Mikaël De Poissy

Artists - Studios - Issue 18

Mikaël De Poissy became globally well know with his acclaimed and unique tattoo work, which includes vitro along with historical elements from various cultures as well as religious themes. HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine had the chance of meeting the talented and modest French at “Le Mondial du Tatouage”, where some his beautiful paintings were also exhibited. Mikaël De Poissy had the courtesy of inviting us to his tattoo studio at Poissy, where the interview took place. Mikaël De Poissy is co-organizing with fellow tattooists Miss Atomik and Cécile Lasalle the Rennes Tattoo Convention, which is going to take place on the 6th & 7th of June at the city of Rennes in north-western France. HeartbeatInk will be there, in response to the kind invitation of Mikaël and will be participating with its own stand.

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.

How did your name, Mikaël De Poissy, come up?

It’s a nickname. I was born in Poissy and my name is Mikael. Many years ago I was in New York and I met this guy and he said “hello, mister De Poissy”, and everybody thought it was my name. So if I ever leave Poissy, I will still keep my name “Mikaël de Poissy”.

Like Mike the Athens


In France, twenty years ago, there were maybe fifty tattoo artists in total. So everybody knew everyone; like Tin Tin from Toulouse etc.

Going back to your beginning, how did you get involved with tattooing?

I started here in Poissy in 1992 in my flat, when I was eighteen. My first tattoo was on my father, in my bedroom. The first two years I worked alone, because in this time it was impossible to find a “master” to apprentice. Then in 1994 I got an apprenticeship with Dimitri and that was my first experience in a tattoo shop.

What was it that attracted you to start tattooing?

I don’t know… This time it wasn’t really an artistic job. You just had a little shop and a lot of flashes on the wall. I was tattooing all my friends because I was in the little “gang” you know, so I had lots of friends they were skinheads and punks. In this time, only seventeen percept of the population had a tattoo.

It was mainly part of the subcultural groups.

Yes, precisely. And all of my friends were like “oh you have a good design, you can try to tattoo”. So I was looking for a tattoo machine, inks and a tattoo flash, for a year. It was almost impossible to find these things back then… When I found them I began alone, tattooing my friends. It was horrible!

How many years did you apprentice?

Two years. When I was twenty-one I opened my first tattoo shop in Paris. I stayed in Paris for eight years and during that same time I opened another shop in the centre of France, in the department called Haute- Loire. Back then, I was the first tattoo artist in the entire department, and it’s a huge department! For three years, I was the only one. I am still the only tattooist at Poissy, where my studio is now located.

Poissy is a small town. How come did you choose to be based here instead of a bigger and busier city?

I came back to Poissy after Paris, because it’s my home. I was born here, I grew up here so I have a lot of souvenirs and it’s my town, you know. I feel good here. I also stay here to be close to my kid. When my son grows up, I will perhaps move to Italy or the south of France, because I want the sun.

Did you have an artistic background?

No, after I was already tattooing for a year, I then began studying at an art academy, “Les Peintres de l’ Abbaye”. I carried on tattooing at the same time.

Did you go to art school because you wanted to become better as a tattoo artist or out of general interest?

I went there in order to become a better tattoo artist. Learning how to draw and design properly was my first motivation. At sixteen I wanted to be a tattoo artist. I began to draw alone, I bought all the magazines – they were magazines from the United States - with two-page colour and two-page black and white. I remember trying to copy all the tattoos… It was quite simple; an Indian head, a little dragon, a little eagle etc.

Very “basic”.

Yes, very basic, back in the 90s you had to do everything, all the styles. 

Tattoo was more a craft than art. Do you consider yourself to be a tattoo artist or an artist in general, since you paint a lot?

It’s difficult to say. It’s not me the one to put the “label”. It’s the people who can “judge” me. Sometimes I have customers coming here saying “Mikael you are an artist”. Ok, thank you very much. Every day, all morning I am drawing, then all day I tattoo, and after my tattooing is finished I go back to my house and draw. Maybe I’m an artist, I don’t know. It’s been a year I divide equally my time between tattoo and painting. Hopefully, one day I can focus more on painting... Tattoo is my life and I will continue to tattoo. It’s my first job and I love it but I would like in the future to do maybe two tattoos per week and paint more.

Is that because perhaps you can express better what you have in your head through painting?


Why? Is the skin a boundary?

I cannot put on skin my exact artistic thoughts. Because it’s not my skin!


You have a very unique tattoo style. I haven’t come across to anything like it...

I invented this style; I am the first one who made this style.

What’s the name of it?

In tattoo magazines they call it “French Medieval tattoo” or “French Neo Traditional tattoo” but it’s not Neo-Traditional, and it’s not just religious tattoo.

So no one can really put a title on your style?

Mmm, “historic tattoo” or just “De Poissy tattoo” (laughs).

When did you first start going towards this direction?

Six years ago I began tattooing a statue (by the way I have done many tattoos with Greek statues) with grey colour and after two years I started to put in the background the little stained colour glasses, the vitro. And one day I was sure I had found my style. So it’s been three years.

Until then, everybody was asking me for statues and portraits, as I had a reputation for them in France. But it really took off when I did the triptych… One day I said, I want to do a triptych and I took the phone to call a few people to ask if they want to participate. So, I contacted three people and they all said yes, yes, yes! 

