Monty Richthofen manifests his thoughts everywhere: “paper, walls, skins.” A Central Saint Martins graduate, Monty is a Berlin-based multi-disciplinary artist, whose creative expression extends to poetry, painting and performance. But you probably know him as Maison Hefner, one of the most sought after tattoo artists around. His trademark? Blind trust.
As part of his ongoing project, My words, your body, people from all over the world have trusted Monty Richthofen to tattoo whatever statement, mantra or personal quote he finds most fitting on their bodies. This is a pretty incredible thing, seeing as we’re currently living in a world increasingly filled with uncertainty and fear. Maybe that’s even a statement in itself?
One can’t deny that there’s something quite romantic and endearing about the way Monty works, “I dare myself to write down what I might not share otherwise, be vulnerable”, he explains. Much like the rituals involved in tattooing before it became mostly just a service, Monty goes through a very intimate process with his clients before picking their tattoo. Every session starts with a candid conversation, and then based on the stories that were shared, he picks a sentence that will stay with them forever. Some of these encounters have even ended in tears, “happy tears”.
The honesty and vulnerability of Monty’s method are reflected in the rawness of his creative style. So raw in fact, that the mistakes he makes whilst tattooing suddenly feel right — as if he’s done them voluntarily, for artistic purposes. They are, he admits, his favourite mistakes, “The ones I have on my body and the ones I make.”
Whilst still on the subject of failure, Monty expresses what he’s learned from past mistakes: “Most of the time there is a solution to a problem. When there is none, it’s OK to accept failure. We make mistakes constantly. It’s only human. The biggest mistake is to mistake the mistake for a mistake. You can learn something from any situation, no matter what the outcome is.”
Monty’s work is about human connection, self-expression, self-acceptance. His tattoos are meant to mark and honour an important stage in people’s lives, and they may even help to overcome and accept certain situations. But there’s also another element to them: the blunt, personal and relatable nature of his statements are an insightful screenshot (the modern snapshot) of youth culture today. And it’s the fact that people can relate to his thoughts, that keeps him hopeful: “It feels good to know that people can relate to you and vice versa.”