A classy reception area avoids the dodgy ambience associated with many tattoo parlours. Photo by MIRANDA GLASSER
A new tattoo parlour, Lex Roulor Tattoo Shop, has joined the ranks of funky little establishments on The Lane, the alleyway parallel to Pub St.
The tattoo shop is above Blush Boutique, and is run by Frenchman Olivier Roulin. Before the move he ran his business from a small converted storage room on X Bar’s rooftop.
His airy new premises, formerly the site of Uberoum yoga studio, is air-conditioned and its piece de resistance is a 5 metre boat from Tonlé Sap which Roulin has converted into a sofa. This will be the reception area, which also contains a flat-screen TV.
The walls are decorated with stylishly presented examples of Roulin’s tattoo artwork, ranging from a flowing-haired gypsy maiden with a rose in her hair to quirky designs such as a flamingo wearing a crown and holding a sceptre.
Off to the side, a smaller room is set up for tattooing. “It’s a separate room so it’s very hygienic because it is not open to the rest of the shop,” says Roulin.
Having developed a passion for drawing from the age of six, Roulin worked in various professions including graphic design before training in Brussels to become a professional tattoo artist.
“For years I’d been forgetting about drawing,” says Roulin. “Because of opportunities or out of necessity I hadn’t been able to draw for a living for a very long time. So four years ago I decided I would go back to it. I was getting involved in tats. I got a couple myself and it was like, why didn’t you think of this before? So I just started doing it.”
Roulin – aka Lex Roulor, a childhood nickname – specialises in old school, travel and maritime-themed tattoo as well as realistic style and dot-work. He himself sports a pirate ship, a shark and three octopuses.
“I am extremely inspired by the old school tattoos. Everything from the sea – I love it because the sea is synonymous with travel, voyage, odyssey – which I have here”, he says, pointing to the word inked on his right arm.
“At the same time I’m extremely interested in dot-work. You have a lot of very geometrical shapes and instead of shading you have a concentration of black dots. The more dots you have the darker it is.”
Roulin feels it is important to be unique and eschews the idea of tattoo flash – generic designs in a catalogue from which customers can choose. Instead, he displays his own drawings which clients can look to for inspiration.
“What I’m always telling my customers is, if they want a flash – get it customised.”
Khmer writing is the most requested tattoo design in Temple Town, and Roulin says the majority of his clients are tourists or short-term volunteers.
Prices range from $50 up to $500 for a more complex tattoo.
“I always spend a bit of time with my customers,” Roulin says. “Chatting, understanding, designing, drawing. All my supplies also have a cost: electricity, the needles – only disposable ones – the ink. Every time it’s a personal approach.”
He admits he will draw the line (no pun intended) on certain requests if he thinks they won’t look good or if it’s a bad idea. Similarly he won’t tattoo inebriated or “dodgy” people.
Roulin places great importance on hygiene and says that 80 per cent of being hygienic in a tattoo shop is the attitude.
As well as tattooing, Roulin is passionate about the street on which his new shop resides. He sees The Lane as a refreshing escape from Pub St and “among the nicest and most chilled areas in Siem Reap, but also very under-rated.”
Along with some fellow local businesses he plans to develop the area in the coming months, improving street lighting and signage among other things.
“There is a bit of team spirit in the place which is cool,” he says. “A sense of community always makes people stronger. So the area should be promoted as very nice, comfortable, away from the hustle and bustle of Pub St, quieter and a bit more family-oriented.
“In the next few weeks almost all the shop-owners are going to gather and we’re going to work on improving the visuals, mobility and communication, to attract more people.”