Anna Karagkoyni

Artists - Studios - Issue 24


Anna Karagkoyni the only Greek female tattoo artist that does exclusively Blackwork/Tribal tattoos gave an interview to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine. Among other things she talked about her life before tattoo, her great love for Maori, Polynesian, Marquesan and Samoan tattoos, the timelessness of Tribal tattoos and the relatively increased demand they are facing the last years, if a modern European person can actually “support” a tattoo of such a different tradition, as well as if tattoo can be a good professional orientation for women.

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.

How did you get involved with tattoo? 

I have always loved drawing and painting. I really liked tattoo as a form of art, and I got my first one when I was young. Later on, I went to a school wanting to learn how to tattoo, but in no way did it help me learn (laughs)! They showed me a couple of things, the whole thing added up to twenty-five hours of class, which were nowhere near enough. In the end, I taught myself how to tattoo. 

Why didn’t you go to a tattoo studio to learn? 

I am a generally low profile person and I had a lot of friends that were tattooing, but I didn’t want to go up to them and say, “hey, teach me”. Thanks to my American friend and tattooist Chris Danley, who prompted me to travel abroad, I went to the tattoo museum in Holland. There I met really great tattoo artists.

After that, I worked at the New School Tattoo in Piraeus, for three months, at Makis’. The studio has closed now. We were together with Constantinos, the body piercer and Andreas Patrinos. I continued in Fixin Touch for a year, in Ilioupoli, which is also closed now. I then worked in Crete for a while… A lot of tattooing. Once this was over, everything I did, I did on my own.

What were you doing before tattooing? 

I studied to become a dental technician. After that, we opened a small business with my parents, making clothes and that’s when I studied fashion design at an Institute of Vocational Training. We were in business for six years, but then due to the financial crisis we were forced to shut down. Because of lower production costs, most businesses moved to Bulgaria. Then in 2006 I studied to become a make-up artist. It was then that I decided I wanted to learn how to tattoo. While I was working as a make-up artist, I was at the same time trying to teach myself how to do tattoos. From the beginning, I wanted to get involved with the tattoo, but I first had to learn. I wanted to broaden my horizon so that one day I could be able to work only on my tattoos, and open my own tattoo studio and have my own clients.

What charmed you in the world of tattoo? 

The fact that I am drawing on a human body. Since the beginning, I was stunned by the linear blackwork tattoos, especially the Maori tattoos. I started drawing a lot of linear drawings on paper, to get familiar with it and be able to practice free-hand. These past three years, I’ve been working in that manner on almost all my tattoos.

What are some positive aspects of freehand tattoo? 

That it is 100% in line with the body, it has perfect contact with it. The linear freehand tattoo becomes one with the body. A stamp can come off crooked somewhere, especially when you make a bracelet. It must be a freehand in its totality to be flawless.

You do tattoos exclusively with strictly traditional tribal designs? For what reason?

Yes, the Maori, the Polynesian, the Marquesan and Samoan are my favourites. They are not "just" linear drawings, they are one of the first tattoos that appeared on earth and they possess a strong meaning and symbolism. Basically, tribal is the beginning of tattoo. The drawings - symbols are precise and I develop them so that I can make my own pieces with already existing drawings - symbols.

Could a modern European person “support” such a strongly traditional piece on them? What do you think?

With respect and humility to the history, the tradition and the culture of the tribe, that are behind these tattoos, yes, I think they could. I create things that mean something. Surely it is a contributing factor that what I make is beautiful, but I do not want to do it just because it is beautiful nor because it’s a fad, like in the case of full-colour realistic tattoos.

Do you think that in the recent years there is a kind of “revival” of the traditional tribal tattoo?

It is certainly more popular, compared to how it was six to seven years ago. In general, linear and Black Work tattoos, either dotted or Maori, are in demand because they are timeless. The three tattoo styles that will never go out of fashion are the Traditional Japanese, the Maori and the Old School. They will never go out of fashion because they are not “fashion”. All three have a story. The demand on realistic tattoos in Europe has already begun to decrease. Linear tattoos are distinct and clear on the human body. In the tattoo studios, we tend to work more on Dot Work and Maori. We do every kind, but we mostly specialize in them. I've worked on all tattoo styles, regardless of the fact that I ended up developing this style more.

When did you start orientating yourself towards that style? 

It was about six years ago. I am the only woman in Greece who does Maori tattoos. We are tree in total: Tolis from Eightball Tattoo, Manu from Dermagrafics and myself.

What do you think about tattoo in Greece during this particular period?

The level is higher than it was six years ago. People want to get tattoos and despite the financial crisis, the demand remains high. Of course, people do not get a lot of tattoos or sleeves that were sought after very frequently before the crisis started. Nowadays people get smaller pieces done on them. Socially, tattoo is more accepted. 

Because of your tattoo style, I am assuming that most of your clients are men… 

Yes, the majority of them are men. Maori is considered to be a “rougher” tattoo style. Nonetheless, I have women clients that trust me with their bodies, and I mostly do Polynesian tattoos on them.

Do you think tattooing can be a “good” job for a woman? 

Of course! I actually think we are more careful than men. And we treat certain things in a more… attentive manner. 

Beyond that part, tattooing can be a very demanding profession, with difficulties and a lot of hours of work. Today, I am investing most of my time on tattooing. If in the future, I decide to have a family, I will have to adapt my schedule to accommodate both. Especially nowadays, I travel a lot and I work as guest artist abroad, it is very difficult to have a family. 

Do you work with specific tattoo studios abroad? 

Yes, in Germany at Voodoo Tattoo, in Holland at Ιnkstitution Tattoo and in Austria at Woodpecker Tattoo. I also take part every year in some tattoo conventions outside of Greece.

How did you decide to open Beautiful People Tattoo, three years ago?

Truth be told, I had wanted to open my own studio for a while. When I completed four years of learning how to tattoo, I wanted to open a studio. Thank God things tuned out the way they did because I managed to open it and do exactly the style I wanted to do work on more, which is more specialized. 

What’s your next goal?

To visit New Zealand and Hawaii in order to learn even more and come closer to the culture. 

Tattoo work photographs courtesy of Beautiful People Tattoo.