TATTOO TRAVEL TALES – JORGE MARTÍNEZ on KOH RONG SANLOEM (CAMBODIA)

#TATTOOTRAVELTALES – N°1

This is the first installment of a series of interviews I will be doing on my travels, called ‘TATTOO TRAVEL TALES’ (#tattootraveltales). I’ll be talking with and sharing pictures of fellow tattooed travelers and locals, on the road tattoo artists or far away tattoo shops. I’m an avid collector and admirer of the art of tattooing myself, and I hope these series will give people a) inspiration to travel, b) a new perspective on the tattoo art, c) all of the above.
So, let’s get this baby on the road, shall we?

During my stay at the picture-perfect paradise island KOH RONG SANLOEM in Cambodia, I got to talking with a fellow traveler from Mallorca who (obviously) had a passion for collecting tattoos as well. As it turns out, he’s also a tattoo artist on the road. I met him at the hotel I stayed in (and he worked in) and we had our chat on the porch of my cabin, right on the beach. Not bad for an interviewing location, n’est-ce pas?

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Jorge & his hotel co-workers showing off their ink

– Hi! Could you quickly tell me your name, age and where you’re from?

“Jorge Martínez. I’m from Mallorca, Spain. And 37 years old.”

– OK Jorge, how did you end up here? Are you working? Where are you staying? How long have you been here and how much longer do you plan on staying?

“I’ve been traveling around Asia for 5 months; previously I’d been here for about three weeks. I was on the road the entire time. I was in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia,…next I want to visit Vietnam. I simply bought a one way ticket without a set itinerary in mind. I came here, to Koh Rong Sanloem, around Christmas time last year. I knocked on the doors of some of the resorts asking if I could work there for room and board, and SOL BEACH RESORT said they could help me out. It’s what they call ‘on a volunteer basis’. I work six hours every day and get to stay in a bungalow that’s reserved for the staff.”

– It sounds like you’ve been around quite a bit. What’s a place you would recommend people really have to visit?

“Oh…difficult question…I believe you really should come and see this place, Koh Rong Sanloem. It’s a bit on the expensive side for Cambodian standards but equally beautiful. It’s all about relaxing you know? Sometimes in Mallorca I only finished working at 9 o’ clock in the morning after an entire night of tattooing, so this is nice.”

– About your own tattoos:  what was your first tattoo, why and where did you get it?

“My first tattoo? A dragon with a flower, here on the back of my shoulder (shows the tattoo and laughs). I was 18 at the time. It was a ‘flash tattoo’. I wanted to change some details but the guy wouldn’t do it. It was in Mallorca actually, and I got it from this Italian guy. He was really unfriendly, and a bad tattoo artist as it turns out. From all the tattoos I have, this one hurt the most. He put the needle in way too deep so it really hurt…and looks like crap (laughs).”

– How many tattoos do you have? What’s your favorite? Where did you get it?

“Wow… I don’t know exactly how many…but a lot!”
“I have a tattoo that says ‘svalbar!’. It doesn’t mean anything but me and my friends all have one and we kind of use to say ‘salut!’ which means ‘cheers!’.”

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“I also have a traditional tattoo on the palm my hand, done with bamboo needle. The sign is meant to protect my hand, because I had an accident with my other hand and I want to keep this one safe.”

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Artist: Tomás Sánchez Piñeiro (Holy Hand)


“On my arm I have an entire realistic black and grey tattoo. Funny thing is, I don’t really like black and grey (laughs). A friend of mine who does tattoos wanted to do it. I wanted it to be in color but he was like “Nah man, let’s go with black and grey”, and so we did. It’s Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. And above it I have a realistic black and grey eye. I wanted to get two eyes actually, one on each of my arms, like Max Cavalera, the signer from Sepultura. But my friend was like “Nah man, one looks cooler in this spot”. And so we did. (laughs) They were done by Tomás Sánchez Piñeiro at KRATOS Arenal Tattoo Studio in Palma de Mallorca.” (FYI – Tomás is currently working at Holy Hand in Mallorca)

– You have a mix of styles on your body, what’s your favorite one and why?

