Tattoos have been etched into the skin of Indian history from a time before we could imagine. Across the tribes and different caste communities of India, tattoos have served myriads of purposes - some people have had ink permanently mark their skin for vanity purposes, while for others tattoos have acted as a representation of the different stages of womanhood, a mark of great warriors, some as protective totems in the afterlife and it’s even believed to cure certain physical ailments.
In the past decade, tattooing in India has come a long way - no longer do OMs with squiggly lines done in a Goan shack make the cut. Today, being a tattoo artist is a commercially viable profession, and one that stands to gain large repute as art. Equipped with international standard equipment, ink and experience, Indian tattoo artists are making a name for themselves on the constantly growing circuit. While some have been practising for almost a decade, others have chosen this path very recently and are still trying to work their way around. Either way, the industry is growing phenomenally and how. People are no longer as apprehensive about getting themselves inked, new tattoo studios are opening up across the country, and many experienced artists are more than happy to mentor the industry newcomers. Which is why we, at Homegrown, decided to identify a few up-and-coming tattoo artists in the country. Each with their own distinct style and unique work ethic.
I. Katyani Jaswal
Image credit: Instagram/katyayayani
A 23-year-old from New Delhi, Jaswal’s interest in the art of tattooing emerged from her desire to be able to create art on her own body. After trying the stick and poke method on herself, and then a few friends who were also intrigued, Jaswal got the hang of it quite well. “It was the most accessible method, something I could teach myself. There’s also roots of hand-poking and tattooing in different cultures across the country,” she shares with Homegrown.
Today Jaswal works as a freelance tattoo artist. “Travel provides an opportunity for me to tattoo wherever I go and even connect with other artists, some that don’t even have a base,” she says.
One of the very few tattoo artists who actively practice the stick and poke method instead of the machine, Jaswal works with sterilised coil machine tattoo needles. The process is relatively slower but it does less damage to the skin and is less painful as well. “I mainly do detailed line-work with occasional shading and stippling. My flashes usually contain geometric motifs, I like to make herbs and flowers, smoke, figures,” Jaswal says while describing her work.
But for an unconventional tattoo artist like Jaswal taking the road less travelled has its own challenges as there aren’t many studios that are open to hiring full-time hand-poke tattoo artists and most tattoo apprenticeships don’t really cover different methods of tattooing like tapping or working with tebori needles.
You can see Jaswal’s work on Instagram.
II. M S Kavya/MSK
Where: Hobo Body Ink, Bengaluru
Image credit: Instagram/ms.kavya
Despite spending her childhood immersed in fine art, Kavya found herself living the “corporate lifestyle” as an adult. Until the day she quit her job and decided to dive deeper into the world of tattooing. When she enrolled for an apprenticeship under one of her mentors from the tattoo industry, her plans were very different. Today, however, she is grateful for how tattooing gets her creative juices flowing and gives her the opportunity to express and build a very different life for herself. Currently, Kavya runs her two-year-old tattoo studio called Hobo Body Ink in Bangalore.
When asked about her distinct style of tattooing, she says, “In my head I have always hated defining one for myself. ‘Hobo’, the name of my studio, explains my temptation to explore various genres of art and not to settle on any one!” Although, ‘storytelling’ is the word she would use to define her work.
As one of the few female tattoo artists in the country, Kavya feels that like any other creative field in the country the tattoo industry too has a dearth of female talent. “However, I am an optimistic female tattoo artist in the making who knows that my gender only empowers me,” she signs off.
You can see M S Kavya’s work here.
III. Tripti Dhiwar
Where: The Body Map Tattoo Studio, Pune
An art enthusiast through and through, Tripti Dhiwar’s romance with the art of tattooing began two years ago when a friend of hers introduced her to it. “I personally saw tattooing as a visual art. I have always believed that apart from carrying deep symbolism, tattooing is also a beautiful form of visual art,” she tells Homegrown. Together the two started working on a project that focused on how they could further explore the art in terms of both technicalities and aesthetics. Eventually, they also started their own tattoo studio called The Body Map in Pune.
Even though Dhiwar works with a range of styles like realism, biomechanical, geometric etc., she personally feels like she specialises in creating “narrative realistic tattoos.” Moreover, she believes that communicating her vision of what her subject demands is much more important than creating her own distinct style. Alongside being technically sound and following all the right practices, of course. “Apart from art and aesthetics, a lot of individual research should be done about the technicalities of tattooing as it includes skin ink and important hygiene process. Unfortunately, there’s a total lack of awareness about the education of art in India. This needs to change,” she adds.
You can see more of Tripti Dhiwar's work here
IV. Mario Arden Dsilva
Where: Verve Tattoo Studio, Bengaluru.
Image credit: Instagram/_____________96______________/
Back in 2014, when Dsilva forayed into the Indian tattoo industry, tattooing as such was not very big. However, in the last 4 years, the industry has flourished phenomenally. And so has Dsilva in his career as a tattoo artist. As someone who started out as a freelancer at first, Dsilva today works with a full-fledged studio in Bangalore. “India has really grown to a very high level of art and tattooing. There are plenty of international tattoo conventions that take place here and loads of artists from around the world & India participate. But there are many who are in it just for fast money, so choose wisely,” says Dsilva.
Dsilva refers to his style of tattooing as very versatile since day one. He further elaborates, “I always enjoy all forms of styles. My preferences though or the style I specialise in usually is cover up tattoos, abstract and realism fusions.”
You can see Mario Arden Dsilva’s work here.
Feature image credit: M S Kavya (L) and Katyani Jaswal (R)
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