Muriel de Mai is a french tattoo artist who lives and works in Montréal, Canada. 
Her world is like a dark poem haunted by melancholic faces of sombre-looking ladies.
Don’t worry if you can’t come to Montreal, she will probably be in your neck of the woods someday because travelling is a big part of her life and work.

 

Q : How old were you when you first became interested in tattooing? 

A : I was about 14 when I started leafing through tattoo magazines. I didn’t think at the time that I would ever become a tattoo artist, but the desire to get a tattoo came quite early. I waited patiently until my 18th birthday for my first one, a tribal tattoo I chose from a catalogue … I was very proud at the time, and I  invented a bunch of important meanings for it because my friends didn’t understand and thought it was really crazy. At the time tattoos were still frowned upon, a bar even refused to let me in because of this “bad” tattoo… haha

 

Q : How does a tattoo artist usually practice, were you tattooing on yourself?

A : Yes, we practice on ourselves at first, although some people practice on pig skin. I preferred practicing on grapefruits, it works well too. We can also practice on friends. It’s really intimidating at first but my friends took it pretty chill so it was nice in the end.

Alternative Fashion, Montreal, Tattoo artist, Lifestyle

Q : How did you go about making this idea a reality? Obviously you must need a set of artistic skills to want to venture into this field, could you tell us a little about how you came to be a tattoo artist?

A : I was a graphic designer but I didn’t like it. I always wanted to be an illustrator and I thought graphic design would lead me to illustration, but it has nothing to do with it. I was tired of spending my days in front of a computer. One day, I worked in a tattoo shop to help out, and that’s how I got into the world of tattooing.

It wasn’t the act of tattooing that fascinated me, it was being able to draw all day. The passion of tattooing came later, when I started to be more comfortable with the technique and to make nice lines. The first year wasn’t great; I cried every night when I got home because I put myself under enormous pressure all day.

Q : Could you tell us a little more about your artistic style?

A : I have trouble defining my style. I try to make each design tell a story, especially with my characters. It took a long time for me to love doing portraits because I wanted to give them depth and I thought that would require a lot of details. But I liked simple designs, so I was never satisfied.

 

Sometimes people tell me my style is surrealist, traditional, graphic, but in fact it’s all mixed up … Before we could put artists in boxes but now it’s almost impossible; with all the styles emerging, new generations must broaden the boxes.

My inspiration is fuelled by literature and poetry and I am passionate about illustration, graphic novels and 1900’s paintings. I also read a lot of dark thrillers and science-fiction stories about time travel… it’s a combination of all these things that makes up my style.

Q : What is one of the greatest opportunities that being a tattoo artist has brought you?

A : Travelling! Another reason I wanted to be a tattoo artist was the travelling opportunities. I wanted to be good enough to be able to work anywhere. That’s what pushes me to work hard. 

Q : We have learned that you recently traveled to London, UK to collaborate with renowned contemporary art and Tattoo studio  “Sang Bleu”; could you tell us about one major highlight about this opportunity?

A : Well, one big highlight of working at Sang Bleu was to work in the same room with artists like Maximum Buchi, Philip Yarnell, Laura Taylor and others. Everyone was so friendly, you get the feeling that they are used to having guests around and everything runs naturally.

What also touched me is that I had a lot of appointments. When you work in another country, you always wonder if people know you, if it’s going to work. I loved this experience from the beginning to the end. London, I’ll be back!

Alternative Fashion, California, Lifestyle, Tattoo artist, Montreal

Q : How did you come to collaborate with Sang Bleu? Did you approach them or were you invited to work with them another way? How does it work?

A : I wish I could tell you that Sang Bleu begged me to come and work with them, but no, it is not what happened, haha. When I felt pretty confident about my work, I sent them an email telling them that I would be in Europe at the end of the year and I would like to be a guest, if possible. They answered quickly enough and everything was settled a few days later. I was really happy but also intimidated.

Usually, you contact the shop to ask if you can be a guest at their shop. It also happens in many tattoo conventions. You meet other artists, you connect and you can even get invited. Last year in Vancouver, I got invited to a shop in Japan, so I’m thinking about it. I would take that opportunity to go to Australia too.

 

Q : Who do you look up to most in your industry, is there anyone in particular that you would call your role model?

A : First, I’m really grateful to the person who taught me how to tattoo. He didn’t choose me as an apprentice, but he helped me a lot.
Then when I arrived in Montreal, there was a meeting that particularly changed me, it was with Sylvie le Sylvie. Sylvie le Sylvie is an amazing person, both as an artist and as human being.
I don’t have any role models, but there are a few artists whose work I really appreciate. To me, it’s really related, I can’t love the work of someone who conveys bad ideas or bad attitudes.

Alternative Fashion, California, Lifestyle, Tattoo artist, Montreal

Q : If a customer comes to you with a request that you personally find regrettable, do you try to convince them otherwise? I know there are many studios that will do just about anything, but do you draw the line at a certain point with requests?

A : It’s an interesting question … If the person wants a design that doesn’t match my values, I’ll refuse the project by explaining why or not, depending on my mood, haha!

If clients want a design that is very fashionable, I’ll talk to them, tell them that it is a design that is done often. If the clients don’t change their mind, it doesn’t matter, I won’t insist. Everyone choses their designs for different reasons and I respect that. That said, I will most probably refuse these projects because I’m lucky enough no to be able to choose projects that interest me.

In any case, we still have to pay rent and put food on the table, so it is normal to accept boring projects and popular designs. The important thing is to do it well and to respect our clients.

Q : What is your most memorable tattoo moment, have there ever been any crazy moments while tattooing a client?

A : I’m often asked this question, but in general everything is normal. Sometimes some customers will start tearing up, others throw up and sometimes some will faint, but nothing really crazy.

Q : What are some of the biggest Tattoo “faux-pas” of 2015 ?

A : I must be too boring or too much in control (or both) but I did not have any “faux-pas” in 2015, Haha!

 

Check her stuff out, you know you want to.

Website : www.murieldemai.com
Instagram : @murieldemai_tattoo

By Alixandra Postman
E-mail: alixandrapostman@gmail.com
Instagram: @joosebumps

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