You have experience in modeling, illustrating, tattooing artist and acting. What's been the most fun for you and what's been the biggest challenge?
I get very easily excited about projects, regardless of the subject matter. Due to being always down to try new things I ventured into modeling, and by modeling I mean modeling for life drawing classes, student photographers and so on. As time passed on this hobby of mine became a career path that let me to be signed with an agency and venturing off to TV and movies. The acting wasn't something I aimed for, but I am glad I did it, even if after filming my first full feature film I stopped looking for more project. It was all in good fun and from every experience, I learned more about what it took to be good at that particular craft. Same applied to tattoo and illustrating, I would not have ever even imagined how stressful tattooing was unless I got thrown into the deep end during my apprenticeship.
The biggest challenge is being a female, and even if I say it myself - a fairly good looking female. This actually comes as shock to some, but it does hinder you and your credibility. The saying "beauty and brains don't go together" seems to be a standard when it comes to people who try and find reasons to explain your success outside your talent and undermine the effort and long hours you put into your craft.
You have also worked as a teacher, what was that experience like?
I love kids and being around kids, especially teenagers so teaching came fairly natural to me. I miss teaching, but I do not miss they pay or the horrible parents that enabled their kids to twirl towards bottomless pit of misbehaving that in reality would not lead their offspring to anything else except an early adulthood criminal record or injury.
What motivated you to stop teaching and start tattooing? How have you used what you learned as a teacher as a tattoo artist?
When I moved to Australia from Finland I realized that I wanted to explore other avenues. I started illustrating while I was studying in Griffith University and from there slowly I was able to balance my income. Once I was stable enough I ventured into tattooing. I was fairly old in the industry to get my first apprenticeship, specially as my mentor was younger than I was. I think one thing that did carry from my teaching days was patience. I see far too many tattooers lose their cool with clients and it is fairly unfortunate sights. And I wish people, in general, had more patience to sit, listen and understand motives and behavior of others before reacting.
Was it a difficult transition to go from being a Finnish tattooist to tattooing in Los Angeles?
I actually learned to tattoo in Australia. I only did one-week long guest spot in Finland. So I guess the accurate question would be how did Australia and the USA differ. America is the land of opportunities, you hear it often but it is true: nowhere else can you achieve what you can in the USA, the glass ceiling doesn't exist and in a capitalist wonderland you get rewarded for the amount of work you put it, unlike in a more regimented socialist society where your environment puts limitations on your ability to succeed. This does not apply to all sectors of life but does apply to arts and tattooing in a way that would blow your mind if you saw the numbers behind income differences and taxation. I think the transition would have been difficult going from America to Finland or Australia. Coming to Los Angeles I was merely blown away for the opportunities and unlimited potential for growth.
Your work has been featured internationally, how does that feel to know you are recognized around the world?
It still feels odd, but I am grateful for all the opportunities I have received. From every single feature, convention, and project I have gained good friends and wonderful sponsors. None of us are self-made, none, we all are who we are because of the support of others and teamwork. I am where I am because of my clients and people supporting my work, coming to say hello on the street and cheering me up. To me, any tattoo artist dismissing the importance of their clientele in how their life turned out is being a bit of a but bundle. Even with this interview, it is a step towards connecting with others and finding new avenues to explore. Maybe somebody reading this will contact me and become a part of my life. It all works in a strange magical way. It does sound silly but I've learned to embrace the beauty and power in human connections. Being recognized internationally just means that I have more opportunity to learn about people traveling to get tattooed from around the world, bringing me stories about their culture, heritage, and life on the other side of the planet.
As a tattoo artist, what style do you focus on?
My focus is in curating an experience of beauty and growth. It sounds so silly and cheesy but this is what tattooing is to me. Everybody can follow their own path and inspirations. Everything in tattooing starts with listening to your client, who they are and what they need, we are service providers, artists and most importantly problem solvers. Once I understand the feel and essence of my client I am able to start designing a tattoo that I feel would suit their vision. When it comes to style of tattooing things are changing, I am changing. I started with Neo-traditional as that was what was big at the time in Australia and was easy to master and practice. When moving to the USA after my apprenticeship I switched to heavy bold blackwork, from there my style has evolved to more lighter more detailed work as well as exploring black and grey shading and shape forming. Currently, I am focusing on mastering combining black and grey and single needle.
You create great depth in your tattoos, using black ink and fine lines; how did you decide to focus on fine line tattoos?
I have always loved old historic etchings, especially dry point techniques. When looking at artists like Dore I found a deep connection point to the design language and form that I wanted to mimic and reproduce a similar feel in my tattooing.
And what inspired you to start using organic themes mixed with symbolism and geometric elements in your pieces?
I love floral and animal themes, anything to do with nature really. The juxtaposition of organic flow and manmade objects or geometric elements to me seemed to flow beautifully together. Symbolism to me has always played a big part in how I design. I often get asked to add elements to convey certain ideas or concepts, sometimes ideas that the client doesn't even know how to symbolize. And as I said before, we tattooers are also problem solvers, it is up to us to come up with a design and deeper the meaning our clients are wanting to portray in their designs.
What's your advice to people getting tattoos for the first time? What do you use for ink & healing?
If you know you want a lot of tattoos: go big. This is the one main thing I hear constantly, regret and "I wish I would have gotten a full sleeve from the beginning". I always, ALWAYS, tell my client that if they know they are going to have a full sleeve that they need to wait and save up. You can piece together elements and try and salvage it later on, but it is harder, often more expensive and absolutely never as beautiful as a design that was drawn unified and flowing.
With inks and aftercare I am currently testing various products, I haven't settled in one particular brand. When I do I would prefer it to be Vegan as I find it to be respectful to not inject animal remains into somebody who has religious or moral dilemmas on using animal-based products. I would rather cater to all people with equal respect and having a product useable for all makes it simply easier. Personally, I have been tattooed with all kinds of ink ranging for a high-end vegan to pen ink. Creams? Hah, I wish I could be the person who gives a great example of tattoo care but I love picking and scratching, obviously telling my clients that this is the dumbest form of healing while I show them the empty scarred gabs I have in my own blackwork tattoos. So obviously: don't do that.
And what's your advice for new tattoo artists?
Stay humble and understand that you are the sum of the effort you put in and the clients that come to you. Treat your clients well as they will recommend you to their friends and this is how you grow as an artist and as a brand. There are famous big-name artists that get their egos overtake their life, trust me on this, you will have so much junk talked about you: You'll be wealthy and lonely. Choose the path that suits you as a person. The industry is small and people talk, don't burn bridges and respect others. Most of all respect and take care of yourself as your body is your work tool and in the midst of thing, it is easy to neglect mental and physical health. The industry is changing and reshaping itself and it is beyond fascinating and inspiring to see where things will go in the next couple of years. I personally feel beyond energized watching younger tattooers be hungry for knowledge, expanding their clientele and working through social media with such grace. We all could learn a little from each other and thankfully this industry is full of people willing and wanting to help newcomers.