‘Being the best at whatever talent you have, that’s what stimulates life’ is an exact phrase to describe Alex Shimray, one of biggest name of the Indian tattoo industry right now. He has tattooed many Indian celebrates, some international football players and many Indian cricketers, thus getting the title of ‘India’s Best Colour Tattoo Artist.’ He has travelled around the globe to take part in different tattoo convections. He is living the life of his dreams by making a living out of something he loves.
Born in Ukrul district of Manipur in 1984, he spent his childhood in Nagaland where he did his schooling. His childhood brought many trials and tribulations, at a tender of nine, he lost his father to drugs and, in 2002, his mother who has been the pillar of the family passed away from HIV. He then moved to Pune with his brother to pursue B.Com, where he discovered the art of tattooing and from then, there was no looking back.
Tell us a little about your background and childhood
I was born in the Ukhrul. However, I was raised up mostly in Nagaland. I grew up with an elder brother and two younger sisters. I did my schooling in Manipur and Nagaland. Sadly, my parents passed away when I was quite young and in July 2003, I went to Pune to pursue further studies. I was a quiet person, no messing around and nobody messed with me as well. I remember my first drawing, which was a picture of a frog, way back in 1989, if I’m not wrong. And since then, I have been interested in drawing which has and will always be in me.
How did you get into tattooing? What inspired you to take tattooing as your profession?
It was during my first year of graduation. I was pursuing commerce at Pune University, and my brother bought our first tattoo machine. I had always been interested in tattoos as an art form since my early school days. The access to the tattoo machine made me realize that tattooing is an integral part of my personality. I made tattoos free of cost for friends and acquaintances and then one day, a complete stranger called me asking if I was available and how much a tattoo would cost. I did not have an answer for him as I did not even realize that I could make a living out of it. I made the tattoo and he paid me and that was that. I realized then that I could make this my profession and charge people for it. I lived in Pune for 4 years and, in 2007 I moved to Delhi where things quickly progressed and now I am one of the best colour tattoo artistes in the country.
Tattoos are still considered as taboo in our society. How hard was it for you to take this ‘so called taboo’ as your profession?
It was not easy taking up this as my profession but this is what I was born to do. Although tattoos used to be an integral part of some tribes in the Northeast, people have moved away from the tradition and do not see it as part of their culture. It was especially hard to convince my extended family back home in Nagaland that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It took them seven long years to finally understand that this is what I love and what makes me happy.
Having lost your both parents, what motivated you to follow your passion?
My love for the art kept me motivated and made me want to do better every day. My passion towards what I do helped me move on from losing both my parents. Tattooing helps me forget all the problems and it took me to another dimension where I am always enveloped in happiness.
How does it feel to be known as the ‘best colour tattoo artist of India’?
I think being good at what you do is great enough but being known as ‘the best’ is an honour in itself. I have been very blessed to come this far and to be labelled as that. It feels amazing. I am thankful.
If not a tattoo artiste, which other profession would you have opted for?
I cannot see myself doing anything else but had I not been a tattoo artiste, back in the days I did wanted to be a boxer with the new era MMA.
What is the best part of your job?
My art travels around the world or wherever my clients go or are from. It’s not just hanging on a wall like how most art forms are usually displayed. It becomes one with the person who has the tattoo and that’s the best part about my job.
We being the career guidance magazine, please throw some light on the career aspect for our future generation in field of tattooing and other art related jobs.
It is so important to follow what you believe in, it may not come to you at once, it can happen when you don’t realize it. It’s not just about making money or being secure in the work that you do. But it is also about how you feel when you are doing your job. Art is a beautiful form of expressing one’s imagination and shedding light on how you feel about a certain topic or an idea. So, having said that, I would really encourage the future generation to pursue a career in art.
Finally, any words for the young aspiring artists?
I started out when I was pretty young and gradually learned as I grew older. Nothing great is achieved in a short term. You need patience, perseverance, determination and hard work to get to the top. Struggling and sacrifices are some things that you face along the way but these are all part of life and when you get to achieve your goals, that’s when you know, it was all worth it. I want the aspiring artistes to know that you should always believe in yourself, your dreams and your capability. Never let self-doubt or rejection get in your way, keep pushing yourself and remember to always see the bigger picture in the dreams you have.
Alex Shimray is a man who paints masterpieces on the human canvas. A man who overcame great challenges, learned from experiences and pursued his dreams against all odds.