Molly Skobba: Colin Kenji Baker
By Molly Skobba
Colin Kenji Baker started off his remarkable career as a tattoo artist at State of Grace as Horitaka’s apprentice. He has worked at State of Grace ever since, instrumental in the shop’s growth for the last 4 years. Colin has done everything from making killer tattoos to passionately assisting Horitaka in his many media and publishing endeavors. Colin is a hard worker. His latest passion is tattoo machine design. I have a short Q & A with Colin. He is a quiet soldier instrumental in the State of Grace Army, read on…
Molly Skobba: How long have you been tattooing?
Colin Kenji Baker: About four years.
How would you describe your style?
I would like to describe my style as versatile. I hope I can. I really work hard to be able to do anything that walks in the door well, whether it be Japanese, traditional, or fine-line black and gray.
Who influences your work?
Everyone I work with influences me the most; Horitomo, Horitaka, Horiyuki, Horiken and Dan Wysuph.
You went to the London convention last year, what was the highlight?
The last dinner I went to was amazing. It was an awesome Chinese restaurant with a bunch of awesome people. It was a perfect way to finish the trip.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career so far?
The biggest challenge so far has actually been the whole process, from apprenticeship until now, and trying to do it right. I love tattooing, and I believe it is more than just about putting in a good solid tattoo. I think it is very important to keep traditions and to uphold certain standards and ideals in tattooing. Many other young tattooers are starting to tattoo looking for fame and glory because of the bullshit they see on TV, which really bums me out. I strongly believe you have to put in the hard work to be worthy of this craft; the countless hours of drawing, searching for BOOKS for reference, understanding the tools and knowing and understanding who and what has come before you.
How is the machine building coming? Will there be any Colin Kenji Baker machines in the future?
I have always loved taking things apart and figuring out how they work, so naturally I was drawn to machine building. I have so much fun building machines. I was in London a few years ago and I was out to dinner with a big group of people and heard Tim Hendricks talking about machines and the importance of knowing how they work and building them from scratch.
Upon hearing this I felt inspired and I felt a little unworthy that I didn’t know how to build a machine, so I decided to take it upon myself to learn. Taki had given me a few machines that never ran very well when I first started, so I began to constantly rebuild them, taking note of what I did and how it affected the performance each time. I had basic welding and mechanical knowledge and skills already, so eventually (very recently) I began to build machines from scratch. I learn so much with every new machine, and as a result each machine gets better and better. Eventually, when I’m 100 percent confident with my machines, I will start to build them to sell.
Do you have a piece that you have wanted to do on someone who you have never had the chance to tattoo before? If so, what is it?
Nothing in particular, I would like to do more traditional pieces. I love the boldness of the designs, they make for very successful tattoos that age great.