“Anything you do in this life doesn’t just affect you, it affects others as well. It’s your responsibility to take everyone with you on a journey towards a better place.”Andy Pho, SDT.

Angkorian Bodysuit

When we first decided we were going to do a body suit, we both already knew it was going to have Cambodian imagery from the ancient temples and statues at Siem Reap. It turns out that a lot of this imagery dates back to the period of the Angkorian empire, from around the 8th to 15th century era, which is now most of Southeast Asia. I allowed him complete freedom to use any imagery for any part of the body. It wasn’t until I saw the imagery that I began to do research on these little known statues and found the meaning and stories behind the various figures. Robert already had a lot of imagery he wanted to use as tattoos before, now was his opportunity to bring them together as a full body suit. He always showed me the pictures, gave me options, and wanted to know what I thought. I would always be surprised and enthusiastic about the pictures he chose.

So far on my body the right sleeve consists of Narasimha and different Apsara. The left sleeve consists of Vishnu, Garuda, Naga snakes, Apsara, and Buddha. Front panel consists of Kala on the chest, Figure on both ribs is Bhrama. The neck has two Apsaras and a demon king. My favorite piece so far is on my back, which is Hayagriva who is seen slaying two demons. We wanted to use a variety of images that were visually compelling that told stories of both good and bad. Such is the struggle of life.

“We are capable of so much more than we think.” – Andy Pho

7 days + 43 hours

“In some of the most well agreed upon painful parts of the body. ”

Mind over matter used to be a very cliche saying. But after those seven days, I completely agree with that statement. The number one thing that got me through those seven days was the audio book by navy seal and ultra marathon runner David Goggins, “Can’t Hurt Me”. It took me the first three days to finish the audio book, but once finished, I knew without a doubt that I was going to get through the rest of the week, and any other adversity in life. This book taught me how to go deep into the recesses of my mind, open up to my own vulnerabilities and face them head on. It solidified the idea that we are capable of so much more than we think.

After the final wipe, what was the first thing you said and did?

Do you have an appointment tomorrow? Because I feel like I can keep going. It was truly an amazing feeling knowing that I just sat through 7 days of tattooing. Also getting to see the kind of coverage that Robert was able to achieve in that time.

We have followed your progression over the past few years since we first met at SDT in Las Vegas. What kept you focused and inspired you to grow as a tattooer, as well as an individual?

I believe it was the pressure of working alongside my brother and the need to make him proud of the type of work I was doing. Also knowing that I moved far away from NY, leaving most of my family that was still there, my girlfriend of 5 years, who is now my wife, and really deciding that this is what I wanted to do everyday. It was necessary for me to commit with a do or die attitude towards tattooing.

Was there a specific moment where you recognized a big change in your work?

There were many different phases of growth, all significant in their own ways, however the single biggest change came from a moment when I was doing a pencil drawing of a portrait at the shop. Fernie Andrade, who was working with us at Skin Design then, is a well respected tattoo artist and is consistently a big inspiration to me. He walked in to see what I was doing and I wanted his honest feedback, criticism of what it looked like and what I could have done to make it better. It was there in his elaborate wording to be able to explain in the simplest terms the way to use dark tones against light tones to create control over the contrast that will allow your work to pop out. It was expressed in a way that I wasn’t able to grasp before. That was a light bulb moment for me and I immediately stopped the drawing. I needed time to absorb and analyze the information and went right into tattooing. That forever changed my tattooing aesthetics.

Can you share with us a personal story of one of your journeys traveling to tattoo and the tattoo you designed. How did it shape you? Change your perspective?

In March 2016, I had a client that booked three back to back days to get tattooed in Costa Mesa, California at the Musink Festival. It was my first time working with Michael and he wanted to do a half sleeve of the story behind Perseus. I was a bit skeptical booking a client for three days in a row. But after seeing him power through and maintain his composure, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of a higher pain tolerance that clients can be capable of having. Since learning about that experience, it’s become a normal practice for our clients to book 2, 3, or even 4 days back to back to make progress on their tattoos.

We are familiar with how you and your brother met in NYC from our HOUSEINK interview with Robert a few years back. Curious what was it like for you, meeting him for the first time? From your POV.

Meeting him for the first time was like seeing an older version of my dad. My dad was always clean cut, and seeing my brother for the first time he did have longer hair and a beard. When he walked through the door he had a lot of features that reminded me of my dad. It was a very surreal experience. It was the first time I saw someone that heavily tattooed. When I saw the big block letters, P H O, across his stomach, my first impression was “DAMN, I didn’t know any represented that hard!” That wasn’t a common sight for me and I knew I wanted my first tattoo to be our last name on my back.

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