When you think of the best tattooers worldwide Claudia’s name comes up for sure! Her career in tattooing has been simply amazing and you can’t help but adore Claudia’s work! Her vision, just like her style, is pretty unique! Talent, perseverance, hard work and dedication to the craft paid off and today she is one of the most respected and accomplished artist in the industry!

Claudia DeSabe-ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev
Claudia DeSabe, ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev

Her style developed from the american traditional roots and progressed into her unique aesthetic, a mix between japanese and fine art. Mostly known for her beautiful and enigmatic lady heads, she puts out an incredible amount of japanese inspired backpieces and body suits, making it look almost effortless.

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

I have a total admiration and respect for this woman. Not only she tattoos (and draws all her pieces), she also is a wonderful painter, a shop owner and a mother. Claudia is Italian but is based in London, where she opened up her studio Red Point Tattoo, together with her husband Yutaru, also a very well respected tattooer. Together this couple puts out some really beautiful and inspiring art. Her simplicity though and modest approach with people make her an inspiring icon even more.

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

I get a chance to finally meet her in NYC last October, during her almost secret guest spot at Invisible: she is in town for a few days with Yutaro and their baby, Zenta. I am beyond excited to get to meet her, getting tattooed and of course ask her a few questions…

Tell us about your upbringing, your family, what influenced you the most as a teenager?
I was born in Padova, northeast Italy, considered in the 80s the Italian capital of heroine, as a friend of mine called it! My parents are hard workers and they taught me that nothing comes free and if you want to have something you gotta work hard for it. I had a quite strict upbringing, not much playing, hella of a lot of studying and working. As a teenager I couldn’t fit in with what most of my school mates were doing.

I hated most of the 90s disco clubs and hang outs and always felt like a lot of posing for nothing was required.

I started hanging around squats, where much deeper social issues were addressed and met new friends there: we listened to punk, hard core and hip hop. We did graffiti together. We were beautiful young rebels. It was an amazingly liberating and exciting time. That’s when I met people like Crez, my first tattooer friend who eventually introduced me to traditional Japanese art.

Tell me more! When and how you discovered tattooing?
I was into punk rock and metal music a lot, and any kind of alternative music really, and you know most of those musicians have tattoos. So my interest started mainly from music. Then I heard about a tattoo convention happening in Italy, so I had my parents take me to the Bologna tattoo convention in 1994 maybe?! I told them it was a music and art festival! When they realized what was going on there, they dragged me out very quickly and told me I was never ever gonna be allowed to get tattooed! Little they knew! LOL!

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

So you were into graffiti at the very beginning… how did you transition into tattooing? and was it harder or easier to put your foot in the door being a woman? What’s your personal experience about it?
I had a lot of support both in tattooing and in the graffiti world. I am lucky I had male friends who saw my potential guess, and who were not either threatened or uncomfortable with having a girl around, like it happens at times. I’m also very much a tomboy by nature so I don’t think they ever felt like they had to behave differently because of me being there. I think a male-female relationship in the work place is a really tricky one to master.

It’s quite complex to explain, I did meet sexism at times in tattooing, because like anywhere else, it does exist.

I guess I’m always baffled on how males act between themselves and I can see how the feminine approach could create disruption in their whole system. Men have this pack-like ranking that is very basic and simple for them to follow (you know the alpha- the beta and all the rest), put a woman in there, and trouble might rise. That’s something I’m aiming to make better in my shop.

Claudia DeSabe, ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev
Claudia DeSabe, ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev

You and your husband just had a baby, and you are both tattooers: how easy or difficult is it to adjust to your new roles while continuing to be on top of your game in tattooing?
I think we are so blessed to have made the choice of being self employed. I can see how the way that society is built makes it impossible for fathers to enjoy those beautiful and precious early stages, and for mothers to go back to work or to feel whole again after giving birth. We are both parenting, Yutaro is very much present in our baby’s life, because we wanted and made it like this. I went back to tattooing 11 weeks after Zenta was born, part time of course, but I got back into it and I don’t feel guilty for it. I’m so happy Yutaro is so active in his role as a father and he makes my life so much easier by helping me in anyway he can. He is the most egalitarian man I’ve ever met!

