Wed, 6 Dec 2023



Rustycake: Inking their way...
Published on: Thursday, September 21, 2023
By: Jonathan Nicholas
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Rustycake: Inking their way...
Rustycake is (from left to right) Brenda, Celyane, Pian, Reen (seated) Mira and Mitchrons.
Kota Kinabalu: An enterprising group of like-minded women have teamed up to set up what is probably Malaysia’s first all-female tattoo studio in a male-dominated industry.

Rustycake opened its doors at Jesselton Quay recently. Founder, Reen Rebecca Rushell said the name Rustycake was derived from a game she played during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She harboured dreams of setting up her own tattoo studio not long after inking her first client eight years ago.

“I think (Rustycake) its cute. A colourful edible but all rusty inside. Including myself, we are Celyane, Brenda, Mitchrons, Mira and a male apprentice, Pian.

“Business is a risky but I have put everything in it. It may seem normal to others but this is my life’s biggest achievement. I hope everything goes well,” she told Daily Express.

The 30-year-old who was also the frontwoman of an all-girl punk rock outfit, Misgive, said she has always let her feminist energy drive her.

“Tattooing is dominated by males. It’s undeniable that men play equally important roles, but a woman can do well to sustain herself,” the mother of two, said.

She said women (tattoo artists) pay attention to certain details in lining while most males tend to skip the feminine nuances.

“I was a tattoo collector before an artist and rarely observed the quality in Sabah. Now I’m glad more Sabahans can get it and that its women especially have the avenue to do so,” she said. 

Moneywise, Reen said they charge the same as their male counterparts but being a female tattoo artist in Malaysia does has its perks.

“Most of the women here are more comfortable getting their tattoos done by women. They could have had a bad experience with males before,” she said.

She encouraged women who want to become tattoo artists to go for it. 

“You don’t have to go to art school but you do have to earn your badge. All of us have worked hard to prove ourselves. 

“Every artist may have their own opinion (about the art), but at the end of the day I think the client’s happiness is where it’s at. You are permanently marking an individual.” 

In Sabah, she said there is no point being too competitive as tattoo artists as the scene is still quite small. 

“Rustycake isn’t at the point of where we have to compete, I personally support everyone in the industry or those wanting to enter. I have a lot on my plate now, but hopefully we can make room for more apprentices here and maybe even move to a bigger to store and empower more women,” she said. 

Asked if tatted up women still get disapproving stares, Celyane Anne Muyuk, 32, said the prejudice fades with age.

“Last time people associated tattoos with something negative but now civil servants including those in uniform are getting them. 

“I have even seen what are considered conservative mothers accompany their daughters get their first tattoos. 

“At Rustycake, we have a blend of styles from fine line detailing, feminine floral and or ‘girly’ tattoos, anime characters, neo and American traditional to tribal,” she said.

She views colleague, Mira Hector’s native Bornean style in high regard for execution and most importantly, originality.

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