THE SKIN IS HIS CANVAS
South Korean tattoo artists are renowned for creating tattoos using a vibrant, traditional color palette called Obangsaek, but Bongjin Jeon, International Trade and Marketing ’22, Menswear ’18, prefers the elegant simplicity of blackwork. With wit and whimsy, Jeon juxtaposes natural and manufactured elements, like a butterfly with a switchblade torso or a soccer ball transformed into a heart, aorta and all. Jeon’s images unite the everyday with the odd, like an angel playing violin while reclining on a musical score.
“I find it funny and interesting when two different things are mixed up,” he says. In his take on the classic American Gothic—a frog, not a farmer, holds the pitchfork.
After studying for a fashion career that didn’t fulfill him, Jeon turned to tattooing. The two careers have some things in common, he points out. Stitching garments for his Menswear degree made his hands deft enough for tattoo work, and doing countless CAD sketches and technical fashion flats honed his drawing technique. And Jeon’s studies in International Trade and Marketing prepared him for entrepreneurship by teaching him how to create proposals, identify clients, and target them through the right channels.
Both tattoo and clothing design “deal with three-dimensional and sometimes pretty curvy things happening on our skin,” Jeon says. “I feel more comfortable expressing myself via tattoo than clothing. That’s why I admire fashion designers—they do what I’m not too good at!”
He creates tattoos that speak to the individual’s personality and interests. Some images are downright chilling, like his beautiful mermaid whose webbed hands end in monstrous claws. A favorite is a bankroll featuring a $101 dollar bill.
“Everyone tries to flex with a hundred-dollar bill, right? But I wanted to flex even bigger. So, $101.”
For the past year, Jeon has worked at Tenderfoot Studio in Bushwick. He loves Brooklyn’s vibe and plans to stay in New York City; he dreams of owning his own tattoo shop where he can match clients with their perfect tattoo.
“It’s important, the tattoo that you choose to put on your body forever,” Jeon says. “It truly is part of your fashion.” —Winnie McCroy