In a celebration of traditional Japanese artistry, Lexus has commissioned the world’s first tattooed car. This strictly one-of-a-kind interpretation of the UX compact SUV has been designed and created by leading London tattoo artist Claudia De Sabe.
Using a pure white car as her “canvas” and a Dremel drill tool in place of a fine tattooing needle, Claudia produced a design featuring koi carp along the entire length of the vehicle. The koi is a motif familiar from traditional Japanese art, representing qualities of good fortune and perseverance.
Claudia used the Dremel tool to drill away the surface paint and expose the metal underneath to create the complex pattern, and then applied five litres of high-quality car paint by hand to bring out the details. As a finishing touch, she used gold leaf to create highlights and give the design a stronger 3D effect, before the whole vehicle was given a protective lacquer coating so that it can be driven on the road.
The process took six months to complete from the initial drawings, with the “tattooing” accomplished over five eight-hour days of intensive work. It was physically demanding, with the vibration of the drill and working with an object that, unlike a human customer, couldn’t be moved into a comfortable position as the design progressed.
The tattooed UX doesn’t have a price tag, but it’s estimated the bespoke work would cost upwards of £120,000.
It was the first time Claudia had applied her skills to metal rather than human skin and she found both similarities and new challenges in the unique commission.
“When you tattoo a person, you have to think about the muscles and tissue beneath the skin. With the car it was about the way the bodywork changes shape over the framework,” said Claudia, who was assisted in her work by her Japanese-born husband Yutaro.
“‘The best thing about tattooing the Lexus UX, and the reason why this car was ideal for the project, is its streamlined shape. Everything from the lines on the side of the body to the shape of the windows, everything is just so dynamic and beautiful. It was a perfect fit for the design and the concept itself,” said Claudia, a co-founder of the Red Point tattoo studio in Islington.
The project stands as a tribute to the takumi craftsmanship that the manufacturer claims is applied to every Lexus. The Japanese car manufacturer says it embraces traditional Japanese aesthetics in its vehicle designs, in elements such as the UX’s washi paper-grain cabin trims and the seamless merging of the interior and exterior through the front screen, echoing the engawa architectural features of Japanese homes.
Lexus has created a short film which goes behind the scenes to reveal how the tattooed car was made. It can be viewed here: Tattooed Car – how it was done.