Tattoo artist Alisa Sahar: "Success can be measured by the trust of clients"
Recently, at the 18th Moscow Tattoo Festival, we managed to meet and even work together with a wonderful tattoo artist from St. Petersburg - Alisa Sakhar. Alisa works in the very heart of the city on the Neva - New Studio, and also travels the world and presents her works at international and Russian tattoo conventions.
Before introducing you to Alisa and her works, we would like to make a little personal assessment, because we, like hundreds of thousands of our readers, are consumers of tattoo services. We are sure that in addition to the artistic and technical components, a number of other important factors play a significant role in choosing a tattoo artist, such as responsibility, punctuality, composure and humanity. It is these professional qualities that the heroine of our today's interview possesses, and it seems to us that among people of creative professions this is really a rarity. And of course, we want to mention the ornaments that Alisa creates on the bodies of her clients — these are truly unique, very cleanly executed tattoos, which have also been highly appreciated by awards at several international and Russian tattoo conventions.
Well, let's find out a little more about this amazing tattoo artist?
- Hello Alisa! Tell us a little about yourself, where do you work now?
- Every time I am asked to tell about myself - I fall into a stupor. On the one hand, I am a tattoo artist, and this activity takes up almost all my free time, on the other hand, I have a whole host of hobbies, between which I run in my free time trying to do everything. For example, I just returned from the mountains, closed the season in the Khibiny, I have been snowboarding for 15 years, but I skate extremely rarely, it is not always possible to find a free week and weather suitable for the trip. In general, I am one of those who constantly do something, it is difficult for me to sit and play video games or watch a TV series. At home, in the evenings, the guitar and keys save me, it's like meditation after work for me.
And sometimes I sit all the time in the New Studio, there is always something that needs to be done, and not necessarily tattoos (smiles).
Now I work in St. Petersburg and am a resident of the New Studio. This is a team that my colleagues and I created two years ago. When creating it, we took into account all the mistakes of the studios in which we had a chance to work and tried to make the most comfortable platform for tattooing and creativity. The New Studio is a 100-square open-space working area, separate recreation areas, and a reception. Each resident has its own place and comfortable rental conditions. What we have been missing all along.
- How and when did you get into tattooing? What prompted you to become a tattoo artist? What did you do before?
- In general, I am a master of advertising. Even before the era of SMM and this whole story (now I do not understand advertising at all). I was engaged in branding, photo and video content, design, and from the last I stepped into a tattoo. I never planned to become a tattoo artist, I know many colleagues who have been doing this since adolescence - they collected cars from cassette players and pens, watched Miami Inc. and went to art schools. I have no art education, and I have never taken courses, and spent my childhood in a music school (if we talk about some kind of such employment).
But I have a best friend - Alexey Mazhei (he works with us in the team of the New Studio), who was just one of those whom I spoke about a little higher. He assembled his first typewriter at school, and then, years later, he gave me a coil tattoo machine in my hands. At that time, I was engaged in graphic design, and we went on a joint vacation to Krasnodar. There he invited me to make a tattoo, just for fun, to our mutual friend. The sketch was from the Pinterest, and we, sitting at home, tattooed something there.
Upon returning to St. Petersburg, the thought that I would like to try again did not let go - that's when I started to get addicted, I saved up for equipment, tried to draw something in a sketchbook, and began to make small home tattoos. It was 2014, I did not have any acquaintances in the tattoo industry then, as well as lessons on YouTube, at most this is the Tattooartist forum, where all home-siting-tattooists of Russia consulted in which oven it was better to fry the holders. So the path was rather thorny.
- What style are you working now? What styles you may have tried before?
- At the moment I am mainly engaged in ornamental work. Sometimes I mix some graphics with it, but more and more ornament is taking over my portfolio. Initially, I made everything related to the dotwork (everything is simple here - I could not build a smooth volume even on paper due to the lack of art education). From the dotwork and home tattoo, my style smoothly flowed into graphics and ornaments, and then the ornaments took over, and large-scale backs and sleeves grew from miniature and thin lotuses.
I like ornamental. It, in my opinion, is the most ancient and strongest direction, absolute harmony with the body and mind. Both on the body and in the process of tattooing, from either side. I feel in it some kind of energy, strength, I don't know how to correctly describe it in verbal form, just when you see a tattoo and say: "Yes, this is it." And not because popular characters or symbols are involved in the design, they are always easy way to bcome popular too, because society already likes them (I have nothing against other styles, I like all of them, it's just that such concepts are not mine). And then there is another, subconscious current, without attachment to matter, and the main thing is to catch it.
