My friends at the Greek tattoo magazine Heartbeat Ink have a fantastic in-depth Q&A with Mike The Athens, in English and in Greek. Tattooing for 24 years, Mike The Athens is not only one of Greece's preeminent tattooers, but has garnered international acclaim for his work, which is largely inspired by Tibetan and Himalayan Art, Sak Yant, and mantras, but also moving towards Japanese-influenced tattooing.
Today, Mike The Athens splits his time between Athens, Greece, and Goa, India. In the Heartbeat Ink interview, he explains what living and tattooing on two continents is like, how tattooers must have a conscience, and even the fun way he got his name. Here's a taste:
Where are you now in 2013?Read more, and view some wonderful photos, here. Also check Mike The Athens' site and blog.
Mike is also one of the featured artists in Black Tattoo Art 2, which is currently available for pre-order.
I'm back from my 2-week big fat Greek wedding celebration of my best friend's nuptials (photos on my Facebook page) but it was more than just eating, drinking, dancing, eating, eating, eating ... it was also about
Specifically, I'm reporting back to y'all on some amazing work coming outta my motherland.
But before I give a list of my fave Greek tattooists, I should note that despite the Zorba-esque zestiness, jump-on-the-table-and-belly-dance desires of my peeps, it is NOT a country friendly to heavily tattooed people, especially women. In fact, it's pretty hostile, and I'm not just talking about the smaller villages but even in the big cities like Athens.
For example, in one day, I was stopped and cursed at by three different people for exercising my right to bare tattooed arms -- people who worked in tourist stores and could've taken my euros for things like erotic coasters depicting the ancients in various states of coitus.
One woman spit on the floor when she saw me, claiming I was a Satan worshipper. [Indeed, I would not deem Beyonce satan by any means!]
Of course, when I hung out with the satanists at the Rockwave Festival Tuesday, my tattoos were almost as big a hit as Mastodon, Kylesa and Lita Ford, so maybe there's something to it.
My point in writing all this is that -- while Greece remains one of the most beautiful places on earth to me, a place I go back to every year -- one must be prepared to suffer the evil eye of tattoo distaste despite the country's recent tattoo conventions and incredible local tattooists.
And speaking of, here's my pick of faves should you wish a souvenir from Greece other than the Athena is My Homegirl tee.
* Mike The Athens: Mike (whose work is shown here) is one of my favorite artists worldwide, even beyond Greece's borders, particularly for his Buddhist and East Asian iconography (in fact, you'll find his tattoo and fine art work in my upcoming book on blackwork). Mike takes a spiritual approach to tattooing and is part of MAHASHAKTI, a non-profit organization whose goal is to "preserve, promote and secure spiritual tattooing in our times."
* Sake Tattoo: For the less traditional, there's Sake, who is excellent for portraiture and new school stylings; work coming out of the shop also includes the Art Brut style popularized in France and Belgium (some work comes a bit close for comfort with artists like Yann and Jeff but I haven't seen any that warrant copyright suits).
* Greek Tattoo/Hellenic Stixis: Specializes in tattoos of Hellenic motifs -- akin to much of what I wear on my arms. Research in archaeology and ancient Greek arts inform the designs of the work done here, and so if you're looking to be adorned like a Greek vase, this is the place to go.
* Tattooligans: When traveling through northern Greece, in the great city of Thessaloniki (Salonika), head to Tattooligans for color realism, some of the best coming outta the country.
* Nico Tattoo Crew: The tattoo studios of Nico Tattoo -- found in Athens, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli -- have a lot of artists working there, some excellent and some still learning, but when I passed by the Athens shop, I had the freedom to browse all the portfolios at leisure and everyone was super friendly. Nico himself has been around awhile and is known as a top Greek artist, but I was also really diggin the work of Kostas at the Athens shop for Japanese and Eastern iconography.
* Jimmy's: Jimmy's is the oldest tattoo shop in Greece and I remember there was a time over a decade ago that it was the only shop I'd ever hear of when I asked people in Athens about their tattoos. To learn more about Jimmy's, read this fabulous article by Lars Krutak for the Vanishing Tattoo.
This isn't an exhaustive list of course, and there are many great Greek tattoo artists creating beautiful works of art throughout the country.