An in-depth interview with the owner (together with her husband Crez) of AdrenaTattooing in Marghera. Naturally enough we spoke about her love of Oriental art…
Welcome Stefy, would we be right in saying that were it not for a certain rock star – Axl Rose – you would never have become a professional tattooist?
Who knows? (laughs) At the end of the day, it was a combination of events. First of all music led my creative nature in the direction of tattoo. And my love of melody and sound led me to meet Crez, my husband and teacher as well as the person who introduced me to tattoo art.
How did it all come about?
You know, back in 1997 I was organising punk concerts and theatre performances in a self-managed venue where he used to hang out regularly. At the same time, I considered tattoo to be an integral part of the subculture movements. Something which represented the union of a lot of good things: drawing, provocation and self-transformation.
What else do you remember from that period?
In the 90s, in the Veneto region, it was unusual to see a tattooed woman. I was considered the weird one, a kind of freak, and discrimination was pretty much the order of the day. Then, in ‘97, I went into partnership with Crez. He believed in me from the get go and he asked me if I would like to tattoo my drawings. Naturally, I was super scared, but it was Crez who gave me moral support, offering me a chance in 2001 to begin my apprenticeship.
For twenty years now you’ve been working in close contact with the Japanese style, isn’t that right?
My passion for Japanese culture has been with me, in an unconscious way, since I was a child and always watching anime on television. In 2001/2002 Crez and I met the Ryu Family and we got on like a house on fire. At that time Shiryu, Houryu, Shinryu would come to visit us in Italy to do guest spots: and we did the same for a long time, trying to go to Japan at least once a year.
What do you feel you learned from the Land of the Rising Sun?
Experiencing Japanese tattoo in private tattoo shops gave me a chance to learn about various aspects: the pace of work of Oriental tattooists, so different from our own; the sense of family of the Horishi; the importance of Japanese tattoo as an entity independent of any single person: the profound study of a culture passed on orally and that full body suits, and so on.
So you, gradually, accumulated all this valuable information…
In the beginning I wasn’t working in the Horimono style, seeing as how I didn’t feel I was ready. I was drawn to Japanese “Kawaii” graphics, everything that was cute and cuddly. In 2005 in Japan I got to know some avant garde tattooists like Sabado, Horinao and Madoka who were creating a style that crossed boundaries.
They inspired me to create imagery all my own made up of subjects dear to the folklore of the country: that is where my cats and dolls came from.
Meanwhile I was studying classic Japanese tattoo. Once I had gained confidence and mastery I began to do the traditional Horimono subjects.
When was the last time you were in Japan and what important teaching did you take away with you this time?
Luckily I was there in November, otherwise I would have died of homesickness during the lockdown… (sighs) During my last trip I really got to experience the Japanese Sento, their public baths, and the Onsen, the hot springs. Crez and I hired a van that didn’t have a shower and so we had to go to wash in the Sento all the time. You know, they are a sort of little oasis with swimming pools, saunas and all kinds of treatments. Basically, it was like going back to the Japan of before the Second World War, where normal people’s houses didn’t have baths. It was a really interesting, formative experience.
What do you ask of one of your creations on skin in order for it to reach your standards?
There has to be harmony and balance. It must seem natural, as if it had just fallen onto you, as if that tattoo had always been there. More than that: it has to move well with your movements and the curves of the body. It can’t just be thrown there any old way, and there always has to be a sense of composition: the backgrounds have to be carefully rendered, the greys soft, and so on. It is fundamental that they convey the sense of water and air in their natural movements.
The subjects must be solid and suited to the person who is asking for that particular tattoo.
What kind of relationship do you have with your clients?
You know, I have seen too many cases of tattooists who see their clients as a “canvas” and I don’t feel that’s fair. What I think is that a tattoo artist tells the story of an encounter between two people. We tattooists provide the studio, the development of style and technique, our perspective: the person getting tattooed provides their character, their life, and their body.
Is it true that for Phase 2 you and Crez came up with a mask made in “AdrenaTattooing” which you decorated ad hoc?
Yes, we made three masks decorated with the typical backgrounds of Japanese tattoo. Right from the start of the Covid-19 emergency we needed these precious personal protection devices and as soon as we could we made our own. We have given some of these masks away, and we’re selling the rest of them on the AdrenaTattooing website.
Final question: is it true that your muse and the secret of your great mastery has a name: that it’s you cat Sumi?
Yes, Sumi brings so much joy to me every day! The name comes from his black spots, as if he had been painted with a brush dipped in black Japanese “Sumi” ink. I love animals in general, and having two cats allows me to observe them on a daily basis, to understand their paws, face, the agile body of a feline. Sumi brings me such tranquillity and that’s why he inspires me so. He teaches me to simply exist, without judging, without expectations or all those distracting thoughts. A cat feels life differently from humans. I would love to be a cat, less influenced by cultural conditioning, just able to feel life for what it is.