In-Demand Artist Only Inks Followers With ‘Meaningful Tattoos’
Yudhistira Agato (The Jakarta Post)
Sun January 23, 2022
With hundreds of potential clients rushing to have her work tattooed on their bodies, tattoo artist Mulie Addlecoat remains witty in her approach.
Mulie Addlecoat, tattoo artist and owner of Tatorigami tattoo parlor in South Jakarta, has a spiritual approach to her art. Well known for his traditional American and Japanese tattoo designs, especially in the unique form of origami, Mulie, 39, has no problem rejecting projects or proposals from potential clients that don’t fit this en what he believes in: making tattoos meaningful.
“I turned down so many people who wanted a tattoo for no reason other than the cool factor,” said Mulie, who doesn’t use her real name professionally. “A lot of people didn’t get it at first and thought, ‘Why would you refuse money?'”
For the Soul: After going through life-altering experiences, tattoo artist Mulie Addlecoat approaches her art spiritually. (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat) (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat)
Still, Mulie has never run out of customers and has almost always sold out a year ahead in recent years. This means that even if clients have made an appointment, they must wait at least six months before getting a tattoo from Mulie.
“In 2019, I got 177 emails in six minutes,” Mulie said. “I can only do about 70 projects a year, so I had to reject the rest.”
According to Mulie, the open booking system and long wait also filtered out his potential clients, leaving him to work only with people who believe in his craft and philosophy.
“Those who are willing to wait a year have usually done their research and know what my design looks like. They want to get tattooed specifically by me,” Mulie said.
Born into a traditional Chinese-Indonesian family in the small town of Meulaboh, Aceh, before moving to Jakarta at the age of 9, Mulie (not her birth name) was drawing even before entering the maternal.
“I would like to watch [Japanese] robot cartoons such as Volta V and Voltron and try to draw them based on memory,” he recalls.
However, his family always tried to discourage him from pursuing art and urged him to focus on business instead.
“Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, art isn’t seen as something that can make money, so everyone always told me to stop drawing.”
When Mulie was adamant about studying design at Bina Nusantara (Binus) University in Jakarta, her father made some hurtful comments that still affect her today.
“It happened during my third semester. I was drawing and my father said to me ‘Why do you draw? Who said you were good at this? You wanna be a street performer, huh? Do you know how much they are paid? 5,000 rupees [35 US cents]!””
Inspired: Mulie says her clients’ stories and ideas for their tattoos become her fuel and inspiration (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat) (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat)
After watching Swedish action actor Dolph Lungren’s character in the action movie red scorpio, Mulie became obsessed with tattooing.
At the age of 18, Mulie got her first tattoo in a modest salon near his home. cost (rooming house) for Rp 300,000.
“It’s three Celtic dogs right in the middle of my stomach,” he laughed. “My Shio [Chinese zodiac] is a dog and I love Vikings. I put it there so my family couldn’t see it; more Naruto [ a Japanese anime character] has one in the exact spot.”
Naturally, Mulie felt really cool about having a tattoo, but soon realized it wasn’t well drawn. He would save money before getting a better tattoo years later.
“I felt so cool. But when I showed it to my friends, one of them said, “It’s terrible, the lines aren’t even.”
Become a tattoo artist
In 2009, Mulie flew to a convention in Singapore to get a tattoo. He ended up having an octopus made by Taiwanese artist Diau-an. After five hours, they had to stop and resume the session the next day. Much to Mulie’s surprise, Diau-an was nowhere to be found the following afternoon as he apparently had to return to his home country due to a personal issue.
Mulie was left with two choices: wait as long as he meets Diau-an again or complete the tattoo himself.
“I mean, it was almost done, just missing a few tentacles, so I thought it should be easy; I would just buy a tattoo machine, some ink and end up on my own,” Mulie thought.
It was not easy.
Mulie ended up doing an apprenticeship with influential Jakarta-based (now Bali-based) tattoo artist Sonnee Ho. After a few months, Mulie got comfortable with using the machine and found her new calling.
Long waiting list: Even if you have made an appointment, you will have to wait at least six months before you can get a tattoo from Mulie. (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat) (Personal collection/Courtesy of Mulie Addlecoat)
When she started out as a part-time professional tattoo artist, Mulie only got two or three clients a month. Business was slow. Then to make matters worse, in 2012, Mulie had to deal with the death of three members of her family, including her father, her beloved dog, as well as the bankruptcy of her own advertising agency.
“At the time, I wanted to give up on life,” Mulie recalls. “I became so traumatized by the funeral home that every night I was having a panic attack, running to my wife and daughter to make sure they were still breathing.”
In her depression, Mulie distracted herself by learning as much as she could about tattoos. One night he saw Stan Lee’s 2010 documentary With great power: the story of Stan Lee, in which the legendary comic book artist, on the verge of failure, was advised by his wife to create something he loved, adding that he had nothing to lose.
The documentary inspired Mulie. The words of Stan Lee’s wife stuck in his head. Mulie started putting all that time and energy into her craft.
“I treated every tattoo like it was my last. I was like crazy,” he said.
Word of mouth started to spread and the rest is history. In 2018, Mulie was doing so well that he left his own agency to pursue tattooing full time.
Fuel and Inspiration
These difficult life events, according to Mulie, changed him as a person and in the way he approaches everything he does. It was almost like a rebirth.
“If I had decided to take my life back then, I would not have experienced the miracles of life as I did. It was a process that I had to go through and it became something meaningful to me. A lot of my clients enjoy life and that gave me the motivation to give them the best tattoo,” Mulie said.
After years of practice, Mulie said her clients’ stories and ideas for their tattoos become her fuel and inspiration.
“A guy came to me and said he wanted a koi tattoo. After our conversation, I found out he quit smoking the day his son was born, so if anything happened [to his son], his blood would be viable for transfusion. He wanted to be a better person,” Mulie recalled. “It fits because the legend says that a koi would swim upstream using its willpower before transforming into a dragon, a better version of itself. If it was just another koi tattoo, I don’t think I would have done it. I had done hundreds of koi [fish] at the moment.”
Many of Mulie’s clients have come to him with very personal and deep tattoo projects, some couldn’t even tell their own friends or family members. Release of his first e-book titled painted souls, Mulie shares some of these stories in the form of memoirs.
Mulie said he still very much enjoys his journey as a tattoo artist.
“Ideas keep coming from people, not from me. I’m just a transformer,” he said. “If someone approaches you and says, ‘Can you please do a tattoo that will motivate me to stay alive?’ How can this not inspire you?