The Way I Work... Tati Compton
In our series where we look at the things, places and people that inspire a creative’s working life, journalist Marie-Claire Chappet spoke to the LA-based stick-and-poke tattoo artist about how she works and what inspires her
Tatiana Kartomten, better known as Tati Compton, will leave her art on your skin. The self-taught tattoo artist uses one of the most traditional methods – stick and poke – to create her signature styles; intricate, delicate and often dominated by goth, female and queer imagery. Compton has been drawing ever since she was little but gave her first ever tattoo the first time she received one herself – as a teenager, listening to Metallica with a friend, the pair inked each other with a sewing needle tied to a pencil.
Compton’s technique has improved since then, and so has her reputation. The Central Saint Martins graduate is now a formidable presence in the industry, a leader in the field of stick and poke, with a huge social following, her own book and clothing collaborations and (naturally) a long waiting list of people wanting to get inked by her…
She sat down with Service95 to share her work process and creative inspirations…
On The Perfect Working Environment… I work at tattoo shops around the world because I love to constantly change my environment and visit my friends in all the different places. I like to listen to metal when I work because it helps to keep me tattooing fast(ish), considering I do stick and poke. This way of working suits me so well.
On Style And Scents… I don’t like exposing my legs or feet when I’m tattooing so I’m usually found in comfortable jeans, a T-shirt and boots. For me, clothes are like dressing as a character or an expression of how I feel.
I try not to smell too strong when I work because I am in such close proximity to people. I hate chemical perfumes and colognes. Instead, I stick to natural oils that are in my everyday products, such as lavender.
On Inspiration… I love to travel and everywhere inspires me, in every regard; the buildings, the doors, the streets, the trees, the flowers, the people, the smells, everything.
Everywhere is so different but also the same. People love to say ‘It’s such a small world’, but it’s not, it is a huge world with billions of places and people, and the exploration is never-ending. In terms of the culture I consume, I sort of weirdly despise TV, but I love film. I take a lot of inspiration from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Federico Fellini, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Stanley Kubrick films, mostly for their atmosphere and eye for design.
I also take inspiration from people and, as a tattoo artist, all my co-workers and cohort, and all the real-life people and artists I have met on the way inspire me the most.
I think I never need to feel inspired though. That seems counterproductive. I don’t push inspiration; I respect it and it comes and goes as it pleases.
On Online Life… I’m rarely on Instagram but when I am, I like to laugh. I’ll follow [anything] that has crazy shit happening. Honestly, [that is] one of the main reasons I still go on social media. It sounds basic but my favourite app on my phone is [Google] Maps because it helps me find where to go and I’m always on the move.
On Her Most Prized Possession… It constantly makes me sad that the prized possession of humanity is money. My van is currently my favourite thing I own because I live in it, and it drives me places. I guess my other favourite possession, though it changes a lot, is my denim vest.
On The Best Career Advice… OK, so he didn’t say it to me but David Bowie once said something that I totally live by. He said: “Never work for other people at what you do. Always remember that the reason that you initially started working was that there was something inside you that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself or how you coexist with the rest of society. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfil other people’s expectations. I think they generally produce their worst work when they do that. If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar