For Max, tattooing is above all a passion and only after that, a job.
With over 30 years of experience in the tattoo profession, Max makes the most of his artistic skills by creating one-off custom designs; discussing each customer's thoughts and ideas and moulding them into the perfect tattoo. Max's reputation for attention to detail, and perfecting designs to compliment both a client's request and their body-shape has afforded him a large customer base, the majority of whom return time and again to have their work extended. As well as specialising in portraiture and crisp-lined freehand tribal work, over the last few years Max has worked alongside Nimanoa Design creating unique Polynesian tattoos with deep meaning.
Notably, in 2008 Max's 24-hour tattoo marathon, which supported Tattoos for Troops, raised more than £3,000 for war veterans. Max, a former member of the Armed Forces, single-handedly ‘inked’ about 300 people with his specially designed poppy tattoo. To this day, serving men and women still come in and ask for the poppy!
Don't forget to check out our Video section to see Max's freehand skills in action!
Entrenched in the rich tapestry of Polynesian myth is the story of the Demi-God Siamese twins, Taema & Tilafaiga, born on the sacred island of Ta’u, the smallest and most westward of the four major Samoan islands. When they were grown, they told their father they wished to see more of the world; and he gave them his blessing along with a small magical stone.
They swam away from Ta'u, but strong currents caught them and they were suddenly at the mercy of a canoe bearing down upon them. The canoe struck them, severing their physical bond. Unimpeded, the now separated twins swam on to the island of Tutuila, where they became fierce, but fearing they may kill their own people they decided to travel further and so swam on to Fiji.
When they arrived on Fiji, they encountered two male tufuga (tattoo artists), Tufou and Filelei, who are on their way to work. The twins learned the practice of tatau from Tufou and Filelei, and are told to recite an incantation in memory of the two mentors, whenever they work:O Fi Filelei, like a necklace of whale’s teeth Aid us when we seek to get ready for war And Tufou, descended from the gods, aid us Adorn us with your victories
Tilafaiga and Taema then swim back to Samoa, this time to Savai'i, where Tilafaiga decides to remain as chief and war goddess. She tells her sister Taema,“You are to go back to the island of Tutuila and dwell. There you will practice tatau. When you are tattoing, remember me and you will prosper.I will remain here to do my work, which is fighting. You must remain neutral in the business of war. By and by, when war reaches our country you must remain neutral, you must turn your back on our family on Ta’u, but keep your front toward me. If you do not, you will be overcome with vines.” Taema returned to the island of Tutuila where she practiced tatau.
|tat·too ta-'tü (transitive verb) to mark or colour (the skin) with indelible pigment Origin: Tahitian tatau, noun, tattoo c1769
Polynesian tattooing began over 2000 years ago and, with each island group adopting it's own style, is as diverse as the people who wear them. Once widespread in Polynesia, the arrival of western missionaries in the 19th century forced this unique art form into decline. Although Christian religious beliefs vilified the tatau as unholy, and much information was lost, some Polynesian tattoo artists preserved this vital link to their culture's history by continuing to practice.
Traditionally Samoan tattooing was undertaken by the tapping method; using a tool, called the au, made of wood, teeth & shell, the artist would literally 'tap' the pigment into the skin. This method of application was slow and very painful, but to shy away was to risk being labeled a pala'ai or coward. The Maori, as well as pigment, chiseled designs into the skin using a bone chisel. First, deep cuts were engraved into the skin, then the chisel was dipped into a soot based pigment such as burnt Kauri gum or burnt vegetable caterpillars, and then tapped into the cut. The Marquesan peoples, of the Marquesas island group, were probably the most extensively tattooed; with both men & women displaying tattoos from head to toe. Their designs, heavily geometric in patternwork, were documented by early Western explorers and we are lucky to have this referencing today.
Today the art lives on not only in Polynesian, but has been widely accepted into Western culture also due to the attractive patternwork & deep meaning. It is important to note here that there are many elements Westerners should not wear due to their sacred meaning.
Tattooing, for health considerations, is undertaken in modern studios with electric machines; however it is still possible to arrange a tradtional tatau, in Polynesia, by the tapping method. We advise anyone interested in this to research thoroughly & arrange before they travel.
Emma, of Nimanoa Design, creates unique Polynesian hand drawn tattoos that tell a story upon your skin, using a strong knowledge of Polynesian culture, history, mythology and creative design.
