Tati Compton: Some Girls are Bigger than Others

Tati Compton comes from the Bay Area, she is one of the best known hand poke artists out there and absolutely one of my favourites. Let’s discover her world and her cosmic, magical tattoos.

Tati Compton, Photographs by Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Tati Compton, Photographs by Daria Kobayashi Ritch

How is it for a little girl to grow up in the Bay Area? What kind of girl have you been?
It was chill, I was a loner.

You often say you’ve always loved drawing: what did you use to draw when you were younger?
I wanted to be a fashion designer so I used to draw women and clothing.

How would you explain now the need you’ve always had to be creative?
It started as a way of keeping myself entertained and it continues as a way of keeping myself sane.

Have you always been fascinated by tattoos?
Yes, I always wanted them and would put temporary tattoos all over when I was in elementary school.

Tell us about the first tattoo you saw, the first you got and the first one you made…
I was about 6 years old when I first remember seeing a tattoo. I went with my dad to a photo shoot because he worked on catalogs. He said we were gonna hang with Dolly Parton so I was really excited because she was my favorite, but instead a tall thin woman with long black hair came down the stairs. It turned out to be Cher. We became friends and she showed me her rad tattoos and we played cards. The first time I got a tattoo was the first time I gave a tattoo. It was with my friend Moses at his house and we were listening to Metallica, we gave each other matching dots on our fingers and wrist.

What did you do before being a tattoo artist?
A lot of things. I used to consider myself a traveller, but I have done political canvassing, petitioning, sold vintage clothing, been a cigarrette girl, worked at shops, cafes, bars, pubs, clubs, painted houses, sold crafts on the street, busked, lived in my van for years, managed a hostel, been a housecleaner, been a bum.

Speaking about technique: I believe your tattoos are meaningful artworks that exist thanks something that lives behind them: a memory, a feeling, or a story. Do you think this has something to do with your choice to tattoo by hand?
I started doing tattoos on an impetus – for an experience or out of boredom or from a feeling and it didn’t really matter how it looked or turned out. It was more about the act and experience. It was free – I didnt have to ask anyone for anything – It was DIY, it was immediate, and it was fun. I don’t know how to use a machine, this is the only way I know how to tattoo.

In your opinion what’s the difference between a handpoked tattoo and another done with the machine?
Handpoked tattoos are more organic feeling and looking. There is no middle man.

Is the connection with your clients important? And how important is it for you the act of tattooing and sharing this experience with somebody?
I meet with a lot of people day to day and exchanging energy can be quite taxing. The work itself is also tiring so if a connection happens naturally then that’s sweet, but its not like I’m going to form a connection with everyone, I am mostly performing a service.

Talking about subjects: where do your inspirations come from?
They come from everywhere.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to disconnect and be by myself.

What is the soundtrack of your life? And which song would you choose for this specific moment?
Black Sabbath and Leonard Cohen are my all time favorties. At the moment my favorite song is “The Old Revolution” by Leonard Cohen.

Where are you working now and what are your plans for the future?
I am working at Saved Los Angeles and I am planning to get closer to nature.

Tati Compton, Photographs by Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Tati Compton, Photographs by Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Instagram: @taticompton