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  • Dora Matić

TATUIROVKE: THE REVIVAL OF HANDPOKE TECHNIQUE USED BY OUR GRANDMOTHERS

We spoke with Yvonne Tadić, a young tattoo artist behind Tatuirovke, who told us all about her work and handpoke technique.



Today we are witnessing a huge revival of handpoked tattoos, a technique very attractive for all those who are considering doing their first tattoos, as well as for those who are already inked. Croatian tattoo scene is no exception, with aspiring artists like Tatuirovke serving us finest designs since 2016. Yvonne Tadić, the artist behind Tatuirovke, said it’s not surprising how handpoke technique is experiencing such a boom, considering it was the method used way back by our grandmothers. While Bosnia was under occupation by Osman Empire, women used to cover their hands with handpoked tattoos of crosses and other ornaments to avoid forced conversion to Islam. Even though the practice was extinct by 1950s, today it’s getting more and more attention.



– Handpoke is a revival of the oldest tattoo techniques, before the tattoo machine was invented. Nowadays the technique is pretty simple and accessible - if you feel comfortable with a pen in your hand, this should not be too difficult – explains Yvonne. – What makes handpoke (or stick and poke) accessible is that you basically only need a needle and ink to make tattoos. Tattoo machines can be difficult to begin with, not to mention the costs and time you need to invest to start making good tattoos. With stick and poke you have more control over what you’re doing, it’s slower and often more precise. At least that’s my experience - I tried tattooing with the machine but it just didn’t work for me. I got scared of the speed at which the needle was moving. Of course, this means that machine tattoos are done much quicker, that’s why you don’t get handpoke tattoos if you want the whole thing done in a few minutes.



We were wondering why many people nowadays go for handpoke tattoos. According to Yvonne, – It’s a whole another experience: some say that handpoke hurts less, which I agree with, and is less abrasive to the skin if done correctly. There is also no sound that follows the whole process, which may make the whole experience more relaxing and talk-friendly, sometimes even sleep-friendly – adds in laughter, explaining how important it is to have a cosy setting while getting a tattoo.


Even though Yvonne is an experienced artist now, she still remembers her first tattoo very fondly. – I made it secretly, short before my 18th birthday, laying on my bed in front of the mirror. I wanted to give myself a gift for surviving high school, and ever since I’ve been getting tattoos as milestones. Not many people have seen my first one, and maybe for the better! But it healed surprisingly well, probably because it’s hidden from sunlight.



Browsing Tatuirovke Instagram profile one can instantly notice the diversity of motives in her designs, all made with very precise, elegant lines. When it comes to inspiration, Yvonne is finding it everywhere around. – I pretty much just look around and get inspired. My surroundings are Croatian culture, especially Dalmatia and the Mediterranean lifestyle. I love incorporating nature and man-made objects into original tattoo motives, but wordplay (and humour in general) also makes me very happy to tattoo. With my designs I’m forming my own type of patriotism and fixing my very complicated relationship with my home, Dalmatia. There is also a dash of irony that I put in my designs, hopefully enough to keep us all from taking life too seriously.


Even though Dalmatia is an inspirational setting, it is also a tough place to start a creative business. Very often people say if you make it in Dalmacija, you can make it anywhere. Yvonne shared with us some of the challenges of starting a tattoo business in Croatia.

– The challenges are many. Croatia is a small country where tattoos are still not as popular. The main problem that comes from this is; should a tattoo artist tattoo only their own designs or accept other ideas? In bigger communities, where there are plenty of tattoo artists for anyone’s taste, it’s much easier to make a living out of your own tattoo style. Unfortunately, not many Croatian tattoo artists have succeeded in this, but the ones that have are awesome, and I’m very inspired by them. The other issue is pricing - the quality you get in Croatia is just as good as everywhere else, but a lot cheaper because most Croatians are not very wealthy and can’t spend money on tattoos, art, music etc. I understand this completely, and don’t blame anyone. That’s why I always try to balance between not undervaluing my work and not being elitist, because I want as many Croatians to have tattoos, with hopes that tattoos will become a ‘normal’ thing soon. The next issue is opening a studio in Croatia, that is a whole another difficulty, and if I get into it, we will never end this interview – she laughs.



Starting a tattoo business in Croatia may be a challenge, nonetheless a lot of aspiring tattoo artist are catching our attention nowadays. We know why we love Taturovke’s style the best, but we wanted to see how Yvonne perceives her fast-growing popularity. She responded in a very shy and reflective manner, saying her work probably stands out because of – the thinness of the lines and the lightweight of the tattoos in general that attracts my clients, because it’s not seen as often, as it is in other countries. At least that’s what my clients say!

The secret behind my growing popularity is not a secret: using social media and other networking tools is what brings me new clients all the time – adds Yvonne modestly.


We wanted to hear Yvonne’s thoughts on Croatian tattoo scene: – This question makes me a little sad because I haven’t communicated with many other tattoo artists as a colleague. I think that tattoo artists should collaborate and communicate more with each other. Maybe they do, and I’m just too shy! Hopefully it will change with time.



What most people don’t know about Yvonne is that she’s lived in a couple of places abroad, such as USA and Russia. Every time she lived abroad, she was tattooing people and expanding the list of her clients. It must have been tough competing with local artists. – I wasn’t trying to compete because back then I didn’t even consider myself a tattoo artist. When I lived in the US, I was only beginning to tattoo people outside of my friend group. I made maybe 10 tattoos there. In Russia it was even harder because I saw first-hand how developed their tattoo scene is, and how little I can contribute as an intermediate handpoker. But looking back, Russia was a breaking point for me because over there I had the most wonderful mentor, Sasha, who taught me a lot and helped me overcome my insecurities.


If she had an opportunity to collaborate with any tattoo artist/studio, Yvonne’s pick would undoubtedly be – Studio Banlieue!!! I love his style so much – she says.


A quick advice for our readers considering making their first tattoo: – You will never end up having only one tattoo! 😉

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