There are two aspects to it- First is the acceptance from the fraternity and the second is the acceptance from the client.
Welcome to Pt II of Sisterhood of the Tattooed Tribe.
To read Pt I, click here.
“The tattoo industry in India has largely been a boy’s club. Largely looked upon as the art form of the outcast till a few years back, tattoos have taken some time to find resonance as individual expression in this part of the world. But, over the years, talented and passionate female artists have made their presence felt, not just through their art work, but by their individual politic of standing out for what they believe in.
While the number of female tattoo artists in India is still pretty low in comparison to the other gender, but their quality of work is as badass as it gets. They are breaking all forms of social norms, re-imagining tattoo imagery by bending gender stereotypes, and creating a space that allows more identities to bloom through some sick tattoos. We caught up with a few of them to know the stories about their journeys, their influences, their art and their identities.”
Where will you find her: Tat2me Studio, Mumbai
Being a tattoo artist for Nikita means living a life. “My brother persuaded me into this art form. Being a tattoo artist is being myself. I try to put all the art that I have witnessed and learnt and been inspired by in my tattoos. Every time I do a piece, it adds to the good moments in my life. I am creating something of my own from scratch and I enjoy that the most,” she says.
Nikita likes to create art that speaks for itself. Taking it as a learning approach and giving every tattoo her best shot, she loves to mix and match various styles and forms. “I am inclined towards neo-traditional, geometry and oriental tattoo art. I love to do strong and bold subjects which stand out.”
Nikita had a lot of family support while starting out but says that there were a few complications because of the stereotypical thinking of the society that girls do not belong in this profession. “You really need to be patient. From my perspective, it’s a serious art form. Yes, it’s difficult and there is so much to learn. I am still learning, everyday, with every new skin I explore. When I started out, people were doubtful about getting tattooed by me as there weren’t too many female artists. So I made sure that my works speaks for itself.”
Nikita strongly believes that the person you are has some impact in the art you create. “It does make a difference with the way you think and imagine your art. Being a woman does have some influence in my art, but not always. Its about how much you can absorb the thoughts and the ideas and how you interpret them as an artist. People don’t come to me because I am a female artist. They come to me because of my art.”
Where will you find her: Skin Machine Tattoo Studio, Bhopal
“While I was in college, I met my mentor Akash Chandani and asked if he could teach me. I took up the tattoo lessons part time. And before I knew it, I became a tattoo artist at Skin Machine,” she says.
Being a henna artist already, Naina follows traditional patterns and designs in her art work. Abhinandan Basu is one of her favourite artists and she loves doing dot work and oriental pieces. “For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. Every creative person has something that can influence you and your growth as an artist.”
Her favourite part about being a tattoo artist is meeting new people. She says, “I give my clients something that they will always look at with pride and will always have. That’s a phenomenal feeling. Its really funny to say ‘I went to work and put people in pain.’ This artwork is tough, but its honest.”
When Naina started tattooing, a lot of the clients coming into the studio would be surprised to see a female tattoo artist. “Initially, my clients would ask how I got into the industry. But if you do good work, then it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman and people don’t judge you by your gender. Your work becomes your representation and people will remember you by your work,” she says.
Naina swears by originality and says that even when clients come to her with designs from the internet, she always tries to interpret it in her own way and make a better and different version of the same design. “Be an artist, not a printer. I always try to do new things in every single design I make. But yes, you have to keep the client’s requirements and satisfaction as a priority as well, while making good work at the same time.”
Where will you find her: Verve Tattoo Studio, Bangalore
“Meraki” means to do something with soul, creativity and love, to put something of yourself into your work. And this is how Jessie describes tattooing.
Jessie is fascinated and passionate about realistic and portraiture work as well as geometric and dot work. “These styles of artwork require a lot of patience and discipline. Not everyone can pull off geometric and dot work tattoos. And portraiture work is always challenging because you have to capture the likeness and character of a real person.”
For Jessie, being an artist is to believe in life. “Tattooing is my day long obsession, joy and torment. Whoever you are, whatever you show, you must be memorable. You must offer something worthy to your clients. Being an artist is a way of life, so there’s no end to it. Whether I succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making my unknown known is the most important thing to me.”
Jessie agrees that the business is hard and competitive. But at the end of the day, its about your work. “Your work will always be the true test. If your clients are happy, then you are successful. So we do whatever we have to do to feel good about ourselves and be confident in that trust, even if that means wearing RED lipstick. I’m constantly meeting new interesting and talented individuals who are often open-minded and offer a great deal of insight and inspiration. I doubt I’d find this rare combination as easily in another work environment.”
She says it takes a lot of hard work, gumption, and a willingness to continue despite self-doubts. “And there ARE doubts. Every day. Any artist that says otherwise is a liar.”
Where will you find her: Leo Tattoos, Mumbai
Sahana studied animation before pursuing tattooing because of its versatility. “Everyday its a new design and a new canvas. I get to work on different concepts and meet a lot of people through my work,” she says.
For Sahana, art is not restricted to any specification. It is limitless and so is tattooing. “Tattooing for me is fluid.”
With a strong inclination towards liner art, black work and ornamental, Sahana’s influences have been artists like Van Gough, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Kawasaki and Margaret D. H. Keane, to name a few. She also finds inspiration from her daily life. “Nature herself has been a major influence. And so is my everyday life in general.”
Sahana believes that art doesn’t have a gender and that anyone can express themselves through their artwork. But being a female tattoo artist in India, she has faced some amount of prejudice. “People in our country usually judge a book by its cover than its content. I have had instances where people have asked me ‘you are going to do my tattoo?’ with a dreadful expression. Some people also have a misconception that getting tattooed by a female artist will hurt less. However over the last 6 years of my working experience in this industry the situation has definitely improved a lot!”
Where will you find her: Devil’z Tattooz, Gurugram
Sakshi’s foray into the world of tattooing began when she herself got her first tattoo. “I was already painting. Then when I went to get my first tattoo and saw the studio setup, the step by step process of how a tattoo comes alive, I got really interested in it as an art form. I could easily relate to it and it wasn’t an alien concept for me. The environment in a studio felt euphoric and there was creative freedom. So it was a very smooth transition for me.”
Being influenced by the Dada art movement and with a love for slightly darker art, Sakshi considers herself to be very lucky to work out her passion. “For me, creation of art in the permanent form is really satisfying. Every aspect of it. The thought that goes into it, the designing, the execution – everything about the entire process brings a lot of happiness.”
She believes that one has to tune in to one’s thoughts to tap into the creative pool. “Art, in any form, depends on the individual’s mind and how it works and what it tells. And yes, to be successful, you have to work your ass off. You cannot afford to lose focus and keep at it. And yes, practice is the key.”