Adult Fairy Tales: Dive Into the World of Graphic Tattoos with Stanislava Sarikova
Today's guest for our interview is a tattoo artist who has already amazed us twice. The first time, we were struck by her stunning graphic works that combined natural motifs of the impenetrable Siberian taiga forests with Slavic folklore, reminiscent of illustrations for adult fairy tales. The second time, during this interview, she amazed us with her worldview, awareness, and completeness of thought.
Her creative path is diverse, interesting, and filled with love for nature and human emotions.
Get comfortable, make some tea, and meet Stanislava Sarikova.
Let's start with introductions and our traditional questions. Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you currently work?
- Hello! My name is Stanislava, and it so happens that the question of where I'm from puts me in a bit of a predicament, as I've had quite a few relocations.
I was born and raised in Tomsk, a university city in Siberia. In 2014, my parents gifted me tickets to St. Petersburg upon completing my bachelor's degree. After spending two weeks there, I realized it was the place where I wanted to live. A year later, I moved there, and that's where all my tattoo-related activities began.
I spent most of my time in St. Petersburg after the move, but for the past ten months, I've been on the go. Currently, I hold a modest role as a guest artist, and I occasionally visit St. Petersburg. I suppose you could say I'm combining the pleasant with the useful—completing existing projects while taking care of practical matters. However, I hope that the situation will change in the future, and I'll be able to provide a more specific answer about my workplace (laughs).
What led you to tattooing? Tell me how it all started.
- My journey into tattooing unfolded in three stages.
The first spark of interest came when I was in my second year of college in 2012. Tattoos weren't yet a widespread phenomenon, at least not in my region. The first VKontakte groups dedicated to tattoos were just emerging, tattooed models had a wow factor, and the first studios were opening in my city. From that point on, I was what you might call a tattoo enthusiast—I didn't get any tattoos myself, but I closely followed what was happening.
The next step towards tattoos was through clothing. I had already moved to St. Petersburg and was trying to figure out how to apply my existing knowledge, how to combine it with creativity, and still be able to cover my basic expenses.
That's when I decided to collaborate with a group of guys who were launching their streetwear line. They were looking for artists who could create prints, and that's how the world saw the first t-shirts with my designs. I must admit, the artwork from that time is quite different from what you can see in my current accounts. Back then, I was drawn to geometry, graphic and sometimes cartoonish illustrations, but the situation changed within just a couple of years.
In 2017, a friend and I decided to try creating our own clothing brand. We shared a similar worldview, had similar ideas of beauty and aesthetics, and we were determined to produce high-quality items that we ourselves would buy.
One of the prints for our collection was hand-drawn by me — a ram's skull with geometric elements, specifically designed for sweatshirts. It was around this time that I realized I truly enjoyed coming up with and creating things on my own, without working for someone else. Until then, I had a rather disappointing experience working in an office.
Our small brand lasted until mid-2018. During that time, we managed to produce several batches of clothing, I arranged shipments to a couple of cities in Russia, and we even collaborated with a tobacco pipe brand together with a tattoo studio from St. Petersburg. The story of the brand ended quite prosaically: both of us simply didn't have enough time for it, and by that point, tattoos had taken the forefront for me, making it difficult to devote time to anything else.
Is tattooing for you art, a job, or something else?
- For myself, I define it as a craft, and now I'll try to explain why.
I believe that tattooing as an activity encompasses a variety of approaches. On one hand, it is simply a skill, and every tattoo artist (hopefully) strives to improve the quality of their work. This involves making lines more precise, coloring faster, monitoring the healing process of tattoos, refining drawing techniques, and so on. This is what can be called a simple "skill." On the other hand, tattoos are how we make a living, so it's a job in the most classical sense of the word. And from another perspective, each of us (or at least the majority) aims to express ourselves through this creative activity. Many artists place a strong emphasis on drawing, putting in a great deal of effort to enhance their designs and strive to come up with something that sets them apart from the vast number of colleagues.
By saying that tattooing is a craft for me, I mean a symbiosis of everything mentioned above.
We noticed your tattoos quite some time ago, and now we're glad that we can have a personal conversation about them. Tell us about your tattoos. Why did you decide to work in black tattooing? What unique features do you personally highlight in your work?
- I'm also thrilled to have this opportunity!
Every time someone asks me why I chose blackwork, I remember a quote from "Harry Potter": "The wand chooses the wizard." And honestly, it was the same in my case. Throughout my conscious life, I simply didn't have a love for using color.
As a teenager, like every other person, I guess, I attended an art school where, for four years, we were forced to draw still life paintings with gouache. In those four years, I had only done 10 works in pencil. Can you imagine how few that is? As a result, by the end of art school, I was disappointed and didn't draw anything until 2015. It was blackwork that helped me rediscover my passion for drawing, and thanks to it, I have the desire to create artwork.
