Most people spend a considerable amount of time deciding what design or phrase they want permanently inked on their bodies, but one tattoo artist asks his clients to leave that decision to him. Several hundreds of people have already allowed him to ink the phrase of his choice on them without even knowing what it reads beforehand.
Monty Richthofen, a.k.a. Maison Hefner, had only been doing tattoos for a year and a half in 2017, when he started “My Words, Your Body”, an artistic project where he tattoos wiling adults with motivational quotes and mantras without revealing what they are before permanently inking them. Clients only decide what part of their body they want tattooed, but the tattoo itself is Hefner’s choice. He has a conversation with every person and based on their discussion and his experience, he picks one of around 5,000 different phrases he has scribbled in five notebooks.
Photo: Maison Hefner/Instagram
“It starts with a conversation that usually lasts anything from 30 minutes to an hour and a half,” Mason Hefner recently told VICE Magazine. “At some point during our chat, I’ll ask each person the same four questions: Why do you want to do this? What does trust mean to you? Why do you trust me? And: What are you going to do if you don’t like the tattoo? Their answers then determine what direction we go in.”
The tattoo artist makes sure that his clients are always sober and aware of what they are getting into, going as far as making sure that they are not even distracted by their phones or social media during their conversation. Interestingly, he doesn’t have them sign a waiver or any documents of any kind, but so far nobody has complained about his work. He figures that if they trust him so blindly to permanently ink them, he has to trust them as well.
As for why he doesn’t just ink things people want, the London-based tattoo artist said that he just finds the traditional tattooing process boring.
“Because it annoys me how the traditional tattooing process is always the same,” the artist said. “People come in with an idea or just pick a random design out of my book, then I ink them and say goodbye without either of us getting to properly know the other.”
“I want the people who come to me to get a tattoo that marks a specific stage in their lives and could actually help them in the future. People sometimes think that I just ink images of penises and other nonsense on people—but I have friends who I can do that too. I would never do that to someone who has given me their time and trust and revealed very intimate things about themselves.”
Maison Hefner said that most traditional tattoo artists don’t see what he does as real tattooing, but he doesn’t mind it too much. All he wants is to “show that tattooing can be more of a service”. To that end, he wants to make the process even more intense in the future, by possibly spending a whole day with a client before tattooing them.