The Inked Life: We asked tattoo artists what people don’t really know about their job

The Inked Life: We asked tattoo artists what people don’t really know about their job

Gigie Bear and Kean Mendez guide us on the art of their bodies

Photos by Andrea Genota


Swear to god, it’s impossible to find tattoo artists who aren’t themselves inked to the nines. This is the natural order of things, but it’s still pretty amazing — tattoo artistry is one of the few professions in which you proudly display and endorse the work of your contemporaries. To an extent, you are also your own model for your personal journey with the art form, and how the art form has characterized your life.

And there are no better people to ask about the ins and outs of the inked life than an alumnus of 55 Tinta and a former Goodhand Tattoo apprentice. Sherilyn Santiago a.k.a. Gigie Bear and Kean Mendez got into tattoo artistry via similar arcs — having both come from fine arts backgrounds in college, they were surrounded by creative people, some of whom were already doing tattoos. Now Gigie works as an independent tattooist at 28 and Kean at 23 is rising up in the ranks, both enjoying a pretty solid reputation as all-around dope practitioners in their field.

They came to our little photoshoot with their flesh and limbs looking like murals in their own right. We asked them about the tattoos that mean a lot to them, and what it means to do what they do.

Gigie Bear
Kean Mendez

On mentoring

Gigie: It depends on you siguro kung ano ang gusto mong i-pursue na style. You can’t go to [just] any shop to get an apprenticeship. Kailangan mo talagang mag-research about it.

Kean: Goodhand Tattoo [mentored me], yung collective mismo. May process kasi eh. Una, mag-aasist ka muna, shop assistant. Then, gawa ka ng mga tattoo flashes. Kaya siya tinawag na flash kasi, it’s repeatable, hang mo lang siya sa wall tapos turo lang ng client kung ano gusto nila. Tapos, tattoo-an mo sarili mo. Tapos continuous na pagiging shop assistant, hanggang sa pagtattoo-in ka mismo ng mga clients.


On tattooing yourself

Gigie: You have to experience tattooing yourself. Medyo dapat sa leg, kasi you need to use both your hands.

On their favorite tattoos


It’s a mother’s day tattoo from Kiyo [Tawara], friend ko. Sa Goodhand Tattoo siya dati. It has my son’s name on it.
Super nocturnal ko dati, pero hindi na ngayon, cuz I have kids. Gawa ni Tox [Fresco].


Ito favorite ko talaga, si Shin-chan. Noong ina-air ‘to sa TV, ito yung parang bonding ng family namin. Tinatoo ko siya sa sarili ko.
[It stands for] mastery of time and death. Atat na atat na talaga ako lumipat doon sa Goodhand. Kasi dati, ano lang ako, room service. Si Bjan [Bernabe] yung unang nakilala ko sa Goodhand. Sinasabi ko kay Bjan, “Gusto ko na talaga mag-apprentice, gusto ko nang gumawa ng flash.” Sabi niya, “‘Wag ka magmadali. Maging patient ka lang sa progress.”

You can follow Gigie and Kean on Instagram.

#art #culture #profile #style

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