Manu Farrarons: “It would be great to have a better appreciation and more respect for the Polynesian tattoos.”

Manu Farrarons is a Los Angeles based tattoo artist passionate about Marquesan tattoos, Tahitian, and Polynesian tattoo patterns and designs.

Every tattoo he does is an unique freehand creation, based on the wearer’s wishes, ideas, life and story.

Man wearing a tattoo on his back

  •        How did you get started and what inspired you to become a tattoo artist?

“My father was a tattoo artist and as a kid growing up in the industry, I always wanted to become a tattoo artist. So I started tattooing my friends when I was 15 years old in Tahiti, doing hand poke tattoos.

When I graduated high school, I asked my parents if I could start to learn how to tattoo professionally, but they refused and asked me to pursue my education. So I went to university and became a school teacher.

But in 1991, my father needed some help at his tattoo shop, so he started to teach me the tattoo techniques and the drawing of Polynesian symbols. Then I cumulated the 2 jobs for 12 years until I quit teaching and open my own tattoo studio in Papeete, Tahiti.”

Man weaaring a tattoo on his calf
Man wearing a tattoo on his back
  •     We know you travel a lot while tattooing. Can you tell us what are your favorite locations/countries that you’ve been to and why?

“I had the opportunity to tattoo in many countries in the world and honestly I loved every each of them. Which is very interesting is the fact that the clients’ requests are not the same from a country to another. As I am specialized in Polynesian style, their vision of it is different. Sometimes it leads to new challenges in terms of styles and placement which I appreciate to take.”

Woman wearing a tattoo on her back
Woman wearing a tattoo on her ribs
  • What are your main sources of inspiration and how would you describe your aesthetics?

“My main sources of inspiration are the traditional tattoo designs from the Marquesas Islands and from Tahiti. I studied them very seriously in Tahiti and Hawaii and I was one of the first of my generation to acquire that knowledge. But over the years I have created and developed my own styles based on traditional symbols.

I am the original creator of the flowy and girly Polynesian style for women. Because in the year 2000’s after the revival in French Polynesia, women in Tahiti started to want Polynesian tattoos but not as thick and bold as the ancient ones, I created that style. Over the years and because of the diffusion on the Internet of my tattoo design, my style became very popular and it has been copied and duplicated all over the world by many tattooists. 

The problem to me is that they copied tattoos that have been created specifically for their wearers with symbols and meanings related to their own life stories and many tattooists copied them without any knowledge regarding the symbols and meanings, which was a big mistake. Traditionally in Polynesia, one tattoo is unique to its wearer and can not be copied, it is TABU and in my opinion, a professional tattoo artist should know that and should refuse to copy any existing Polynesian tattoo. It’s a question of ethics and respect.”

Woman wearing a tattoo on her ribs
  • What are your favorite subjects to tattoo and what is your process when designing a piece?

“I love to tattoo the Polynesian style from my country French Polynesia. To me, the placement on the body is very important.

The tattoo has to follow, match and enhance the body shapes, curves and lines and it must look like it is natural and organic on the body. I really like working on women’s bodies with the flows of symbols because I have a very accurate sense of harmony with the flowy lines of symbols style I have created.

I always start with a discussion and I like my clients to tell me their story and everything they would like to represent in the tattoo with the traditional symbols.

Then I start to draw the tattoo freehand on the body, step by step, with the collaboration of my client. When the final design is approved, then I start to tattoo it.”

Tattoo on forearm
Woman wearing a tattoo on her shoulder
  • What’s been your favorite moment in your career, so far?

“My favorite moment is every time I see the smile of my clients when they discover their finished fresh tattoo in the mirror. This happens every day and I feel I am so lucky practicing this job!

The other satisfying moments were when I won prizes and honors in tattoo conventions. As a Polynesian tattoo artist, it is hard to compete for best of days or full sleeve or full back categories in tattoo competitions in front of realistic tattoos or other main styles.

Judges are not aware of the difficulty of drawing freehand a symmetrical design on the body and they are not aware of the knowledge needed to use the symbols to tell a story in the tattoo. So winning was recognition, not only for the quality of my work but also regarding the knowledge I have in my style.”

Tribal Tattoo
Tribal Tattoo
  • What do you like to do when you’re not tattooing? 

“I work a lot, so I don’t have much spare time. I take care, alone, of the appointment process for each client and it takes time. Otherwise, I like to escape in the nature, the ocean or the mountains, where I can relax. I also like to exercise to stay healthy and in shape. I love live music because I am also a bass player, but since I am living in LA I don’t play anymore in a band.”

Woman wearing a tattoo on her hip
  • What advice can you give to artists who are just starting out?

“I would say that is important to draw a lot, firstly, and try to define in early stages, an own style to specialize in. Also, I have noticed that many young tattoo artists lose their humility when they start to become successful. It is important to stay humble, respectful, and open-minded. Also, in my opinion, a tattoo artist will never stop learning. There are always new challenges to face and new techniques to learn.”

  • In the old days, tattooing used to be regarded like a sub-cultural activity, but now with all the social media apps, it seems to be more mainstream. What are your thoughts about that?

“We live with our time! Now the storefronts are on the Internet. We can reach people directly through social media to show our work. There are pros and cons: there is, indeed, more visibility, but it’s also easier for many tattoo artists to copy other’s work just by browsing on the web.”

Tribal Tattoo
Tribal Tattoo
  • What are your thoughts regarding tattoo trends like watercolor tattoos, embroidery tattoos etc.? We as tattoo aficionados, when we’re thinking about getting a new tattoo, should we follow the trends or should we stick to the established ones?

“A trend is a trend, but trends don’t last. I think it’s sad to get “the same” tattoo as a celebrity or anyone has; it makes no sense. Every person getting a tattoo should ask his artist to create something unique that no one else in the world has because we are all unique.”

Man wearing a tattoo on his shoulder
Woman wearing a tattoo on her forearm
  • A few tips on tattoo aftercare?

“Always listen to your tattoo artist’s instructions and use common sense regarding the hygiene.

Also, they are a few natural healing ointments without chemicals that would be better to use instead of the chemically formulated ones. I am currently working on a 100% natural and organic formula based on the traditional Polynesian healing plant extracts. It should be ready to launch on the market next year.”

Woman wearing a tattoo on her ribs
Tribal Tattoo
  • Talking about the tattoo industry, what would you like to see done differently in the future compared to now?

“To be honest, it would be great to have a better appreciation and more respect for the Polynesian tattoos.

I do educate people about it and its history and symbols because most of the people don’t know anything about it and just see an ornamental or “tribal” style.

It has cultural roots and it is very deep in human tattoo history. I don’t like when people categorize Polynesian as a “tribal tattoo” because it means nothing. Polynesian style is an ethnic traditional and cultural tattoo form. It is for sure evolving since its revival and it is more and more modernized but its essence remains ethnic and cultural, not “tribal”.

Also, I have noticed more and more politics in the tattoo convention competitions now. Sometimes, winning tattoos compared to others in the same competition shouldn’t have won in my opinion. What are the reasons? I don’t really know. 

Maybe the artist is a good friend of the organizer or the sponsor, or he has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media which give him the status of an “influencer” who can potentially boost the following of the conventions and sponsors on their social media, then they give him the prize… Sometimes it is so very obvious! A fair contest has to be based on the work quality and the aesthetic only. But on side of that, it is always fun to compete!”

Tribal Tattoo
Man wearing a tattoo on his shoulder

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