Kenneth’s passion is more than skin deep

Kenneth Minor wants to make it big in the Cape Town tattoo industry.

When tattoo artist and musician, Kenneth Minor came to Cape Town 11 years ago, it was only supposed to be for a six-month break.

“My band called me to come home and I said no. I love Cape Town. It’s amazing – especially the oceans and nature.”

Kenneth grew up in Pretoria and started drawing comics at a young age.

He studied broad spectrum fine art and graphic design, but couldn’t see himself relocating logos all his life – he needed to express his creativity.

“Because I studied art and mixed with all sorts of creatives, I got into the music industry.

“I started bar-tending and saw a band onstage where I worked and told myself ‘I want to do that’.

“I had a mentor for music, Albert Meintjes, who taught me everything I know about music today. I started doing solo shows and then started a rock and roll band called the Freak Peas.”

Kenneth then decided he needed a break from his busy lifestyle and moved to Cape Town for six months to centre himself and write more music, but didn’t go back.

However, as much as he loved Cape Town, he said, the city was a tough nut to crack. “Cape Town is very cliquey, but once I got my foot in the door it became interesting and I started having fun.”

He moved to Observatory and became a manager at Stones for five years. “One of my bar staff opened a tattoo parlour and after I got bored of doing bar functions, I offered to help out with the murals at the parlour.

“He introduced me to his business partner and I was appointed manager. Basically, I unknowingly walked into an interview.”

As the new guy, Kenneth had to clean, scrub and set up for the tattooists.

“You have to learn through apprenticeship to be good. You go through years of just setting up and cleaning. The guys taught me that skin is not a flat canvas – it moves. And a tattoo machine is not a pen.”

He then bought the tattoo parlour and then sold it again because he and his partner had artistic differences.

At this point, Kenneth started tattooing on himself and friends for practice – they just paid the set-up fee for ink, wrap and needles. “I then started working at a tattoo parlour in Sea Point and worked there for over a year. The parlour in Obs taught me business, perfection and cleanliness, but in Sea Point, I learnt how to tattoo. I learnt techniques and skills from the tattooists there.”

After the parlour in Sea Point was closed down, Kenneth decided to open his own tattoo parlour, and found a space in Waterkant Street to run his new venture, Cape Tattoos.

“It’s actually working out – eight months here and I have no complaints.”

He said while he prefers to custom design tattoos and do bigger pieces, he does get walk-in clients.

“For me, tattooing is the ultimate form of art – no mistakes, because you can’t get rid of it.

“I like to consult with clients first to make sure they are not making stupid decisions. For example, if someone wants to get a boyfriend or girlfriend’s name, I try to talk them out of it. I find that I have to cover up lots of ex’s names.

“At the end of the day, a tattoo is permanent, so you should think carefully about it. It will be on your body forever.”

As for his music career, Kenneth settled down, had a family, and needed to keep a steady income. “As a musician in South Africa, if you can afford your petrol, two beers and the strings on your guitar, you’re successful. It’s hard out there, so I decided to make my first love; a fun love.”

Kenneth said he loves working in the CBD because it’s always buzzing. “There’s new faces everyday, and I’m a very chatty person. This is a good place for me. I love the walking traffic, and I’m busy enough to be in the quieter part of town.”

Kenneth is of the opinion that the tattoo industry in the city centre is slightly overcrowded but the good artists are the ones who are surviving.

“That’s where I’d like to be in five years. Asked about the strangest tattoo he has ever done, he said he tattooed a love heart with the message “spank me” on someone’s bottom.

“I think it was one of the coolest tattoos I’ve ever done. For me, a tattoo is like a souvenir of meeting a new friend, like a photograph or so, just a permanent one.”