When you ride a bike you are invariably going to have a lot of flesh on show - or at least more than you would see on your average high street (maybe).
For a lot of our community these areas of exposed skin become a further canvas for them to express their inner selves with some permanent ink. We seem to attract our fair proportion of inked up riders stretching from a subtle hidden sentimental message to full sleeves on legs arms, and a few necks to boot.
We thought it would be nice to give something back to our Paria fam when they invest, so have included a PARIA tattoo in the investor rewards.
And to show permanent commitment to the brand - both Sam and Lucy have inked themselves with the PARIA Ride Hard Raise skull. It was practically grounds for divorce for Lucy, but she took that hit for the team!
The man behind the needles is long time friend of PARIA, and all round top guy Keng Timsuwan. Keng's talent is well known in tattoo circles with his bamboo style of artistry a more tradiotnal approach vs machine based inking. We asked Keng to tell us about his background
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I grew up in a small town in the north of Thailand called Nakhon Sawan with a very traditional Asian family.
Traditionally children in Thailand, and in fact all of Asia, are taught from a young age to respect and follow their parents’ dreams and desires for them. My family wanted me to become a doctor and I did in fact study medicine at university in Bangkok
How did you get into tattooing?
As a young boy, I was always drawing and sketching and developed a very natural, artistic talent.
In my final year of studying, my father, who I was extremely close to, sadly passed away. Within Thai tradition, this meant I was now free to follow my own path and follow my own dreams, which was to become a tattoo artist.
When I was a young boy, I was regularly sent to the temple on the weekends, by my parents who wanted to install traditional Thai values and discipline into me. They hoped the temple and the monks would teach me to focus on my studies and stop me from always drawing and sketching.
The high Monk at my local temple recognized my natural talent, and encouraged it by allowing me to paint my beautiful creations onto the walls of the temple. Some of my designs are actually still there and if you ever travel to Nakhon Sawan you will be able to see original Thai style designs, drawn by me, from around the age of eight upwards.
What is bamboo tattooing?
Hand poked / bamboo tattooing / stick poked - bamboo is a traditional tattoo art form where a number of needles are set at different lengths on a long piece of shaped bamboo. The bamboo is then manipulated using different levels of pressure and angles to pierce the skin with ink. It is less painful, heals a lot quicker than machine tattooing and is less likely to fade and blur over time.
What part did your spirituality play in your art?
Whilst studying at the temple every weekend, I developed a strong friendship with the high monk who took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew about Buddhism.
It is here where I studied the ancient Buddhist scripts and became proficient at tattooing and performing the traditional Sak Yants. It was here, in a small local temple in the north of Thailand, where I became a fully qualified Ajarn, a master of Sak Yants.
It was only when I stopped studying medicine and started to focus on becoming a full-time tattoo artist, my creativity took over and I became a tattoo artist in the more traditional sense by tattooing my own custom drawings and replicating popular styles such as Maori. I set up my own studio in Nakhon Sawan and switched from bamboo tattooing to machine tattooing.
What made you drop the tattoo-gun and move back to your roots?
On the 26th of December 2004, a devastating tsunami struck Thailand, causing me to lose one of my dearest friends on the island of Koh Phi Phi. I decided to travel to Koh Phi Phi to show my respects and also to help rebuild the island.
Whilst here I was offered a job as a bamboo tattoo artist. I wanted to stay a while, so I put away my machines, and once again took out my bamboo sticks. It was here where I met my wife, Lauren, who was diving at the time and helping with the massive job of cleaning up the oceans and beaches. Despite being unable to communicate and having to use a dictionary to look up and translate one word at a time, there was an instant attraction. So much so that we were married 5 months later in November 2005.
The following year we moved to Koh Phangan and it is here where the idea of The Bamboo Rooms was born with the idea of moving to England to establish it.
Lauren missed home and wanted to share her culture with me after having been in Thailand for a few years now and being honored in sharing my culture for so long. In 2007 we finally received my visa and moved to England and the first Bamboo Rooms was established with the help of Lauren’s mum, in a small city in the north of England called Shipley. Here we remained for seven years.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love England and didn’t want to leave, but at that time our son was turning five, and needed to go into education, Lauren and I wanted to school our children in Thailand, so we returned and set up home in Koh Samui.
How have you ended back up in Otley (Leeds)?!
It's been a sequence of events which has meant we now split our time between Thailand and the UK. COVID had a huge impact on us both personally and as a business. Thailand had some draconian lock downs, and businesses took a long time to reopen as a result of legislation.
we decided it would be great to set up shop in our Lauren's home town of Otley, to give us a permanent base in the UK. Prior to this whenever I had returned to England, I was full booked usually working 14-18 hour days to make sure my customers could have their designs tattooed. So it seemed natural to be around and give the public what they want!
(I also love pork pies and Otley has the best ones in the world)
What is your relationship with PARIA?
I've known Sam for over 10 years and seen him work hard to build the PARIA brand. It's been great to see how he has taken some of the influences which shape my creativity and bring them to life on cycling kit. He is also covered in my artwork (I'd say he was a bit of a bamboo addict!)
Are bikes your thing?
Well, bikes are my thing - but I ride ones with a petrol engine and a lot more horsepower. In Thailand you pretty much ride a moped from 7-8 years old, so it's in my blood. I have however seen a real explosion of cycling on my home island of Koh Samui with more and more cyclists out there
Keng is our tame tattoo artist who will be inking the PARIA Ride Hard Raise tattoo - more to follow on this