Kalinga Tattoo Book

Books & Publications - Issue 12 - 13

When I first came across the "Kalinga Tattoo" book – while visiting London Tattoo Convention - I was highly impressed and I immediately desired to study it in depth. The documentation of historical importance and the valuable information in combination with the unique and rich photographic material collected by Dr. Lars Krutak, make this book essential. The "Kalinga Tattoo" book is a publication by German “Edition Reuss”, which over the last six years have entered dynamically the field of books specializing in tattoo art and sometimes, by extension, the history of tattoo. The publisher Matthias Reuss spoke exclusively to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine.

Interview: Ino Mei.

Where did the idea for the “Kalinga Tattoo” book come from?

Matthias Reuss: The anthropologist and photographer Lars Krutak was looking for a high quality publisher crazy enough to do a book just about one tribe: the Kalinga. Lars presented a selection of fascinating tattoo pictures he had made during his expeditions to the Kalinga tribe living in the remote areas and mountains of the Northern Philippines. I was totally blown away by these pictures and couldn’t resist doing this book with him.


The last Kalinga tattoo artist, the 93 year old Whang-Od and Dr. Lars Krutak.


How fascinating was the creation of a book that focuses on the documentation of the vanishing art of tattoo and the traditions of the Kalinga tribe?

It was stunning to learn about an ancient tribe and its people still living mostly the way they did hundreds of years ago. Modest, nature related and full of ancient rules. In fact, the exact opposite of our western civilized world. The powerful tattoos of the Kalinga show special patterns built by lines, which are related to their former tradition of headhunting. This tattoo culture will disappear in the near future, when the old people are gone. But luckily there will be young people and tattoo fans of new generations trying to preserve and renew the traditional Kalinga tattoo designs. There are very nice examples of these modern interpretations in the “Kalinga Tattoo” book.


What did it take for the book’s realization? How many people have participated in it and how long did it take to compile all the necessary material in order to complete the book.
It took a full year to get all the material fixed for the book. Some more photographers and friends of Lars joined the project and contributed their beautiful photos for the book and made it so amazing. Very important are good written texts and Lars is a master in writing about tribal tattooing. Perfect translations are also important. It was my friend Eberhard J Wormer from Munich, a big fan of art and culture, who did a brilliant translation into German based on the original text from Lars Krutak.

How has the audience embraced the “Kalinga Tattoo” book so far?

We got many fantastic reviews in tattoo magazines, blogs and positive reactions from tattooists around the world. This book is so big and heavy. Everyone was surprised with how much interesting information there was about the tattoos of just one tribe. Even natural history related magazines and anthropological museums were very interested. One special highlight was on May 5th 2014, the opening of one of the world’s biggest tattoo exhibitions ever at the famous ”Museum Branly“ in Paris. Many photographs from the book ”Kalinga Tattoo” and “Magical Tattoos” by Lars Krutak are exhibited there.


What is your take on Dr. Lars Krutak’s highly important anthropological work in relation to his constant research and documentation of the world’s vanishing tribal body modification art forms?

Lars Krutak is one of the world’s best known experts about tribal tattooing and scarification. But this “crazy” guy is also famous as the tattoo “hunter”, a serial on US Discovery Channel about tribal tattoo research shot in really remote places. All his stories are done based on a lot of knowledge, which is also reflected in his very well written texts. You can really dig deep into the subjects and learn a lot about it. In fact, this is what serious tattoo artists always like: more information about where the real roots of body decorations come from. Maybe they feel something in their own heart which is connected to an universal spirit of this tradition and towards a better understanding of why they ”must” do this work.


When it comes to traditional and tribal tattooing, is it you inner wish to help in its “preservation” through your publications?

