Tattooist, publisher, designer, and more. We get up close with this modern-day renaissance man.
Maxime Plescia-Buchi is a singular individual. He is a world-renowned tattoo artist (or tattooist, as he prefers) who has left his indelible mark on the likes of music stars Kanye West, FKA Twigs, and Adam Lambert. But although it was tattooing that catapulted him to fame, the scope of Plescia-Buchi’s work runs far beyond just putting ink down on skin.
His most current creative endeavour, TTTism, is a multi-media ode to tattooing, with content being produced on social media, its website, via a quarterly magazine, as well as through books. His agency Sang Bleu encompasses two tattoo parlours (one in Zurich and one in London) as well as a branding, design, product, and typography studio that has worked with the likes of Nike, Alexander McQueen, and—most recently—Swiss watchmaking brand Hublot.
Named the Sang Bleu and the Sang Bleu II, the watches both employ Plescia-Buchi’s characteristic geometric shapes, which appear in his tattoo work as well—although probably not for the reasons you think. The original Sang Bleu was so well-received that stock virtually never hit the window displays here in Singapore. And although the Sang Bleu II has yet to be delivered to stores, we are told by the brand that all the pieces allocated to the Singapore have already been pre-sold to customers.
So what of the man behind it? Plescia-Buchi’s work is clearly popular, even among people that have no clue who the man is. Thanks to Hublot, we had the chance to try and suss out what makes Maxime Plescia-Buchi tick.
On TTT-ism, And His Many, Many Different Endeavours:
To be honest it’s kind of like a train of thought, almost. It’s my attempt to try and express the things that I want to express, at the right moments to express them. For example, TTTism today is an evolution of what Sang Bleu’s magazine was back in the day. It was a kind of manifesto, it had everything you see me doing today. It had art, design, tattooing, all of that—and not only what is expressed within the magazine, but the magazine itself—it had writing, photography, design, poetry, and all the events that we did based around the magazine. At the time, this was ten years ago, when I was barely a tattooist myself. It was really more of a movement. It was something between culture and politics, it’s something that brings people together and captures the spirit of society.
What we do doesn’t only depict or report, but there is also a real intention to make a statement and to push a certain vision. So yes, there is a political dimension to it.
Environmental issues, for example, is something that I think we need to be concerned with and deal with as soon as possible. So if I ever get to collaborate with NGOs like the European government, Greenpeace, or WWF, it would all make sense. I’m working on making full sustainable tattoo supplies.
On How To Make Things Happen:
For me, there’s a holy trinity of stars that need to align before anything can happen successfully. You need to have the desire, you need the skill, and you need the moment. Short of any of those elements, nothing happens. If you do have all of those elements, things work out. So to me, all of those things belong to the same vision.
There is also no limit to what I would do. There is nothing that I don’t put intention in, that I don’t reflect on and wonder how can make things better.
Why His Designs Use Geometry:
Because geometry is a visual expression of maths. And to me, maths is the quintessential nature of how the human brain works, and how we perceive the world. Every civilisation uses geometry—and it’s based on such subtle things. In Arabic Islamic culture, for example, there are a lot of eight-point stars. But if you change it to a six-point star, then it’s a Star of David. In Asian culture, you might have more hexagons. Each civilisation tweaked their patterns, but there’s a universality to it all. And it transcends any historical changes in humankind—a triangle is always going to be a triangle.
It’s the same in both humans and animals—you can show a schematic face to a dog, and they will still recognise and react as if they saw a face. Geometry and maths are things that have a universal quality and appeal, what makes all of us part of the same world. I’m interested in the things I have in common with people. To me, geometry by definition has that commonality. In a world where everything is always about individuality, I think individuality is overrated. [laughter]
What is interesting is not what makes us different, but what makes us the same. From environmental issues and other issues that humankind has to face—we have to focus on that.
On the Inspiration Behind the Sang Bleu watches:
[Besides geometry], part of the inspiration was derived from aerodynamic shapes, extreme sports, and prosthetic body extensions—almost like the concept of transhumanism. It was inspired by something extremely current or futuristic, something emerging from the body. For that I wanted the whole watch—the case, the bracelet, everything—to be very well-shaped and like an extension of the human form.
Also, this was about pushing the envelope as far as we could. To me, the inspiration of this watch is architecture, you know, but I’ve seen people joking that it’s like a transformer—so be it! I have nothing against that. The reason why you see the things you see, the reason why things look the way they look a mainstream successful movie like Transformers is because it’s in the zeitgeist. It’s in the air—it’s the way people look at things.
If you take this watch and look at it with some contemporary architecture behind it, then it could look like a building. That’s what I want. I don’t want a watch that looks like it’s from the 1950s. I wanted to produce something that’s like a spaceship—it belongs to today and tomorrow, that’s what this is about.
On His Design Approach:
I essentially approach everything the same, whether it’s someone’s body or anything else. There’s no formula in it, but it needs to start from a point where I feel I understand [the subject] enough. If I don’t understand it, then I just start educating myself.
The process is to take something that already exists and create something on it. It’s the same as if someone comes with their body to get a tattoo. But the idea of pure creation is an illusion, everything is contextual. Even a blank canvas has a certain shape, a certain type of linen, a certain type of priming, a certain size and proportion. And the more you understand the context, [the more you can create]. For the Sang Bleu, I just took the Big Bang case as the context and asked what I could create from it. What can I not change, what is the identity of this pre-existing object, and how far would I allow myself (or be allowed by other people) to modify that. And I just go from there.