interest around hand-poke tattoos, Sydney artist @nah_mate_pokes has created a loyal following of supporters who admire his unfiltered flash designs. He currently works at Little Art Tattoo studio in the Inner West and having received three pieces from @nah_mate_pokes herself, Vertigo editor Sevin was thrilled to have him featured in this issue.
SP: It’s great to see the stigma around tattoos slowly vanish — with more people appreciating this form of body art as self-expression. Thanks for speaking to us. Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? Can you tell us your name and what you do?
YO! My name’s nah mate pokes, I’m a hand-poke tattoo artist at the Little Art Tattoo studio in Leichhardt, Sydney.
SP: Can you explain how you got into hand-poke tattoos? What inspired you?
I got into hand-poking in 2007 because the tattoo equipment I was originally using was really shit and would overheat and do all kinds of weird stuff. I’d start a tattoo and then the machine would wig out so I’d have to finish it by hand. It was annoying but it got my lines straight. I dipped in and out of tattooing for years and did other stuff — bullshit money jobs. Then in 2018, I started tattooing again here and there when I was travelling. When I got back, I started posting on Instagram. I was working in a sex shop at the time, working from 4p.m. ‘til midnight for five nights, and I’d get stoned and draw for at least seven hours every night at work and post on Instagram. Then I started getting big hits so I set up my place as a studio and have been tattooing full-time since.
SP: And what inspires you now?
Tattooing my designs is the most inspiring thing I can think of. I love drawing and mashing up ideas from my head, posting on Instagram and having someone love my design enough to have it on them forever. That makes me want to do it forever.
SP: According to Insider, there’s a growing interest in hand-poke tattoos in 2021. Have you noticed this? What’s the benefit of hand-poke vs machine tats?
For sure hand-poke is a big player, demanding a spot in the real world. Sydney is not set up for hand-poke, so most setups are home studios at the moment. But there’s some crazy hand pokers out there in Sydney — it’s a matter of time before we see one in every studio (as it should be). I love hand-poke and machine tattoos the same. I think it’s more about liking the artist than the method. If you like a design and it’s a machine artist’s design, then go machine; if it’s a hand-poke artist, then go hand-poked.
SP: Your IG has so many fresh, yet simple line-drawing designs — some more intricate than others. How would you describe your own style, and why ‘nah_mate_pokes’?
My style is bootleg, ignorant art. If you check my IG (@nah_mate_pokes) you’ll see what I’m about. My partner is a graphic designer and she came up with the name when she was doing my branding. I liked it so we ran with it.
SP: Your flashes are edgy, suggestive, and fun with an element of nostalgia. Some are redesigns of logos, brands and memorable cartoon characters with a personal twist. Would you say you’re someone who likes to step outside of boundaries and experiment?
Yes. I’ve lived outside the boundaries for most of my life (laughs). All of my designs have me in them somewhere. The more you get to know me, the more it makes sense, I guess. I will say, 110% do whatever you need to do to be you.
SP: What are some messages behind your designs? Do you ever try to make social or political statements through your work?
My designs are based on the buzz or mood I’m in at the time... that’s why I don’t really do flash sheets… there’s a lot of messages I guess, but most of it is just the shit in my head (laughs).
SP: We love seeing local artists producing socially relevant content. You recently came out with a Zine, created with four other Sydney artists. Can you describe the creative process behind that and why you chose to explore ‘The end of the world’?
The zine was unreal, @cumghost69 got us all together, made it happen and he killed it. The process was super easy. We just went for it, all of us are a little dystopian and punk in our own way so the ‘end of the world’ thing worked for us. I’m just happy I can say I featured in it and all those artists are legends..
SP: You consistently create and share your art. How do you juggle coming up with new ideas, designing and tattooing?
Yeah, I draw all the time. I either start and see where it goes, or I see something and get an idea then just roll with it and see where it goes. For example, I watched the Limp Bizkit concert on Saturday night, drew a bunch of Limp Bizkit designs and mashed it up with some images of Fred Durst, then posted it... and Fred Durst reacted to my story! So on Sunday, which was yesterday, I tattooed one of the designs on me. I guess that’s a glimpse into the process (laughs)
SP: Being a tattoo artist would be so rewarding, as your creations are valued enough to be body art and part of someone for the rest of their life. What’s the most memorable tattoo that you have done and favorite thing about what you do?
They’re all my favourites! I’m blessed everyday to work as an artist and sell my ideas and collab with my clients.
SP: Individuals should feel comfortable and safe in the studio with their artist. How do you ensure your clients leave feeling happy?
Literally have respect for people, that’s it. Everyone has their version of life and I’m lucky enough to be a part of that for an hour or so when they want a tattoo, so let’s have a good chat and a good time (laughs).
SP: Lastly, what are you working on now and where can our readers find you?
We’re in lockdown at the moment, so I’m just working on flash and I’m also doing a cookbook zine which will be fun. I’m playing GTA5 as well — I’m working on that a bit (laughs). You will always find me @nah_mate_pokes on Instagram, sometimes @littlearttattoo. And Park St Starbucks — I’m there a lot as well.