In this exclusive interview, we are given the rare opportunity to get into the mindset of a true creative genius and learn what really makes him tick. Mowgli is a man of mystery and likes to let his work speak for itself, which is why we are humbled to be able to share his thoughts with you in our Going Deeper series.
At this point, we’d usually go into detail about the things we talked about and learnt with Mowgli but we think it best if you to just get into the interview and experience it for yourself...enjoy.
Mowgli, before we dive into ‘Going Deeper’, how would you best describe who you are and what you do to anyone discovering you for the first time?
I am an Artist, but predominantly known for being a tattoo artist. I love to be subjected to new ideas, cultures, foods and other peoples experiences, which in turn allows me to be more understanding of everything that surrounds me and allows me to continue to evolve.
I am influenced by art, music, language, theology, philosophy, mathematics, nature and science, which I analyse and link together to produce my pieces. These are the cores of beauty of the modern world that I see as collective consciousness.
Mowgli is wearing our Kay Michaels: Gunmetal hardware
So, we’ll start with an easy one. How did you get into tattooing...where did it all begin for you as an artist?
The inception of being a creative/Music/art/product design. I can remember from a very early age reading comics and was inspired by the amount of detail that was used.
I have always been creative and have undertaken various projects in music, art, and product design.
Tattooing was something that I had always been fascinated with since a teenager. I grew up in a religious household which has conservative views on tattooing (forbidden) and thus having a career in tattooing would be completely incomprehensible... However, these rules only spurred me to bend them and next thing I knew I had undertaken tattooing as a vocation.
Originally I pursued a career as a musician by studying Music Technology and a Masters in Composing for Film and Television with the hopes of being a composer. But due to the recession and a lack of internships at the time, I found myself in a series of odd jobs but always drawing and painting at home.
A few serendipitous moments later I found myself befriending with my tattoo artist at the time and started learning the craft of tattooing.
I saw it as a creative and expressive hobby. It was never supposed to be a ‘job’. So I guess I don't go to work, I get to play everyday. With reference to my childhood prohibitions; it is one of those things when you think you cannot do something, either you give in or you pursue it to your maximum potential. I pursued it and I am always trying to aim for greater heights.
"I consider myself a participant of all my best intentions, I find being present is the key and live by my own mantra of 'If not now...when?"
Every tattoo artist has a distinctive style they are known for and you’re no different. Where would you say your biggest inspiration for your designs comes from and how did you discover what your style was?
A microcosm. Philosophy, mathematics, nature, architecture… A visual vocabulary. Growing up in Bristol had a major influence on me, its art and music scenes were culturally diverse with no stigmas on self expression allowing me to explore my personal creative endeavours with no boundaries being as a musician, visual artist, understanding other cultures all with the backdrop of the beauty that is the city.
My biggest inspiration is people. I use my clients as a muse, through conversation I create a platform where we can both be open and harmonise with each other.
The concept of creating imagery on an organic canvas that moves and breathes seemed limitless, so I would not say I definitively design on a single methodology, but pulling fragments of my personal inspiration, an amalgamation of sorts.
It’s a microcosm of philosophy, mathematics, nature and architecture…my own visual vocabulary.
Tattooing for me is processing what the client is after as the foundation and producing the outcome from my analysis and interpretation that becomes an aesthetically pleasing embodiment of art and emotion.
Mowgli, you’ve one of the coolest names we think you could possibly have - where did it come from, there must be a story here…?
Over the years there have been a host theories of its origin, some of which have been quite abstract, one being that it was chosen to evoke peoples nostalgic memories of people's childhood…so I guess I’ll keep it a mystery and keep them coming in.
As a person you have such a unique persona and appear to be very comfortable in your own skin, is this something that comes naturally to you or have you had to work on this over time?
I consider myself a participant of all my best intentions, I find being present is the key and live by my own mantra of ‘If not now…when?’
It has always come naturally to be expressive as to who I am and what I think, but it has taken time. I've always looked inwards and tried to channel the good and accept my flaws.
By looking after myself I am then able to look after others, and have learnt a lot from the environment I am in.
