Growing up in the '90's alternative scene, Cal (@caljenx) spent his childhood watching skateboarding, listening to music, and falling in love with tattoo culture. He has now been tattooing for 11 years and has developed his own unique style that takes inspiration from Japanese and Contemporary art. He has just started his newest and most exciting project; 'The Workhouse' which he describes as a clubhouse where friends can hang out and be creative.
He was kind enough to share some words about his journey and what it's like running the coolest club in Sheffield.
As a 90’s kid I understand you watched a lot of skate films. Who was your favourite skater and did you ever skate?
Skateboarding I never had idols, there was never a favourite. I think it’s much more the culture and freedom I was attracted to. These guys/girls who throw themselves down stairs over and over again until they master what it is they are trying to achieve, then when they do it. Everyone on their team is going wild and sharing in their success! A good tattoo team can be like that, we are all trying to master our craft and being your teammates biggest fans is really important when working with others.
After spending a couple of years in Holland during your childhood have you been back? What is the tattoo scene like over there?
Yeah, I used to regularly visit Holland, Amsterdam, Breda mostly. Great scene over there, much like their culture they are efficient, clean and humble. It’s been a while with all this Covid stuff happening but I’ll be back over and travelling around as soon as I can.
I can see a lot of Japanese influence in your work. What first drew you to this style and how did you adapt it to make it your own?
Over the years I found myself falling down the pattern work route. I was known for that for most of my career but, simply out of being alright at it and it becoming the thing people wanted off of me, but I was always interested in Japanese from the start. That was something I aimed for but there seemed little demand for it in my small village I started off in. After going through a tough phase in my life, I had to rebuild myself and focus on what made me happy so I stripped everything back and focused on one thing at a time. One of these things was going back to my roots of studying Japanese, but with that was an influence of patterns and textures, black work and contemporary styling.
Could you tell us a bit about The Workhouse?
The Workhouse, where to start.. It began as a warehouse, now it’s a clubhouse.. it’s where we hang out, party, tattoo, create and have an all round fun time with our friends and family! It’s got a workshop, tattoo studio, shop, event space and even arcade corner! The focus was to create a space where we could embrace the value of community and at the same time create something new as far as getting a tattoo experience!
How much work goes into opening and running your own studio? What challenges have you faced?
Opening a studio is the easy work, making a great studio is something else. Hurdles, we couldn’t have opened at a worst time for what we wanted with Covid closing us down for months on end and not being able to hold events. We have persevered and fortunately it’s paying off, but yeah it’s hard maintaining a studio. Growing it and not losing the love for what you have created. I think surrounding yourself more with people you love and having a fun time with them strengthens a studio over the level of tattoos that come out of it and if people are happy they make better tattoos!
Can you still guest now that you run the workhouse and if so have you got anywhere cool planned?
I do guests sometimes but not a lot because I have a lot going on here, but I’m going to Red Point in London soon. I like tattooing abroad too so I will when we are back able to travel more.
Be sure to check out more of Cal's work and keep your eyes peeled for any of the awesome events The Workhouse might be throwing.