John Mathis, Tatsu Maker Works
Shared Studio User at MOX
John has always been a fan of poster art and he appreciates the creative thought processes injected to produce art pieces laden with all sorts of meanings. His life journey and curiosity for the art scene moved him to pick up his first basic relief printing carving set in Art Friend.
With what started out as an after-work activity, upon changing career directions to spend more time with his daughter he chose to become a self-taught artist. John specialises in relief printing – the discipline of carving designs on printing plates that would then be transferred onto paper via ink using an etching press.
In fact, there are meaningful elements about John’s prints: the designs are based on his interpretation of his little girl’s stories.
This collaboration has guided his daughter, Izzy, to explore her imagination and tell stories at an early age. While his decision to change careers was due to personal reasons, it has given him the freedom and time to work on his prints. His creations are opportunities for the father/daughter pair to establish great communications and understanding with each other. Given considerable research, trial-and-error, practice, encouragement, and advice, John recognised the right time to start a business out of the prints that he has done.
With more prints to come and a desire to keep telling Izzy’s stories, he found it almost impossible to work from home. In the effort to search for a studio space, his friend recommended MOX @ Katong Point – a co-making space near his place. He now works in the shared studios on level 2, where he shares the space with a fellow creative entrepreneur. With a monthly cost, John saves on additional utilities and other fees typically relating to renting a space, and he feels that the benefits of using MOX’s shared studio spaces surpasses dealing with the unanticipated whims of landlords.
Although being at MOX offloads administrative distresses, there are other challenges he faces as a creative entrepreneur.
In his opinion, not many are strongly pursuing creative work in Singapore; however, he does not perceive creativity to be something that can be mandated from a top-down approach, rather it is a process where makers need to start ‘making’ to develop the scene organically. Over the years, he has witnessed the gradual growth in the scene as many artists have stepped up to pursue their passion.
Being part of the makers ‘movement’ in Singapore, he has been building an inventory of prints in preparation to launch sales. In fact, his brand, ‘Tatsu Maker Works’ says a lot about the quality of work he hopes to achieve. By including ‘Tatsu’, the name of his Japanese Kai Ken breed dog, he wishes to incorporate a creative working ethos from Japanese of “being as good as you can be” to respect, create, and develop meaningful and quality products throughout his creative journey. Through his business and brand, he also hopes to venture into merchandising from his print ideas that could meaningfully convey and value-add stories (including Izzy’s!) on various products such as tote bags and lifestyle items in the future.
Though he may have ventured into the arts sector only at a later stage in life, John sees his experience as a product of his journey and there is nothing in his past that he would do differently. He also added a simple piece of advice to end off our interview: “If you want to be a maker, start making – make something that did not exist before”. Indeed, the true power of creativity lies in the hands of simply doing it.