Skin artist's a permanent marker

16:00, Jan 02 2014
Elias Tyro
ARTIST: Elias Tyro already had customers lined up when he set up his professional tattoo studio and art gallery.

While earthquake repairs and the lack of foot traffic plagued the New Regent St earlier this year, Elias Tyro already had customers lined up when he set up his professional tattoo studio and art gallery. He took his existing base of customers with him.

The 23-year old started building his reputation after high school as an apprentice at Planet Tattoo in Hornby. He learned about hygiene and sterilisation at the studio on weekends and holidays while completing a bachelor of design in visual arts at CPIT.

He later started working with Mike Slade, the artist who works with him in the New Regent St studio now, at Epic Ink on Papanui Rd.

Tyro says Slade had always been a mentor and an inspiration. The pair decided to establish themselves as artists in their own space.

Tyro would set up the business, and Slade would join as an independent artist and bring his strong reputation and clientele.

If you want to pick a design out of a book and get a quick, cheap job, Tyro is not your man.


"Everything we do is designed and drawn up specifically for our client. Everyone deserves a piece of their own."

"A lot of the time that's work you're doing in your own time. We have minimum drawing fees but it doesn't cover the time we spend."

This is an investment in the shop's reputation. Clients will come back and tell their friends.

A tattoo should have meaning, Tyro says. "You shouldn't just get a tattoo because it's trendy. It's not a fashion; It's a symbolic adornment."

Tyro says the work that can be done on skin is an interpretation of what could be painted with oils or watercolours.

As well as a tattoo shop, the New Regent St boutique is an art gallery.

"I've always wanted to have a gallery. It's a beautiful entry to have."

However, some people peer through the windows but don't dare come in because of the stigma associated with the tattoo business, Tyro says.

"Everyone should come in and have a look at the artwork. It's free!"

The tattoo studio has been almost fully booked for weeks. Tyro puts this instant success down to a strong network and a good use of social media. But there is also a lot of hard work involved.

The New Regent St premises were empty when they moved in. Tyro put panels up and installed the flooring in a week-and-a-half with the help of a network of friends.

He got a $10,000 loan, and put in his own money to cover the set up. Since then, it has been full on.

"I'm working crazy hours, pretty much taking on whatever may walk in the door. Working as many days as necessary. We've gotta get this business up and running."

He took an apprentice early on, and a concept artist comes in two days a week. Slade and the other concept artist get paid directly by their clients, and they help Tyro pay the rent in exchange for the space.

"It's more responsibility but it's good," Tyro says.

"It makes you work harder, because you know you've got to pay rent, to be on top of your supplies and pay the bills."