Tattoo Therapy: An Interview with Ghinko

Photo credits: Courtesy of @ ghinkos

For many years, tattoos have been considered a taboo subject. In many cultures, they are still associated with criminals and not socially acceptable. However, the recent fine line tattoo trend (also known as single-needle or microtattoos) has opened up tattoo culture to a wider audience. Unlike traditional tattoos, fine line tattoos are small, easy-to-hide, and perfect for those who are looking for a subtler mark. While traditional tattoos are usually done with multiple needles, fine line tattoos are done with a single needle, allowing the artist more precision and detail. This technique creates super intricate images on the skin that resemble portraits done with a mechanical pencil.

Ghinko, a young tattoo artist currently based in New York City, specializes in such fine line tattoos. Whether it’s of dragons that seem to move across the skin, goddesses that cry pearl drop tears, or angels with delicate wings, Ghinko’s personalized tattoos for her clients are always masterpieces. There is an interview below with Ghinko that gives a glimpse of what goes on behind these tattoos that already speak volumes for themselves. We talk about fine line tattoos, moving away from the taboo, and what it’s like to work in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

What made you start tattooing?

I always saw tattooing as the next art movement. The human body is transformed into a one-of-a-kind, hand-curated, exclusively owned art gallery. Not only is each tattoo yours and yours only in The Museum of You, tattoo artists have the incredible opportunity to be featured in this art gallery as 1. the architect 2. the curator 3. the first spectator and 4. the artist. This romantic idea came to life when I first saw microrealism and fineline tattoos during my apprenticeship in a small tattoo shop in West Village in the summer of 2017.

I love this idea of “The Museum of You.” I think it’s such a beautiful way to think about tattoos. However, I think tattoo still has a bad reputation in many cultures and industries, especially outside of the US. What do you think about the taboos that come with tattoo culture and how do you think it could change?

I’ve definitely seen a change in the tattoo culture within the last five years. We’ve come from doing discrete, miniscule tattoos on the feet and armpits of famous models, asking for us to not take photos of them, aiding them in hiding their newest tattoo addition from the world. Now we work on the scenes for fashion shows being known for the art and the clothes that grace a model on the runway. We tattoo models and debutantes on private jets because tattooing is an equal luxury. Within the last couple years, tattoos have become just as iconic to one’s expression of self as the clothes we wear.

You have very personal connections with your clients and even on your Instagram bio, it says “Therapist.” Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with your clients and why this approach is so important to you?

I guess I jokingly labeled myself as a “therapist” to tell viewers, “I’m here to listen.” This tattoo is not about me, it’s about you. I want to be whatever my clients need me to be: a partner in crime, a confidant, a friend, a family member, a designer, a listener, or a guide. A close relationship with my clients brings life to tattoos by putting real love into every line and dot. I want to be fully immersed in not only the art, but also the canvas. By being there, mind, body, and soul, with my client, the tattoo session stretches time itself longer and fuller. When the end of a tattoo session is bittersweet, when I have that tight knot in my chest of not knowing when I’ll see my clients again, I feel that is the best kind of happy ending because every tattoo is like writing a story.

You create incredible tattoos. Both on the level of detail you put into each creation and also the idea itself. I especially love how you incorporate your ideas with your client’s story. What is this process like for you? How do you come up with these unique tattoo ideas?  

I wish there was a script, a fool proof recipe to producing the best tattoos, but unfortunately it’s different for every person. My focus is never to produce a tattoo design, but to understand the client. I think the most important thing is to just sit down with the client and have an honest, candid conversation. Create an open, communicative environment so that the project becomes a collaboration rather than a commission.

I’ve also heard that there are a lot of “fine line haters” out there who don’t appreciate this new trend. As a tattoo artist that works with fine line tattoos, what do you think about these criticisms? 

Just as there are many forms of art in the world (abstract, classical, impressionism, Art Noveau, modern, minimalism), I believe that tattooing can also bend with the movements. As technology improves, machines become more efficient and precise, allowing us to challenge past limitations on tattoos and venture into new styles and new methods. One of those new styles of tattooing is single-needle/fine-line tattoos. I understand the criticisms, and at the end of the day, it’s true, not all fine-line tattoos age as well as large-scale tattoos, but that’s why it’s important to go to the right tattoo artist.

In the past few years, as social media platforms like Instagram become more popular, I noticed that a lot more female tattoo artists are starting to get noticed. As a young, female tattoo artist yourself, what does it feel like working in a traditionally male-dominated industry?

I feel incredibly lucky to be up and coming during this wave of feminism and equal rights in my forever home, New York City. The only time I felt the weight of my gender was in the beginning of my career, there was a more pressing sense of condescension when I was trying to break into the industry. The glass ceiling was definitely prominent and intimidating, but the great thing about art is that your work speaks for itself. The time, love, and effort you put into a project speaks volumes, makes waves, and projects you past that glass ceiling and limitless skies.

Finally, where do you get your inspiration?

Most of my inspiration comes from a raw emotion. Raw emotion makes the essential core, then an ordered composition dissects and organizes the emotion, and proper research refines the vision.

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