When it comes to getting a tattoo, it can be a life-changing experience. Nobody knows that better than Russia’s power-duo, Tonya and Ruslan from Biografika Tattoo, who formed their entire business around the aforementioned concept. The couple were nice enough to take a few minutes out of their hectic schedule to chat with us about how tattooing consumes their life, their favorite methods, and exactly what crosses the line in their creative corner of the tattoo industry.
Hello to the reader! A little off topic to introduce ourselves, my name is Tonya and my partner in life and Tattooing is Ruslan, I will be giving the answers on the behalf of both of us.
What drew you to the tattoo industry?
I would say it was the industry that broke into our lives. Tattoo existed long before the industry and the rest of the commercial world and before that it was all just fine for the tattooers and those who wanted to get tattooed. But we were simply inclined to take it and swallow it as it came along like a tsunami changing the existence of the whole Tattoo world.
I read in an interview you did with inkppl.com that you made your own tattoo machine when you first got started. What did you use to make it?
That was Ruslan! He is one of a kind, the true tattooer in my eyes who started from scratch leading himself to the great knowledge about building machines, creating his own inks and working skin to its perfect black and finally working out the best healing procedures for the Tattoos that he created. Over 10 years ago one of his first machines was made out of simple household materials – electric motor from a tape recorder and a guitar string. Pretty much all what the teenage of that time with no internet, books or modern magazines can get his head around.
It seems that the name of your Facebook page, Biografika, is more than just a business name—it’s a concept. Can you tell me a little bit more about how this name came to be and what it stands for?
It is a concept of life I would say. And most things in our family turn around the Tattoo world one way or another. I’ll “dissect” it for you… [biografia] – is a russian word for biography – which has a very straightforward lead to the meaning of cultural tattooing all over the world – that way Tattoo specifically introduces you to the viewer. Tattoos speak for themselves – they can be powerful, sexy, unbelievable, funny….or ugly, unsuitable and some are absolutely disastrous. Biografika is not a style of a Tattoo –it’s a way of seeing Tattoos together with the human that wears them, it’s not always all about just the picture… The other understanding of Biografika is [bio] – biologically structured forms and [grafika] – graphics. Pretty simple.
Your business is a partnership, a family-owned tattoo studio. How did you decide to do this? Do you share all of the responsibilities of the business side or do you have separate roles within the business?
We don’t view tattooing as a business machine, it’s our passion! We share and discuss everything that comes our way.
Do you ever work on tattoos together? Do you consult each other with designs or do you just work independently?
There are far more tattoos that we’ve created together rather than separately. Obviously, as both humans, we sometimes possess different skills. There are many variations on how the process happens. Designs are always made together, verbally and physically we help each other to create the best projects for the guest of our studio. When it comes to tattooing – we take turns or we tattoo together at the same time, but sometimes there simply isn’t enough space for us both to fit, so one of us does it.
I see your portfolios contain an equal amount of colored works and black and grey. Do you have a preference?
Ah yes…. That’s the hard part for us – we love both color and black graphics, but when it comes to travelling from our main studio to other countries we realized that it is a crazy idea to keep bringing so many color inks with us, so, unfortunately, we had to split – from now on color graphics only happen in our studio based in Russia….unless someone asks with a pretty please then there’s always a way to do it.
When a customer comes to you for a design, what is the process you go through?
First of all, we talk, we try to get our guest to understand what he/she really needs (not wants!). A while ago people used to contact us asking – oh! Can you do this, or that – and – oh! I want this flower on the….and the usual blah blah – artists will understand me. We just don’t do that. At one point we had people whining – “how can’t you do that?? You must! You are a tattoo artist! I came to you and you must make a tattoo for me the way I want it”… Uh.No. We don’t do that. It was a long road to correcting people’s behavior when it comes to Tattoos, we don’t like positioning our studio as a service – because we are not – Tattoos change people’s lives, and I’m afraid people don’t know how powerful Tattoos are to be so sure enough about what is right for them. It’s like the story with a dentist – when something in your mouth aches you go to the dentist and you ask for help, you don’t just tell him what to do. That’s how we position ourselves – we help people to change their lives.
Your website states “Location at the Moment.” Do you travel or move locations frequently?
We are mainly based in Russia – but we do travel quite often. We’ve met tattooers that travel non stop. Wow…seriously – it’s a hard job. We can’t afford to do that – as most of our projects are quite large and need quite a while to be put on skin. So we always chose a long enough period of time to spend in the city where we are to complete those projects.
Some tattoo artists have certain things that they will not do—such as tattoo racist designs, significant other’s names, etc. Is there anything that you would absolutely refuse to do?
It’s hard to think of because it’s been awhile since we’ve been asked to do something, in particular, we are normally the ones to offer, I guess we would have to check on the situation – we are always up for something outrageous and rebellious! Apart from tattooing on people’s genitals….that’s a little bit over the top for us.
If you could tattoo one celebrity, anyone living or dead, who would it be?
I think…it would be Till Lindemann from Rammstein – legendary guy!
What is your preferred method of tattoo application? Rotary, coil, or hand-poke?
We use both rotary and coil machines. Handpoke techniques are interesting to experiment with, but when it comes to large projects it’s way too slow.
Do you have any requirements that you ask your clients for before tattooing?
Not really…no. It’s already a large step for them to be ready for a big Tattoo and we prepare people to take it seriously. Very important to have a good rest before the actual day of the session, eat plenty of high-calorie food, come to the studio with their head clear of all business and with their phones switched off.
Big thank you to the Tattoo.com team for collecting these questions for us! We hope our answers were informative enough for the reader. One advise to all who is reading – keep your head cold and your heart full of passion!