The elements needed to create a great Traditional style tattoo are simple enough — strong outlines, black shading, bold colors. Tattooing out of the legendary Tahiti Felix’s in San Diego, Phil Hatchet-Yau follows these tried-and-true guidelines throughout all of his work, even as he dabbles in other styles including illustrative and black and grey.
“I like my tattoos to be very readable, very bold, something you can see from across the room,” Hatchet-Yau explains. “But at the same time, have details in little more subtle ways. Not necessarily just tiny, little intricate details in that sense, but details in that there is kind of a narrative going on.”
This narrative can be seen throughout all of his work, particularly in the lady heads he creates. In their eyes you can see a hint of mischief, their delicate pearl necklaces suggest an air of refinement, mascara smeared on the cheeks lets you know that there is still a lot more to the story than Hatchet-Yau has crafted.
While the techniques that Hatchet-Yau uses in his work are firmly traditional, the subject matter that he works with is all over the place, as he tattoos basically anything that strikes his fancy. And when he struggles to find a muse, all he needs to do is look around at the walls of Tahiti Felix’s. “I think just being surrounded in so much traditional flash, you know, we’ve been open since 1949,” Hatchet-Yau explains. “So the fact that we have all these archives on the wall that I’m surrounded by every day, kind of keeps my style very classic. Just by osmosis, I think.”
In the video above, Hatchet-Yau tattoos a small Uchide-no-Kozuchi, a Japanese magic hammer that can tap out anything you wish for according to legend. If we had a real one of these at our disposal we’d use it to get a tattoo from Hatchet-Yau whenever we wanted. Wouldn’t you?