Over the years, Berlin has risen to become a major creative space as its rich and troubled history makes it unique, with it being a metropolis that rebooted itself less than 30 years ago.
Speaking to owner Nick Kater of Bläckfisk Tattoo Co. in Berlin, which started up in early 2012, when asked why he came to Berlin to set up his company, he said “When I moved to Berlin, it was still young and different from the rest of Germany, where I was born. You could and still can start something great if you just have the courage and commitment, with fewer barriers than many other places in Germany. The lifestyle here is definitely beneficial to tattooing because it’s so diverse and attracts a lot of different characters. It’s easy to make connections to other creative people in Berlin, and the city is very well connected to the rest of Europe.”
With the internet and modern media, tattooing is way more accessible than it was 10 years ago. The number of shops has exploded in the last decade, and thanks to Germany‘s strong economy, there are a lot of great artists from other countries working in Berlin. This has set Berlin up as a mecca for people who want to get tattooed and be tattoo artists. Rarely in the world will one find the quality of work at the price level that Berlin offers. Of course it is a bit more of a hassle if you have to work cheaper than in other places like Essen or Munich, but because of the high demand and the easy going vibe in Berlin, there is more freedom in one’s creativity instead.
When asked how he got into the business of tattooing, he said “The fascination and passion had always been there, but also the humbleness. That‘s why it took some time between getting tattooed and starting tattooing myself. I had a couple friends who were tattoo artists and it kind of eased me into starting it myself. From there on it was a long process and a rocky road, which I guess never really ends. But I can only speak for myself right now. Our company has 10 tattoo artists and 1 apprentice, all with their own approaches and stories. We are where we are now through constant development, through the aspirations of everyone who ever worked or contributed here. We could never have planned this, but we are very proud of what we have become.”
With tattoo styles there is the American traditional, realistic, scratchy, minimal, hand-poke, Japanese and many more. Kater said “Tattooing and being tattooed is a great part of radical self-expression, which is the base of all creativity. We like to think we were the first real walk-in shop in Berlin, with walls full of flash and a welcoming attitude towards everyone who walks through our door.”
In regards to the future of tattooing in Berlin, Kater said “It worries me a bit that tattooing isn‘t a protected industry. There‘s something like an attempt to form a union, but the officials can still make our lives hard if they want to. Like they are ridiculous with their requirements, for example in Spain, where every tattoo artist needs to work in a private room, and there‘s basically only one legal brand of colours. And there are a few companies who are trying to build monopolies by trying to outlaw the competition, or trying to make DIY equipment illegal. Tattooing is still a classic trade, where everyone can build their own machines, wrap their own coils and sell their own needles if they want to, and I hope that won‘t be taken away by greedy people. If that happens, we might all have to go back to doing shady business in basements like 100 years ago.”
Thankfully, there is a new generation of tattoo artists like the Bläckfisk Tattoo Co. in Berlin, saving the art of tattooing from the hold of conformity and bringing a unique and creative aesthetic back into the fold.