Beyond the Needle: Rafael Cavicchioli's Journey into Black Traditional
Embark on a captivating exploration into the world of tattoo artistry as we delve into the unique narrative of Rafael Cavicchioli, an exceptional artist from São Paulo, Brazil. His journey through the intricate realm of tattooing has been nothing short of extraordinary, shaped by childhood dreams and the challenges faced as an apprentice. Beyond being a profession, Rafael's commitment to the craft has transformed tattooing into a life-defining passion. Join us as we unravel the art and experiences of this Black Traditional tattoo maestro, gaining insights into his inspirations, the evolution of his distinctive style, and the profound significance of tattooing in his life.
Let's start with our traditional questions: tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what were you doing before tattooing, and how did your career actually begin? Who was your mentor? Were there any difficulties in the beginning?
- I’m from São Paulo, Brazil. Growing up, it was my dream to become a tattoo artist. I visited my first tattoo shop at the age of 14 when one of my friends was getting tattooed. I became obsessed with tattooing ever since. Throughout my childhood, I used to draw all the time and even went to an art school for a year. I used to hang out at that same tattoo shop most days. Eventually, the tattoo artist who worked there (Carlos Amorim) saw some potential in my sketches and decided to start mentoring me. From the age of 18, I was Carlos’ apprentice, and I started tattooing professionally when I was 24. I faced a few difficulties during my time as an apprentice, specifically because, during that time in Brazil, it was hard to get hold of good-quality equipment (machines, needles, ink, etc.). But I was lucky enough to be around good tattoo artists who helped me work with whatever I had available.
For you, is tattooing an art, a job, or something else?
- Tattooing for me is my life. It saved me. It gave me a reason to live and gave me everything I have today. It’s not just an art or a job; it’s my whole life.
Do you remember your first tattoo?
- My first tattoo was on my mom. It was two stars and a moon on the back of her neck. It’s still, to this day, the hardest tattoo I’ve ever done.
What drew you to traditional tattooing?
- I started my career doing new school tattoos. But as soon as I started surrounding myself with traditional tattoo artists, it made me want to change my style. Specifically, when I met Edmar Santos. The simplicity, history, aesthetic, and longevity of traditional tattoos really attracted me to them because less is more.
Why did you choose to work in a black and gray palette, considering that traditional tattooing and old school styles typically involve color? Can it still be considered traditional tattooing in this case?
- When I first started tattooing in a traditional style, I used a lot of color. But I never really found my palette. I always found the black traditional a little bit challenging, which is why I wanted to try. And fell in love with this style. I have and always will be heavily influenced by old traditional tattoo artists. I use a lot of their work as a reference for my tattoos. That's why I know my style can still be considered traditional tattooing because I keep my tattoos simple, clean, and bold.
What do you personally call your style?
- I call my style black traditional.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
- These days, I take inspiration from artists such as El Bara from Madrid and Tony Blue Arms from Oslo.
What designs are your favorites?
- For me, the designs I like to do the most are the classics: Lady Faces, panthers, skulls, and daggers.
How do your projects come to life? What is the process from a client's idea to the final tattoo? Or is it different for you? Please share.
- When customers come to me with a really good idea, I like to have consultations first. Because for me, the placement and size are really important so I can fit it in the best spot possible. We will also discuss the aesthetic and exactly how they want the tattoo to look. After the consultation, I will start preparing the designs ready for the appointment, taking their ideas and inspiration from elsewhere to make the best possible design for them.
What is the most important aspect of tattooing for you?
- For me, the most important aspect of tattooing is creating a design that me and the customer both love. A design that I am proud to share with everyone.
Do you have any favorite tattoos, clients, projects, or perhaps any unusual stories from your career?
- My favorite tattoo that I’ve done is my mom's tattoo. Because it’s the first one I’ve ever done, and it’s on the most important woman in my life. One of my favorite stories in my career was when I was doing a guest spot in a shop in Denmark. A guy walked into the studio wanting a tattoo from me. He first asked me where I was from. As soon as he knew I was from Brazil, he asked me how to say “Hey, how are you” in Portuguese. And to my surprise, that was what he decided he wanted to get tattooed on his ribs, signed with my name. So I did it. That was the first and last time I saw him; I hope he still has the tattoo.
Do you travel a lot as a tattoo artist? Tell us where you have been already, where you would like to go, and where you feel most comfortable.
- I travel a lot as a tattoo artist. I’ve been lucky enough to visit so many different countries and even live in some of them for a period of time. I’ve worked in Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark. I would love to work in Japan, China, Taiwan, Chile, Mexico, Canada, and the US. I feel the most comfortable and at home in Scotland, specifically Edinburgh. It’s an extremely welcoming place.
Do you attend tattoo conventions? Share your experience and results.
- I’ve attended many tattoo conventions since 2017. Some of them include the London Tattoo Convention, Leeds Tattoo Expo, Tattoo Tea Party Manchester, and Brussels Tattoo Convention. I mainly take part in these conventions to see friends, watch some of my favorite artists make cool tattoos, and hopefully make some cool tattoos myself.
Many artists, when answering questions about sponsorship and proTeams, talk about their efforts to influence this part of the industry. You collaborate with STIGMA, so tell us what sponsorship means to you?
- Having STIGMA as my sponsor is really important to me; it’s great to have a good brand support your work. I’ve always used their products and love the quality of their products, so when I became part of their ProTeam, I was over the moon.
Tell us about your future plans.
- My future plan is to one day be able to work in countries like the US, Canada, and Asia. Specifically working in Kings Avenue New York, as it was my dream shop to work in since I started tattooing.