In order to find our dream job, many of us have to go through a long and challenging path. But if you truly want to achieve a result, the difficulties will only make you stronger. The main thing is not to stand still, according to the heroine of this article, Asya Teryaeva. She started her career as a tattoo artist in St. Petersburg, a city that inspires many. Today, Asya collaborates with leading European tattoo studios and fondly remembers her first steps in the tattoo industry.
Asya, I know that your path to the tattoo industry was a long one. You changed several professions before becoming a sought-after tattoo artist. Tell us about it.
Yes, that’s really true. I’ll start by saying that I’ve always loved to draw. I graduated from art school, but then when I applied to university, I chose marketing. Of course, my parents had a big influence on this choice, as they believed that it was a very promising profession. At that time, I didn’t even think about becoming a tattoo artist, but at some point, I became acquainted with some people who appeared to be tattoo artists and I ended up in one of St. Petersburg tattoo studios. I really liked the atmosphere – the equipment, bottles of ink, designs on the walls, and constant activity. The guys in the studio were really nice, and my friends started telling me that I should try tattooing. I was very interested in the whole topic, but for some reason, I continued to think that it wasn’t for me.
In the end, what made you change your point of view?
I worked as an office manager in a logistics company with a rigid corporate culture and no creativity. That’s when I started thinking about changing something. I realized that I wasn’t ready to work in logistics my whole life, and besides, I had always dreamed of becoming an interior designer. I completed a year-long course and then got a job at a design studio. Not as a designer, of course, but as an office manager again. However, the atmosphere was more creative, and the studio was located in an old mansion on English Embankment, right in the center of St. Petersburg. Such an environment is inspiring itself. And, of course, I never stopped thinking about becoming a tattoo artist. I thought about it for two years until I reached out to some artists I knew. That’s how I found an artist who was looking for apprentices. He asked me to send him my portfolio, and I chose drawings from my art school period. The guy said it wasn’t a good fit and basically turned me down.
But were you persistent?
Yes! After all, I carried these thoughts in me for so many years. I realized that I couldn’t miss such a chance. I created several designs closer to the tattooing style, and that artist agreed to teach me. We agreed on 10 lessons, and on the very first one he had me tattooing a client! I knew he had put out a call on social media, publishing my designs, but I didn’t expect to be tattooing so soon. Of course, I was nervous. To draw with a pencil on paper is one thing, and absolutely another is to tattoo someone. Of course, the mentor told me about the basics of the working process, then I spent another fifteen minutes adjusting the machine to my hand. It was a coil machine, so loud and heavy. Not like the ones that most of the artists use now. Yes, I was nervous, but at the same time, I felt quite confident when I was tattooing. Of course, the master helped me a lot, I did everything under his supervision, but the most important thing is that I was very inspired and realized that I would like to do this. In 2019, I left the interior design studio and became a full-time tattoo artist.
What style are you currently working in?
I started with botanical motifs – flowers, lettering, and geometric designs with flowers, but always in black and white. I’ve never worked with color because I’ve always loved graphics and minimalism. If we’re talking about style, it’s fineline floral tattoos. In the beginning I’ve drawn other sketches – with animals and ornaments, but still, I did flowers more often than anything else. I really like botany after all. I know how to place the composition on the body so that it looks harmonious and flows with the anatomy. Nature inspires me very much because I grew up in a small and very green town near St. Petersburg and spent a lot of time in nature. I really love the harmony of the body and botanical motifs. That’s why gradually, mainly botanical motifs remained in my art. Of course, over time, my technique has changed a lot – I started using thinner needles, lighter shadows, and delicate strokes.
Graphic black and white tattooing is currently very popular in Russia, right?
And not only in Russia. It is popular in Europe, and it’s gaining momentum in the United States as well. The only thing is that it seems there aren’t as many artists in America who work in this style. A lot of people from the States travel to Europe to get tattoos. And I often heard from clients who came to me for appointments in St. Petersburg from the States that it was difficult for them to find an artist working in such style there.
You, by the way, have worked a lot in Europe. Tell us about your first experience collaborating with a European tattoo studio.
The first invitation came in the summer of 2019 when I was still working at an interior design studio and combining it with tattooing. It was a studio in Germany, they found me through Instagram, wrote to me that they liked my work and invited me to their studio as a guest artist. When I received an invitation I was, of course, thrilled. I knew that many tattoo artists from Russia travel to Europe as guest artists, but it seemed unreal and unattainable to me. In my work, I have always been dreaming about combining three things: creativity, travel, and practicing English. I think working as a tattoo artist is my dream job in this sense. At first, it was a little scary to go to another country and communicate with foreign clients, although at that time I already worked with them in St. Petersburg, they specifically came to me to get a tattoo. And now it seems like something very natural for me – to travel around the world and work with people from around the globe.
What happened after your first guest spot in Germany? Did you continue to work in Europe?
I remember that many people came to me in Hamburg right away, I had a full schedule. And then I thought that I could go to another city, not just limit myself to one guest spot. I already loved Amsterdam at that time, found a studio there, reached out to them, and they replied: “Of course, we will be glad to see you.» That’s how it all started. Mostly I work as a guest artist invited by a specific studio. We agree on dates, I make a post on Instagram, the studio also announces it, and I come. Recently, I had a guest spot in Newcastle. I never thought I would end up there, in a small town on the border with Scotland. I worked in London, Milan, Paris, Berlin. And still receiving invitations from all over the world.
So you mainly travel around Europe, would you like to work somewhere else?
I really would like to work in the United States. I was in America as a tourist, had a chance to stop by the studios in NYC and LA, to say “Hi” to my colleagues there, and from each of them I heard how well-developed the tattoo industry is there. And here is an interesting fact. I study the statistics of visits on my Instagram and I can say that America is in the top three countries where subscribers of my account come from. I had a chance to see what some American tattoo studios look like, and from what I saw – they are very stylish, beautiful, brightly lit spaces. A lot of attention is paid to the interior design there, aesthetics, and comfort and I really like that. They look not only like tattoo studios but also like art spaces, and I feel that there are a lot of opportunities for interesting work, collaborations, and self-growth.