- What features of your work can you highlight? What equipment and paint are you using now?
- I am attracted to large-scale tattoos. My instagram feed doesn't update very often because most projects are in progress. I especially love working with backs / torsos, but so far I do not have such a large collection of them - only 6-7 pieces, but this is just the beginning. I like such kind of dynamics that creates by the contrast of thick and thin stripes, soft shadows and dots. I am very critical of the quality of the stripes, I have a fad on this (smiles).
For four years now I have been a fan of Injecta Flite nano elite and I recommend it to everyone, this is my machine for every day. In 2019, there was a story with a burned out motor and its repair in Australia, so now a spare is always in my bag. I have a large "garage" of equipment, I have a Vlad Blad's power liner, the Monster liner from Kudryashov, a slider from the Yug, a rotor from Roy Richardson and from Burlak. Of all the variety, I can definitely single out Roy's machine for pleasant whip shading and the Monster for bold stripes. But I don't use them every day.
With paint, everything is simple - it's either the Dynamic Tattoo Ink or the Allegory. I prefer not to participate in disputes about the blackest pigment.
- What challenges did you face as a tattoo artist along the way?
- Probably, the lack of art education became the main difficulty for me and slowed me down a lot. Because I studied drawing and tattoo at the same time. Also, the search for a comfortable place for work, where I could start creating, without being distracted by external factors in the form of lease conditions, an inappropriate team, or mediocre consumables.
Well, the main point was that I learned to tattooing myself, sitting at home, at that moment the introvert got the better of me, and I was terribly embarrassed to go to the studio for advice. Maximum - I read the forums, and I had to figure it out myself. Mazhey (approx. - friend) at that time lived in Norilsk and could not help me in any way.
There was also a period when everyone gave up on me, and I did not feel much faith on the part of those around me in what I was doing. Not only from colleagues, but also from family / boyfriend. There were even some reproaches from the family and boyfriend, like: "oh, how can you get tired of this, you sit there and drawing pictures" or "when will you return to advertising?" This also slowed me down a lot, because doubts began to appear. But this period is in the distant past, and it has formed a fairly strong core within me.
- What does the word «Tattoo» mean to you?
- I don’t know how to unequivocally answer this question. I will not lie that this is something sacred for me, no. This is a decoration, first of all. And, without a doubt, tastefulness - someone likes it, someone does not.
- Who are your clients?
- IT people! With the onset of the pandemic, I have a whole invasion of IT people. Apparently, they were the only ones left with work. My clients are great, I love them. The longer I have been in the industry, the more I am grateful to them for their endless patience and trust. This, I think, is the highest reward - to understand that people completely trust you and they like what you do for them.
There are actually musicians and bartenders, even surgeons and the Russian National Guard. I think it doesn't matter who the person is by profession, the main thing is that we are on the same wave with him. And if he came to me, for my ornaments, then we are definitely together.
- Did you have any funny incidents in your sessions? Tell at least one of them.
- Black professional humor is trying to enter the chat, but I'll hold it back. In general, at the New Studio we often discuss all sorts of funny moments from our careers, but it will not be very competent to talk about them in public. What happens in the studio remains in the studio.
But there was one magical case, I think I can share it, because it never reached the studio. The girl wanted to make an ornament on an arm (there were already ornamental tattoos, of extremely low quality, based on pinterest designs). I drew a design for her, show it to her, and she begins to argue with me about some elements, I explain why they have a place to be. It seems that we had come to a common opinion and confirmed the session. On the day of the session, in the morning, just in case, I clarified the relevance (I went to the studio by taxi and felt something was wrong), it was confirmed.
The time of the session comes, she does not come, I wanted to ask her - how soon she will be, it turned out that I was on the black list. I go to her Instagram account from my personal page, and there is a photo of a fresh tattoo, according to a sketch stolen from me from a photo of another work. Very bad quality tattoo. It was both funny and sad, I did not understand what was wrong with this madam, but something was definitely wrong there.
- Where do you get your inspiration? Are there artists who inspire you?
- First of all, books and architecture of Asia and the East. I have a small collection of books with ornaments of different nationalities and eras. Periodically, I borrow some elements from there.
The architecture of the temples in Thailand had a greater influence on me. I hope that the pandemic will end and I will be able to get to the White Temple, I have been dreaming about it for many years.
The tattoo artists whose work has an influence on me are constantly changing. Usually I quickly get tired and find something new. And inspiration is more about nature, architecture or music. Not about people.
- Do you think talent exists?
- There is perseverance, education, durability of character, many hours of practice, work and patience. To say: "He succeeds in everything because he has talent" is like saying: "Money does not mean anything." Mantra for the lazy and weak.
