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Meet the locals – Tracy Brechelt

Learn more about the people who make up Raglan town. Today we talk to tattoo artist Tracy Brechelt who works from a studio above Orca.
As a child I was always drawing. I used to hang out in the shed with my grandfather. He could make anything out of nothing. I’d sit on the floor with chalks and draw all day. I can still smell that room.
I wanted to get into the tattoo industry as a teenager but it was very male dominated. So I went into the graphic artist industry instead. Then I went to London on my O.E. and did random work. When I came back to New Zealand I found an ad in the Waikato Times for a two week intensive course in tattooing run by Byron Vodane. It taught you everything and fortunately I was the only one who applied. Bryan became a good friend, he lives in Brisbane and he’s a cosmetic tattooist.
I learnt on pigskin — I’ve still got all my originals in the freezer. The first person I tattooed was my partner — it was very scary doing it for the first time. Then I started off working from home, on friends and family.
Originally I anticipated tattooing exclusively for women. When I was in London I got a tattoo but I found the studio intimidating. I thought if I could do this I’d make it such a nice environment and I’d listen to people.
My biggest clients are the surf-set. People come through word of mouth and I leave my cards at the backpackers. First thing I do with a new client is sit down and have a consultation. The hardest part of the job is drawing what people think. Even if people bring in a stick figure it makes it easier. I do one-off art and draw everything by hand. I try not to work off the internet. I see what’s up here (in my head) first, and then I might go to my books for inspiration. I’ve got heaps of books — children’s ones are especially good. I can go off on on so many tangents — I’ve got so many styles.
It’s so important for a tattoo to flow with the body. I don’t mind doing cover-ups but I won’t tattoo the neck unless they’ve already got art there. Tattoo is too unforgiving to just whack something on. I’ll put a design on carbon paper and stick it on a new client so they can go away and think about it for a while.
I do a lot of memorial tattoos. They’re like a form of therapy — something to remember someone by. My oldest client was a 65 year old woman. She was scared to show her mum.
I prefer to work in black and grey wash. I love black and white. I’ll draw a design three times before I tattoo it — the initial drawing, then onto tracing paper, then onto carbon. By then I know if off by heart.
I work by appointment only. I don’t want to burn out. I’ve done five hours straight before. You’re not just tattooing you’re also entertaining people and holding a conversation. I encourage people to bring their friends along.
Ultimately I want to work on movies – making props, costumes, anything really to work in a creative environment. I’ve just finished an airbrushing course. I’d love to do cars and bikes – Hot Rods. My ultimate studio would have a tattoo studio at the front, cars at the back and a jam room for all my mates to hang out in.
Tattoos need maintaining. Light colours will need retouching in about 5 years, more if you don’t use sunscreen. It’s better to get a tattoo in winter — you have to stay out of the water for two weeks after having it done.
Do I have tattoos? Not that many. Although I’m doing my own arm at the moment — playing with ideas. When I have a no-show I start experimenting – dangerous!


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