Wilshire Phillips aka Willy Wonka with client Shandre Steede. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Wilshire Phillips aka Willy Wonka with client Shandre Steede. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Inking out a living during the lockdown

By Nathan Adams Time of article published Mar 14, 2021

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Turning your hobby into a viable and profitable business may sound easy but when you launch your business during pandemic, it can be an uphill battle.

Wilshire Phillips, aka Willy Wonka, from Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain found himself unemployed in June so he opened his tattoo studio, Inklined Addiction.

This was a hobby that first started as a natural curiosity about tattoos.

Wilshire Phillips aka Willy Wonka with client Shandre Steede. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Phillips said: “I started seven years ago. While living with my father, he was always the one who said while you’re living under my roof you can’t get a tattoo, and any piercings. At 17-years-old I moved out, got my first pay cheque and my tattoo.”

While starting his career in the hospitality industry, Phillips said he wanted to get his tattoo immediately as well: “ I was working in a restaurant in Constantia. My first tattoo I had done was at Iron Warriors in Wynberg and all I could afford was a small seahorse that looks like a dragon, it’s tattooed on my upper arm on my shoulder.”

The passion for the arts never let up while he worked his full-time job: “I was always drawing, and did murals, at churches and children’s playgrounds.”

It was by chance that Phillips got the inspiration to become a tattoo artist.

“I had never had a tattoo gun in my hand until a friend told me that he had bought a tattoo gun and asked me to try it out on him. You can draw, so just put the ink in there and go. So I went for it and it kind of felt normal for me, it felt like I was drawing on someone with a pen, it's just the pen lasts forever. He was very brave to let me have a go at it,” he said.

While he continued to work he did tattooing on the side. He said: “Then I took a break and went into hospitality for quite a few years, in the hospitality management field.”

Wilshire Phillips aka Willy Wonka with client Shandre Steede. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Phillips worked in Botswana for five years and he would intermittently come back to Cape Town for three months over this time. In 2011, he ignited his love for tattoos and inked friends and family.

Philips is self-taught and found inspiration from videos on YouTube and social media.

In June 2020, soon after the lockdown was announced, Phillips lost his job as a front-of-house administrator organising conference logistics at a local wine estate.

Having to make ends meet and provide for his 11-year-old son, Phillips said he was sitting at home when a friend said: “You have a hobby and you’re really good at it so why don’t you just turn it into a business and be your own boss.”

With money from his savings, Phillips invested all his capital into creating Inklined Addiction at his home in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain.

He said: “Besides for people being a bit sceptical about the local, Tafelsig, I also need to always show them my work because I am self-taught.”

Wilshire Phillips aka Willy Wonka with client Shandre Steede. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

He operates from his home where he built a stand-alone studio.

Phillips said: “There are strict protocols right now, so to speed things up I do a consultation before the time with the client and send them the drawings to approve so that I am not still keeping them waiting here while I sketch.”

Phillips said he wants to expand his business and part of his business plan is to create a beauty salon and tattoo studio in one space.

“The female clients can get their beauty treatments, the tattoo studio will be there as well and maybe a coffee bar and cafe for people to chill at,” he said.

For now he is very keen to build his brand and in the near future bring on board fellow tattoo artists who he knows are talented and out of work - to jump-start their careers.

“I am positive about the future of the business and growing it,” he said.

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