Rishab Khatri is the Managing Director of JADS Tattoo Studio, Nepal Inked gathering (Tattoo Festival), and Nepal Inked magazine. The magazine is a yearly and produced in limited edition to be distributed among tattoo artists, participants and enthusiasts only and not for commercial purposes.
Where did you get the inspiration to organize this festival?
The main vision of this event was developed by a group of friends who were into events. John Maharjan along with Spandan Lama Mocktan from Eleven-11 and Nischal Bajracharya from Kgarira came together to build this IP. From 2013 onwards, JADS Tattoo, Eleven-11 and Kgarira has been organizing a tattoo festival every year. There are tattoo festivals all over the world. In Nepal too, there was Nepal Tattoo Convention. So, we also wanted to contribute to the scene and uplift the community. That’s why we started to organize tattoo festivals. But ours is different from any other tattoo festival around because our festival is not commercial. Even if we make a profit, it goes to charity. The regular tattoo conventions are organized in big halls. They take money. In return for the payment, the artists get booths. We do charge the artists, but it is only the cost price. We provide basic set up for tattooing and give them adequate space. We give them T-shirts and to work, we provide them with tattoo supplies. There are no profits included. We even donate the money that we raise by selling the paintings as you have seen in the Painting Event before the Tattoo Festival. The charity is related to child education.
What is the specialty of this festival?
Not just tattooing, we are here to uplift the art scene. We do it in outdoor settings, closer to nature. We take the artists to various places such as the local heritage sites to inspire them. This time we didn’t do it. We organized it in the city itself to show that we’re still active. It is just a get together. Usually, we take them to different temples and monasteries. We used to even take them trekking and for other adventure sports. It’s not just limited to tattooing; it is like a vacation for them. In addition, we provide them the opportunity to paint and if anyone buys their paintings, we don’t keep the money.
I find the theme of the tattoos quite dark. There are more demons, devils, and evil spirits. Why is that so?
We don’t set any themes. The individual artists choose what they want to paint or tattoo. We provided canvases, paintbrushes, and paints to the artists for the Painting Event. What they want to tattoo is up to them. But overall, I have found tattoos in general have darker themes. I guess because dark themes are selling more these days.
What was the most memorable moment for you in this festival?
The most memorable moment was to meet so many people who I know or would like to know. We even have after-parties where we have a lot of fun. In the six days, we get to spend time together; we stay in the same hotel and have breakfast together with like- minded folks. We all enjoy it together and there are no rules. We are all just having a good time. All that is very memorable to me and they become pleasant memories in the end.
What do you think you have achieved through this event?
To bring the community together, I feel that is an achievement. They might collaborate in some projects. So, it is really like a platform for tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts.
Who is your targeted audience?
We target those who are into art, and also those who are passionate about tattoos.
How do you find them? Do you know all of them?
No, we don’t know all of them. Ours is one of the oldest tattoo studios- JADS Tattoos. The tattoo community in Nepal is still united. There is no tough competition between the studios. So, they come to us and we go to theirs. We release promotional posters and we get responses. Then we ask them for their portfolios and check the quality of their work. We don’t take them all as we only take 50 artists. We keep getting their email and we keep checking their profiles on Instagram. For this festival, there have been only 30 artists registered because of the smaller space in this edition.
What is the most challenging aspect while organizing this festival?
It is better to do it in a remote area instead of a city. The customers who will definitely come will have a booking with the artist anyway. In a remote area, we get larger spaces. That will be a real festival instead of doing it in a city where people who come might be judgmental and we are cramped in a small space. In a remote area with like-minded people, we get to not only enjoy, but it is also a platform to meet other artists and tattoo enthusiasts. It is easier to manage as well because they understand the dynamics of the event.
What are your plans for the future regarding this event?
Right now, it is for six days. Next year, we are planning to extend it to ten days, maybe in Pokhara. It will be in an outdoor event and will have limited number of people who are into art. We will make it in this model itself. We will not have a profit making motive and as far as possible, just staying in the breakeven situation is enough for us.
What are your grievances?
There are not many grievances. The event is running according to our expectations. Nothing was surprising to the management. We had thought the artists would coordinate themselves and they are doing exactly that.
There is a stigma related to tattooing. What do you have to say about that?
It is gradually changing. We don’t allow kids under 18 to get a tattoo. There are many changes in the attitude of the society right now. But, yes, there are times when we get uncomfortable because of our tattoos. Some people look down upon us and feel it is their business to give us a piece of their mind, which is very annoying.
What advice do you want to give our readers?
Nepal Inked Tattoo gathering is held once a year. Our plan is to move throughout Nepal. It is a promotion of art too. If there are artists in some parts of Nepal from where it is difficult to travel to Kathmandu, we are trying to bring the festival close to their cities. If you are thinking of getting a tattoo during this festival, we will be posting the name of the tattoo artists who will be attending our event before the festival begins. You can choose from the list. We will even be posting contact addresses so that you can contact the artist on your own or you can even contact us to set it up for you. Sometimes, we have some of the best tattoo artists from all over the world. So you can get tattooed by them. They do not charge us the rate they normally charge in their own country. They charge the ongoing rate in Nepal. Sometimes, they do it for free. So, if you want to get a tattoo, come to this tattoo festival. You get to choose from the best.