I got my first tattoo last week. No, really. On 13th July, 19:28 tattoo studios in Neukölln, Berlin, hosted its very first Handpoke Tattoo Festival. Organized by the lovely Zid Visions, the studio hosted exclusively female and non-binary artists for the day, who worked (and danced) to an all-female soundtrack from noon ’til evening. Pairs of friends pored over books of flash, chatted with the artists, and enjoyed the sunshine outside.
How do you make the tattoo studio a safe space for your clients?
I tattoo a lot of women and queer people. I think that it’s important to make the client feel comfortable; one advantage of hand-poking is that you can chat while you’re tattooing, because you don’t have the noisy machine. The pain is less, too, so you can actually have a proper conversation. You’re not lying there with gritted teeth, just reacting to what your artist is saying.
The tattoo studio environment can be quite intimidating for some people: it tends to be quite male, there’s often very loud music playing…
Yes, some male artists can make people feel a bit uncomfortable. I’ve been tattooed by guys who were great, but I think that sometimes men can treat their female clients in a way that makes the experience less enjoyable. And that’s part of the reason I wanted to have a day like today! We’re playing music by artists who are women; it might seem like a small thing but I think it really makes a difference.
I agree! All those little details change the vibe of an environment. I’m just sad I can’t dance while being tattooed! I’ve heard stories from friends who’ve been tattooed by male artists who’ve been quite touchy-feely or asked questions that don’t feel appropriate.
Some male artists can get quite arrogant, too, I think. Particularly if they’re more experienced. I’m doing a cover-up on a friend of mine who got her first and only tattoo done by a guy who basically ignored what she’d asked for.
She asked for a leaf… He gave her lilies, mushrooms… Elves!
Exactly..! We have a really nice plan for her cover-up though.
Why do you prefer handpoking? Are your own tattoos mostly handpoked?
Mine are a mixture. A lot of them are done by friends. One advantage of being a tattoo artist is swaps: you tattoo a friend and they give you one back. Free tattoos! Handpoking is slower, gentler. You sit with the artist for longer, and like I said you can actually have a conversation while you’re tattooing. By the end of the session you can really feel like you’ve got to know your client. Plus handpoked tattoos heal very quickly.
…And before I knew it, nearly two hours was up!
Thank you so much to Zid for creating such a great space for the day, and also for making my first tattoo such a great experience.
Featured image Rozita Ttoo at work.