Two standout pieces in the our 2020 BSMC collection are the Zeus T-shirt and Artemis vest, featuring artwork by Rebecca Bonaci of Oddity Tattoo and Custom Lids Malta. We first met Rebecca at the Bike Shed London show in 2016, where she displayed her hand-painted motorcycle helmets, and her style absolutely floored us. We have been lucky enough to collaborate over the years with some of the finest artists operating within moto-culture and were delighted to commission these two pieces from Rebecca. Whether deployed on fibreglass or skin her trademark combination of classical themes with a modern twist is instantly recognisable and we are stoked to now have her artistry grace BSMC cotton. Her paired illustrations of Zeus, god of thunder, and his daughter Artemis—the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature—are playfully and delicately drawn with sharp lines, as you’d expect of a professional tattoo artist with her own studio – we adore them.
We caught up with Rebecca Bonaci over phone to learn a little more about her and her art, and to see how she is faring through the present global crisis.
BIKE SHED: What was it like growing up on the tiny, densely populated island of Malta?
REBECCA BONACI: Growing up I always had mixed feelings about living in Malta. I used to always dream of living abroad, in a larger country full of opportunities. Nowadays, after traveling to different places, I realized that Malta is my home. I treasure its beauty and I have learned that opportunities rise if you work hard.
BS: When did you first study art?
RB: I have always loved to draw, however I did not study other artists until I was around 14 years old. As I got older and continued my studies, my work always evolved as I tried out different media and techniques. Nowadays I have a clearer idea of what I like but I am sure that my work will continue to evolve.
BS: Who is one of your favorite artists?
RB: I would have to say Dan Hillier, mainly because of all the beautiful details. I also love Mexican artist Irving Herrera’s woodcuts; his use of patterns with figures is so beautiful. I am inspired by so many different artists from Japanese traditional prints to classical paintings and to scientific illustrations, so I guess I am not attracted to anything specific but rather inspired by the many things around me I see … beautiful.
BS: When did you get into motorcycles?
RB: When I met my husband James, 7 years ago, I remember having conversations about bikes, as they are one of his biggest hobbies. He would mention the aesthetic aspects when creating custom bikes, and I was fascinated when I realized that this was his way of creating art.
BS: Do you ride?
RB: James bought me a Honda CB100, and I got my bike license, however I still don’t ride it. Driving in Malta is so crazy, and I don’t trust myself yet.
BS: Why did you start painting motorcycle helmets?
RB: When James and I met we used to hang out at his garage often, and I used to take my drawing supplies with me and we would work on our different projects. One day he gave me a helmet and asked me to draw on it for him, and it was something I really enjoyed doing. After posting it on social media I had a very good response so I thought this could be a new opportunity.
BS: And that’s when you decided to start Custom Lids with Jeffery Portelli?
RB: When I painted my first helmet, I was still at university so I couldn’t really afford to buy helmets. During that same time Jeffrey owned a shop called Rockabilly and he posted a photo of a helmet he was selling at his shop. Shortly after I contacted him, we met and collaborated, and custom Lids was created. He has been a great friend ever since.
BS: Which of your hand-painted helmets is your favorite?
RB: A pomegranate helmet I painted for our wedding … I know it sounds cheesy, but it brings back beautiful memories .
BS: How did you start tattooing?
RB: I always loved tattoos but never really thought of it as a possibility for me to become a tattooist. However, after I graduated in fine art six years ago, I was a little lost and I couldn’t find a job, so I ended up working in sales for a couple of months until I managed to save money to enroll in a tattoo course.
BS: What have you enjoyed most about having your own tattoo studio?
RB: Opening a shop has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life so far. Tattooing has helped me meet so many different people, and every day is a new experience and a new lesson. I have mainly learned to be more confident in my work but at the same time be humble enough to understand that there is always room for improvement. I am grateful to meet new people every day and spend time doing what I love most.
BS: What’s happening now in the world of Rebecca Bonaci?
RB: Well, at the moment I just had to close my shop due to the COVID-19 situation, so I’m mostly looking forward to opening my shop again. I am working on new drawings so who knows, maybe I might have enough time to work on an exhibition I’ve always wanted to do.