tati compton is sharing her crazy, beautiful life through stick ‘n’ poke tattoos
Meet the California-born, London-based artist whose intricate, cosmic illustrations assume many forms, from Ty Segall’s album art to hand poked tattoos.
"I always wanted tattoos since I was a little girl," Bay Area-born artist Tati Compton tells me. "I would have loads of temporary tattoos of butterflies and roses on my arms at school. Boys would ask me if they were real and I would be like, 'yea of course they are' because I didn't actually know what a real tattoo was."
She figured it out. These days, Tati is a highly sought after tattooer presently hand poking her intricate illustrations with care at Sang Bleu, a studio nestled on East London's Dalston Lane. Though she's designed cosmically trippy cover art for Ty Segall's side project, Fuzz, and designed stripper-printed fabric for designer pal Rusty Cuts, Tati's main medium is skin. She's only ever used a mechanical gun once, instead electing to ink her simultaneously delicate and dark designs with a single needle.
Most recently, Tati teamed up with Prize Pins, a New York-based pin manufacturer. The brand adapted five designs based on her signature style for a devilish new take on its artist collaboration series. As she celebrates the collection's release, we poke (not so much stick) the globe-trotting traveler's brain about all things life and ink.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, what were you interested in growing up, and what do you do now?
I'm from the Bay Area and went to high school in Southern California. I was interested in raspberry sorbet and thick novels about fairies that I would get from spiritual cafes in Marin. I liked No Doubt, Tamagotchis, bunnies, and Crash Bandicoot. I also wanted to be a fashion designer and would draw a new design everyday. Now I live in London and still draw a lot but am hand poking tattoos at Sang Bleu.
When did you get your first tattoo? How did you learn the practice?
I got it when I was about 21. I was heartbroken and my friend and I did little dots on each other's fingers and listened to Metallica all through the night. My friends in SF were doing stick 'n' pokes so that's when I first became interested in doing them, as we would do them on ourselves quite often. I learned how to stick 'n' poke from my best friend who I think learned it from the Internet.
How do you get inspired?
It all really started when I would get blazed in high school and spend my time listening to my headphones and drawing. I was a TA for a couple of art classes like printmaking, photography and ceramics, so they just let me slide. My teachers were probably just happy that I was actually working on something! Mostly music inspires me, and the world. I went traveling for a long time right after high school and wanted to try to depict all the craziness and beauty of everything. I still am.
Do you travel often? What brings you to the places you visit and what do you do while you're there?
I've settled down a bit since I moved to London but I've been traveling ever since high school. I lived in my Westfalia VW van for a couple of years and drove down through Central America and across Europe, stopping wherever and whenever I pleased. I was attracted to anywhere different with a different social structure, different norms, different beliefs. I was quite young when I was doing most of my traveling so I just did what a youth would do -- talk to people, get drunk, wander around.
Tell us more about your Prize Pins collaboration.
Jamie Burke put me in touch with Prize and he shot the photos for the look book. I met Jamie when I flew to NYC to win over my now boyfriend. He and his beautiful wife Mila let us sleep on their rooftop in the deep bright lovely New York summer where we had a chance to fall in love.
I follow lots of tattoo artists and illustrators on Instagram. Do you think social media is shaping artistic expression and communication?
I'd hope it's not shaping artistic expression. I don't find anything beautiful about social media; it's all quite indulgent but oppressive at the same time. It is shaping every aspect of our lives, though; I feel like it's even shaping how our brains function. But I have always appreciated it for communication, especially being that I am always away from my friends and family.
What makes someone or something beautiful?Truth.
Text Emily Manning
Images via Prize Pins/Jamie Burke