- Have you had any experience of collaborating with other artists? Tell us about him.
- Yes, it was, quite small, but stable. We have already completed two collaborations with Sasha Makovkin, this is a mixture of colored and black ornaments. I really like both collabs, now we are in the process of drawing new free projects with Sasha. It will definitely be ornamental, maybe some kind of sleeves. And the idea for the first collaboration was given to us by the client. He just sent me a direct message that he would like to do one of my free projects (ornament on the torso), but with color. I never aspired to make colored tattoos, but I was always attracted to colored ornamentation. And Sasha is mainly engaged in it, so the fact that the project will become a collaboration was right on the surface. And then, already in the process of creating the design, I realized that the mix of colored and black ornaments creates a stunning contrast. Now I can't stop.
- How do you assess your popularity and success? And how do you think it can be measured?
- I think that it is impossible to measure something like that. If you look at the statistics on Instagram, I'm not popular at all. I have few likes, modest reach, and so on. But, for example, I have colleagues who have thousands of likes and subscribers, but in their schedule about 4-5 sessions per month. You can measure success by trust, perhaps this is the most correct way of all. They trust me. I so grateful.
If we talk about possible popularity within the framework of tattoo conventions, world fame and name in the industry, I am somewhere at the beginning of my journey.
- Tell us about your experience of participating in conventions? Do you think they are needed for artists?
- I love convention. First, it's like a big tattoo party, how else can we get us all together? Most of them are social anxiety persons (myself included, although usually people don't think so).
Secondly, this is a great opportunity to see the healed works of top tattooers. Because the era of instagram forgives many mistakes. And here everything is visible without the prism of light filters and post-processing.
Thirdly, (for tattoo artists it should be the first point) this is definitely professional growth, because any exit from the comfort zone is a point of growth. It is also an opportunity to express yourself and be heard.
Of course, to buy various souvenirs, posters and merchandise, see how your favorite artist works and make a bunch of stories, nobody canceled these actions.
As I said, it's so sad that the pandemic has devoured the European conventions, they are especially good. But, soon we will all see each other at the 11th Moscow Tattoo Convention, so I'm already looking forward to the party. Conventions force me to more coldly analyze my work, their strengths and weaknesses, even the process of tattooing and its ergonomics.
An important point - all this I am talking only about good tattoo conventions. There are bad ones too (smiles). They are expensive, poorly organized, and belittle the industry rather than contribute to its development.
- How do you see the future of global and Russian tattoo in the coming years?
- The pandemic has had a significant impact on our industry. There are significantly fewer studios, artists, conventions. This is undoubtedly sad, especially when it comes to the London Tattoo Convention. In the case of the tattooers, this period is probably a good filter to weed out those who came here for a quick profit and are now sitting without a catch.
I like the way the industry is developing in Russia, we have a lot of professionals. Hopefully we will continue to move in the same direction. While we are working within the framework of the pandemic, it is difficult to talk about any predictions. Everything is unpredictable.
- Do you think the tattoo industry in Russia is different from that in the West?
- Absolutely yes. First, as I said before, we have a lot of professionals. And from the point of view of art and from a medical point of view. The tattoo artists in Russia are very versatile, it's great. We have various lectures, master classes, online conferences. If we talk about Moscow and St. Petersburg. And we also have very cheap tattoos (smiles).
In Europe, for example, the situation is exactly the opposite - there are many tattooers with a low level of professionalism, but with a high price tag and conceit. But there are also very good artists with a worldwide reputation.
And the industry itself (including conventions) is very, very developed in the West, in contrast to Russia. I think the point is in the Iron Curtain, and the negative that was sculpted to any tattoo thanks to the sensational Russian criminal tattoo. It seems that our industry has just managed to stop limping and declare itself as a community of professionals. So the Russian tattoo industry history is still ahead.
- Do you prepare any personal events, activities?
- All events that I do usually take place in the New Studio. Soon we will have a birthday, and on June 13th we are planning to have a walk in day party. This is something like an open day, during which you can not only get acquainted with the artists and the studio, but also get a small tattoo from our special designs (there will be more than 50 of them). The cost of these kind tattoos is usually fixed and rather symbolic.
Also, last Halloween we organized a market - this is a party for which we prepare author's merchandise, canvases, posters and so on, and anyone can come and buy something from author's products. This is a great way for supporting artists - we don't just make tattoos, we are multifaceted. I think we will repeat a similar event this year.
- What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?
- «Stop communicating with people who belittle your dignity and take the time to draw and tattoo, Alisa. You are on the right path.»