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Katowice-based tattoo artist Bianka Szlachta, known for her unique style and DIY tattoos, gained her reputation by posting her work on Instagram. Often witty and deeply rooted in pop culture, her drawings are defined by minimalistic and rough aesthetics. An alumna of Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, she simply sees tattooing as another form of contemporary art and more closely associates herself with art galleries than shady tattoo parlours.
How did you start your tattooing career?
Magda Bujak, a tattoo artist, called me when she was looking for people to start the collective with and this is how Ink Miners started. Before, I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice where I learned how to work with different materials. I think this influenced the way I approach tattoo art. The first tattoo I did was on my friend from the Academy. It represented a goat head which referred to the series of paintings and lithography pieces I had been working on for years prior.
Which tattoo are you most proud of?
I would not call it “pride” but there are some tattoos I am more satisfied with than others. It is important for me to get to know the people I tattoo and some of those meetings are extremely moving. People come to me in different moods, they have different personalities – some are excited and talkative, some frightened and secretive. I like to get to know them. There are also obviously tattoos that I am happy with on a technical level.
How would you describe your style?
I used to label my photos on Instagram as “ignorant style,” but I don’t associate myself with this anymore. I felt that I had to classify my work at the beginning, because people like to put things into categories. Things that are incomprehensible or unlike anything else tend to cause confusion. But going back to the question, I don’t know how to name my style, but I also don’t think that I necessarily have to.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I have many sources of inspiration, most certainly books (Gombrich, Arnheim) and comics (Bechdel, Mazzucchelli, Haneslmann). I tend to make notes in a handful of settings, most notably trains. It’s nothing new that trains are particularly conducive to creators, I don’t really know why but it’s true!
Another important aspect is watching people. I immerse myself in various social situations and observe. for example, how people react to stress, particularly in relation to special events, like weddings. I try to notice what happens to their faces or how they act when they wait in line for a coffee. Recently, I watched people in the mountain lodge, where their facial features looked like they were shaped by the wind.
What’s your creative process like? How do you come up with new designs?
Sometimes an idea comes to me like a thunderbolt. I think this is popular among people working in creative fields, that a great idea just suddenly comes to you. Then I either write it down and keep on doing other things or I immediately sit down and start drawing.
When I work for clients, I draw and wait until something good comes out of it. Then the form suggests the topic. I also got rid of the desire to create the greatest work of my life – the defining piece. This has definitely saved me a lot of time and nerves. I am proud of this, because the first years of my creative life were spent ego building.
How did the idea for a female-only tattoo collective come about? How would you describe the tattoo scene in Poland?
It was Magda Bujak’s idea to start the female-only collective and it worked, so we just stuck with it. We try to promote other female tattoo artists by inviting them to our studio as guest artists. When it comes to the Polish tattoo scene, I think I am somewhere on its outskirts. I definitely feel much more affiliated with an art gallery than the traditional tattoo scene.