The story of how Chaim Machlev, owner of DotsToLines became one of the world’s most in-demand tattoo artists, with studios in Berlin and California, began over a decade ago. Born and Bred in Tel Aviv, Israel, Chaim was the Project Manager for an IT company.
He was comfortable, it paid well, and he didn’t hate the job. But he felt like there was something missing. At that point, didn’t know what it was. But he knew it was something.
I felt completely full of life and excitement again
As day turned to night, Chaim began to feel weighed down with the reality that each day was more or less blending into one. The daily grind was taking its toll, and he felt somewhat burned out by it all. However, on the horizon, there lay a decision that would change the trajectory of his life forever.
‘I was never into tattoos before but I decided to go for it.’ Chaim explains. Maybe it was the idea of being spontaneous or possibly it was his subconscious screaming out for him to wake up from the norm, perhaps it was just to mark turning 30 years of age. Whatever it was that made Chaim visit tattoo artist Avi Vernunu in his Tel Aviv, Psycho studio, it was something that would have a profound effect on him.
‘That’s when everything changed for me, the process of the tattooing and the feeling afterwards. It was something I never felt before, I felt completely full of life and excitement again. This is when I realised that I wanted to become a tattoo artist. I had no artistic background, but I would do everything possible to achieve it, which led to me moving to Berlin.’
I love the commitment and the devotion in those pieces.
Often in life, we experience something that could be described as spiritual. Something that transcends the norm. That’s what being tattooed felt like for Chaim, and it took him onto a completely different path. That ink represented the start of a new life.
Chaim decided to pack up his belongings and sell the rest. He made his way to Berlin, a place he had never been before, with just a rucksack and dreams for company. With no artistic experience but with a thirst and desire to learn he knocked on the door of any tattoo studio he came across in search of a mentor.
He was hit with rejection after rejection until one studio took him in. They allowed him to watch and learn in exchange for cleaning every day. The journey had officially started. ‘The first tattoo I ever made was in Berlin.’ Says Chaim. It was a little starfish that someone allowed me to practice on them. I actually framed the stencil, because I felt so happy in that moment of creating my first tattoo for someone.’
Sometimes, you just have to be brave and ballsy, lay it on the line and roll the dice. In just over a decade, Chaim has gone from couch surfing across Berlin to creating his DotsToLines studios in Germany’s capital and more recently Los Angeles. His designs have captured the imagination of people across the world. Like an alchemist of the skin, Chaim’s artistry is rooted in the profound connection between dots and lines—seemingly simple elements that he orchestrates with unparalleled finesse. ‘I would say that I do individual tattoos that fit the body. I love doing minimalistic geometric lines work. But enjoy complexity as long as it’s following the body structure,’ explains Chaim, pausing thoughtfully for a moment before adding. ‘I love connecting people through tattoos. I have done several pieces that physically stretch along 2 or even more people. I love the commitment and the devotion in those pieces.
go for it all the way, run and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
What made Chaim’s first tattoo so special was that it felt like an experience. It is something he has integrated into his own work, going all out to make sure his clients feel the way he did all those years ago. He never does sketches prior to appointments, as everybody’s body is unique. Arrive with an open mind and let all your inhibitions go.
It could be said that in the realm of inked artistry, where bodies become canvases and stories etch into existence, there exists a master of the ethereal. Chaim Machlev transcends the boundaries of conventional tattooing to birth breathtaking tapestries upon flesh. Beyond the mere visual spectacle, Chaim’s artistry evokes a profound sense of introspection. His tattoos become talismans, imprinted with tales waiting to be told, secrets longing to be unveiled. Each stroke of his needle breathes life into the intangible, bridging the realms of the spiritual and the corporeal.
The tattoo industry has undoubtedly changed over the last decade or so, with more people than ever getting tattoos and the narrative has changed around people who are inked. It is also now deservedly being seen as more of an art form. So how does Chaim think things have altered since he started on his journey? ‘I think that there is a lot more room for young artists now, ‘ says Chaim. When I started tattooing it was extremely hard for me to find someone that agreed to teach me because I never knew how to draw. Then, when I managed to learn how to tattoo on my own, I had so many artists criticising me for not doing the traditional way of drawing and for not doing an apprenticeship for years. I think there are a lot of great artists that get their chances now more than ever with the help of social media and the younger generation.’
Chaim’s journey to becoming a tattoo artist isn’t what you would call the most traditional way of doing things. That though, is exactly what has made him the artist he is today, and he wouldn’t change it for anything. His work has helped inspire a new generation of people who are passionate about the industry and want to be part of it, ‘I would say that if you really want it and it’s burning inside you, go for it all the way, run and don’t let anyone tell you differently. If I managed to become a world-renowned tattoo artist without an art background, then anyone can be anything they want!’
it fills me with so much joy anD happiness
Gone are the days of couch surfing and donating blood just make enough money to eat and get by. The long arduous days of working in the pulsing heat of Tel Aviv as a Project Manager are long gone as well. But you can tell that Chaim reflects on all of those moments with a profound respect for what they were and how they have helped him become the man he is today. Because of those experiences, he has a deep and full appreciation of life, and it’s what drives him every single day.
It’s part of what has helped him become one of the most in-demand tattoo artists in the world, inking the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, collaborating with BMW and Mercedes and exhibiting his work across the world as he splits his time between Berlin and Los Angeles. ‘I love both cities for different reasons, Chaim explains. ‘I feel like I create myself in LA from a different place inside my heart than when I compose and tattoo in Berlin. Both cities are almost the direct opposites of each other.’
It seems though that 2023 has given Chaim his biggest adventure yet. Something that no amount of hard can prepare you for. ‘We just had a baby girl two months ago, it fills me with so much joy and happiness to be a part of her life. So the rest of this year is all about family, and private sessions in my studio in LA.’
With thanks and Peace and Love to the gentleman that is Chaim Machlev.