In the picturesque Swabian town of Waiblingen, Marcus Stolz and Ana Juanita work together at their studio Atelier Stolz/Juanita.
The couple not only shares a general love for tattooing, but they also have a similar sense of aesthetics which leads to large sized tattoo-collaborations on their customers who appreciate the couple’s creativity and the artistic output of their cooperations.
A conversation with a couple that lives together, works together and constantly refines their way of expressing themselves through their art by exchanging ideas on their client’s skin.
As you are both tattoo artists, I guess it’s a safe assumption that it was tattooing that got you together?
M: Yes, exactly! We got in touch as colleagues and as we met in person and got to know each other our relationship changed.
A: Yes, we were following each other on instagram for a while and after we met in real life we realized that it was not only each other’s work that we are attracted to.
Your styles are clearly distinguishable, yet not completely different. Was that just coincidence or did you also feel attracted to each other’s tattoo style, did you see some kind of connection there?
M: As we have quite similar understanding about what we both like aesthetic wise, we logically feel attracted to each others’ style. Therefore I would call it a coincidental connection based on attraction. Since we work together and grow tighter together I truly believe that we influence each other not only subconsciously by looking and reflecting each other’s work but also by directly influencing it.
As an example: Ana sometimes sees my stencil on a customer and has an idea regarding the composition. Then she takes a marker and draws it on the customer. And as my customer and me let that happen I would say this is a direct influence on another’s work. Which later led (and in future hopefully will also lead) to our collaborations…
A: At the time we started to be together my work was more »shy« – I was sticking to some old school rules although slowly I was mixing in abstract elements. I guess as we grew as partners our styles started to evolve to bolder, sometimes statement pieces…
I think it’s difficult to »keep your style to yourself« when you live and work together and also love the work of your second half.
Even if you don’t want to be inspired, subconsciously you’re picking up the elements that would work in your art and smuggle it in tattoos.
Did you have any kind of artistic education before you started tattooing?
A: I started art school when I was younger but never finished it, never liked to be told what to do ( how to draw etc. )
M: Yes, I studied art and in the course of my studies I was allowed to start an apprenticeship. It was a stressful period but on the same hand it was brilliant to be at the academy in the morning listening/talking to professors and in the afternoon making needles, cleaning tubes and learning the daily business of a tattoo shop. It was like having two totally different lives.
Do you work at the same studio?
M: Yes, we opened our private studio around 3 years ago. And we go every now and then to make guest spots. I am also regularly going to my friend Emrah to Lausbubtattoo Kollektiv.
You did some tattoo-collaborations together; what’s the motivation to work on a tattoo together? How are these tattoos different from an Ana-tattoo or a Marcus-tattoo one?
A: I love our collaborations! We’ve done few already and weirdly it works together perfectly! I’m mostly doing the abstract and geometric parts and Marcus has the main motive. It’s actually totally different from the thing I would do alone as I’m not really into the »figurative« tattoos and that’s something Marcus kind of mastered. Surprisingly working on this kind of projects is not stressful for us. There is no »ego« fights, we just do what we think we are the best at.
M: Well, the motivation is that it is always nice to create something together, especially with someone you love. Also you learn a lot about each other‘s working style and therefore about your own.
I think our collaboration works are distinguishable through the high contrast of forms.
Everyone of us has a certain way of expressing our work which are already very high in contrast for themselves and I believe that the combination of these two components combined can give a very specific impression.
Do you plan such collaboration-tattoos ahead or is it more of a spontaneous working?
M: It is a planned project. But not in a sense that every little detail is explained or visible. More in a way that we make a composition on the body part we are about to tattoo. This composition sketch later is filled on several sessions. But there is not a final picture of the design in advance for the customer as our work in big parts is also freehand.
