Bamboo tattoo: Thanakorn "Korn" Chokprasit

Thanakorn "Korn" Chokprasit, 29


I opened the first bamboo tattoo shop in Pai. For the first three months it was difficult. No-one here knew what it was - it's more common in the south [of Thailand]. They thought it meant using the bamboo as a needle, but it just means holding the needle with a bamboo stick. This year is my fourth year here in Pai.

KornI got interested in tattooing when I was fifteen, from a friend who liked monks' tattooing. Monks use bamboo. They do [bamboo tattoos] for protection, for the heart and other things.

Tattooing has a long story in Thailand. In the past, like when the Thai army was fighting Burma, when they were fighting with swords samurai style every man had tattoos, for magic. Long, long ago a small town, Kam, in Cambodia used tattoos for magic, like ninjas...they could go through the earth.

You see a lot of [tattoo] guns, tattoo machines in Thailand. Thai people see the machine as modern, so they ask for the machine. I was looking for a different type of tattoo.

I knew the art of the monks, I was looking at it, I thought about my friend. I thought about how to change [the bamboo tattoo technique]. The monks use long bamboo poles, I now use short.

The machine takes two months to master. It's easier than bamboo, you use one hand, it's like drawing. Bamboo takes six months to learn. You use two hands, one for the line, and one for power.

I learnt by tattooing myself. I did a tribal pattern on my leg first. That's a good way to learn. If you do it on yourself then you know the pain. Bamboo is a lot less painful than machine! The tribal design is good because you do the outline first. Then you can experiment inside before you fill it in.

I never learnt drawing, I just looked at Japanese cartoons.

I'm from Chiang Mai, I left to work in Koh Phi Phi, but it was too far from home. When I wanted to go home it took about twenty four hours. But Pai is near - only two hours to home. I don't like the big city. Pai is a small town, I like to live here, it's the nature too. Pai is good at this level [size]. A small town but now it have a lot of banks. People are getting rich. Many people from the south are coming to make business.

If you ask me, I liked Pai three years ago better. I moved from Koh Phi Phi because it has a lot of parties, I couldn't sleep after 2am. It wasn't good for my business either - I had a share in a business, I couldn't speak English but the boss could. He didn't do any tattoos, I did them, but everyone remembered him!

Now, I'm the only bamboo tattoo shop in Pai. Pubs in Pai have to close at 12 - stops party problems.

I was lucky. I left Koh Phi Phi before the tsunami. Many of my friends died.

Before I had my son and daughter, I just worked with the feeling, when I wanted to. I'd close the shop, go to the waterfalls, play the guitar...now I have my son and daughter I need to work more!

KornKorn talked to me on Thursday, October 8, 2007. He is the owner of Korn's Tattoo in Pai.


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