Bipin Maharjan Embracing Body Art and Expressing Creativity

Bipin Maharjan, a tattoo artist from Kathmandu, has been running the tattoo parlor, ‘Tattoo Workshop,’ in Basantapur for the past five years. The 30-year-old started in the Nepali tattoo business ten years ago. He has won several awards for his work, including from reputable events such as the International Nepal Tattoo Convention. He admits that he has a lot to learn. So far, he has had a positive experience as an artist.

Maharjan has always had a passion for art, tattoos, and design. He hadn’t considered getting a tattoo until some of his college friends shared the same interest. He found the tattooing process fascinating, which sparked an interest in tattooing. “I began by making my tattoo machine. I used pen inks where I could,” he says. The colors were not long-lasting, they faded away, and it was not a good way to start as a professional tattoo artist. He decided to take a class with his brother to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

He says it wasn’t easy to become a tattoo artist when he first started. He didn’t have many YouTube videos or other resources to learn how he should use the tattoo machine. Another problem was the lack of suppliers and equipment. Despite the obstacles, he said he was lucky to have supportive family members who helped him achieve his dream of becoming a tattoo artist. “It was my mother who gave me the money to buy my very first tattoo machine,” says he.

His first tattoo was done on a friend’s chest. This was an exciting moment for him. Since then, he’s had many clients and is quite familiar with his work. Maharjan finds tattooing both enjoyable and challenging. He feels great satisfaction when his clients like what he makes. “I’m proud of my job when I see happy customers,” he says. He says he feels he’s gotten better in the last ten years. He used to copy tattoo designs online, but now he adds his style, making each design unique.

“Most of my designs are inspired by Japanese oriental design.” He says he incorporates Nepali elements inspired by Thanka art and Pauba into that style. His artwork is mainly inspired by the traditional artifacts found in temples, monuments, and other religious buildings. “For example, if I want to draw a Buddha design, I take references from Buddha sculptures,” he said, adding that international artists like Orient Ching or Filip Leu inspired him.

Maharjan recognizes that tattoo artists have their styles and patterns. He believes each tattoo artist uses a different method of designing and creating a tattoo to avoid making mistakes. He says that if the tattoo work is heavy, there is a high probability of skin damage, which could affect the outcome. “When this happens, artists must be prepared to handle the situation so that the tattoo doesn’t go wrong.” When this happens, clients panic. He said it was essential to have a good sense of humanity and to know how to calm down those in panic and reassure them that all will be well.

Maharjan says that maintaining hygiene is one of the most crucial things to remember when tattooing someone. After each client, he sterilizes all of the equipment he has used. He says the studio covers the mattress with plastic to avoid cross-contamination. To prevent infection, he wears gloves and changes them often between sessions. He doesn’t tattoo anyone under 18 years old. He urges tattoo clients to research tattoo studios and check out their portfolios.

Maharjan believes tattoo artists must be experienced enough to grasp patterns, creativity, and art to thrive. He says that art preferences change and an artist must grow and adapt. Even the equipment changes, he says. He says the best way to learn how to use the equipment is to keep up with social media.

It is not easy to be a tattooist. Sometimes,  a design requires an artist to work hours without a break. Maharjan once worked 14 hours straight without taking a break. This was at the International Nepal Tattoo Convention. He said that one needs to be patient and dedicated in this field.

Several awards have recognized Maharjan’s work. He bagged the second prize for ‘Tattoo Flash Art’ at the seventh International Nepal Tattoo Convention in 2017. The following year, he won first place for ‘Front and Back Full Large Piece Black and Gray’ and second for ‘Small Tattoo Color,’ in 2019, he once again got second place for ‘Small Tattoo Color.’

His long-term objective is to work tirelessly on expanding the tattoo industry in Nepal. He feels that many issues in the tattoo industry must be addressed. There is no proper licensing platform in Nepal for tattoo shops. Maharjan draws the public’s attention to the fact that the government limits tattoo art growth by prohibiting job candidates from getting inked. “Nepal has a rich culture,” says Maharjan. “I would like to see someday tattoos be accepted as art.”

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