As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was recently given the opportunity to interview tattooist Ahmet Ilker Kaya and talk to him about the upcoming tattoo convention he is organising.

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As he is one of the more intriguing characters I have met since moving to Fethiye I couldn’t resist finding out a little more about him before we talked business, and here’s what I asked:

How long have you been tattooing? 24 years.

How long have you had your current tattoo studio, Kaya Tattoo, in Calis? I have spent a total of 13 years in Fethiye, 6 of which were in Olu Deniz and the last 7 have been here in Calis. I mostly work on my own but have occasionally roped in friends, who are awesome tattooists, during the preparation for the conventions which obviously take up a lot of my time.

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Do you do tattooing all year round? No, 5 months of the year are really busy – the summer season – where I often work 12/13 hours a day. In winter I do a variety of other things such as customise villa swimming pools with art etc – as long as there is an element of creativity about something then I will do it.

Have you aways been involved with tattooing? Oh yes, I love this life I’ve chosen. But I am a man of many talents (ok, I said that, he didn’t) including being a jazz/blues singer for 7 years, qualifying as a diving instructor and customising motorcycles. I love to live in a world of fun and I see tattoos in everything.

How many tattoos have you got? I stopped counting at 64 (regrettably he wasn’t willing to show me ALL of them!). Now I am concentrating on blending the ones I have got together. I have had tattoos done in 54 different countries and attended 95 conventions

When did you get your first one? When I was 15 – it was done by a Captain of a diving boat using pure ink and needles. After that I got the bug and practiced on friends in Ankara, where I am from. When I started tattooing it was very hard to learn as it is only really in the last 5 or 6 years that it has been considered an art here and it was difficult to find information on how to learn techniques etc. After running out of friends to practice on I finally did my first professional one when I was 19. Since then I have won 3 awards – best portrait, best freehand and best traditional.

Have you done any tattoos on yourself? Yes – the bottom half of my left leg and the top half of my right.

Do you have children? Yes, I have a 7 year old son. I will support him in whatever he chooses to do in life, but if he tells me he wants to learn all about tattooing I will be the proudest father in all of Turkey, no, the World.

Do you think people treat you differently because of your tattoos? Sometimes. There is a divided opinion about tattoos. Some see it as art, others ask why are you destroying the body you have been given. Of course, in the last 10 years or so more people have come to accept tattoos as art so it isn’t so much of a big deal. Most problems seem to occur in nightclubs, when drink is involved, often with young men thinking their girlfriends are paying more attention to me than them, they also get jealous of the attention I may get in general and occasionally decide to square up to me and play the tough guy, but I never rise to the bait.

Do you notice a difference between the requests you get from younger and older people? Oh yes, the younger generation often don’t know what they want, they just know they want something. Older people tend to want ones with more meaning, maybe marking a significant time in their life, or as a tribute to their children, or to honour a lost loved one.

Have you ever refused to do a tattoo? Yes, I probably refuse about 5% of the tattoos I am asked to do – mainly due to the age of the client or if they want something that is disrespectful to a religion or politics. I respect their choices but I don’t want to be associated with offensive tattoos. I do this job for love, not money, so saying no isn’t a problem.

Do you tattoo drunk people? I usually have just two words to say to drunk people who come to see me – ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. Getting ‘Calis 2013’ tattooed on your backside might seem like a great idea after a crate full of Efes but it won’t seem such a good idea in the cold light of day!

You also like to do something a bit special on occasion don’t you? Oh yes, over the years I have created a few world records. In 2007 I was the first person to do a tattoo whilst paragliding. I sat in front of the client while he took control of the flight and I worked on his left arm which he held out to my side.

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In 2008 I was the first person to do a tattoo underwater. This involved putting ink, cream and many roles of clingfilm on the client’s arm and then going underwater with a big stick and piercing the clingfilm so that the ink went under it and didn’t get washed away. We could only spend about 10 minutes doing this though as, after a while, the clingfilm had too many holes in it and was no longer effective.

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Then in 2009 I did the ‘highest’ tattoo. Myself and the client climbed to the top of Mount Arafat (70m high) and I tattooed the Turkish Flag on his shoulder.

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Right, now let’s talk a bit about the conventions:

How long has the convention been going? The first was in 2005 at Kaya Village and we called it ‘Tattoos, Blues & Bikes’. In 2010 we did our first international convention in Calis Beach – there were 2 tattooists & 1,200 bikers and we had over 6,500 visitors during the 3 days of the convention. Any profit we made was donated to the old people’s homes in the area so that they could have air conditioning installed. In 2011 there were 25 tattooists, 1,800 bikers, live bands, merchandise etc and we sold over 4,000 tickets and that year our profits went to children suffering from leukemia.

And what about this year? This year it is being held at the Orient Hotel in Calis. It will again last for 3 days: Fri 6th – Sun 8th September. Doors open at 10am and close at midnight every day. There will be a lot more on offer this year including 15 tattooists, a HUGE pool party on the Saturday night with club DJ’s from Power FM, 23 motorcycle clubs will be joining us and camping in the hotel gardens. There will also be food, bars and merchandise; including t-shirts, silver, handcrafted items. There will be live music from 4 bands; 2 from Istanbul, 1 from Gallipoli and 1 from Antalya. And the ultimate entertainment will be supplied by the World Champion Turkish Mai Thai Fighter who will be doing a show match.

I will also be leading a procession of over 1,000 motorbikes – leaving the Orient Hotel at 12 noon on the Saturday – and I will take everyone from Calis and back again via Fethiye, Hisoronu and Olu Deniz on a 40km round trip. It will be an awesome sight.

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Tickets cost 15tl and cover all 3 days, all events, all entertainment. They will be available from various shops in Fethiye and Calis – you’ll see the posters when they go up. You will also be able to buy them on the door.

All profits will go to FETAV for them to distribute to girls in the area who come from difficult backgrounds so that they can go on to higher education and university and therefore be given the chance to really get on in this world.

What are your plans for the future when it comes to the conventions? I see these happening every year for the foreseeable future. My aim is to help increase tourism and therefore increase money coming into the area, but without turning it into a teenage drinkers paradise.

Any other plans for the future? My ultimate dream is for Calis Beach to become biker heaven for one week every year. A place where bikers can come and meet old friends, make new friends, where they can buy and sell equipment, exchange stories and where the everyday average person can come along and admire some stunning bikes and find out that we all aren’t as scary as we may look!

So, there we have it – absolutely everything you need to know about Kaya Tattoo, the man behind the needle, and the convention in September. I know I’ll definitely be popping by to check everything out and I am currently trying to work out if I can talk my way into being on Ahmet’s bike at the front of the procession! In the meantime though, I found myself being sweet talked into getting my old cat tattoo re-covered and, if you’ve been paying attention to my previous blogs you will know that this one looks a wee bit like my kitty, Munch…

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