Tassos Sgardelis

Artists - Studios - Issue 1

“Honest” and experienced Tassos Sgardelis loves folk art and represents the classic tattoo. He spoke to HeartbeatInk about tattoo styles and his beliefs.

When did you start doing tattoos and who taught you?

I started learning and got into tattoos in 2002. I spent two weeks in Thessaloniki at Magaret and he showed me the basics. Obviously I didn’t learn to do tattoos in 14 days, that’s just not possible. Those 14 days definitely played their part and I  learned some very important things. Afterwards I returned to Athens and for a while  I worked alone.  Then I was lucky enough to meet Tolle' (Eightball Tattoo Studio) and worked in his shop. That was basically when I started working at a tattoo studio, being more productive and really getting into the scene. After four years at Eightball I also worked at Medusa for about two and a half years. After that I travelled abroad where I worked as a guest artist at various studios, until I opened Honest Tattoo 3 years ago.


How come you made the decision to open your own studio since you had already worked at 2 studios which were well  respected  in the  world of tattoos?

If I could I would have gone through another 15 studios but unfortunately in Greece the choices and opportunities are rather limited. I feel very lucky that I managed to work at 2 studios. Of course in our country, going from one studio to another could sound like a player of Manchester United going to play for Liverpool. But that it is the natural evolution of the job. In creative jobs usually the more experiences you have and the more people you work with the better you get. My studio came to be from my need to do certain things I had in mind.  Even though I was very happy with my partnerships, the only way to make them happen was in my own space.


How would you describe your style ?

Classic tattoo. For me the classic tattoo means that I do designs that look like tattoos. Whether we like it or not tattoo has a semiology. It has its own themes, drawings, techniques and style. All this made me love tattoos and this is what I want to continue doing. I was never anxious about art and the word ‘art’ is rarely in my vocabulary. I believe that if a tattoo becomes art, it happens unconsciously. I do what I like with my life. If at some point it ends up being called art by people who may judge, I won’t mind. I do what I love.


However the tattoo is a part of the arts…

Even if it is I like it because tattoo is naïve and not academic. In my life I am not in the least academic. I like folk art; Art that seems to be a little clumsy and but it has a feeling.


So there is a view that the tattoo is academic?

The very arty or the super-realistic are a lot more academic in style. Of course we are not demonizing any style. In tattooing there is the classic American style which is known as old school (eg. Sailor Jenny) and there is also the realistic style, made of course in such a way that it . 

To be exact, the realistic tattoo in America was begun specifically by Jack Rudy and was basically jail style tattoos. Tattoos made with a single needle and realistic in their style (roses, women etc). The cool thing about this the type of realism is that you see it and know it isn’t a drawing that could be a painting on canvas. You know that it is clearly meant to be a tattoo. Anyway, the tattoo in the 20th century which also became easily recognized in the West, was a subculture.


How do you see the evolution of the tattoo today – which is considered more socially acceptable  in Greece today, compared to 10 or  12 years ago?

There are now more shops and studios and it is definitely more acceptable, There is still a long way to go though. In America and in England there were studios from the 1900s and tattooing is a profession. Here, it is still being developed. Anyway our standard is very, very good. Nowadays there are good tattoo artists in all countries. The only difference in my opinion is that there are two phases: the phase which has to do with the technique and then the attitude.  I’m not sure how much of attitude there is… From a technical point of view however, Greece is a country where you can do anything. But for me the technical aspect comes second.


How do you feel about awards and competitions?

Personally I don’t take part in competitions. I take part in the convention. I prefer to do small - fast tattoos so that I have time for a chat, to have a beer, to enjoy it.


How did you come up with name Honest Tattoo?

I’ll speak seriously for the first time about the name and give credit to its godfather, George Karvounidis. I had returned from England and we were at his house having coffee when I revealed my dream to open a shop. Karvounidis is amazing at catchphrases – I mean if you have a scroll or a ribbon and you want to write something, he will definitely find something amazing but me, I am the opposite. We talked about it and I explained to him how I wanted something classic for the name.  Meanwhile,” honest “ is a word which I always used a lot. So at some point he turns to me and says, call it “honest”.


*Tasos Sgardelis has worked as a guest tattoo artist in Sweden (East Street Tattoo, Stockholm Classic), in England (Cult Classic Tattoo), in Italy (Pepe and Zuno) and in Holland (Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, Dragon Tattoo).

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.