Tattooist's "Kiwiana" cannabis-inspired ink goes viral

Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 8:32AM
Arkay Tattooer

Arkay Tattooer

By: Chris Marriner

A Napier's tattooist's work has gone viral after photos of his drug-related design were posted to social media.

Arkay Tattooing from Napier posted the photo, showing two women with matching tattoos that show knives being heated on the element coils of an electric stove.

The practice, known as "spotting" or "hot knives", is used across the world to consume cannabis but is uniquely popular in New Zealand, a country where no cutlery drawer is safe and possession of heat-blackened knives can even count as possession of drug paraphernalia.

Tattooist Rob Kemp, who works out of The Collective Napier, a tattoo studio in the city, told the Herald that he had done the design as part of a series of Kiwiana tattoos and it had been selected by an existing client.

Kemp told the Herald that the client took months to make the decision to get the ink and wanted to get a matching tattoo with her friend, who got hers later.

Kemp said the women chose the design as a tribute to their long friendship and to remember times gone by.

The designs were inked on the inner arm, so would be easily hidden, Kemp said.

Many comments on the photo came from outside of New Zealand, where some recognised the design but added that the technique was "old school" and others were completely in the dark.

Kemp said he was surprised the photo had so much international reaction but that he hadn't been able to keep up with the comments.

The confusion expressed by international commenters reinforces the unique place the smoking method has in the Kiwi drug culture and it was obvious that some foreigners had never had the dubious pleasure of taking on two super-heated knives.

"What is this? Knives and heaters?," wrote one confused soul.

Kiwi comments on the design were more detail-oriented, with the tattooist praised for including "the ash around the outer element" but criticised for not adding another common part of the technique.

"You forgot the tin lid or spoon. But hey, spots on brah."

Unfortunate Kiwi drug users may well know a more common way to leave a mark on your skin and that too was referenced by commenters.

"When someone would ask how you got that knife-shaped burn on your face ..."

Kemp, who has been tattooing for six years, said it was unlikely he would repeat the exact design and that he only replicated it in this case becasuse the clients wanted it matching.

He said that the tattoo was one of his more controversial designs and outside of his usual theme of pop culture but said it was "fun to do" and supported his client's right to get the design.

He recommended that anyone thinking of getting a tattoo, particularly one like this, to do the same as these women and take their time before going under the needle.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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