LEON BESTER INTERVIEW

Leon Bester

Leon Bester is one of the nicest guys you might ever meet. A local Cape Town boy, Leon has been active in skateboarding, art, photography and videography for a while now, and owns at both. Find out more about the man behind the wayfarers. We introduce you to Leon Bester…

Take us through a day in the life of Leon Bester.

Alarm goes off, snooze button, snooze button, snooze button. This goes on for quit a while. Then I’ll start my day with a nice cup of tea, check on my plants and water them. Next I’ll jump into some denims and depending on the weather I’ll cycle down to the Woodstock Exchange to take care of business. If I leave before sunset I’ll go for a little skate, maybe a cheeky beer after. Then it’s dinner time and chill time.

Who/what inspires/influences you to do art?

There are endless things that will inspire me or spark a new thought or idea. I love to gather inspiration from all over and from many different things, situations and artists.

What sparked your interest in screen printing?

When I started my course in Graphic Design at Cape Tech, I was always fascinated in printmaking and I knew screen printing was part of our course, but only from second year. After my first year they pretty much scratched screen printing from our course, so when the time came to go and do an internship, I decided to intern at ilovescreenprinting. After the two week internship I was hooked on this new skill I’ve learned. I pretty much built a DIY set-up and bought a few screens and just carried on printing. For the whole of 2012 I ran my own screen printing studio in the northern suburbs. I mostly printed t-shirts, but my favourite is to print onto wood. I don’t print as much anymore, but it’s always fun to go mess around in the studio and make some t-shirts or print some artwork, get covered in paint, etc.

Leon BesterKlick Klak Exhibition Photos. Screen print on wood.

What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?

I am really amped on all of the adidas projects I have been involved with. The most recent being the PE (Port Elizabeth) skate trip and the Gonz Exhibition. Always good fun and interesting trips. Another one stands out; about 2 months ago, Toby from ‘Hello Again’ in long street asked myself and Inus Smuts to do some t-shirt designs for his shop. I did a photo series on well known streets and landmarks of Cape Town, but from a first person view on a bicycle. I pretty much looked like crazy tourist cycling in the middle of the streets through town with my camera dangling from my neck while shooting the photos, haha. But I am really happy with the way it came out in the end. Risked my life a few times to get those shots, haha.

What are you listening to right now?

Yeasayer, Tame Impala, Neil Young, Future Island and some Witch.

What is this ‘Streets’ gang you’re part of? Does your Mom know about it?

Hahaha! Streets is pretty much a bunch of homies that love to skate, travel, braai, hang out, smash some beers and cause all sorts of shit together. Yeah, we are a diverse group of people that just started skating together in the school years and we still skate, hang out and make missions together as much as we can.

streets-design-clock-screen-printed‘Streets’ design clock. Screen printed.

You were a videographer on the recent adidas skateboarding trip to PE. Care to share any stories from the trip?

There are so many good stories from that trip. Like when we had to saw off this piece of railing to make a handrail skateable. Or Jansen swinging and smashing everything in his way with the one golf club we had with us. Khulu falling over into the bath tub. Pieter giving Jansen a tomato relish shower. Yann shredding that bowl by the park. I can go on and on. There are so many.

Where are you at in skateboarding at the moment? Are you still pushing as hard as you always were?

At the moment I am just enjoying skateboarding for what it is to me. Sometimes I would just hang out with everybody and have a mellow session. Then other times I would find myself jumping or grinding stuff I would never even have looked at before.

Leon Bester Smith Grind Bowl. Photo by Wayne ReicheLeon smith grinds a bowl. Photo by Wayne Reiche.

What are your favorite things about South Africa?

Definitely all the amazing destinations to travel to and all them characters you meet along the way.

Shout outs?

My family for supporting and helping me out since forever. All of my friends for being unique characters. The streets homies, everybody I skate with, people I make art with, Inus Smuts for the daily entertainment, adidas, revolution, the woodstock studio mates and friends, the Pit, everybody that has helped me out on my travels… so many people to thank. All of you play a unique role, so thanks.