As for the distinctive features... I think there are two.
The first one is spiderwebs. They first appeared in my work in 2018, and since then, we've been inseparable.
The second feature is the atmosphere in my artworks. Have you ever been to Karelia? It's incredibly beautiful there: cliffs, moss, lichens, blue lakes, coniferous forests, and clear-cut areas. And when you travel to a remote spot on the map, you pass through a nearly abandoned village along the way: everything is overgrown, houses are leaning, and you can literally see how life has left this place. But a little further, among the houses, a couple of figures can be seen—the last local residents. When you finally reach your destination, you step out of the car, and the darkness of the forest envelops you. Can you imagine all of this?
So, to get to the point: I'm not sure why exactly, but I can effortlessly create an atmosphere of such a forest in my works without turning them into completely gloomy and angular stylizations. The forest just came to me at some point and stayed with me. I'm simply trying to venture deeper into the thicket (laughs).
You mix folklore, some horror, and botany. In our opinion, your works look like illustrations for adult fairy tales. Why does this theme attract you? And where do you draw inspiration for your works?
- Wow, that's probably one of the strongest compliments about my work that I've ever heard. Thank you!
Perhaps I'll say something very banal, but still: each of us is a kind of collection of the strongest experiences that have happened to us in life and personal preferences—things we like, what interests us, what makes our hearts beat faster. This is an important preface because what follows is a somewhat chaotic collection of aspects.
First and foremost, I'm from Siberia. All those coniferous trees, clearcuts, swamps, the feeling of emptiness in the frost and blizzards, decaying wooden houses once of unseen beauty, warnings about foxes and wolves when you go into the forest... All of this creates a certain atmosphere and perception of nature within you. Honestly, I don't know how to describe it more precisely because it's something related to perception and sensations.
The second factor chronologically is that I liked the world of "Korol' i Shut" (Iconic Russian punk rock band of the 00s). Oh, how life changes - back in my youth, admitting to liking it could get you in trouble (laughs). This world was self-sufficient and yet full of life - the characters found themselves in different stories, experienced tragedies, objects came to life, evil spirits were nearby plotting and occasionally claiming someone's life.
The third factor is "The Witcher" by Andrzej Sapkowski. I think there's no need to explain anything here, as everyone knows what the world from the book series, games, and TV show represents
And these three factors are the answer to your question - it's because of them that this theme attracts me.
But as for inspiration, I don't know how to answer. I simply don't quite believe in it [inspiration] in the sense that it's often understood as some kind of impulse, and voila! - you rush to draw. For me, it works a bit differently. If we're talking about personal projects, they marinate in my head for a while, and then I just sit down and bring them to life (sometimes with significant changes). When it comes to tattoos, a very large percentage of my work is the realization of my clients' ideas. And in that case, it's simpler.
A person says, "I want a fox with empty eyes and blueberry fruits. I like botany, but fully rounded leaves are not for me — I want them to be a bit angular. I also like bog rosemary and your spiderwebs are cool, definitely add them." And that becomes the starting point for me to draw, where I take into account their main wishes and incorporate them while adding something of my own. And for that, I don't need inspiration; I just need to have skills in drawing and basic analytical skills to calculate how the sketch should look to please the person.
We also noticed that each tattoo in your portfolio has its own story. Tell us about your favorite tattoo in your career.
- Oh, that's a tricky question! It's impossible to single out a favorite tattoo. It's like asking a person which of their children they love more. Here's a suggestion: I'll show you three tattoos of different scales and explain why I highlighted them.
First is the sleeve with skulls. Unfortunately, the girl never made it to the final session to complete the back of the shoulder, so I'll show you limited angles. I like this project because it's very contrasting, entirely composed of skulls (a cliché subject, but one I passionately love), and it was important to me from a practical standpoint. In my works, I often get carried away with small details, but the sleeve challenged me because all the objects were quite large, so despite my desire, I didn't have the opportunity to spend time on veins, soft gradients, and other delights. This project became a starting point for me to reconsider my approach to the size of objects used in tattoos.
Second is the fox. I love this work because of its placement, the story it tells, the dynamic it captures, the contrast, and I'm very pleased with how I managed to fit the composition in the upper part of the thigh. Among the recent large projects, it's my favorite.
Third is the flower. In terms of uniqueness of the subject, placement, and other aspects, it's not particularly special. Its value lies in the fact that I did it for my mom. At the time, she was 60 years old and had never dyed her hair in vibrant colors, never wore expressive makeup, and her ears weren't even pierced. Considering that she was unfamiliar with radical changes in appearance, I asked her 20 times if she was absolutely sure about her decision. It's been almost a year since our session, and for the past 7 months, my mom has been pestering me with requests to do a couple more tattoos for her when we meet (we live in different cities, so meeting is a major event in this context).
