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Tattoo Studio Coko’s new artist makes things straight

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2001-07-21

Tattoo Studio Coko has been in business for the past eight years. Located right outside Kadena Gate 1, Coko is a very relaxing, home-style studio with lounge chairs and a soda machine set up outside.

Ken, the owner of Coko, has immortalized his artwork on the skins of many other artists including world-acclaimed R&B performer Silk. He says that when he first became interested in tattooing, he received instruction for three months before being sent out on his own to continue his learning through books and the Internet. Until recently, Ken was the only American tattoo artist on Okinawa, and is still one of the few in all of Japan.

David Shoemaker took up tattooing in Okinawa a few weeks ago when he joined forces with Ken at Coko. Originally from New Hampshire, Shoemaker started his one-year apprenticeship at “Permanent Addiction” in Havelock, North Carolina doing tattoos and piercing. As part of his apprenticeship, he spent the first year learning about the craft of tattooing and the importance of sterilization. “Cleanliness always comes first,” says Shoemaker.

ZZPIC”I’ve always drawn a lot,” says Shoemaker. “I was always the kid in the back of the class drawing in my notebook. I’ve also always been into skateboarding and hard music and tattoos were always around. When I joined the marines, I saw a lot of people coming home with boring tattoos, so I started drawing tattoos for people and everything just sort of progressed from there.”

Skateboarding and hard music have been two of David’s main influences, but another influence, that of being a follower of the straightedge movement, has had a deep impact on his life. “I have been skateboarding all of my life and have been straightedge since 1996. Basically, I’ve been able to use my time more productively rather than if I was always out trying to get drunk or chasing girls,” he explains. “I’ve had time to learn something more genuine this way.”

The straightedge movement has been a scene in America and around the world. Its adherents choose to not smoke, drink, do drugs, or have promiscuous sex, and instead are able to use their time more wisely and be a more positive addition to the society.


When Shoemaker plans out a tattoo, he makes an effort to make his tattoos look as natural as possible. “I always try to match the curves of the tattoo to the natural curves of the body to make it look like it belongs there,” he says. One of his customers today had a biohazard tattoo he wanted worked around. Shoemaker then spent some time drawing a new idea that would conform to the old tattoo and to the natural curves of his client’s body.

According to David, the craft of tattooing and the art form of tattooing are two equally important subjects. The craft of tattooing includes the sterilization process, which he holds to be of primary importance, and the art form of tattooing is where he is able to incorporate his own art form and style. In any form of art, it is always important to remember your roots and to not forget history and tradition. “You can’t progress to your own liking without knowing the tradition, the foundation of what’s around,” says Shoemaker. “I like to add in my own influences and create my own world off of tradition.”

”I’m most inspired by the world around me,” Shoemaker states. “In my artwork, I try to express something that is in my head or create something that can’t be found in the world around me.”

Coko Tattoo Studio is open every Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The shop is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information on Coko Tattoo Studio, call them at 098-936-0510 or check out their website at Coko.

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