Tattoo artists and studios are booming. Poland was a late bloomer but they sure are making up for lost time. Not until the mid 90’s did you see tattoo studios appearing in Poland, but who was the first? Well, we met up with the man who was a pioneer of his time and got the ball rolling by opening the first tattoo studio in Poznań called Tattoo.pl, which was also one of the first in Poland.
Hi Sławomir. Before we start, can you confirm that you opened the first tattoo studio in Poland?
Yes. As far as I am aware I was the first.
When did it all start?
I was around 18 years old in the 80’s and I could see that Poznań was open to new things. Cafes, bars, and restaurants were starting to open up. For example, Poznań was ahead of Warsaw in those times. I remember the old town in Warsaw didn’t have much going on and Poznań was buzzing. I had an opportunity to get a job but I decided to follow my passion which was art.
I was into realism and eventually connected it with tattooing. I think I was the only one doing realistic tattoos at the time.
Did you have any inspirations at that time?
A man called Siara inspired my senses and pushed me to be even better. I met him in Radom where I was born and lived at that time. He is an amazing artist and we met at some cultural meeting and have remained really good friends ever since. To this day he still paints. He is brilliant!
So how did you start making tattoos?
Well, a friend of mine who was living in Gdansk told me about the cool vibe in the city and that I should give it a try there so I went to live with him for 3 months but it didn’t really work out. Things were slow.
So what next?
I had an idea so I returned to my hometown, Radom, and started to make contact with people in the music business. I contacted singers and rock bands and told them about what I could do and it started from there. Once I had done a few, it went crazy and snowballed big time. I was renting a flat with a friend and was making the tattoos there.
So why move to Poznań?
Well, I could see that Poznań was a very open city, especially to culture. Plus my girlfriend was living there ?
Poznań open to culture?
Back in those times, Poznań was a haven for culture. Unfortunately, it changed over time and in fact became the opposite. Although, Poznań is changing again over the last few years and is becoming very open to new things once again. I think a lot of people who immigrated to other countries have started coming back to the city and are bringing new fresh ideas with them. It’s great to see!
So how did it go in Poznań?
I made some connections with the music community in Poznań and things went to the next level. I became friends with a rock band called Acid Drinkers who were huge at the time and they also helped to promote me in their concerts. The music world in Poland had connected to tattoos and it was absolutely crazy! And remember, I was the only one in Poland tattooing at that time!
You had your own studio?
Actually, in 1992 I was sharing a shop with the band Acid Drinkers called Acid Shop which was a sort of cultural place in Ogrodowa street, just around the corner from where we are now.
How did it go over the next few years?
In 1993 I met Ralph who was a tattoo artist from Hamburg. I was introduced to him through a friend of mine. It’s a funny story because my friend first saw Ralph in a museum and was amazed by some of his tattoos. He kept following him around to get a closer look and Ralph kept walking away. He probably thought he was a weirdo or something. Anyway, he introduced him to me and he invited me to a tattoo convention in Bremen, Germany. It was my first tattoo convention. I hadn’t even been to one before.
Were you nervous?
Maybe a little. It was an incredible experience. I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing that I noticed was the machines the Europeans were using. They were much more advanced than what I was using in Poland.
But you won an award, right?
Yes. I won 1st place for the best tattoo! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t even know there were any awards. It was my first and the most important award of my career! It put me on the map.
How did the other artists react?
That’s another funny story. While I was tattooing, artists were speaking to Ralph and offering me jobs to work in their studios. I didn’t know it but he told them that I wasn’t interested and turned them all down.
Were you upset with him when you found out?
For about 2 seconds. He told me the reason why he turned them down and I was inspired. He told me if I went to work for them I would just be another tattoo artist. He told me that I was going to be the pioneer in Poland and inspired me to return. Even though I could have made some good money working in Europe, it was the right decision.
So you came back?
Sure. Eventually, I and a company called Mega Sound Productions would organize Poland’s first Tattoo convention in Warsaw in the Palace of Culture.
Wow! Was it easy to get a place in the Palace?
Weekends were booked so it had to be midweek. I thought to change the location so that we could have it on a weekend but Radek (owner of Mega Sound Productions) said it HAD to be in the Palace of culture. In the end, it was absolutely a huge success. I remember Canal Plus (tv channel) had a 3-hour programme about the convention. Only the Pope could have competed with us in those times!
How many artists were there?
Around 20 from abroad and 30 from Poland. In fact, I think ALL the studios/artists from Poland were there!
Do some of them still exist?
I think around half of them.
And now? Which is the biggest tattoo convention in Poland?
The tattoo Konwent in Warsaw is the biggest although Poznańs convention is the most popular in terms of visitors.
When did you change the name to Tattoo.pl?
In 1998 I changed the name of the studio to tattoo.pl. It was the time when the internet was taking off so I moved quickly and reserved the URL tattoo.pl.
Many people think you started the tattoo revolution in Poland. What do you think?
I’m sure I had something to do with it but I have to give a shout to Sebastian at Junior INK in Warsaw. He was a massive influence in those times to make tattoos popular. Maybe even more so than me! I got married eventually and had a child so this took a lot of my time. Sebastian is a good friend of mine and he is a legend.
Is your son also inked up?
Actually, I asked him what he wanted for his 18th birthday and he said he wanted his first tattoo. He told me what he wanted and I designed it for him. He wanted something traditional.
Did he like it?
Yes, but he wanted it even more traditional, so I made a few adjustments ?
Does he want to be an artist also?
No. He is still young but he is thinking of a career in the military. We will see.
Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?
There are many great ones but I must say I like TinTin in Paris.
What is your favorite style?
Currently the Swiss band Yello.
Well, it has been an absolute pleasure meeting with tattoo royalty. I must say you are one of the friendliest people I have ever met and that reflects in your studio. Finally, you were involved from the beginning but how do you see the future for tattoo artists? I heard that robots will be the future?
It was my pleasure also. I heard about the robots but I don’t think so. It’s a very personal thing to get a tattoo and machines are soulless.
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