While our latest collaboration project with artists is garnering accolades and widening the crowd of Festka converts, we thought it was time to meet with the men behind the monicker for a chat about how they got to where they are and how they feel about the work we did together.
We meet Ondřej Konupčík and Radim Kašpárek under their roof – a nice detached house in the popular residential town of Černošice, 20 minutes' drive in the south-westerly direction from the centre of Prague. Here's where Ondřej lives with his family of soon-to-be five, where he plies his trade as a renowned tattoo artist and where he works with Radim on their art.
We enter the ground floor of the house where we are briefly shown the workshop looking studio with two large water tanks they sink their canvases in, before being sat in a cool clean room next door where Ondrash does his tattooing in a large bay window area demarcated by a huge metal frame that creates the feeling of a separate room without walls. There are several finished paintings in various sizes, formats and colour schemes standing on the floor, leaning against the wall. These boys have been keeping busy of late…
But let's go back a bit. Ondrash is the most sought after tattoo artist in the country and with close to 140K followers on Instagram and nine out of ten clients coming to him to get inked from abroad, he is up there with the best in this field. His colourful, more and more often abstract works are instantly recognisable. He tells me he first trained as woodcarver and then went on to study fashion and shoe design on the college level. He started tattooing in his late teens and continued to learn the trade and develop his style during his college years. When I ask him how he managed to get the word around, he tells me he didn't leave anything to chance. "In the pre-digital days, I would take photos of my work, have them developed in a photo lab and send them by snail mail to tattoo magazines. And I got rewarded pretty early on by getting my tattoos published. Then things started snowballing from there."
He cites a spell in New Zealand as an important formative experience, both for his maturing as a tattoo artist as well as a person. "I was happy to do Maori motifs there but I felt I shouldn't do them here. I wanted to go my own way, start my own tribe." And he certainly succeeded in doing that. Despite working Monday to Friday week in week out his waiting list is huge and growing. Does this make him uneasy? Apparently not. He thinks that good things come to those who can wait. He sees the willingness to wait as a token of his clients' commitment.
Every tattoo Ondřej does is a one-off original. He explains how it works in practice: "I got a great assistant who takes care of the enquiries and does the initial interviews so that when the client eventually comes I already
How did you two meet, then? "I came to Ondřej to get tattooed about ten years ago and we hit it off straight away," Radim answers. "It transpired during the session that we shared an interest in abstract painting with an element of randomness or chance. But it wasn't until about five years ago that we started experimenting together occasionally. When the pandemic blew up Ondřej's tattooing schedules, an amazing opportunity presented itself and I decided to quit working for our family firm and I came to Prague from a small town in Moravia where I lived to start working with him in earnest."
The last fourteen months were a complete blast for the duo that adopted the name Ondrash & Kasparek. Having fixed many technical glitches earlier – mainly thanks to Radim being a natural-born tinker – they could finally concentrate on creating artworks by the original method they had developed and perfected. It involves painting on the surface of water using their breath and a range of tools of their own design. Once they're happy with what's floating on the top, they transfer it on canvas that they submerge in the tank. "We have made tens of canvases in the last year and sold forty of them!" They can hardly believe it has taken off so fast.
Where does Ondrash see the main difference between his tattoo work and the painting? "What I love about tattooing is the intimacy. It has a flip side, though, because it may be emotionally draining. Working with Radim on the paintings allows me to express myself without this emotional load. It relaxes and liberates me."
The collab with Festka being the first time they were faced with applying the technique to a 3D object, it was a challenge as well as a valuable experience. "We can already see further opportunities for the application of this technique. Having trained as a woodcarver, I can imagine combining the two domains into one piece of art. And working on the two bike frames we have done so far was a great test of what's possible. Another road we'd like to explore is applying the method to transparent surfaces. That would enable us to add light as another dimension. Not to mention options involving video and sound. That would be a completely new playground…" Ondřej elaborates with Radim chipping in.
There is further talk of needing to find the right balance between tattooing and painting, production volume and pricing, exclusivity and the danger of getting plagiarised. This story is evidently only beginning and we are glad we can play our small part in it…
One of the frames that got the Ondrash & Kasparek makeover is this FESTKA Scout – the latest addition to our model range. The bike is available as seen. If you are interested in buying or ordering your own original piece of bike art, don't hesitate to start the conversation.
written by: Janek Jaros
photos: Tom Hnida