Helen Hitori

Artists - Studios - Issue 28

The magnificent Russian tattoo artist, Helen Hitori, who specializes in ornamental tattoo, spoke exclusively to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine. Among other things, she referred to her "natural" evolution as a tattoo artist, while she analyzed her love for numerous lines, the timelessness of ornamental style, her preference for large pieces and the preference shown by women in her work, as well as all that inspire her.

Interview by Ino Mei.
Photos by Deedodge1968.

How did tattooing come into your life?

My parents were musicians and often travelled, so we always had a lot of art books, decor items, and embroidered fabrics. Also, my father sometimes took me with him to concerts or travels outside my hometown, where I saw many people with tattoos. At that time the society in Russia was a little sceptical about tattoos. For example: to see a person with a sleeve done – it seemed unusual to me. All these things taken together, influenced me, I think.

What were you doing before you became a tattoo artist?

From photography and modelling to floristics and help in studio administration. So, a little bit of everything.

How did you learn to tattoo?  

At the time when I wasn’t doing tattoos, so happened, that almost all of my friends were tattooists. I spent a lot of time in the tattoo studio, so the theoretical part came to me. I always liked to draw and I realized that I wanted to be exactly who I am now, when I made my first tattoo on my friend and the next one on myself.

How would you describe your tattoo style?

If you combine everything that I do in a few words, so, it will be an “ornamental tattoo”.

How do you see your tattoo style evolving? 

I take an ornamental tattoo as timeless. A combination of different influences and inspirations is possible, in some new, individual way. There are many ornaments, including those that are currently over 500 years old and they look amazing now. I'm sure they will look just as great in 50 or 100 years.

What do you love the most about blackwork?

To be honest I love lines, I adore lots of lines. Thick, clear outlines are a guarantee that the tattoo will be readable even from a long distance, usually I use the black to fill the background or to achieve a certain contrast in the general composition.

In terms of composition do you prefer large scale tattoos?

Definitely yes! The main thing that I try to follow in my work is the size of the tattoo and its location. Project planning (for example in a backpiece) I’m focusing not only on design, but also on the anatomy of a particular person, to emphasize the lines of the body. I often take a photo of this person and then draw on the photograph.

Are ornamental tattoos purely decorational?

If we talk about the present, then it’s not always and not for everyone. This depends largely on why a person wants to make this or that ornament on himself. Someone comes just for a beautiful ornament to decorate his body, while someone else because it’s just fashionable. Everything is much deeper for others, very important and significant as paying homage to their ancestors. If we go deeper into history, then we all know that many people had tattoos as a sign of beauty, but this is a very narrow interpretation.

What inspires you?

I have been interested in the history of art for as long as I can remember myself. The architecture of ancient buildings – this is what I often pay attention when I’m in a new country. A huge amount of amazing details can be found in some moldings, natural elements, strange flowers and plants, historical museums with artifacts of cultures from all over the world, traditional costumes, jewellery, antique weapons and textiles.

How has traveling affected your tattoo work? 

Wow! First of all, traveling to a new country sometimes turns the perception of the outside world upside down and gives fresh thoughts. It’s really important to move forward and grow, because without new emotions and impressions, knowledge and interests, it will be difficult to develop creatively.

Do you tattoo more man or women?

Recently, there are more women. I think that is because of the floral ornaments and mehendi predominance in my works. But first of all I am interested in the person who wants to get a tattoo by me. So, we often meet in the studio before the session and talk in person.

Tattooing used to be a male dominant profession. Are there “enough” female tattoo artists nowadays? 

I know many amazing women and men tattooists, who are insanely talented, smart and interesting people. It is important to love and understand what you are doing. That's it.

How do you see the future of tattoo during and after COVID-19?

I don't know exactly because the situation changes too often. However, I hope that soon we will all be able to work and travel as before.

All photographs are courtesy of Helen Hitori.