Why did you want to do a triptych?

I wanted to something “big”. In religion, there is the trinity element; the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. If you see the iconography, there are always three.
So I started working on the three backs in 2012 for one year. I finished all the three backs the same week. I took a photo of them, posted on the internet, and then it became global… Boom!
I was known in France, but with the triptych I became internationally well known, and everybody has been asking me to tattoo them with vitro elements.

How did you get the idea of introducing the vitro elements in your tattoos in the first place?

Sixty percent of all the stained glasses in the world is produced here in France. It’s in our culture. 

I also go often to church; every week. 

Photo by L. Beylot.

What will happen if you get bored of the vitro?

I need a life to get bored with the vitro!

Have you checked the Greek Orthodox iconography?

Yes, I started getting into it. I really like it. It is pretty different from the Catholic imagery. It’s more graphic. 

It’s more graphic and the style is more “raw”, it’s not beautified. The Byzantine style is quite intense. 

Yes, like Japanese style.

You reckon?

For me it has similarities. The faces appear very simple, but when you try to draw them it’s very complicated. There are also many rules in terms of how to draw the clothes etc. It’s like jazz, when you listen to jazz, you think it’s simple, but it’s definitely not easy to play!

I tend to mix Japanese, Byzantine, Irish of12th century, and French tapestry.

Why you mix different cultures and different religions in your paintings and tattoos?

For me, this is the art: the mixture.

If tomorrow a guy comes and wants a Japanese style bodysuit, I have the technique to tattoo him, but I won’t be good at it, because it’s not my culture. 

What do you want to convey with this mixture?

I travel frequently and when I come back from Japan, Thailand or China I change my artistic vision, I keep my style with the vitro but I introduce new elements.

Have you been getting criticism for the mixture you do?

No. I had more criticism in the beginning when I was doing the more strictly religious tattoos. I explained to people that it is the same for me as with Japanese or Thai people who get religious tattoo pieces done with their divinities. Because I am from France and the religious Catholic imagery is my heritage. 

I now have many clients from Eastern Europe and Poland in particular who come here because they are Catholic and they want to have their historic kings, emperors and dynasties tattooed on them. They usually bring me images of what they want to get tattooed on them. It’s passionate because I am learning.

Does your clientele then mainly consist of religious people?

No, it varies. You don’t have to be a believer to do a religious tattoo. It’s the same with all the Western people getting Japanese bodysuits.

Are you a religious person?

I am posing questions. Many existential questions.

According to Christian Catholic religion, isn’t it forbidden to get tattooed? 

The church forbids tattooing. It was after Marco Polo’s sailors came back with big cross tattoos in their backs. They got them at their back so that they wouldn’t be spanked at the boat like the slaves.  Because you don’t spank the cross with the Jesus and the Virgin Mary. So historically, it was with Marco Polo and a couple of other navigators, that tattoos returned to Europe. 

When Julius Caesar came to Gaul in order to conquest Gaelic people, he called some people in Ireland the Picts, because they had tattoos.

Celtic tribal tattoos?

Yes. In Gaelic, in the past, there were a lot of warriors with tattoos. It was not forbidden. It was a social condition.

How do you see the tattoo scene in France at the moment?

It’s rather poor. A lot of artists are trying to do a bit of American, a bit of Japanese; there is not really a French current. We have a lot of good tattoo artists in France but we don’t have legend artists, like Tin Tin. If you go to California and you pose the question, “do you know any French tattoo artist?” they will maybe name two or three people… 

Isn’t it this a bit of a contradiction? Because Le Mondial de Tatouage is like the biggest tattoo show now and then you say that the tattoo scene in France is not that big.

Le Mondial de Tatouage is that big because of Tin Tin. Fortunately we have Tin Tin! Without Tin Tin the French are nothing. Nobody else can do this in France.

Apart from that, there are French tattoo artists that I really adore, like Yann Black who does linear tattoos and Manu Badet who does Black & Grey realistic portraits.

There is another French who’s a really good tattooist, Guy le tatooer. We met at Le Mondial du Tatouage.

He’s from the newer generation, but that’s all, very few people. There are a lot of good artists but not many leaders. When I was in the States, in a city, I wanted to meet three tattoo artists. If you come to France you have between three to five people in total.

So, you are still a tattoo enthusiast.

Yes, like a kid.

You would go and find the tattoo artists that you admire and take photos with them?

Yes, absolutely. I went to Japan to see HoriyoshiIII. I gave him my book to sign and I asked him, “can I show you my work?” And I showed him my book with the triptych and he said “is it you who did this? I wanted to meet you”!

Are tattoo artists influencing you anymore?


Just folk and religious art then?

Yes. For instance, when I walk in Paris in the street I can see a door, you know, and all the train baroque stations and think “ok, I want this element in my tattoo”. Sometimes it can be just a building, it’s perfect.

How do you see now the commercial side of tattooing?

It’s normal. The reality shows on TV, I am not concerned about it.

Me, I think about tattoo all the time. When you reach a certain level at your job, your clients are different; they are collectors. I have a lot of professors of history, guys who are passionate about history and they are more interesting people. My profession is not the same anymore. My work will continue evolving as I still learn every day.

Tattoo work photographs courtesy of Mikaël De Poissy.

Mikaël De Poissy Fine Art