If you’ve ever met a tatted chef in Bangkok, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve been inked, at least once, by Luke Satoru. The half-Thai, half-Japanese New York native has built a dedicated base of customers in the capital with his meticulous and vastly varying ability, which is revealed through life-lasting depictions of family members, flowers, or even cartoonish characters. Satoru’s first foray tattooing began when he was 15 at Khao San Road, a street notorious for its inexpensive and accessible shops that make it far too easy to justify a 2 am ink sess. For some, such a visit could result in a somewhat regrettable elephant tattoo. For Satoru, it sparked a passion (and, a tattoo that he is yet to regret). By 19, artistically apt and inspired, Satoru began inking friends in New York where he eventually began working in film-production, textile design, and jewelry design before taking on the role as a full-time tattooer.
Eminently chill and notably humble, Satoru is the type of artist who seems to be able to do it all. His all-encompassing talents range from murals to wire art, while his tattoo work exhibits a level of artistry that seems to go beyond the boundaries of their image. “I find bursts of creativity from travel, sticking to a healthy routine of waking early and doing something productive, this could be drawing or even riding my motorcycle before most folks have woken up. Activities that force me to be present help clear my mind and allow ideas to surface,” says Satoru.
His venerable tattoo parlor, Black Pig, which recently relocated to from Charoenkrung to Tha Tian by Wat Pho, feels more like a cool creative space than a business, with drawings and murals tastefully covering the walls and Satoru’s music of choice playing in the background. “Moving the shop to Tha Tian, right next to Wat Pho, provides us a lifetime of inspiration visually and through the charming laid-back atmosphere that so greatly contrasts to the distracting and jarring city center,” Satoru says.
Unlike many tattoo artists, Satoru’s tattooing styles seems all-encompassing. “Our motto is ‘custom and classic’. We provide a variety of styles based on the customer’s taste,” he says. Find clients leaving Black Pig with everything from an ultra fine-lined, coin-sized image of a bee to a beautifully detailed neo-traditional tiger. But the evidence of Satoru’s specialization in Thai and Japanese art is blatantly evident in his murals and paintings. On a wall at beloved locavore restaurant 80/20, the artist has created a vast Thai-style mural that fuses expressionist elements that are both daring and compelling. “My heritage and international upbringing allows me to pull from a lot of visual resources with a level of authenticity but not limited by tradition. I'm Thai Japanese American so by nature it's progressive.”
For the noticeably composed and eloquent artist, respect and trust make up the foundation of his business. A haven of sorts, Black Pig is a space where guests are ensconced in creative possibility heightened by the vulnerability of their act. “A pig can't change the fact that it's a pig but through tattoos, it gets to elect what kind of pig it wants to be,” says Satoru. “The decision to change our appearance, endure the process of getting tattooed and the joy in actualizing our ideas is empowering. That's the power of tattooing for me.”
Written by Veronica Inveen
Photograhy by Somdej Luengthaviboon