Leading London tattoo artist Claudia De Sabe has designed and created a one-of-a-kind interpretation of the UX compact SUV. Using a pure white car as her canvas and a Dremel drill tool instead of a fine tattooing needle, Claudia produced a sweeping design featuring koi carp along the entire length of the vehicle. The koi is a familiar motif in 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.
The process took six months to complete from the initial drawings, and the tattooing was accomplished over five eight-hour days of intensive work. It was physically demanding, with the vibration of the drill and having to work with an object that, unlike a human client, couldn’t be moved into a comfortable position as the design progressed. Where any small slips in a human tattoo can quite easily be worked or coloured into the pattern, engraving with the drill required absolute precision.
The tattooed UX doesn’t have a price tag, but it’s estimated the bespoke work would cost upwards of £120,000. This is the first time Claudia has 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,” says Claudia, whose Japanese-born hus- band Yutaro assisted her.
“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.”
The project stands as a tribute to the takumi craftsmanship that is applied to every Lexus, witnessed in design details and flawless finishes achieved with human skills perfected through years of dedicated training. Similarly, Lexus 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.