“I like really like colors. Realistic or new school, neo-traditional…basically anything with a lot of color.”

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Artist: Francisco Martín Danree (KRATOS)

– So, you told me you also do tattoos yourself. For how long have you done that? Did it start at home or on the road? How did you learn it: apprentice or solo? What’s your style?

“I started in 2012: I was an apprentice in a tattoo studio. There were two artists in there and they were looking for some help. I started helping with cleaning tools, preparing the tables,…those kinds of things. But I also followed all their moves when they were tattooing and I also learned a lot from that. I actually never really drew anything before. I mean, I liked drawing when I was a kid, but I don’t have an education in the arts or anything. I’m actually a trained blacksmith! (laughs). I even tried some tattoos on myself in the beginning to practice.”

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Neo-traditional tiger tattoo done by Jorge on Koh Rong Samloem

“When I started tattooing people, I was working in this ‘must-know’ kind of place in Mallorca. There was no sign on the door or anything. But, people still got around to it. We also got a lot of tourists. The British are especially crazy: they get all riled up, daring each other into getting a crazy tattoo. I once tattooed a cock (as in ‘dick’) with wings on this guy’s ass. I asked him “Are you sure you want this” and he was “Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” (laughs). I mean, who wants something like that, man? Anyway, we also had a lot of Swedes coming through, but they were in town longer and got bigger and more ‘serious’ pieces. You have to realize, some days and nights I did like 30 tattoos. Thirty! That’s crazy, you know?”

– Haha, yeah, that sound crazy enough to me! So, which tattoo artists have influenced you and why?

“Victor Chil, Fredy Tomas,…and many others. Chil’s colors are amazing and Tomas does great dark-themed black and grey work.”

– What would you say to people thinking about getting on the road or thinking about traveling?

I love to travel because all options are open. For example, I met some interesting people in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But, I’ve also met people who don’t want to leave somewhere but they have to, because the holiday is over or something like that. I believe you should only leave when you are ready and want to move on.”

Traveling for me has been the best decision ever: it opens up your mind. Money’s never been an issue: you make it work on the road. For example: I just wanted to go, explore, see the world. My friends said “Wait for us. We need to save some more money” or “Wait ’til this or that is taken care of here at home”. But I just went for it, you know? I even got offers to work in Bali, Indonesia when I was on the road these past months… but I never arrived! (laughs) I had other plans!”

– How does traveling so much affect your tattooing?

When I travel, I always have my machines and equipment with me. I do tattoos on the road sometimes, for example I do some cheap tattoos for the staff here, for like 50 dollars or something. But I’m not here just to do tattoos. I’m here to enjoy myself. I get requests for doing tattoos the entire time, even from back home.”

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Colorful half-sleeve half-chest dragon tattoo done by Jorge

“I don’t want my own studio, I just want to travel around from time to time. You can’t do that when you have a ‘fixed’ spot. It would be nice to ‘studio-hop’ and have work here and there, though. Like three months guest-spotting in A, then two months in location B, etc… And don’t get me wrong: I also like working at home in Mallorca, but exploring is ‘my thing’.”

– Any last advice for aspiring tattoo artists?

Just be passionate and patient. Learn to prepare and draw and watch some good artists.
I’m still nervous every time I tattoo! (laughs) Every skin is different. It takes about a year, or a bit less, in a good shop to get to know the trade.”

Thanks for your time, Jorge! All the best and maybe I’ll see you again on the road somewhere!

At the time Jorge was working at SOL BEACH RESORT in Koh Rong Sanloem, but last time I checked he was making his way through Vietnam. Your best bet is to follow him on Facebook. If you want to get in touch with him and get some ink, simply send him a message via Facebook. 

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