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What’s up guys? Here’s another interview I did for “Get to know a tattoo artist,” with artist Anya Gladun! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. See other interviews here.
Was it hard to get on this field? How did you first started?Yes and no. I was pretty lucky in getting an apprenticeship but it didn’t last long and wasn’t as thorough as I had hoped for, yet it was my foot in the door, so I suppose it all worked out. I moved to the US in 2006 aged 19 from Russia and until I spent almost a full year here I hadn’t really considered tattooing as something I could do or would be all that interested in doing; a few of my friends had jokingly suggested that many times over the years, and I did have a few small tattoos by the time I left Russia, but I never thought this would become my actual job. I had always been pretty artistic, and though I never had any formal art education nor an art degree, it’s something I have been doing my whole life. Back then in Russia a cosmetology license was a requirement for tattooing, but I was going to school full time and worked part time, so cosmetology school wasn’t an option. Raised under the impression that art isn’t a job and artists make no money I never pursued art as a career. I did it for free, because I enjoyed it. Didn’t even occur to me to charge for what I was doing. In 2007 I was working at a restaurant when iI met these two guys who were passing out flyers for a new tattoo shop in town. I asked if they needed any counter help or would consider an apprentice, and they seemed interested. At the time I was carrying a sketch book with me everywhere so I showed it to them and they liked my stuff. I started at the shop the next day.
Do you consider yourself a “geek”? I noticed you tattoo things from pop culture once in a while. I don’t think I can call myself that, to be completely honest, and I blame my foreignness. I grew up with a completely different set of shows and pop culture things, so sometimes I have to look stuff up before I do any tattoo that’s pop culture related. Luckily with the internet widely accessible I can do my research for any tattoo and learn new stuff all the time. I suppose it depends on what exactly we’re talking about here - I’m not super well versed in videogames or old shows people my age grew up with in America, but more recent things i am famil iar with, like current tv shows, cartoons etc.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever tattooed on someone? If its too identifiable, do you have a favorite tattoo related story?I tattoo interesting things and people all the time! My clients are seriously the best. A quote I think of often is “normal is someone you don’t know very well” - tattooing will teach you to never judge a book by its cover, for sure. I have tattooed surrogate mothers, red tail hawk handlers, psychics, bat rehabbers, survivors of all sorts, people with no colon, people who have had some crazy stuff happen to them and pulled through. It’s all incredible and very humbling. Clients tend to think they come to me for “therapy” but what ends up happening is we help each other learn new things about ourselves.
Do you remember the first tattoo you ever did? What was it?It was a tiny elephant on my friend Melody’s ankle. She’s a tattooer too, she works at Ink Junkies in Denver. It probably needs a touchup.
Have you ever had any of your designs ripped off? How do you feel about people that do this kind of thing?Oh, yeah, a few times. I was super annoyed at first and called people out constantly, but then I realized it was a waste of time and energy - they won’t change, I’m not the only person they’re doing it to, and I’m better off just leaving it alone. Now I can safely say I don’t care. If you wanna be a lazy copycat that’s on you. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to tattoo onto someone but never had the chance?I have never done a Russian nesting doll on anyone, in almost 8 years I have been tattooing. I don’t know how that happened but isn’t that weird?
What’s your favorite tattoo that you’ve ever done and why?Don’t think I have one. I do one or two a day, sometimes three, and I end up with new favorites every day. I don’t know I just love tattooing.What do you find the most rewarding part of the job?I think the fact that someone wears my art I create with my own hands for the rest of their lives is just mind-blowing. I appreciate that trust more than anything, tattooing is pretty sacred to me, that’s why I don’t get why people would disrespect their bodies by some unsanitary stick and pokes in someone’s bas ement. The healing people seem to receive a lot of times is also extremely rewarding. Some of my clients I’m pretty close with and some have become my friends. So not only do I get to draw every day and put my spin on whatever idea my client has, I get to influence their lives in a pretty significant way, too, and that’s pretty amazing and humbling.
