French street artist Flori Green has made Southeast Asia her canvas, and now she’s bringing that canvas to life. Fusing original design with traditional Cambodian techniques, she’s created a stick-and-poke tattoo style that’s quickly become popular among fellow expats.
“The technique is very simple and very ancient,” Green says. She uses a needle in place of bamboo as the primary instrument. Without a tattoo gun, the process takes a little bit longer. But Green’s geometric shapes and creative shading have drawn her nearly 50 customers since she started four months ago.
Green has been travelling the region with an open-ended plan. She’s a self-trained artist. Laughing, she says she tends to lay her future in fate’s hands, and it’s this attitude that led her to place needle to skin for the first time.
“I didn’t have access to a tattoo gun, and my friend – who wanted a tattoo – was convinced I would figure something out,” Green says. Soon, she found a market: those on the hunt for something a little more abstract than Khmer or Buddhist designs.
In Western eyes, “traditional” Khmer tattoos tend to mean sak yant, the designs that can be seen inked on the skin of backpackers and Angelina Jolie alike. They are believed to protect the wearer with magic. However, their application is supposed to be performed by monks and masters alone.
Artists like Green like the aesthetic. “I like that hand-poked tattoos are done only with dots,” she says. “It creates a very organic look.”
Green says she plans to continue combining her two loves: art and travel. Tattooing, she says, differs from street art in a number of ways (and not just the size of the canvas).
“Painting is alone, but a tattoo is a process of sharing ideas and collaboration. It opens new ideas and inspiration,” she says.
Flori Green will be hosting a special hand-poke tattoo session in honour of Halloween this Saturday at Show Box, #11 Street 330, from 2pm. There’s no appointment necessary.
Luckily, for those who aren’t keen to make such a permanent change to their appearance for the foreign holiday, there are plenty of opportunities to dress up. DJ Guesthouse and Lounge will kick things off on Friday with a Halloween-themed open mic. (Costume? Best musician, “dead or alive”.) Show Box, which hosts its annual party on Saturday, prefers its dress-up celebrities just plain dead.
On the weekend, there are celebrations with varying levels of seriousness and venue: from Oskar Bistro to Oscar Bar, and Russian Market to Rokku.