I was 18 years old when I got my hands on a tattoo machine for the first time. My first tattoos were mostly small, smeary pieces made with a cheap China-made tattooing machine, which I used to practice on myself, my brothers and so on. I’ve always loved drawing and been fascinated by tattoos. There were times when I would practice many times a week and then have a few months’ break, so I wouldn’t count it as a tattooing career yet. I have been a professional tattoo artist for five years now.
When I was younger, I used to think that studying and education are all that matter, and it’s super important to have an official diploma from some school. I tried lots of different stuff – commercial school, tourism education, car engineering and electronics, but I dropped out of every single of them. Tattooing is the only thing that I’m devoted to do, and in which I have interest and motivation.
Of course, I still respect people who are able to educate themselves, it just wasn’t the right path for me. I have worked hard to become a tattoo artist and an owner of a tattoo shop, and I’ve gone through many difficulties to be able to do what I desire.
I have a really dark sense of humor and for me, tattoos are primarily funny memories of different situations. All these stupid tattoos that I have on my arms and here and there are connected to some good things I will always remember.
This banana, for example, is a souvenir from Prague. We went to Prague with my husband in order to get to know the local tattoo artists and decided to get tattoos on a same trip. My husband and I both are the kind of people who tend to make a joke about everything, so my husband decided we should have bananas tattooed on our skin. Bananas for Prague!
I think that every moment of happiness is always worth it. Whatever happened before that, or whatever will happen after that – if you can get a glimpse of happiness in this world full of misery, embrace it. Happiness can be found in all kinds of situations: you can get yourself a fancy new haircut or win in a lottery. If you’ve felt joy at that particular moment, then keep it with you. They are the memories that will be cherished forever.
One of my friends always used to ask me whether I would someday have a tattoo that says “Erika on paras” (in English: Erika is best). Once, while I was visiting in Seinäjoki, I finally got myself this tattoo. When I sent her a picture of the fresh tattoo, she just replied are you fucking kidding me? I said no, I’m dead serious, here it is, and it hurt, by the way!
When I was in Seinäjoki, I also lost a bowling bet and had to tattoo the word “Tymä” on my skin. However, we noticed that we couldn’t make the dots of “ä” fit, so now it just says Tyma. Then there are all kinds of artwork: Let’s tuusi muusi, I love Toto… At this point, it doesn’t really matter what my tattoos actually say since I have so many of them. And of course, as I am from Pori, there must be something on my skin that has the certain Pori vibe in it. Voiny vittu ja Menny vittuu, these are the essence of living in Pori.
In general, people don’t seem to be bothered much by my tattoos. Some people find them very interesting, while others, such as my family and friends, don’t care about them at all. I also get negative feedback every once in a while, for example in bars, where people sometimes come to sit at the same table and ask me why I have ruined myself like this.
Usually, I just answer them that in my opinion, it isn’t your looks that make you ugly – it’s your actions and behavior that define you. We’re all imperfect, broken, whole, beautiful and ugly in some way. Even though I look like this, I’m just an ordinary person with an ordinary life. I’m a working mom, I’m a wife who does laundry and repairs our garage because the roof is leaking. All the ordinary things. I have the Beauty tattoo on my skin so that if somebody says I have no external beauty, I can always say yes I actually have, on here, look!
On my stomach, I have a tiger tattoo that reflects one of my favorite bands Tiger Army, and the tiger-like attitude in general. Some people think stretch marks ruin your body, but I’m proud to wear my scars. With my tiger tattoo, I want to show respect for women and encourage everyone to keep their heads up and be proud of themselves and their bodies. Sometimes people ask me what will I look like when I grow old. Well, I guess I’ll be wrinkly and look like a one, huge bruise since I have old and blurry tattoos all over my body. We’re all different, and that’s how it should be.
Äiti tattoo (in English: Mother) is a tribute both to my mother and myself, since I want to be a good mom, too. My mother is such a great woman – her back and arms are full of tattoos, and she had tattoos already in the ‘90s when they were not as common as they are nowadays. My mom is one of my greatest inspirers. Because of her, I got interested in tattoo magazines when I was still a little girl and began to draw my Barbies’ legs full of tattoos with a ballpoint pen.
