Don’t judge a book by its cover (art) some would say. Well in the case of Upwey’s Main St. and their body modification people, this is certainly the case. I went behind the cover to find out about the people and the inner workings at the two places in town. The people of Upwey, located in the foothills of Mt Dandenong, east of Melbourne, Victoria, are no stranger to artists and the fact that there are some exceptional artists, writers, and craft people in the region is highlighted by the standard as see at the tattoo studio Last Frontier.
Tattoos have come a long way from the days of bikers and booze where all you needed was to tell someone you were ‘old enough’ before they’d lay a tattoo on your skin that was there for life. More commonly now you will find that artists in the body modification industry have used other styles of art to help them develop their skills. Jamin at Last Frontier has been drawing since he was a teenager and sculpting clay models for twenty-five years. Cherry at Cherry Core loves the urban street art style and has studied make up as an art form. Here is a little bit more about our two body art studios in Upwey.
LAST FRONTIER TATTOO STUDIO:
About five years ago, Jamin Swaneveld set up Last Frontier Tattoo Studio at the top end of Main Street in Upwey. Walking through the door you feel like you are stepping back in time to the Wild West and the days of apothecary’s and quack medicine. He sits behind a beautifully crafted desk wearing his starched white shirt, vest and tie, complete with tie pin. Jamin is also a sculptor and his clay models adorn the shelves and hang from the ceilings in amongst the other antiques and curios he has collected over many years. A number of years ago, he attracted the attention of the producers of “Harvey Crump” with his sculpting skills. Unfortunately they didn’t foresee at the time how ‘big’ wizards were going to become when only two years later Harry Potter hit the market.
I asked him ‘Why Main St. Upwey’? For him it was the ‘last frontier’ for a high quality tattooist, the type that he wanted to be. Ten years ago he moved to the south east but originally he grew up with a country mentality. He is not associated with any bike clubs; he does ethical, professional custom work. In many ways he has the persona of a gentleman from the 1800’s down pat, and you can see that it’s not an act. He is an artist who loves his crafts.
He started out life as a builder but always had a yearning toward the artistic. He began drawing tattoo-sheets at a young age and sold them to tattooist in his local area. Since his days as a young bull in the building industry were numbered, it was his wife of sixteen-years that pushed him to realise his lifelong dream of owning a tattoo parlor, his way! Five years after building his “bubble of reality”, though fitting out the shop the way he saw it in his artistic mind, he is now booked up nearly a year in advance for his services and has also built an amazing reputation in Upwey as an honorable shop-keep. Jamin is family orientated, with pictures of his two kids behind him as we spoke, and his brother beside him in the business, it is a far cry from the tattoo parlor of old. The Mac computer (feeling a little out of place) pumps out the old west music as I listen to Jamin tell me about his influences.
His philosophy was to “learn the hardest thing first, because anything under that is easy” he says. He might make mistakes, but he’d always learn from them. Each tattoo artist has to learn their craft and Jamin was no different. He feels a moral responsibility to his ‘canvases’ i.e. people who wanted a free tattoo (which gave him the opportunity to practice his craft) to be able to do the work and look back on it in a few years time and say, ‘oh, it just needs a touch up here/there… come and sit down’. Also the placement of these ‘practice’ tattoos on the body it is imperative to him to have them in a place that they (the wearer) would still be proud of them.
Jeff Gogue, Bob Tyrrell and Emily Rose are some people who he has named as artist who inspire him. In the tattoo industry there are only seven true tattoos. “Be resourceful.” is a motto he learned from his biggest influence, his father. All tattoo-artist look at a piece of work and take some it that, then add something to ‘make it their own’ but the reality is if you look at the tattoo you can see they come under the basic categories of Asian or Nautical or whatever – but then they put their own spin on it – they work in with the ‘wearer’ to create something that they are happy with.
People have asked me, do you regret your tattoos, so I posed this question to Jamin too, and his answer had me nodding in agreement. “The journal of my life is inked out on my skin,” He said, and that, folks, is what it’s all about.
CHERRY CORE PIERCING AND TRAINING CENTER:
Cherry Sutherland started the Cherry Core Piercing and Education Centre fourteen months ago. As she grew up in Upwey and knew the locals were open-minded, she felt she would be welcomed. Her family and the local kids have been overwhelmingly supportive of her.
She has worked extensively in many salons learning her craft from many people over the past ten years. Starting out as a hairdresser she realized that piercing was her passion. The name Cherry Core came from the local kids that urged her to start up; it was her style… ‘Cherry-core’. Her partner, Matt helps her run the business and is also a piercer, and rounding out the team is AJ, a piercer and Tattooist with 15 years experience.
She also provides aftercare, to her clients in a way that they feel comfortable; offering a service that means that she is available after hours via IM on Facebook, and text. The clientele that she attracts often don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone and won’t pick up the phone if something is wrong; she feels this is an integral part of the process.
Cherry Core continues to grow and change and is now offering, along with the piercing training, a full time tattooist.