I went to study theatre nine years ago right after comprehensive school. There I got the idea that one day I’d become a tattoo artist. When I told my friend about it, she burst into laughter and after that, the idea was never brought up again.
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was little, and even though I left the idea of tattooing behind, I still continued sketching. When I was 22 or 23 years old, I remember watching a reality show called Ink Master and analyzing the tattoos they were doing. My friend who was watching the show with me said: “Annika, maybe you should just start doing tattoos yourself?” After I heard it, I just thought indeed!
I knew this piercer, Iiro, so I asked him how these things usually work, like could I apply for an apprenticeship at their studio or something. He told me to come and visit someday and bring my portfolio with me. I had only some of my paintings available back then, so I brought them to the studio.
The studio’s former owner, Joel, said that they didn’t have any room at that point, but he told me to practice a little more this and that and gave me some other important advice. It was spring 2016, and I promised myself I would practice the whole summer, but as I had a theatre production going on at the same time, I really didn’t practice that much.
Then one day Iiro sent me a message and asked if I was still interested in the apprenticeship. Of course I said yes, and – well, to be honest, I just started crying! I began sketching again and drew images of Charles Ingalls, Pulp Fiction and so on. I went to visit the studio and my teacher, Jassu, was very receptive towards me from the beginning. So, after that I stayed. It was November 2016.
At the studio, I continued drawing and got a chance to try tattoo machine for the first time. First I practiced tattooing on other apprentice’s leg, then made a small dotwork heart on Jassu’s arm.
In December, I asked on Instagram if someone wanted to be my practice skin. I got tons of replies and started to fill my calendar. From that day on, I’ve been tattooing daily. Before I started tattooing, I thought that if I’d be able to learn how to add black ink smoothly on the skin and make straight lines, I’d be happy with tattooing black and gray only. Well, I ended up tattooing a different kind of work instead.
I gain inspiration from talented artists around the world, like Magda Hanke and Kaitlin Greenwood. In the future, I’d like to do more portraits, but I still haven’t got the time to practice them enough. I love tattooing nature-inspired pieces, especially flowers and animals.
When I was little, I wanted to be a painter, and I’m sure that if the 7-year-old me would’ve known that one day she could be doing art for a living, she would’ve been so delighted!
The idea of charity tattoos came mostly by accident. One day, I got a cancellation to the next day and had to figure out something else instead. I decided to post a tattoo design on Instagram and ask if someone would like to get it on their skin.
I thought about my favorite tattoo themes and decided some sort of animal would be nice – some endangered cat species, perhaps. Suddenly I got the idea that maybe I could turn cancellation days into something useful and arrange charity days where I would put a tattoo of an endangered animal species for auction and give part of the profit to WWF.
After that, I have decided to use all my cancellations on charity tattooing instead of regular appointments. I want to keep the price moderate, since the cancellations may sometimes turn out on a short notice.
I was maybe 18 or 19 years old when I got my first own tattoo. At that time, I was really inspired by flowers and got the idea to this tattoo from traditional Russian floral scarfs. Originally, this was made after a watercolor painting.
My first tattoo by Jassu was this horseshoe. I wanted this tattoo to bring luck and happiness, and as it turned out, my happiness was later found when Jassu accepted me as her apprentice. The tattooer’s hand is also made by her.
Sometimes customers give me completely free hands, which I really appreciate. At the same time, it’s very difficult as well, since I have so many options to choose from. It’s always easier if the customer is able to pick a certain animal species or something like that where I can base my ideas on.
I guess legs are my favorite places to tattoo. It’s easy to work on them, whereas torso, such as ribs or back, feel more difficult and maybe not as inspiring.
In the future, it would be cool to design some larger pieces, too, even though the idea of a bigger project feels a bit scary as it requires patience and takes a lot of time.
There are still times when I might get even too critical of my own work. On the other hand, that’s what drives me to constantly improve myself.
Right now, my main goal is to keep on doing these things and improve myself. Maybe one day I’ll live somewhere else than my current hometown Pori, but there’s no hurry. At this point in my life, I feel I’m exactly where I want to be.