Yes, this is one important point, because without this kind of serious information people do not know about the existence of tribes like Kalinga and that it is important to preserve this culture for generations to follow. Understanding the traditions of the Kalinga tribe you can see that other tribes are similar, even if they have different tattoo designs. I like to make beautiful illustrated books in order to learn more about other cultures, arts and lifestyles in general. There are many stunning portraits of old people in the Kalinga book, each face and the tattoos on their bodies are telling you a very personal life story.


When did you initially start your series of tattoo books and how many have you published so far?

In 2008 I started with the famous “Tattoo in Japan” book. Right now I have published 13 books: “Tattoo in Japan”, “Black Tattoo Art”, “Kalinga Tattoo”, “Black & Grey Tattoo 1 – 3”, “Color Tattoo Art”, “Latino Art Collection”, “Chinese Tattoo Art”, “Horikazu”, “Magical Tattoos”, “Black Tattoo Art 2” and “Day of the Dead.

I am not only a publisher. In fact my original profession is as a graphic designer and art director. So I design all the books myself. The most important thing for me when doing the concept and layout of a book is to present tattoo photographs of the artists in the best way. Less is more. The more authentic the presentation is, the better the book—I think. I like tattoo works speaking for themselves.


So far, you have collaborated with some highly respected individuals from the international tattoo scene, such as Dr. Lars Krutak and Marisa Kakoulas. How did those collaborations occur?

All started with “Tattoo in Japan”. The book was so big, amazing and full of cool tattoos from Japan, that it soon became known to many tattoo enthusiasts worldwide. The printing quality is unique and breathtaking. This book was also noticed by authors like Lars and Marisa who contacted me proposing their own projects. So more cool tattoo book projects developed. A very good product is good advertising. Everyone will speak about it. This is often what other authors notice who have an idea for a book. They want to publish their projects in the same high quality. Therefore they choose “Edition Reuss”. Also they choose a small publishing company where everything is handled in a very family oriented atmosphere.

Last but not least, the tattoo artists around the world are happy to be presented so accurately in our books and they always contribute really cool works. We have collaborated with artists like Horioshi III, Chuey Quintanar, Jack Rudy, Paul Booth, Andy Engel, Shige, Brian Everett, Gau Bin, Joe Capobianco, Jesse Smith, Xed LeHead… a never ending list of the world’s best tattoo artists of all kinds and of different styles.


Tattoo appears to have become more popular during the last five years. As a result the market is loaded with various “tattoo products”. How do you feel about this mass commercialization? Has it “helped” your publications? 

I think tattooing had already become very popular ten years ago. Commercialization is good as long as it goes ahead with a high quality standard. Certainly artists and tattoo fans want to have more and better information about tattooing, styles, designs, colors and what is going on in the world of tattoo. All “Edition Reuss” tattoo books are amazing collections for tattooists, who are looking for inspiration, tattoo designs, drawings and cool artwork.

You have built a reputation when it comes to high quality and fine publications. Nowadays, where low cost and low retail price seem to “rule” the market around us, how do your high quality books fit in this? 

I personally hate everything what is bad and low quality, not only for hardware and stuff like that, also for food. My motto is to “buy less—but always best quality”.



What is your “goal” with the “Edition Reuss Tattoo Books”? What are your upcoming book plans?

Quality in the first place! In a world of vanishing care for quality, most things and products are produced to throw them away after a short time. My tattoo books are classics the moment they are released. They are collectibles and accompany their owners for a lifetime! 

All the new tattoo book projects are as exciting as the ones I have already done. For me it is like an adventure and I love to have friends and contacts in the tattoo scene all over the world—a fantastic community. I can only say there will be new amazing books, that will surprise you. Keep in touch through our website www.edition-reuss.de for information about new releases.

In our digital world where we think we have seen and know everything, there are still many artists out there who do a great job every day and create breathtaking tattoos never seen before. They are the real heroes of all my tattoo books! 

Many of our tattoo books can now be bought in Greece at:

www. stixis-tattoosupplies.com



All photos are from “Kalinga Tattoo” book / Author Lars Krutak /  Edition Reuss.

All rights reserved.