In the career of every tattoo artist, there are unusual projects or collaborations. Have you had any similar events in your career?
- I have, perhaps, only one suitable story. In the spring of 2020, I participated as an invited tattoo artist in the project called "What were you wearing?".
A few words about the project, to provide context and understanding. Originally, the exhibition had its roots in America. The project was created to tell the stories of girls who have experienced sexual assault and to show what they were wearing at the time. This is because in society (regardless of the country), there is a persistent belief that, let's say, modestly dressed girls don't provoke anyone, while ladies wearing short shorts (for example) are somehow at fault. Spoiler: that's not true. Therefore, the exhibition also included lectures where slut-shaming, victim-blaming, consent culture, and personal boundaries were discussed.
I had the opportunity to participate in the project as an invited tattoo artist. The organizers asked girls to send in their stories, and one was chosen in the end. We corresponded with her in advance [I won't mention her name for ethical reasons, as I'm not sure if she would want publicity], discussed the tattoo idea and its placement. I examined her scars and came up with a design that could effectively hide them. I drew a sketch by the event date, and then we implemented it at the project venue.
For me, it was my first participation in such an event, so naturally, I was a bit nervous. However, everything went well, and the girl was happy with the result. She even wrote a huge post of gratitude on her VK page afterward - in the end, it was worth participating just for that. Making someone happier with just one tattoo - isn't that cool?
Do you believe that tattoos help people heal their emotional wounds?
- I think that tattoos have an even broader functionality. For some people, a tattoo helps them accept themselves (as it plays the role of a missing puzzle piece that has finally been found). Others use tattoos to fulfill long-held dreams. I've occasionally heard stories from women who were forbidden to get tattoos by their husband/partner/close relatives under the threat of blackmail. I know it may be hard to believe at first, but such stories do exist. Some individuals come to cover scars. I've had to do cover-ups, and for the most part, they were related to self-harm, with variations in the locations and scale of the injuries. I believe it's crucial to help people go through those periods of life by covering them with tattoos because scars fade into the background, and for many, a tattoo symbolizes the beginning of something new and positive.
So, yes, I do think that tattoos truly help many people navigate through difficult periods in their lives. However, it's also important to understand that a tattoo is not a panacea for all internal conflicts and problems. It doesn't always solve everything with a "get a tattoo and close that chapter of my life" approach. Sometimes, instead of getting a tattoo, it's better to seek psychological help and support. It's important to listen to oneself and prioritize correctly.
Do you travel a lot? In which country do you feel most comfortable, and why?
- I started traveling a lot since the beginning of last year, as did many of my compatriots.
To be honest, I haven't visited even 15 countries, but based on my experiences, I can say that Germany is the country where I feel most comfortable. Since the question is about comfort, I'll answer from a practical point of view. The appearance of a city is extremely important to me because I'm the kind of person who moved to St. Petersburg just to live and stroll around the city center without venturing beyond the Obvodny Canal (excluding trips to the nature of the Leningrad Region).
Some of the German cities I've visited look almost perfect: a blend of century-old architecture with modern infrastructure and bicycle lanes, neat houses, parks, public spaces, and waste sorting bins in every building! For comparison, in St. Petersburg, I've been sorting my waste for about five years since 2016, and it feels like a quest with no reward at the end, except for exhaustion and half a day spent on it (and the satisfaction of being responsible, as a bonus). Another thing that thrilled me was the quality of products in stores and the wide selection of food for vegans and vegetarians, which eliminates the need to wander around the city in search of plant-based sausages. In general, as you age, you begin to find comfort in the most basic things.
What career goals do you set for yourself?
- I'll answer this question in two points since there are goals that I set for myself as a tattoo artist (practical goals) and goals aimed at the people who come to me.
Practical goals. I really want to become faster at my work without compromising quality. Regularly, I ask people to send me photos of our healed projects, and each time, I find small details that only I would notice and that I criticize myself for. So, in addition to the desire for professional growth, I would like to learn to criticize myself less and spend more time drawing for myself. One of the main goals in the foreseeable future is to find a studio for permanent work.
The second point is both simpler and more challenging: my task is to continue creating tattoos that my clients will love and that bring them joy. This is one of the few aspects where I see my usefulness in the world.
Can you tell me about your plans for the near future? Where can we see you? Are you preparing any new projects?
- My main plan is to work and stabilize my life. That's what I'm currently focusing on. I can't provide more specific details at the moment because I prefer to share accomplished achievements rather than elaborate on how I will achieve them.
I will be in St. Petersburg in July and August, and then, who knows? (smiles)