Traditional tattoos from Melanesia, Polynesia & the Philippine islands all have a common ancestral origin and therefore carry many of the same meanings despite looking somewhat different to each other. The Philippine Batok, with its distinctive lines and dots to the chest; customary Melanesian tattooing of women after marriage; Maori Ta Moko, carved with a chisel like instrument called the uhi; Samoan Pe'a (male) and Malu (female), with their sharp, linear patterns; and the heavy dark blocks motifs of the Marquesan people all play their part in the parentage of the modern day Polynesian tattoo. Crossover of design between the islands is not uncommon, and examples of this can be seen in early Marquesan ornaments such as the otipi, which bear a resemblance in style to Maori elements.
Polynesian tattoo design drew upon the nature and culture that surrounded its peoples for inspiration; often following the visual shapes of the plants and animals that were part of everyday life. Many elements translate easily, for example the ocean & waves into journeys of life; ferns and unfurled ferns (koru) for life, new life, new beginnings; the fish hook (hei matau) for bringing prosperity and success; and ancestral markers like enata for support and protection. Cultural imagery such as weaving or braid, and spearheads are also used in the designs, creating meanings for family, strength and much more.
Put simply, the Polynesian tattoo is a storyboard upon the skin, and yet these stories were not undertaken lightly and held deep rooted meaning for both the wearer and the community.
There are important things to consider as a non-Polynesian when choosing to have this kind of work done, and the historical, tribal and sacred implications must be taken into account so as not to offend tribal heritage in any way.
If you choose to have your design with Nimanoa, you choose to invest in a respectful design drawn specifically for you, that can tell the story of your life, your achievements, aspirations and ideals; the story of who you are.
Emma works alongside Max's Tattoo Studio, and the partnership of designer & freehand tattoo artist works in harmony from first consultation through to the finished piece. Please be aware that as all designs are hand drawn and coloured, the process can take some time. At this point in time, Nimanoa Design does not release designs for sale without tattoo; this is how we manage to keep our design prices so very low.
Please note that whilst I am always happy to take a telephone enquiry, I will usually then ask clients to email relevant information to form an enquiry record. The consultation and design process for clients who live any distance away will often continue in this manner.
One of our studio specialities is cover-ups and repairs of old or unwanted tattoos and even scars; and one of the most common opening lines we hear from people as they walk into our studio is 'I've been everywhere and they've all said it can't be done but...' ...they thought they'd ask one last time.
Almost 100% of the time, the answer is yes, of course it can be done!
There are a few things about cover ups that we think should be expressed to our customers before they venture down this road. Firstly, once you have had your old tattoo covered up, it is unlikely that the design, or the skin, will be able to take another full cover, so please be very sure of what you want on you this time. Secondly, cover-ups take longer to tattoo than having a tattoo on fresh skin, so be prepared for longer, or more sittings, and a higher cost. Thirdly, it can be a little more painful to be tattooed over a current tattoo. Lastly, whilst it is possible to get very light designs over a heavier, darker tattoo, please be aware that generally the design you have to cover the old one will be slightly larger and darker in appearance.
It is important to note here that there is of course an alternative option - laser removal. It is our experience that this is does not come with guaranteed success, can be very costly, and with numerous sittings spread out over time to allow the skin to heal, it also takes a lot longer to achieve a good result. We do not undertake laser removal at our studio.
We encourage anyone seeking advice to come and see us in person. Due to the nature of the work, this is unfortunately a process that is very limited for discussion via email or phone, we do need to see your current tattoo in the flesh!
Our Work We believe the best opinions are your own, after seeing what Max can do. So please do take a look at our portfolio, where you can see some examples of before & after.
Max is a very skilled portrait artist, able to 'copy' a photograph onto a client's skin in fine detail. Using his extensive knowledge of perspective, shading and anatomical construction he can achieve and outstanding result. Max does not only do this for tattooing, he also creates on paper by commission. Please note: We do not upload photos of portraits as they are quite personal to the wearer. Portrait examples may be seen in studio only.
Retro, Japanese & Other Styles
With many years of skilled tattooing in his pocket, Max is able to take on all styles of tattoo with ease. From the geometric shapes of blackwork and curvy colourful Retro, right through to flowing Japanese vistas; we can offer you the same great service and results on your custom work with us.
