A juggling skeleton, a giraffe and a warrior - the story behind Up Side Down Circus' murals

April 26, 2021 


A skeleton couple dance in a big top under a clear night sky as a laughing clown juggles and an aerialist swings below the stars. 


The murals by talented Dom Tsoi are the first thing you notice when you walk into Up Side Down Circus, but have you ever wondered about the stories behind them? 


Artist and designer Dom said it was an “absolute pleasure” to work on the Day of the Dead and warrior murals in the training space. 


Dom grew up in Dinas Powys, then went to study illustration at Plymouth College of Art. He has worked with all kinds of clients - from cocktail bars to clothing brands. 

Dom's initial Day of the Dead sketch (Credit: Dom Tsoi)
An early sketch with colour (Credit: Dom Tsoi)

The 28-year-old’s projects include album covers, posters and prints. He said he was excited to work with a circus, adding: “It was a breath of fresh air.” 


Dom completed the first mural in April 2018, around six months after Up Side Down Circus opened. The design is inspired by the Day of the Dead celebration, from Mexico.


It combines elements of traditional circus, like the elephant in the big top, with elements of contemporary circus, like the aerial hoop and flying trapeze.

The finished mural in the training space (Credit: Dom Tsoi)

The second mural, called Warrior, was completed in October 2020 and took Dom a week, using around 20 cans of paint.


“It was super fun to do,” he said. “I really enjoyed working on the composition.”


The design was inspired by his interest in Asian history and its “amazing female figures”, such as folk heroine Mulan and ruler Empress Wu.  

The Warrior mural (Credit: Dom Tsoi)

“There have been a lot of female warriors in Chinese history throughout the dynasty,” he explained. “This piece was inspired by that.”


After meticulously planning the design, Dom started by spraying the outline on the wall, standing on a vaulting horse to reach the highest parts.


Next, he filled in the areas of blue, before adding reds, greens, purples and yellows. Then came the details of the breaking waves, the bird’s feathers and the warrior’s clothes.

The Warrior mural was completed in October 2020 (Credit: Dom Tsoi)

Everyone has their favourite part of the design. The lucky cat is especially popular! But which is Dom’s favourite bit?


“In terms of the details, I’d say the bow and tattoos are my favourites,” he said. “They weren’t part of the initial sketch – I added them right at the end.” 


Dom enjoys seeing people’s reactions to his work, but sadly the training space has been largely closed due to coronavirus restrictions since he finished the Warrior mural.

Dom is particularly proud of the detail in the tattoos (Credit: Dom Tsoi)

“I love seeing people’s reactions,” said Dom, who lives in Sully in the Vale of Glamorgan. “It gives me a boost and reassures me I did a good job.”


The team at Up Side Down Circus can’t wait to welcome community members back to the training space as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.


Open training will restart from Monday, May 10 and you can book two weeks beforehand from Monday, April 26 by emailing info@upsidedowncircus.co.uk


To find out more about Dom’s work, visit his website and Kickstarter page. You can also find him on Etsy, Facebook and Instagram


By Liz Day 

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