The project took six months to complete from the initial drawings, with the tattooing accomplished over five eight-hour days of work.
To celebrate fine craftsmanship and traditional Japanese artistry, Lexus has commissioned the world’s first tattooed car. This strictly one-of-a-kind interpretation of the Lexus UX compact SUV has been designed and created by leading London tattoo artist Claudia De Sabe.
Using a pure white donor UX as her ‘canvas’ and a Dremel drill tool in place of a fine tattooing needle, Claudia produced a sweeping design featuring koi carp along the entire length of the car. The koi is a motif familiar from traditional Japanese art, representing qualities of good fortune and perseverance.
Claudia used the Dremel tool to drill away the surface paint and expose the metal underneath to create the complex pattern, and then applied five litres of high-quality car paint by hand to bring out the details. As a finishing touch, she used gold leaf to create highlights and give the design a stronger 3D effect, before the whole vehicle was given a protective lacquer coating so that it can be driven on the road.
The process took six months to complete from the initial drawings, with the ‘tattooing’ accomplished over five eight-hour days of intensive work. It was physically demanding, with the vibration of the drill and working with an object that, unlike a human customer, couldn’t be moved into a comfortable position as the design progressed and the surface area of which is far less forgiving.
Where any small slips in a human tattoo can quite easily be worked or coloured into the pattern, the ‘engraving’ with the drill required absolute precision.
The tattooed UX doesn’t have a price tag, but it’s estimated the bespoke work would cost upwards of £120,000. It was the first time Claudia had applied her skills to metal rather than human skin and she found both similarities and new challenges in the unique commission.
“When you tattoo a person, you have to think about the muscles and tissue beneath the skin. With the car it was about the way the bodywork changes shape over the framework,” said Claudia, who was assisted in her work by her Japanese-born husband Yutaro.
“‘The best thing about tattooing the Lexus UX, and the reason why this car was ideal for the project, is its streamlined shape. Everything from the lines on the side of the body to the shape of the windows, everything is just so dynamic and beautiful. It was a perfect fit for the design and the concept itself,” said Claudia, a co-founder of the Red Point tattoo studio in Islington.