Graphicaderme, give your skin a buzz

Graphicaderme, give your skin a buzz

It’s true, we give your skin a buzz. G-R-A-P-H-I-C-A-D-E-R-M-E: 13 letters, like a certain surname I know…oh yeah, mine. Graphicaderme is more than just a big family. It’s an effort to bring together the best talent under one name. 

It’s a way for us to progress and grow as part of what we now call a collective.

 Even though the first shop I opened in Avignon in 1987 was called Art Tattoo. 

So why Graphicaderme?

 Graphic for graphic, obviously. And derme (“dermis” for you English speakers), well, for the medium. Simple enough. Through the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s often the most trying times that are the most revealing. And that’s exactly the case with Graphicaderme. The idea sprouted from my experience getting to know another tattooist in Toulouse – a man who dons the all-too-comical nickname Tin-Tin. 

Already qualified as an artist when I met him, he was starting to create a real buzz in the small underground world of tattoo enthusiasts.

 For a 20-year-old like me, getting to know Tin-Tin was an earth-shattering experience that left me dumbfounded to say the least. How could someone be so arrogant, not to mention downright stupid? I didn’t get it… His work was exceptional. So why did he need to go around telling everyone he was the greatest tattoo artist in the world? Did he really doubt himself that much? 

What more can I say?

 I soon realized that there was no hope at all in trying to forge any sort of friendship with this Tin-Tin guy. Let’s just say, he didn’t quite seem to have all his marbles. What was bound to happen, happened. As they say, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it. And the guy was always trying to prove himself, time and again. 

Parisian tattooist Marcel once said of Tin-Tin: “Even if we’re just playing foosball, he always has to be the best. It’s obnoxious.”

 It was 1989 when the incident occurred. He paid me a “nice little visit” in Avignon, armed with a revolver ("for intimidation") and accompanied by a retinue of his tough-guy friends – what, you think he would’ve dared come alone? To put it short, he threatened me and told me to stop tattooing altogether. He also told me to stop attending French and European conventions. He must’ve seen me as a real threat. 

Give me a break…

 It’s funny, that was 25 years ago but he still hasn’t changed a lick… 

Except for one thing: he’s now president of a “tattooists’ union” that claims to represent French tattoo artists and the profession as a whole.

 But the best part is, he’s been elected president for life. The guy’s wielding and abusing what little power he has to pump up his own image in the media in order to crush certain fellow tattooists of his choosing. Like all insecure and power-hungry men, he’s still consumed by the need to prop up his own image by steamrollering anyone who poses even the slightest threat of casting a shadow over him. At the time of the incident, Tin-Tin was set up as a tattoo artist in Toulouse. He worked for Dermagraphic, which, at the time, belonged to another (equally famous) Stéphane, who passed his shop on to him. 

I had to put up with awful violence and an endless torrent hate from Tin-Tin, whose real name by the way is Cyril Auville.

 His behaviour had taught me one thing: he was no doubt a talented tattooist and I respected him for the quality of his work, but he clearly had issues and he wasn’t able to appreciate the true value his talent. Torn between the desire to make progress and that of not succumbing to that level of insanity, under the barrage of threats, the name Graphicaderme was born – like throwing a bunch of Scrabble pieces onto the floor. 

It’s simply an anagram that, for me, alluded to an already existing name.

 And it’s a way to always remind me what not to repeat – but also what not to avoid – throughout my career. 

In building my career, I’ve had to get through that rough experience and many others like it. And I always remember that sometimes, it’s not about tattooing, passion or my work.

 The quality of Tin-Tin’s work can no longer serve as an "excuse" for his foolish outbursts. The bar has risen for the profession as a whole, with so many of today’s young tattooists capable of creating truly extraordinary designs. So what’s he left with? Boundless arrogance and a supersized ego? 

Like all stories, this one has an end.

 For 25 long years, Tin-Tin’s been trying to get rid of me – and he continues to do so to this day. But I haven’t given in in the least. And though certain doors were closed to me, I had the energy and the strength to head to the United States, where I was able to open new doors and make a name for myself doing what I love. So I guess I actually owe Tin-Tin a big thank you. I don’t think I would’ve ever tried to accomplish so much if he hadn’t tried to forbid me from doing it! 

And Tin-Tin, well, he hasn’t changed a bit.

 Fifty years old and the poor guy still doesn’t get it – and probably never will. 

It would’ve done him a world of good to take the time to get to know himself and, most importantly, seek help.

 With a minimum of introspection, he would’ve woken up to his appalling behaviour and realized that nobody is trying to take anyone else’s place, especially not his. Would’ve been nice too if he could’ve shown more humility in his relations with others. He also could’ve gotten rid of the goofy nickname that his mommy no doubt gave him when he was a kid, to become once and for all CYRIL THE GREAT. 

What about me, you ask?

 I’m still here, taking things one step at a time whether “our friend” Tin-Tin likes it or not. 

You gave me a great experience “pal”, a really great experience.

 Tattooing did once belong to a certain group of people. Unfortunately today, some bad apples are fighting not to defend our profession but, through scheming and tactical manoeuvring, to control it from its very core. 

Yeah, Graphicaderme gives your skin a buzz. Thanks Tin-Tin!