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Buck Tour PrintsBuck Tour prints

RICH PHIPSON INTERVIEW


Photo by Rochelle Phipson

Richard Phipson is a tattooer who moved from South Africa to Hong Kong and now co-owns Starcrossed Tattoos. Durban-born and bred, Rich has been active in art, tattooing and music for years. We caught up with him to chat about music, the transition from South Africa to Hong Kong and from graphic designer to tattooer, and some other things. Meet Rich Phipson…

Yo Rich! Give us a brief introduction to yourself.
I still don’t eat my veggies.
Still not sure which ones a shirt and which is a t-shirt.
I thought being this age would feel different.
Not all my friends have forgot me yet.
I don’t deserve to be interviewed.

Working originally as a graphic designer, you made quite a career change in deciding to become a tattooer. Can you tell us about why you decided to make that transition and how you got started tattooing?
Tattooing isn’t something you can pick up quickly or do part time. Anyone who thinks that isn’t tattooing, they’re doing something else. I had no choice. It becomes a part of my everything. My night and day. It still is. the process wasn’t intentional. Nothing about the last five years has been though. I’ve just tried my best to keep happy and do whatever moves me. There was a time when that’s what graphic design was for me; exciting. It’s hard to turn a hobby into a job and still appreciate it the way you did before. If you can or do then I think that’s enough to keep you going.

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You grew up and lived in Durban until a few years ago. Why did you decide to move to Hong Kong?
There’s something we carry. Well some of us do. It’s a curse and a blessing. It’s a drive that pushes us to be better and do better but also fools us into always thinking there’s something better. It’s the opposite of complacency. Discontented and dissatisfied. It’s what only let’s us see it after midnight and forces us to stay up to see the sunrise. I dunno if its specific to my generation or culture. But I know me and my friends have it. Also, at the time it seemed like a good idea.

4. What does your typical day look like?
I have two types of days.
Day one starts as late as possible, no food, maybe coffee. Bus to work. Tattoo. Shovel food. Tattoo some more. Hang with homies. Bus home. Eat and hang with Rochelle then draw until my eyes close from the bottom up. Repeat.
Day two hopefully starts earlier. Breakfast. Swim in the sea. Play guitar. Sit in the park. Paint. Dinner somewhere. Watch series. Lots of it.

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What are your best and worst things about South Africa? And Hong Kong?
SA has family, familiarity and a beauty that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. I’ve sacrificed these for safety, both physically and financially.

Besides tattooing, what do you do in your spare time?
Watch loads of series, eat too much chocolate, and play guitar.

Being based in a city where millions of tourists from all over the world travel to or through, you must get some strange people coming into Starcrossed. What are some of the weirder encounters you’ve had?
The weird becomes the norm pretty quickly, but I’ve tattooed a man wearing a panda suit and been given a $7000 tip before.

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Would you say that you have a favorite style of tattoo to do, and if so, what is it?
Not really. There’s more stuff that I don’t like doing. As long as the client gives me creative freedom with their idea I’m generally happy.

What do the local Cantonese people think of tattoos? You are pretty tattooed yourself. I can imagine you get a lot of stares. Although, maybe I am just naive and coming from a South African context, where people generally are still very conservative.
It’s pretty similar here to SA. There are rude people everywhere that feel that because you have colour on your skin they can touch it. But generally the stares aren’t too bad.

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Some people will know of you from playing drums in the infamous Durban hardcore band, Crossingpoint, doing vocals in Joburg hardcore band, Compass, and being involved in some other projects before that. Music has been a big part of your life. Do you have any plans to do anything in Hong Kong? What is the music scene like there?
Yeah, it’s still one of the biggest things in my life. I’ve had plans since I got here, but nothing has worked out yet, but hopefully soon. The music scene is okay. It’s cool to be able to see bigger bands that come through here, but there’s definitely a lack of punk-ethos subcultures. I think it’s got to do with wealth and complacency. But that’s a whole separate rant.

What have you been listening to recently?
Today: O Brother, The Story So Far, Yellow Ostrich, Such Gold and the Local Natives.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to quit their job and do something like you did?
If you wanted to do it you would have done it.

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richphipson.com
starcrossedtattoo.com