It’s often said that tattooing is like “writing” stories on other people’s bodies. Lucille, a tattoo artist in her own right, has done just that by publishing her first novel, ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ (‘The Gentle Tattooist’)
I’ll start with a little trivia: is Lucille (like the famous 50s song by Little Richard) your real name?
Yes, that’s my real name and I have to agree with you: it’s a very rock and roll name! (laughs) I, for example, have been fond of the Beatles’ song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ since high school.
How did the idea for ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ (‘The Gentle Tattoist’) come about?
Well, I believe that this book came to light through a series of fortunate coincidences. And maybe it really did.
I know in the past you left a job that was stifling your creativity to pursue your dream of tattooing by opening ‘Roots Tattoo Studio’ in Milan. How does writing – the desire to write, I mean – fit into all of that?
It fits in starting way back. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always kept diaries where I loved to let off steam by writing in them, angry or not. In any case, I would like to be clear on one point from the beginning: I would never define myself as a writer. At most, I would call myself a sort of “writing sympathizer”.
Do you have any novelists (men or women) that you are very fond of? And has reading these authors been helpful in finding your own voice?
I don’t have any favourite novelists since I like to get lost in novels and fiction in general. I don’t like what in Italian are called “bricks” – those books that are too big and bulky – because I get discouraged right from the start! (laughs) Let’s just say I get utterly enthralled by every single book I choose to read.
I guess we can say for sure that you are Lara – the protagonist of ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ – But how much truth is there to the stories of your female clients (Chiara, Valentina, Sara and Francesca) who confide in Lara telling her all sorts of personal details to Lara before getting tattooed?
You’re right there: I am a part of Lara, as Lara is at the same time a part of many of us women. By the way, the stories of my clients are both true and fictional; and yes, they are all real people, obviously hidden behind pseudonyms, who I’ve come across during my career as a tattoo artist.
The cover design of ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ is your own work, just like the other illustrations that punctuate the chapters of the book. Are these tattoos which have already ended up on other people’s skin or are they just sketches which have not yet been transformed into real tattoos?
No, the cover and the drawings inside the book talk about the novel itself. So they have not been used before, nor are they old sketches I happened to have lying around. Since this is not a picture book, I simply wanted to represent it was I was talking about. And those few images were virtually essential.
Until now the only Italian examples of tattoo art literature have been catalogues of great artists or a few satirical books such as ‘Vorrei un Tatuaggio Color Carne’ (‘I Would Like a Flesh Colored Tattoo’) written by humorist Paolo Fittipaldi. Do you think that – with ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ – you have opened a sort of third way to the subject?
Why not? (she smiles) I have had so many experiences in my life that it was practically written in my destiny that, once I arrived in the world of tattooing, I would approach tattoos through my own personal vision. Which is the same thing that many other artists do, isn’t it?
Anyway, thank you! Until now I hadn’t considered that ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ could open a third way…
Let’s talk about you now. How would you define the style of your tattoo? Is “contaminated Old School” enough for you or would that be too narrow a definition?
I’ve always defined it as Old School “revisited”. What do you think? (smiles)
“Revisited” also fits. Can you tell me something about the new ‘Roots Tattoo Studio’ which has recently moved to another district of Milan?
Hmm, let’s say that my approach to the world of tattooing was starting to distance itself from the environment I created in 2015 when I first opened the studio. Today I can say that the new ‘Roots Tattoo Studio’ is going back to… its roots! (laughs) That is to say serenity and joy in doing a beautiful job.
Last question. Will you ever write a sequel to ‘La Tatuatrice Gentile’ telling other stories you’ve heard within the walls of ‘Roots Tattoo Studio’? Or will you focus on another kind of book?
You know, I haven’t really thought about it yet… (reflects) I just live in the here and now. I’m enjoying the launch of this book of mine which has won over much of the reading public. And I am thrilled with all the shares I get every day.