Max's Tattoo Studio is a small independent studio, staffed by Max (Tattoo Artist & Studio Owner) and Emma (Polynesian Designer & Studio Manager), who cater to the custom tattoo market. We only take one client per day, thereby offering our complete attention. There is free parking nearby, a cafe and a few local convenience shops if needed; and we are not far from the local train station & bus route. The reception area is open and friendly, and is where you will fill in your consent form and wait to be called through for your tattoo. Most of our clients' appointments are long sittings, therefore we offer free tea & coffee, and toilet facilities.
We use only the highest quality inks, and disposable single-use consumables. We follow strict cleaning processes every day for the tattoo equipment, studio furniture, and the studio itself. We only use single-use, sterilised needles; and all clients are shown the sealed needles to be used on you before work begins.
At our studio, we prefer a more relaxed atmosphere; if a client needs to stop for a break, stretch their legs, take a phone-call etc, we are happy to accommodate them. If a client would like to bring a book to read, or mp3 player to listen to etc, we are quite happy with this. We do allow you to bring a friend to accompany you, however we ask you to limit that to one person for space reasons.
You are more than welcome to view the studio before deciding to come to us for your tattoo.
Customer service is important to us here at Max's Tattoo Studio, and we take pride in our work and the satisfaction of the customer. For this reason, we offer a courtesy after-care service of a free check and touch-up of your tattoo about two to three weeks after its initial application.
The studio runs an appointment system for tattoo sittings, and we are happy to advise you on any aspect of your tattoo and after-care. Should you wish to discuss your ideas with us, feel free to just drop us an email or phonecall. Opening times vary.
Our Code of Ethics
At Max's Tattoo Studio, we firmly believe that quality, service and health considerations are the most important factors in the philosophy of tattooing.
We believe that practitioners should uphold and advance the integrity, honour and dignity of the art and profession of body art by:
- using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of the skin as an artist's and collector's canvas.
- being honest, impartial and serving with fidelity the client's interests.
- striving to increase the competence and prestige of the body arts profession, and by supporting the professional and technical societies of our profession.
- using equipment and accessories, employing techniques and procedures, and performing services in accordance with the accepted standard of practice, while demonstrating high levels of expertise.
All our resident and visiting artists agree to:
- conduct themselves in a professional manner, respond to the client's needs and support colleagues in providing a quality service in line with health and safety standards.
- maintain the requirements dictated by the studio's public liability and indemnity insurances.
- never practice tattooing and/or body piercing where such insurances are not in force.
- never say, or carry out any word or action by deed or inference as to bring our studio into disrepute.
- be aware at all times of the duty of care towards any client.
- to preserve the client's right to anonymity and privacy; ensuring written permission is given for any form of publication or photo.
- ensure all certificates, letters of accreditation and licenses are displayed
In line with local and national guidelines for tattoo studios, we have policies and paperwork applicable to the industry.
Before your visit, please click if you wish to read our Data Protection Policy, or our Consent Policy.
If you have not had a tattoo before and are unsure of possible allergies to the tattoo inks we use, we are happy to provide you with a copy of the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each ink. The MSDS lists contents and known hazards. If you have very sensitive skin, we would suggest a very small dot test on your skin to check for reaction before you commit to a full design. We are happy to do this for booked customers, by appointment.
Our latest video presentations; with thanks to our customers and all those who helped with the editing and final productions.
More coming soon!
a: 342 High Street, Aldershot, Hampshire GU12 4LU
t: 01252 330027
Please note: Opening times are varied; we recommend calling before you travel if you wish to come in and see us!
Emma & Max
- From the M3 take junction onto the A331 towards Farnborough & Aldershot.
- Follow A331 and exit at: Ash/Tongham/Aldershot Military Town South.
- Take 3rd exit at the roundabout A323 to Aldershot town centre.
- Follow this road through traffic lights until you come to mini-roundabout.
- Take a left at the mini-roundabout onto Church Hill.
- Parking is easiest on this street as parking outside the studio is restricted to 1 hour only.
- Walk back down the hill and turn left at the bottom, cross at the pedestrian crossing and turn left again towards the town centre; the studio is before the Jet garage.
By Public Transport
Bus service numbers 3 (Yateley), 20 (Guildford), and 46 (Farnham) all serve the route past the studio. Ask for Manor Park; as you see the Jet garage on the left-hand side, press the bell. The studio is situated just at this bus stop.
The studio is only a short 15-20 minute walk from Aldershot town centre, bus station, and train station. Follow the signs to Aldershot Town FC, when the FC is in front of you, turn right and keep walking down that road. You will see the Jet garage on your left-hand side, walk past this, over the side-road and the studio is on the left in the next bank of housing.