I chatted to Arianna Settembrino, who works out of her personal studio Skinwear Tattoo in Rimini about what inspires her and how she sees today’s tattoo culture… Here is my interview, published on Things&Ink Blog.
Arianna Settembrino is a milestone in the world of tattoo art. She was one of the first women to open a tattoo shop in Italy, recognized year after year for her perfect lines: a tattoo artist but also a true artisan. She fell in love with traditional, a style as old as time, characterised by bold lines and a strong eye impact. She tattoos in her personal studio, Skinwear Tattoo in Rimini, and she keeps her passion alive every single day. Her style is as you see it, very direct and without any fuss: so is Arianna.
You were one of the first women who stood out in the tattoo world, here in Italy but also abroad. How was your journey and how do you feel now?
Yes, I’m very proud of what I have become.
My path, somehow, has always been characterized by great commitment and great sacrifice.
I am very self-critical, but very determined, and I remember well that even when I was very young, when I got the chance to work in a studio as an assistant/apprentice, I devoted all of myself to this job, making the most of everything I was required by my mentor.
If you weren’t a tattoo artist, what would you do now?
Another great passion of mine is education. I would definitely like to work in the school environment, with particular attention to adolescents. I strongly believe in the value of the “rehabilitation” and recovery, and probably would have worked on a project of rehabilitation and reintegration of young people out of the the juvenile detention center.
Bold lines, strong colors and precise subjects. Can you confirm that every tattoo artist chooses or approaches one style in particular just because there are similarities with his own character, his own personality?
It is absolutely true! The style of a tattoo artist and the characteristics of its work have an external representation of his character and of his essence.
I would say that on one side we choose the style, and on the other one, the style chooses you.
Who/what inspires you? Is there any recurring theme in your art?
My sources of inspiration have always been tied to classical iconography of traditional tattoo, but revisiting it through the use of images in the Victorian style, the use of esoteric and religious symbols (in the universal sense), and the propaganda graphics. My style comes from a combination of all these things. Today I can say I’ve found my way, my identity … It’s a road I walk every day enjoying the journey, without ever thinking about arriving to destination. The awareness to know what I’m doing , the respect for myself and others, the great self-discipline, inspire me every day, making me move in this great adventure, full of satisfaction and sacrifice.
What has changed since you started tattooing? What would you like to change and what would you never want to change?
It has changed a lot. The tattoo world reflects significantly the society in which we live.
I started tattooing in 2000 (first tattoo ever in June 1999). Nothing is as it was then.
It happened something wonderful and terrible at the same time: the tattoo has evolved to incredible levels, and it is impossible not to talk about art. Technical, pigments, and more and better equipment availability have allowed the creation of more and more compact and refined works.
Then, with the arrival of social media, the pics of these human works of art, these wonderful pieces, began to travel anywhere around the world, more and more, year after year, multiplying the number of “users”.
These images are affecting trends in a mega fast way: what once happened in five years, now happens in only six months.
Up to here everything seems beautiful and positive.
Actually the flip side is soon out: all this maxi dissemination and availability of materials has generated the false belief that a tattoo is easy. You might think it’s great, cool, and ‘not so difficult’ as it seems.
Dozens of people everyday are improvised with such a lightness to me puzzling. It is not a matter of being old-fashioned. It is all about awareness, attitude, responsibility. And respect.
Today there is little of everything. Who suddenly becomes a ‘tattooer’ has no respect for others skin. Neither respects the aesthetics, nor has care of his customers health.
This is degrading.
Even among talented young people, today there are many ‘stars’. They become famous in a couple of months, and they are young inexperienced with crowds of admirers. They are still inexperienced guys. They do not always know the meaning of ethics and professional conduct, and tattoo their face and hands with a carelessness that leaves me astounded.
It is an already saturated environment. And in a way it is so widespread that it has lost value.
There’s something so romantic about this job…and I keep it jealously in my heart. I mean, I love to share and transmit this love and passion, but I am very selective: I think that this job is not for everyone, and you have to earn it.
One thing I would never change is the craftsmanship of the equipment. While not forgetting hybrid or rotary machines, I love the traditional and unique machines coils.
Do you have a personal mantra (not necessarily linked to tattoos)?
My personal mantra is “I am present”. I use it every day, not just at work. I need to keep in touch with myself and stay centered. I try to eliminate the waste of external conditions and the behavioral habits that we have for cultural heritage. I try to stay “awake”, this way I can have a more direct and sincere contact with others in general, and also with the customer.
Incitements and sensations of your work are certainly unique, different every time. How much does art affect your life?
Art has a great importance in my life. I do not refer only to the visual arts. Nor I consider myself an expert, because, in fact, I am not. I have a pretty good general culture and I did not join any school of art. I surely know and recognize most of what I like best: everything that is very graphic, Futurist art, Gothic art, or the brilliant works by Bosch, that intrigue me and enchant each time more. Even the music is very inspiring and can not miss in my life as well as while tattooing. I prefer a soundtrack of high-impact, from metal or punk rock to a classic song. But I also really like when a guest tattoo artist or other studios choose their music, breaking my schemes.
Who do you think is the ‘ideal customer’?
Well, the ideal customer is an educated, sensitive person, who brings his own basic idea but trusts totally the tattoo artist. He is a patient person, who knows to wait his turn and the rules of the tattoo artist and the studio.
A person who has self-respect and wants the best, willing to spend for his tattoo the right amount, without haggling. Finally, the ideal customer is the one who comes back to you, happy and satisfied of his brand new tattoo.
Am I asking too much? Fortunately, most part of my personal customers are as the one I described! 🙂
What do you think of nowadays ‘tattoo collectors’?
What I think of today’s tattoo collectors is that many of them are hurried to fill up every little blank space, getting tattooed only by those “branded” and trendy tattooists.
There is not a true story over them, it’s not a collection grown up over time and with the experiences of life: no. They get strong subjects as status symbol, whether they have deeply esoteric meaning or they are just stupid tattoos, with the same lightness.
In general, their skin is covered in cool and perfect pieces, they actually seem all prepackaged. A visual impact that really makes me sick.
Coco Chanel said, ‘Fashion passes, style remains’. In this age where it’s mainly the fashion to dictate the rules (and even affect the tattoo), do you believe that there is less or more awareness?
How true. Absolutely! That’s why I know the traditional classical style and the tribal/ornamental will never ever die. The symbols are eternal and they will never go out of fashion.
If we think of the first tattooed people, years and years ago, we understand that tattoo was seen as something wild, forbidden but fascinating. Considering this, how do you see the future of the tattoo culture?
If once tattooed people were seen as freaks and people paid a ticket to the circus to see them up close… Well, today I would say that we have gone the other way. Today is just the non tattooed person to be something exceptional.
It is not definitively either a good or a bad thing, but certainly something has gotten out of hand. Many get tattooed because “everyone has one.”
You know, 20 years ago, when I got my first tattoo, I was “outside the box”, and this also made me feel good! J
I hope the future of tattoo art is going to be flourishing and positive, and I wish the quality will win against the quantity. I wish everything could slow down a little bit, in respect of an ancient craft and of the indelible marks that it has always left and always will leave.
Thanks to all those who have entrusted me in these 15 years, even if with one centimeter of their skin, and to all those who continue to do so.
Thanks to all those who support me and love me.
Thank you Ilaria for this great interview.