My children and family in general are the most important things in my life. I have three children, and the oldest one will be nine years soon. Sometimes when I’m out with my children, I hear comments about my looks, but for teachers in school and kindergarten, I’m just a normal parent like everyone else. The parents of my kids’ friends are great, too. I’m an outgoing person and people know that – they just think okay, she’s like that and her skin looks like that, but she’s just a normal person nevertheless. I give my kids their breakfast cereals and go to work just like any other mom.
There are times when I have to work around the clock, but on those days my husband makes sure that everything’s in order at home. Often he’s the one who takes our kids to kindergarten and school and does the housework when I’m too busy. He’s the greatest dad in the world.
My children are not interested in tattoos. They have seen tattooed people for their entire life, so tattoos are not a huge thing for them. Only my daughter has said that she might have a tattoo of our dog, Nipsu, when she grows older. In general, she thinks that she would never have her face tattooed, for example. I have told her that it suits just fine – she doesn’t have to have any tattoos if she doesn’t want to. And if she does, it’s good to know that both of her parents are professional tattoo artists, so she doesn’t have to get herself tattooed at some random home tattooist’s or something like that.
For everyone who dreams of being a professional tattoo artist, I have to say it’s a long and hard road. In the beginning, it was difficult and sometimes awful, too. When you do tattoos, you do something that will always stay on your customer’s skin.
At the same time, you live through the situations that other people have faced: their marriages, their divorces, their children’s births, and their children’s deaths. By doing so, you learn to look at other people in a completely different mindset. You may have a super funny guy as a customer, and then he tells you he’s getting a memorial tattoo of his deceased child.
Tattoos are not just cool or funny pieces on someone’s skin. They can also help people to recover from their sorrow and loss, and you, as a tattoo artist, will play a big part in the process. It’s mentally very demanding, and you’ll constantly have to process what you’re doing. As a tattoo artist, you will meet all kinds of people from so many different backgrounds, and you just have to try to understand their thoughts and give them something they can proudly carry with them for the rest of their lives.
One of the hardest things in tattooing is to be good at it. There are so many different tattooing styles, and every artist has their own, individual style. Nowadays I do only freehand tattoos, and I love bold lines and colors, while grayscale tattoos, for example, are the most difficult for me. I’d like to tattoo in a neotraditional style, but the problem is that I’m always comparing myself to others, for example Joel Honkala (link), who is by far the best neotraditional tattoo artist in Finland.
In general, I love the fact that we tattooists always try to support each other. Our tattooist generation is very open-minded, and we appreciate both the beginners and the older tattoo artists. You really can’t go far with a rock star attitude around here.
Sinä näet sen kaiken minussa mitä ei kukaan toinen rakasta. The quote is from the lyrics of Finnish artist Jippu, and it’s dedicated to both my good friend and my husband. They are the people who see me as I really am. I also have tattoos of the song My love forever more, which is me and my husband’s song, our wedding waltz Con te Partiro, and our wedding date, 6.6.2016.
I will always remember the first morning that my husband and I spent together. We were sleeping on my little brother’s bed and woke up at 9 AM when my mom slammed the bedroom door open and said: “I’m bored, could you please hang out with me?” On the background, we heard Andrea Bocelli singing Con te Partiro. At that point, everything was just in a perfect order – the situation itself, the song, and Roope’s first encounter with my mother who was being totally herself. Then he just thought okay, I guess I’m here to stay. I’ve come into a family full of crazy people. At that moment, there was everything that was needed.
Through the darkness is a song from Tiger Army. It reflects the fact that after all, there’s still light shining in the dark. The lyrics through the darkness my love shines are something that my own attitude is all about. There are times when I might feel myself lonely, and there are times when my mood might be low, but always, despite all the fuzz and misery, there is something that shines through. You may see me fail, you may see me cry and fall to the ground, but you will never see me give up and surrender.
I’ve done so much work to get myself to the point where I currently stand. Soon I will be 30 years old, I have a family, a successful career, marriage, dogs, cats, and everything. I have raised three children and despite the huge amount of work I’ve always found time to maintain my marriage and love.
Still, the best moments of my life are those when I look at my husband and notice how deeply I am in love with him. That after all these years, you just look at the other one, giggle by yourself and think that there he just is. No matter what the situation might be, you’ll always find the thing that makes everything worth living: love.