Today we’d like to introduce you to Clarke Gable.
Hi Clarke, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I am from Kuching in Borneo, Malaysia. When I was younger, I was never very good at school but I loved to draw. I would doodle all the time and sometimes get in trouble for not paying attention.
My culture has a very long history of tribal tattooing. After graduating high school, I met a local tattooer who became a good friend of mine. With the traditional Handtap method of tattooing, you need a stretcher to help stretch the skin. Jeremy Lo, my mentor, would have me stretch for him. I follow him to conventions all over Europe and Asia and learned tattooing from him and many other cultural artists. I’m lucky to have learned from some of the best traditional tribal artists in Borneo and around the world.
I met my wife while she was teaching English in Borneo, and I moved to the USA to be with her in 2018. I have been tattooing in the USA ever since.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Being an artist is never an easy road to travel, especially in a developing country. I feel like in the first few years, I was practically tattooing for free because the people in my community just didn’t have money to spend.
What little money I did make, I would try to help support my family, as well as pay for immigration costs. I was in a long-distance relationship with my wife for 3 years before finally successfully completing the immigration process to come to the USA.
Despite what some may think, it’s not an easy process at all.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in Borneo tribal tattoos and traditional methods of tattooing including handtap. Handtap tattooing is done by using two sticks: one with a needle at the end, and the other stick is used as a hammer. It’s a method that has been passed on for generations by my ancestors.
When the British colonized Borneo, most of the tribes converted to Christianity, and tattooing became taboo. A lot of our cultural history was lost. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Borneo tattoos and I’m proud to be a part of that revitalization.
I am the only tattoo artist from Borneo that is practicing traditional Handtap in the United States. That’s pretty special.
What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Travel far, but never forget where you came from. And never turn down a local meal!
- Email: BorneoSpiral@gmail.com
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