Having lost both his parents, Alex Shimray from Ukhrul overcame great loss to become one of the best tattoo artists in India
TNT News | September 2, 2018
Alex Shimray is one of the biggest names in the tattoo industry and has made a name for himself in the country and has tattooed many Indian celebrities. He has also tattooed some international football players and many Indian cricketers. He has dominated the space with extremely beautiful and intricate art work and for critics who do not see tattooing as at art form, one look at his work and they will think otherwise. He travels extensively all over the world and to different tattoo conventions and his time is extremely sought after. He is living the dream of doing what he loves and also making a living out of it. Not many are as fortunate to get to do both but Alex has endured personal loss which many would not be able to overcome. He was born in the Ukhrul district of Manipur and spent his childhood and formative years in Nagaland where he went to school. In 1993, he lost his father to drugs and in 2002, his mother who had been the foundation and rock for his siblings and himself passed away from HIV. It was after this that he moved to Pune with his brother Augustine who one of the most well known Northeast models in the country. Being artistically gifted, he has used his talent to make something of himself. Talking to TNT-The Northeast Today, Alex talks about his work and how he never realised that tattooing would become his life. Here are excerpts from the interview:
TNT- Tell us about how you got into tattooing and how everything fell into place from there?
Alex. It was during the first year of my graduation while I was pursuing Commerce in Pune University that my brother bought our first tattoo machine. I had always been interested in tattoos as an art form since my earlier school days. Access to the tattoo machine made me realise 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 realise I could make a living out of it. I made the tattoo and he paid me and that was that. I realised 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 from there and now I am one of the best colour tattoo artists in the country.
TNT. What or who inspires your designs?
Alex. My tattoos are influenced by my client's personalities. We discuss what the clients want before I start working on the designs. I also get inspired by other tattoo artists from around the world but I don't follow anyone in particular.
TNT. What has been the biggest hurdle you've had to tackle?
Alex. The biggest hurdle was trying to convince my extended family 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 I am most happy doing this.
TNT. You've had quite a difficult life with so many challenges and loss, what keeps you motivated and keep you moving forward?
Alex. My passion for my work keeps me moving ahead. My love for the art keeps me motivated and makes me want to do better everyday. Tattooing helps me forget all my problems. It takes me to another dimension where I am always happy.
TNT. Many people still do not see Tattooing as an art form. What would you say to these critics?
Alex. Everybody has their own liking, preference and perception of art but tattoos are slowly being accepted as an art form. It is special because it is not for everyone.
TNT. Have your family been supportive of your career choice?
Alex. My brother and my sister have always been very supportive of me. They know that I would not fit in well at an everyday 9 to 5 job.
TNT. What is the best part of your job?
Alex. My art travels around the world or wherever my clients go. It is not just hanging on a wall like most art forms. It becomes one with the person who has the tattoo.
TNT. In the Northeast, it is still quite difficult to make a living out of a private business, has it been easier for you in the metropolitan cities?
Alex. It is much easier out here in the metropolitan cities as people have been more open and accepting of tattoos as an art form. In the last decade or two, most Northeastern people have moved away from the tradition and do not see it as part of their culture although tattoos used to be an integral part of some tribes.
TNT. Do you have a message for people out there who are struggling with their art?
Alex. I would like to tell them to keep working, keep practicing and never lose hope. The cost of not following your heart is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.
TNT. Thank you Alex for speaking to us, you are such an inspiration and your work speaks volumes. We wish you more success in the future.