Jeroen Franken is a tribal tattoo artist from Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
We talk with him in his shop “seven seas tattoos” about the book he made with us, his travels and his views and ideas on tribal tattooing.
The first tattoo Jeroen has made was deep in the jungles of Borneo doing research on the tattoos of the Iban (the biggest ethnic tribe in Sarawak). The reason being that he found no reference that served the deeper meaning of what had been called ‘tribal tattoos’. When he finished writing a book by the name of ‘Pantang Iban’, with Sven Torfinn as a photographer, Jeroen apprenticed professionally at Hanky Panky Tattoo in Amsterdam. Serving a couple of years for the master and learning tremendously from Michel Thieme, a.k.a. Captain Caveman, he set sail to round the world three times.
During his travels he has worked with many tattooers and woodcarvers, setting foot on New Zealand, Borneo, Phillipines, Fiji, Samoa and Hawaiian soil. What once started out as a voyage, before he started tattooing, has taken Jeroen deep into the art of passion called tattooing.
Along the way, Jeroen has developped a deep fascination for the tattoos of ethnic cultures. By saying ‘ethnic cultures’ he is not only refering to the in the western world so called ‘bounty islands’ (thanks to James Cook, John Rutterford and Krusenstern), but also the western world of tattooing.
It was but a mere 5000 year old mummie being tattooed was discovered on the boundaries of Switserland and Italy, that made him realise that tattoos had been omnipresent. Likewise with all cultures, tattooing has developped over generations into what we tattoo today. Some of us call upon our ancestors to start our voyage into being tattooed, by means of dreams, chanting, being a sailor or traveller, or being the next in line. Some of the clients Jeroen tattoos just have a fond appreciation for a certain style. Any which way, in the end all Jeroen believes is that we can do our best at what we are good at. When we educate, or plant a seed, worlds tend to live on no matter what part of the world one lives on.