the stick 'n' poke master tati compton on her first book
We chat with everyone's fave tattooer.
A few years ago, doing hand-poked tattoos wasn't much more than a fun hobby for Tati. She was living in London and doing occasional tattoos at her flat in Kentish Town for friends and friends of friends. Fast forward a little, and her reputation was building, with the helping hand of Instagram. Then, after meeting Maxime Buchi, the owner of Sang Bleu tattoo studio in east London, Tati turned her hobby into a full-time dream job. She's now based in L.A. and her dedicated following keeps growing (her Instagram follower count is currently at 174k), with fans around the world wanting to get her artwork on their skin. Perfect time to do a book!
So tell me how you ended up doing this book.
I had just accumulated so much work that Maxime, the owner of Sang Bleu and the publisher, was like, "You should make a book, we can publish it for you." And I was like "Ok, cool." I didn't think I'd have enough work to put in it, but then when we compiled it all I was like, 'Oh I actually do have enough!"
Yeah, it looks like a pretty solid piece of work.
It's 92 pages or something like that, there's like over 800 images. We put pretty much everything in, I gave them everything I had. There's stuff that's way older in there. You can see the different styles throughout.
Yeah I was going to ask about seeing your style evolve.
The first tattoos were a lot more raw, not as clean. My hand wasn't as straight but it looks cool.
You've got other work in there — illustrations and album covers?
Yeah the album covers I've done are in there. I was doing those before I was tattooing professionally, but they're just for my friends who happen to be very popular musicians — a band called Fuzz, and one of them was for Ty Segall, but they're just my buddies from San Francisco. Other illustrations I've just done on the side are in there. A lot of them I actually lost in the mail. About 20 drawings — I didn't have copies of them.
Oh no! So there's some Tati originals floating around. Do you still do that sort of illustration as well as tattooing?
Yeah, I do. Since my tattooing work really kicked off I haven't had as much time to do my personal stuff, but I'm purposely setting aside more time so I can do personal illustrations. I just did something for my friend who just started a new band. I did the band logo for him and we actually tattooed it on him, so that was fun because it was a totally original illustration for his new project. But I still do that stuff, I just don't really do it for people that I'm not friends with. I've done it before and it's just not really worthwhile. I like the creative freedom with friends. They always just say 'Do whatever you want to do.' It's much more enjoyable doing it for free instead of for money.
Is there a particular image that people are really into getting done at the moment? It seems to come in waves.
Yeah it does, at one point everyone wanted to get snake tattoos, and then there's been a wave of people wanting Athena tattoos. But I think people generally know what I specialize in, so I'm kind of constantly getting hit up for my snakes and my women and my hand and wrist designs.
What are you enjoying tattooing at the moment? I know you've always had a thing for occult imagery.
Yeah, definitely. I feel like the tattoos I give to people are not blatantly occult because I don't know if they're into that and I don't know they're aware of the history behind it. But, it definitely derives from that — just like symbols that have been around forever. They don't have any specific meaning because they have all the meaning, they're everything. So with other people, it definitely derives from that but it's not blatantly occult. I've been doing a lot of celestial work— people love stars, suns, and moons. It's universal.
What's the best thing about your job? You can travel and do it anywhere, which must be pretty great.
Yeah, that is the best thing that I haven't fully taken advantage of yet but I'm going to this year. I mean it's all happened really fast, you know. We were giving you a stick 'n' poke at my house not too long ago, like a couple years ago...
Drinking beer and listening to Dead Moon at your flat.
Yeah! Exactly. So I haven't been able to take advantage of it because I've been moving around, I moved halfway across the world to L.A., but I'm going to start taking advantage of it. We're going to Mexico City and I'm going to tattoo there. I'm so excited. And then I'm going to do a European tour to the cities that my friends live in and tattoo there. Plus, with tattooing all the people you meet are so inspiring. It's nice to be in that environment, because a lot of artists work mostly by themselves, just on their own things. But in the tattoo world you meet so many people and they're often very creative. It's fun.
And people are choosing to get your artwork on them permanently.
Yeah, I know. It's amazing, I actually don't even really think about it, because it's too much! I still like thinking about it as if we're just hanging out and it's whatever, not a big deal. People are really stoked and they'll say they've been wanting this for so long. But I really think once it becomes theirs, it's no longer mine.
Text Clementine de Pressigny