If you weren’t a tattoo artist, what would you like to do for a living?I was considering makeup artistry, hair industry or interpreting/translating (Russian into English, English into Russian). I’ve also been interested in counseling, volunteering at a pet shelter or with wildlife, and learning about nutrition. I would like to read tarot professionally, or at least find a mentor to help me learn it better. I dropped out of college when I moved to the US so I didn’t end up with a degree but if I transferred my credits I would probably be able to graduate with a degree in teaching English and German as a foreign language, but I don’t really like teaching all that much, to be quite honest. I want to do everything! hahah. I have so many passions and so not enough time in the world!Do you have plans for traveling and tattooing? Is there any country in particular you would love to do that?I do! It’s a bit hard with a dog that’s not super travel friendly but I’m definitely planning to visit many states and countries in the near future. I’m hoping to get my American citizenship first now that I’m finally eligible so I don’t have to mess with a visa I’ll need for some countries because of my Russian citizenship, but I would love to visit Europe, Japan, Thailand, India, Egypt - wherever I can, really! I would love to tattoo just about anywhere as long as it’s with cool people. I’m headed to Russia this September but it’ll probably be more like a vacation.
Have you ever had to deal with any discrimination on this field for being a girl?Oh yeah, I think we all have. Since I started shortly before all the tv shows became a thing and it also suddenly became more acceptable to be a girl tattooer (thanks, Hannah Aitchison and Kat Von D!), I didn’t witness the worst of it - but back in the day no one trusted female tattooers, they had to work super hard to even get into a shop, and they were treated like garbage by everyone there. It’s easier now but we still experience some discrimination. We have to look pretty but not too pretty because then we’re shallow and our work is scrutinized immediately twice as hard, and god forbid you’re both attractive and good at what you do because then you definitely slept with someone to get into tattooing, and so on. We’re fetishized and considered attention whores, we have to be very stern, very straight forward with our clients and colleagues to establish ourselves. After a few years tattooing inevitably makes you sort of thick skinned which can both be good and bad, you just become “one of the boys” and end up with a foul mouth like me. But, it’ll teach you to stand up for yourself, which is a necessary survival skill for a woman.What advice would you give for people wanting to get into this business? Make sure it’s really what you want. You have to have so much fire inside of you to make it through the first few years, if you think it’s just some cool thing to do to impress your friends and get sleeves, you’re wrong. It’s much more than that. I mean, it really takes it out of you. Most tattooers I know struggle with their physical and mental health, like back problems, eyesight problems, carpal tunnel, worsening in anxiety and even depression, I mean, it’s very hard, very taxing. There is no paid leave or 401k, there is literally nothing for you unless you make it happen for yourself. It’s not fucking around all day doodling then counting cash and driving your new Cadillac home. Some days you just want to scream into the void because you’re so frustrated with everything. You’re going to have to draw when it’s the last thing you want to do, because it’s your job and people paid you money. Doing art for a job comes with the price of potentially removing a huge chunk of joy from your creative process unless you learn how to control it and even then you’ll have days when you’ll hate everything you do and you won’t be able to do anything about it. Finally, people. If you’ve ever worked in customer service or food industry, you’ll know what I mean. Also, expect to financially and creatively struggle for at least the first 3 years. I didn’t start reaping the benefits, full benefits of tattooing and what I invested into it and myself, until maybe five years in, before then it’s just grunt work really. Long days, infinity knots, annoying people, asshole boss etc. It’s like an internship at a hospital for a medical student, or law school for a future lawyer. Yes, you have potential to make it, but you have to give it your all or might as well not even start. The more seasoned you are the better it gets, so it’s definitely worth it if you’re willing to put in the work. Don’t draw a picture of an eye and think you’re amazing because your friends say so. Draw everything, organize it in a neat portfolio and take it to your local shop you love - where you should be getting tattooed and hanging out constantly to be considered anything worth investing in. Remember, no one owes you anything. Your past doesn’t matter. You may be the most incredible artist in the world and you’ll still have to eat shit to get an apprenticeship, so humble it down and get to work. If it’s worth it to you, you probably already know it. Good luck.
Thank you very much Anya for letting me have the honor to do this amazing interview! Go follow Anya everywhere now to keep up with her work:instagram: @tattoosbyanya tumblr: http://tattoosbyanya.tumblr.comemail:
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