This makes it possible for us to be also creative when we need to be, because we both understand that drawing time is sacred, even more so now that it is so limited.

Sometimes I personally feel very weird still… any mom will understand when I say that carrying a child and becoming a mom changes you to a level you didn’t even know existed. I still don’t know who I am now, still a work in progress and I feel this artistically too. There’s a limbo like feeling in my heart and head, it’s all very foggy but I’m working on it. Strangely not with tattooing, only with painting and with my own identity.

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

How japanese culture influences your tattooing? Who really inspire you the most?
I think the manga cartoons I watched when I was a child really stayed with me, I identified a lot with lady Oscar in the rose of Versailles (laughs). I was a tomboy since the beginning! I think Japanese culture is so vast and beautiful I surely get inspired by different eras and artists all the time. Sometimes it is Hokusai, sometimes Katsuya Terada, Jakuchu, or Masami Teraoka, and Kunyoshi and sometimes totally unknown craftsmen.

When did you realize that japanese style was what you wanted to concentrate on?
When I realized that traditional tattooing on its own was too limiting for the way I was seeing it. I have for the most part Japanese tattoos on me, because they fit the body better and subjects can move across the body with more flow but still have a traditional long lasting look. I think my tattooing is not always traditional, it definitely has a western approach to it, but when I do full back pieces I try to give a more traditional japanese look, because that will stand the test of time and always look good. I really hope my tattoos won’t look dated in the future!

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

Let’s talk about your beautiful girls. You depict a universe of ladies, mixed with japanese themes… Tell us about the inspiration behind this…
They all reflect my moods, the ones I paint of course..I try to not put that in people skin though. that’s my shit to carry ahaha! but in paintings I can go through my thoughts and have some sort of meditation, do some house clearing internally. I really don’t have much thought process and planning. generally when I see some photos or paintings I like, I will save them on my phone and when I feel like painting I use the ones that reflect my mood the most as a reference, a starting point. it could be the color palette, or the subject, or the feeling alone. I try to stay loose, because being stiff is a creating buzz killer!

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

How has your tattooing and drawing style changed through the years?
I’m always trying to learn new things and so I experiment with the color choices and use of the line thickness, and subjects… So I don’t think there’s a continuum line in my evolution, or at least I cannot see it!

How you see tattooing developing in the future?
I have no idea!!! I’ve been trying to figure that out since the beginning but it baffles me all the time when some weird shit goes viral, and I’m like “but why??” All I know is: doing good tattoos and being nice to your customers will keep you busy, so that’s all I’m putting my energies on!

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

You are also a painter not only a tattooer… How different are these skills in your opinion?
For me dealing with skin means that you can’t always do anything you want. Skin changes and ages, there’s no way around that! So I think that having high contrast and clear colours in tattooing, is key to keep the tattoo fresh looking for as long as possible! On paper you can do whatever, go nuts, and enjoy!

What do you mostly want to express with your paintings?
I’m really not that thought out as an artist! Maybe that’s why my paintings are all over the place. Painting is something I do to bring happiness into my life, it’s a byproduct of the thinking I do to understand myself and who I am. but I don’t really let people in that aspect of it… maybe that’s the next step?!

Claudia DeSabe, ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev
Claudia DeSabe, ph Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev

You chose many years ago to leave Italy and settle in the UK and recently opened up your studio in London… what is the main difference between the two countries for you and what still keeps you grounded to your italian roots?
I actually don’t feel very Italian at all! I was never really happy there, small town mentality, a bit backwards, definitely male centered… not for me! I like how religion is not in every aspect of life here in England and I love the melting pot that is London. I don’t even go crazy for Italian food, can you believe that?! I like the aesthetic taste though, the attention and care for details… without a doubt Italian craftsmanship is pretty unique.

tattoo by Claudia DeSabe
tattoo by Claudia DeSabe

Your plans for the future?
I’d like to learn oil painting. I tried it out a few times but I still suck hard at it… I’m not a raw talent. I’m definitely practice-makes-perfect type of artist and I think I fail sooooo much! But not giving up is what brings results!

If you you like the japanese style and fine art, look for some new inspiration among the 51 plates by Claudia DeSabe. Discover “Line drawing digital eBook”. VIEW NOW!!!
Follow Claudia on Instagram: @claudiadesabe