Mowgli is wearing our Slogan T-shirt
The art of tattooing means different things to different people - how would you describe your relationship with it as an art form since becoming an artist?
The craft and art form of Tattooing has given me a sense of purpose. The idea of composing visually has no boundaries and has opened me both personally and professionally. It has been a testing process which has required passion, determination and perseverance. I try to remain in an in between state which allows me to adapt to the different situation. As cliché as it sounds, I love what I do.
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Like you’ve referenced earlier, music is a huge part of your life and is something you’ve always used as a tool to express yourself. What sort of music do you listen to when you’re at your most creative and do you still see yourself pursuing your original dreams being in the music industry one day?
Music has always felt like a mystery to me, it means so many different things to the individual yet creates a common ground between people and their emotions. It is something that is intangible which I find infinitely fascinating.
Music is always around me, I can’t not listen to it. I love artists from John Mayer to the Deftones, Prince , Radiohead, Backstreet Boys, The Beatles, The Cure, Bon Iver, Claude DeBussy... I could literally go on forever but I have found composers like Clint Mansell and Hans Zimmer as they use the contrast of orchestral and digital instrumentation. Something I find I use in my work of organic/pencil and digital/graphics visuals.
It’s the audible landscape that they create without boundaries, no lyrics and layers of polyrhythms. The emotions feel pure and subsequently allow me to express purely from a place of blissful ignorance.
I do see myself going back to music in some form in the future, but as a composer. It comes very naturally rather than the fantasy of being in the coolest band in the world… I have that feeling with my guys in the studio.
Do you remember the first time tattooing someone and how it ended up. What was it?
I oddly do, and I was very excited to do so. The idea of its permanence didn’t cross my mind when it was being done. it was some missing lines of a polynesian sleeve a friend had, and wonderfully trusted me to practice. I wouldn’t touch another artist's work now, but at the time I was no wiser on the art form of tattooing. It came out surprisingly well, and when I bumped into said client in the future it had healed perfectly…
You’ve told us a little bit about your time growing up and your childhood - what advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in something but are worried about what their family or peers may think?
Passion and dedication. You inherently know who you are and should pursue your life positively. Be kind to your soul and don’t be compromised by the barriers put up by others to influence your decisions. This is your life, and you can be whoever/whatever you want to be. Be who you want to be in the world, shine bright and others will see your truth too.
Be unapologetically yourself.
Mowgli is wearing our Kay Michaels: Gun metal hardware
If you could tattoo anyone in the world who would it be, what would you ink them with and why?
Christopher Nolan. Although I don't think he is a person who would get a tattoo, I would love to delve into the complexity of his mind and how he creates such masterpieces, the creative process of original concept/process of writing scripts, filming on celluloid.
I think his movies are intentionally complex as they visually are like moving art, the scripts sound like poetry, the music is incredibly emotive yet cohesive as to how they play out.
I learnt more about quantum mechanics from my viewing of Interstellar than I did reading about the subject for the same amount of time that the movie ran for!
"The craft and art form of Tattooing has given me a sense of purpose. The idea of composing visually has no boundaries and has opened me both personally and professionally."
As a tattoo artist you must have encountered some amazing experiences with your clients over the years when creating designs. Is there one tattoo and story that stands out to you as your personal favourite?
I am fortunate that my clients are open and allow me into their lives, each piece is so personal and unique to the individual. I can’t divulge into a particular story as I like to keep the meaning a mystery, and let the art do the speaking.
I must say though, that I’m grateful for the openness in which my clients allow me to create, but I would say that what we perceive as the smallest idiosyncrasy of a person’s life can have so much meaning. These examples allow me to realise how beautiful and unique all of us are.
And finally, what does the future look like for you as a creator? Do you see yourself moving into new ventures or is tattooing your life now?
I’m far too fidgety to just sit in one spot so I think my future will have many new ventures in the future. I'm currently working on some product design but I see myself moving into the visual aspects of fashion collaborations and furniture designs. Two aspects of my life I am very passionate about but have yet to explore with my current set of skills.