Shaun Dean is one of my favourite people on this planet… probably because he is pretty much the male version of me – or at least of who I would like to be. I met Shaun when a friend of mine was apprenticing at his shop – I saw his drawings and I just knew I had to get tattooed by this guy!
I started off by getting a Victorian style portrait of my 3-legged cat Xena on my arm at the Tattoo convention in March 2014. Xena was Cole and I’s first baby and her death was a terrible tragedy for me. I gave Shaun creative freedom and he drew up the most gorgeous artwork for me. It was such a pleasant experience and I was so happy with the end result that I booked my next tattoo – something I have wanted for years, but was waiting for the right artist to come along. Shaun did the rose on my hand and later we added my finger tattoos. I am already planning my next piece with him – I can’t wait!
So… without further delay, my interview with Mr. Shaun Dean…
Q: Let’s get the basics out of the way – who are you and where do you tattoo?
A: My name is Shaun Dean, I own Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg, Cape Town and that is also where I tattoo.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a tattoo artist? What did you do before this?
A: I went to Waldorf and then art school, I always just wanted to draw and paint all day but couldn’t figure out how to make money drawing all day. So I made a choice to do graphic design and worked at a few companies while getting tattooed on weekends.I used to bunk work to hang out at the tattoo shop, first time I got tattooed I fell in love with the art.
Q: How did you get into tattooing? What inspired you to take the leap and open your own Tattoo studio?
A: The first time I got tattooed I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was hard work and a ton of dedication but I eventually got my foot in the door, and a whole lot of possibilities opened up for me. I was working with Nic Burnand, the previous owner of the studio, in Muizenburg – he wanted to move overseas and gave me the option to take over the shop or hand it to someone else. It was never my plan to own a studio till at least ten years of tattooing, but I did not want to see the studio go after so much hard work had gone into building it. I had put a lot of love and time into the shop and wanted to stay and grow the business, so I took the leap and it worked out pretty well. I work with very talented friends now and every day is a blessing.
Q: How did you come up with your shop’s name? Any special meaning?
A: I always liked the old vintage shops or pub restaurants named after animals in England, I wanted an ornate English name that was different.
Q: How long have you been tattooing for and what training did you receive?
A: I have been tattooing for five and a half years now, I started in a tiny shop in Durban and made the move to Cape Town after about a year and never looked back.
Q: How would you describe your tattooing style? What are you best at?
A: I prefer doing new traditional, I’m strongest in neo- and new traditional.
Q: What was the first tattoo you ever did?
A: I did a cross underneath my foot which has now pushed out.
Q: If you could tattoo anyone, with any design – what would it be?
A: That is a very hard question, I love tattooing lady heads, animals and flowers. Any of those are just fine.
Q: If you could change anything in the tattoo industry, what would it be?
A: Less ego and more helping each other out so that we can essentially be seen as one of the best cities in the world to get tattooed in. I think there is so much talent here!
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
A: Stay true, stay honest, work hard and keep your side of the street clean.
Q: You have some amazing tattoos – which one is your favourite and who did it?
A: My favourite tattoo is from Jean Le Roux from Black Garden in London.
Q: What has been your absolute worst tattooing experience?
A: There is no particular one that stands out, but definately tattooing anyone who just has a shit attitude.
Q: And your favourite tattooing experience (besides tatooing me of course ;))?
A: I don’t have one particular experience, If I’m doing a piece I love and its on a cool client that’s a great day for me. It makes it all worth it at the end.
Q: What are some of your favourite tattoos you have done for clients and why?
A: My client wanted a lady head and rose to cover some of his scars, I loved every second of tattooing this.
I drew a little deer head and Tyler saw the drawing and asked if I could tattoo it on him.
Kyle said I can draw anything i wanted for his leg, I really wanted to tattoo a fox with spears. It is always overwhelming when you have free choice on anything you want to do.
This was done on my lovely and supportive girlfriend, Brittany..
This was done on Traci Kwaai, she brought me an orginal illustration I just changed a few things to suit my style.
A different take on the Maneki Neko Cat…
I also never get tired of doing roses…
Q: Do you ever feel like you are being treated differently because of your tattoos? Have you ever faced any sort of discrimination?
A: If I go to a mall with shorts and a t-shirt I get stared at or even stopped. A lady once stopped me and told me I’m wasting my money on tattoos when I rather should be giving my money to the poor. That kind of caught me off guard. So many people, so many opinions. Who gives a fuck.
Q: When not tattooing, what do you do with your free time?
A: Being with my girlfriend, skateboarding, surfing and painting takes up the other half of my time.
Q: How old would you be if you did not know how old you are? Good question hey?
A: Probably like 30, haha – not much difference.
Q: Do you do any other forms of art?
A: I love watercolour painting, it is just as challenging as tattooing. (Shaun is working on a rad little illustration for Caffeine and Fairydust – watch this space!)
Q: One thing I quite admire about you – you seem to keep under the radar, but you keep a very steady clientelle and your reputation is well known. With so many artists having their work hyped up, how have you managed to keep doing what you do without selling yourself out?
A: I really apprciate that, I guess I just work hard and push myself as much as I can, I don’t really go out much – or maybe its the fact that I work all the way out in this tiny village called Muizenberg. All I really focus on is being the best I can possibly be and stay passionate. I love what I do every single day. My clientelle obviously likes what I do so I thank them and appreciate the constant support.
Q: What is the funniest tattoo-related situation you have ever been in?
A: Probably tattooing in a wetsuit, just for a laugh. Silly, haha!
Q: Do you have any advise for other aspiring tattoo artists?
A: I am a pretty new artist myself, but hard work, passion and humility goes a long way. I think your on the right path if you follow these basic things.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone looking to get a tattoo?
A: Research your artist of choice and make sure you go to them for the purticular style they are strong in. Be respectful and open minded, make sure the artist is a professional and on the same page as you.
Q: Do you have any ‘rules’ in your shop – pieces you will not do, places on the body you won’t tattoo, etc?
A: We will never copy an exact image that someone else has drawn or bite another tattoo artist. We only do custom work that is purely for the individual.
Q: What is the waiting list like at the shop and how do people go about making an appointment?
A: Keenan and Jon is about a month and I’m about a month to two months. For bookings you can either come visit us to chat about your tattoo, e-mail Shaun at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021 709 0994.
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