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Body Ink – It’s not just Skin Deep

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Body Ink – It’s not just Skin Deep

Five years ago, Steen Jones was a two-meter tall, heavily tattooed carpenter. Today he’s a two meter tall, heavily-tattooed internationally-recognised artist, business-owner and – so much more!

Steen is creative director of ‘Few and Far’ studio, he owns ‘Few and Far Collective’, an art-inspired clothing label and is also the owner of an amazingly well decorated Brisbane café, ‘Deathproof’ which opened in June this year with a boom!

Steen’s smile, energy and passion for creativity and design, are part of his special talents. These qualities help explain how he has more than 56,000 followers on Instagram, has shipped 15,000 orders of his clothing to more than 50 countries and why his unique style is in demand by businesses all over the world.

His work adorns buildings right across Australia, including a new 150 square meter mural in Sydney’s Parramatta which covers the entire side of a five-storey building. Transforming a dull space into a work of art that moves people on a grand scale. (Insert Image)

Steen has painted murals in Hawaii, Bondi, Western Australia,  Victoria and Queensland. His work can be found on just about everything from skateboard decks, surfboards, walls, coffee tables and doughnut boxes, to underwear, backpacker accommodation, cafes and shopfronts.

Now he’s designed the packaging on Australia’s newest and most exciting organic chocolate- the Tribute bar.

Steen has many balls in the air and doesn’t have much time for rest, but he’s living his dream!

A move from hometown Brisbane, (where he worked as a tattoo artist) to Melbourne’s Fitzroy, proved life-changing as he immersed himself in the area’s vibrant street art. “I was inspired by everything,” he says, “from graffiti and tagging to street art installations and Melbourne in general.”  

“It was exciting moving interstate, into a reconditioned warehouse overlooking the city, in a street filled with art which would literally change weekly, but I needed money.  So I decided it was time to hang up the tattoo pens and dust off my hammer. Carpentry wasn’t my ideal job, but aside from working in a tattoo shop, it was all I knew.”

But so popular was Steen’s work, the commission’s kept flooding in.

“The first two years in Melbourne were the hardest of my life.  I was both physically and mentally wrecked,” he says. “It was carpentry by day, and painting my ass off at night, then blogging, and occasionally dabbling with aerosol paint. But the money was good and my boss was a legend. He’d go a little easier on me the mornings I’d roll into work like a zombie because I had been up working on my art until all hours.”

Two years later Steen scraped together funds and headed for street-art event Pow Wow Hawaii. It was a life-changing decision, giving him the strength, inspiration and confidence to kick off his ‘Few and Far Collective’, which enabled him to down-tools and live the creative life.

Steen’s design work and his body, is heavily inspired by traditional tattoo imagery. “Old-style tattoos really appeal to me because they’re simple, bold and to the point,” he says. “Then one day it hit me. Why don’t I use these themes to create large-scale artworks? Like a tattoo on the side of a building.”

He’d stumbled on a winning idea and before long Steen’s work had been noticed, and snapped-up by US brand Sailor Jerry Rum.  Since then, Steen has also worked with leading brands including Vans, Bonds, Red Bull, Delta Airlines and now, Tribute.

“I’ve been able to work with these top-tier companies and I’ve got a few more in the works, but it still doesn’t feel real,” he says. “I can’t believe what’s actually happened to me!”

What inspires you – artistically or otherwise? 

It doesn’t seem to matter where I am in the world, I’m always finding, writing down or photographing something. I think it’s important, it fuels my creativity and gives me energy. So I’m always on the lookout, whether I realise it or not.

Why did you chose to work on designing the branding for Tribute Chocolates?

Well firstly I love premium chocolate! And the idea of my designs included on the packaging of a high quality product and in the hands of consumers, makes me feel super proud.

What does the TRIBUTE project mean to you?

There are hundreds of thousands of incredibly talented artists out there, so for me to be selected to design the all-important wrapper, is a huge achievement in itself. To be handpicked to work on things I truly love (like chocolate!) and to enjoy every second of the process is the best. The team are great guys, which makes it even more enjoyable. I’m humbled to be where I am and grateful for every opportunity – especially this one with Tribute.

What do you find most amazing about your story?

My whole career thus far! I went to school in a small country town in Queensland, with 100 kids and was never really into art. I never thought in my wildest dreams, I’d be an artist. But here I am and I’m happier, more excited and prouder than ever.

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve done?

Without a doubt, the coolest is being commissioned to design and make gifts [rings??], for not only the VIPs of the world-renowned Vans Bowl-A-Rama skate contest, but some of my biggest idols and role models.  Two years on and it’s still hard to believe. The craziest part about it is, I bought a laser engraver especially for the idea and the pieces were our first ever trial run! Luckily they turned out better than I imagined and Tony Hawk, Steve Cabellero and Rune Glifberg loved them! No risk, no reward. (include some images)

And a tie for second would be:

  1. Designing underwear for Bonds. Never-ever did I think they would like my work but here I am with four exclusive and limited edition, Steen Jones x Bonds briefs! Crazy.
  2. Last but not least, the branding fun with Tribute. I’ve recently fallen in love with designing packaging and have always loved chocolate so it’s the perfect fit.

What’s a key ingredient of your success?

I’m independent and self-motivated and I believe the key to being at peace is being yourself at your most creative. That’s when you’re able to do your best work and flourish. When I wait for opinions or feedback it holds me back and even sometimes de-motivates me, so I made the decision to trust myself. Staying true to myself is imperative.

And your greatest achievement?

Being able to break away from the ‘normal’ and create the life I wanted. And to be honest, I don’t even feel like I have a job anymore. I don’t take days off and don’t want them – I cannot stay awake long enough or wake up early enough.

Four crazy, sleep-deprived, coffee-fuelled, ruthless and unfathomably amazing years on, I’m humbled, happier, more refined, focused and dedicated than ever.

I’ve created my groove, discovered my true passions and been supported by the most amazing, trusting and loyal clientele that I ever could have hoped for. And if that wasn’t already perfect, I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with a bunch of my favourite artists and collaborate with some of my favourite brands and companies, including AVAAL and their brand new Tribute chocolate bar.

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