Tilburg tattoo artist Myrrhe Esmeralda

Things are going fast with 29-year-old tattoo artist Myrrhe Esmeralda. Five years ago she put on a tattoo for the first time and now she has her own private studio, she works weekly in Amsterdam, people are willing to wait a year for a tattoo from Tilburg and she will soon move to a new tattoo studio that is no less than three times as big.

Pictures: Martine van der Moolen (Drawinglight)

"I've put tattoos on artists like Broederliefde and the American rapper Waka Flocka Flame. But for me, everyone is the same. I don't care who you are, what you do or who sits in my chair. I do the same to everyone and I don't have any more tension when I tattoo a famous person or someone who isn't known."

My grandfather designed De Kruikenzeiker in Nieuwlandstraat'.
Let's go to the beginning. As a child Myrrhe turns out to be very talented at drawing. From the moment she can, she draws thousands of drawings. Her mother has kept them all. "Super sweet," says Myrrhe. Creativity is in the family and passed on a generation from grandfather to Myrrhe: "My grandfather designed the Kruikenzeiker in the Nieuwlandstraat. He was an artist and also made several fairytale forest statues for the Efteling."

Myrrhe was not made for the school desks and stops three months before the final exams in high school. "I was quite a difficult child. A few months later I regretted this because I realized that it would be difficult without diplomas. I hadn't thought at the time that I would become a tattoo artist." She is going to work in the catering industry. Until she goes to see his father's work with a friend of her ex-wife. He has a tattoo shop in Tilburg. Although Myrrhe doesn't have any tattoos yet, she is immediately enthusiastic. "From the moment I walked in there, I thought: I want this too. In the end I never dared to take the step, until a friend said: let's get in the car now and buy some equipment.

Before I started for myself, I already had a three-month waiting list.
"Then I got a little fucked up. First I started practicing on myself. After that I started tattooing my neighbour and from then on I got a lot of requests. That really amazed me. A few weeks later I was able to work as an apprentice at the Stillwaters tattoo shop." After that she gained experience at several tattoo shops in Tilburg, St. Willebrord and Amsterdam before she started her own private shop. "I got too many requests and had to start my own tattoo shop. Before I started for myself, I already had a waiting list of three months."

Was Myrrhe happy with that? Not at all. "I didn't want a tattoo shop at all, I wanted to travel with my work and tattoo all over the world. But I had to. Because I had already made so many requests and agreements." In that period something tragic happened in the life of the young Myrrhe: "My father died. From that moment on, I turned the knob and I wanted to do everything I could to succeed in life. Tattooing was a distraction."

She hired an assistant and the queue of three months, became six and after that the queue continued to grow. Myrrhe's work is appreciated. Her specialty? "That's what others have to say. I like making portraits and realistic tattoos the most. With that style you can apply emotion and give a tattoo a soul. When you look at a photo, you get a certain emotion. I like it very much to convey this emotion in my work. I think that's also special because the portraits I often make, are of people who unfortunately are no longer there. That makes my work very special for the people I put it with."

As a guest artist, I want to cross the world'.
Yet tattooing is not a profession that Myrrhe will continue to do for the rest of her life. "It's really very bad for your body. I sit the whole week in an unnatural position and visit the masseuse every week. I don't intend to sit in this position until I'm 67 years old and eventually walk around as crooked as a shrimp. I hope to be able to retire between the age of forty and fifty and sit down in a hut on the moor."

Where does it stand? "Not in Tilburg. I love the city very much, but as a guest artist I want to see the world. I would still like to tattoo in America and Canada. But I also want to get to know the culture in other places in the world."

Returning to Tilburg will always be good for Myrrhe. "My goal is to buy a beautiful house for my mother here in Tilburg. She deserved that. She has taken care of me all her life and should be less burdened."


"People who are good at their job, I grant the whole world.
People from all over the Netherlands and Belgium are coming to Tilburg for a Myrrhe tattoo and so she is going to expand. "My shop will be three times as big. I want to work with guest artists from other countries and give young talents the chance to learn the trade." Providing a stage for talent is very important to Myrrhe. "The fact that tattoos have become so popular has opened many doors. But there are also many quacks and crappy tattoos on the market because they see that there is money to be made. I think that's such a shame. Tattooing is art and a lot of those tattoo artists mutilate people. It just can't be."

According to her, social media also has a major impact on the tattoo world. "Nowadays it's more about the number of followers on social media, than the work of a certain artist. People want to work faster with an artist with 400,000 followers and work of which I think 'is this all', than with an artist with 3,000 followers and sick work. I don't understand that. The number of followers and likes is made far too important."

Myrrhe hopes that good artists, potential competitors, will be better appreciated. "I don't think in competition. If everyone can make a nice living, it's fine, isn't it? People who are good at their job, I want the whole world."

Makers of Tilburg
Tilburg is a city of makers: film producers, music makers, artists, dance, musical and circus artists and so on. In the interview series 'Makers' Tilburg.com, in collaboration with Citymarketing Tilburg, tells inspiring stories of creative makers from the city.