A: I would say it’s more spontaneous. Most of the time it’s the customer’s idea, for example, someone gets the tattoo by me and sees Marcus‘ work in real life then gets the idea for the future collaboration tattoo. Or opposite. We had different situations, so far all of them turned out great (in my opinion ;))
Apart from the fact that both of you don’t seem to use any color you also both often »ignore« traditional ways to place a design on the body. Sometimes there is an organic flow with the body visible in some tattoos, while in other there’s the complete opposite and the design seems to ignore it’s surface?
A: Difficult question as I always think I go with the flow (of the body). I’m not the fan of sticker tattoos. I used to be full of them and I know how difficult it is in the future to do something with them (I mean to cover or connect).
I’m always trying to »stretch« the composition on the body so it leaves the »open end« for the future.
Most people want to continue in the future and that option makes it possible. I like the raw and edgy solutions without the dirty look. I want to keep them elegant as well. For the same reason I have resigned of the use of color-tattoos in my opinion should not be in the fight with clothes the person wears.
M: This is an interesting observation. What was always fascinating for me about tattooing was the ambivalence between giving the body a new form by following its form as we for example know it from the Irezumi. The impact is so strong but still the forms go with the body but change the appearance of the carrier. My idea when I am totally going against the body given forms is to break it down and give a new form. And sometimes this works better by going with the forms of the body, sometimes against them and sometimes both. I guess there is not a real system for how it works when for whom etc..
It is more a matter of vibes, energy and impressions we get making the design on the customer.
How do you work together with your customers to develop a design? In your styles, I guess you don’t really work with prefabricated »Wanna-dos« that you can present your clients?
M: That is right. Mostly we meet with the customers and they present us their idea(s) for a possible project. This could also be just a subject/theme. Then we make the composition sketch as already explained. The first presentation is more theoretical but a final design in advance as we know it for example from flash sheets or wanna-dos is not existing as explained earlier already.
A: My customers have only a rough idea about what they will get. Sometimes I don’t know it until they stand in front of me. Most of the time it’s a brainstorming morning 😉
When you work together, share the same profession and similar styles, live together – does it sometimes get too much to talk about tattooing? Do you have some sort of agreement that you don’t talk about work or tattooing at some times?
M: If we had an agreement about this, I am so sorry but then I forgot about it. Honestly, my admiration and fascination for tattooing grew a lot. I let it come in my private live, profession, etc. I just love what I am doing and also of course what others are doing so it’s pretty difficult to bore me with that subject. But of course we have also a lot of other subjects to talk about.
A: I don’t like to bring work home, so most of our conversations tattoo related stays in the studio. You know, we are together all the time, ask for advice sometimes and discussing it at home would be a waste of the »chill out« time for me. Ok, sometimes I’m asking about which picture is the best for posting but that’s all from my side.
Especially in Ana’s portfolio I saw a few cover-ups or blast-overs recently; do you see that as a challenge or is it a limitation of your art to deal with previous tattoos?
A: I absolutely love blast-overs and the idea behind them. In the end for most people it’s about aesthetics and this kind of tattooing gives the possibility of keeping memories (as some parts of the old tattoos are showing through) with the modern twist to it. It’s a great solution for people who are scared or not ready for the black out and gives me a lot of freedom art-wise.
Do you also use other forms of artistic work as an output for your creativity?
M: I paint and draw quite much. I really love to paint big scale canvases (Haha, what a surprise) but also with my drawings I like at least an A3/A2 format. I felt that »output-urge« if you want to call it this way especially in the times of covid and the attached lockdowns.
Ah, and I love interior design. Making a room/flat/studio harmonious for me is in many ways similar to how I do work creatively, so it’s also on the list:)
A: I’m having a new hobby every few month. This month I’m totally into linolcut, few months ago I learned how to sew, nobody knows what will happen next months. I’m happy for the opportunities to learn we have nowadays as I’m getting bored super fast and constantly need new things to focus on.
Thank you very much for your time and your cooperation!
M: Thank you so much, the honor is all ours. We really appreciate it!
A: Thank you! Like Marcus said – it was and honour and hopefully we will manage to see each other soon!