Tattooing, an ancient art form, has played a significant role in human history, including the cultural heritage of India. In Indian history, tattooing was prevalent among different communities, showcasing their unique cultural expressions.
Even while tattooing seems to be doing well in contemporary India, traditional cultural Tattoo designs that were formerly widely used to identify certain areas and people are on the wane. Indian tattoo artists continue to overlook the international success of their craft despite its widespread popularity.
But there is one person who was inspired by the tattoo designs his great-grandmother wore and made a career transition to help bring back India’s ancient art of tattooing.
Shomil Shah, a visionary artist and custodian of cultural heritage, stands as a shining example of someone who has harnessed the power of art to ignite the flames of pride and identity within our souls. Through his remarkable journey, Shomil has left an indelible mark on the art world, reminding us of the transformative power of creativity and the importance of embracing our cultural Heritage.
The Rise of Indian Ink Archive: Traditional Tattoo Designs
Every artist’s journey begins with a spark— a moment of realisation that sets them on a path of passion and creativity. So was the story of this tattoo design artist. His passion for the Indian tattoo art form was undoubtedly genetic.
Shomil Shah used to work as a graphic designer till 2018. His inking journey started in London, where he got his first kolam tattoo on his hand. He was so amazed by the tattoo design that he started exploring more.
It was at this time that his mother told him that he was not the first to be intrigued by tattoos in their family and that his great-grandmother also had traditional tattoo designs.
Driven by a deepening fascination, Shomil made a conscious decision to venture into the realm of tattoo artistry. With his background in graphic design serving as a solid foundation, he sought to merge his creative skills with the canvas of the human body. Within a month of exploration, he purchased a DIY stick-and-poke kit and entered the world of tattooing.
With a deepening interest, He decided to visit India and travel around Different parts of India, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc. to learn more about the traditional tattoo designs and cultural heritage of tattooing.
There he found that the traditional art of tattooing has been slowly fading, and The traditional art and rich heritage of tattooing have not been well documented in India.
Shomil’s journey as a tattoo artist began with dedicated research, studying the various styles, techniques, and symbolism of traditional tattoo designs. His soulful interest led to the creation of the Indian Ink Archive. While Visiting Different parts of India, he met many elderly women who had traditional symbols or art tattooed on their skin.
When Shah first talked with them, they were shy, but soon they opened up to him and allowed him to take pictures of their tattoos. He immersed himself in the rich tapestry of cultural heritage, drawing inspiration from the stories and meanings woven into each design.
As Shomil’s knowledge grew, so did his determination to make a difference through his art. He set out to establish his own studio, a place where individuals could not only receive tattoos but also connect with their cultural roots.
The studio became a space of storytelling, where clients could share their personal narratives and experiences, allowing Shomil to understand the symbols and motifs that resonated with their heritage. He created the Indian Ink Archive, where he documents all the traditional tattoo designs.
What the Ink Traveller discovered
Shomil embarked on an amazing voyage into the past out of a desire to discover the origins of his own tattoos. Babli Bai, a 70-year-old Mumbai resident, was the India Ink Archive’s first subject about six months ago.
Her arms were inked with symbols from her community’s tattoo rituals, including banana plants, snakes, scorpions, and lotuses. The tattoos on 89-year-old Vithalbhai, which he got when he was five years old, depict tattoos in Gujarat, where only wealthy people could afford to wear watches, while others had a Trajva band tattooed on them as a watch symbol.
Through his extensive travels for this project, he astonishingly observed striking similarities in certain motifs, even when they were tattooed thousands of miles apart in distinct communities.
One such captivating example is the elegant arrangement of four V-shaped lines converging towards one another—a motif that holds diverse interpretations across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh.
While it symbolises a flower in all these places, each region embraces a different bloom. In Maharashtra, it is known as Kamal, the resplendent Lotus; in Gujarat, it represents the enchanting Mitho Baval or Acacia flower; and in MP and Chattisgarh, it blooms as the captivating Pindri ka Phool. Shomil eloquently elaborates on this captivating revelation from his journey.
what Shomil Is Looking Forward To?
Shomil’s journey in the inking field serves as a motivation for the power of determination, creativity, and an unyielding passion for artistic expression. From his tough beginnings as a self-taught artist to his current standing as a well-known tattoo professional, his path showcases the transformative power of a person willing to make a change.
With each tattoo design he creates, he leaves an unforgettable mark on the lives of his clients, bringing their stories and identities to life through the art of their skin. Shomil’s remarkable journey inspires aspiring artists to follow their unique paths, reminding them that with passion and dedication, anything is possible in the vast and captivating world of tattooing.
The journey in the inking field was not without challenges. With each challenge he faced, he took the opportunity to grow and evolve as an artist. He took feedback, studied the works of other renowned tattoo artists, and continually pushed himself to refine his methods. Through continuous learning and never-ending dedication to his art, he transformed setbacks into stepping stones toward success.
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