Tattooing is an art that has always fascinated me, long before I had my first inks. I am, of course, unable to draw and even less to tattoo anything. So I am completely fascinated by these artists with this talent. However, the world of tattooing is evolving and it is becoming complicated to find artists with their own style. And what was not my happiness the first time I saw Xandthedeath’s creations.
We live in a world of images in which we are all users and at the same time creators of something that will not last. We find ourselves in a kind of visual lethargy, where everything becomes superficial, meaningless. This happens strongly in the world of tattooing, where artists have to bow to the dictates of social networks and different trends, bullying them in their creativity.
Xandthedeath is not one of them. This artist imposes her own style. It is recognizable among all, taking her inspiration from Eastern European folklore as well as from pre-raphaelite art. Her illustrations as well as her tattoos are unique and her clients contact her to have a work made by her, to have one of her creations in their skin. She can be found in the Das Kabinett studio in Berlin.
Tell us a little bit about you…
Hi, my name is Chicca aka Xandthedeath. I am an Italian illustrator and tattoo artist who lives and works in Berlin.
I would define myself as a person in progress, an artist hungry for experience. Art is such a vast, unfathomable concept and for this reason, I consider myself more an artisan, a laborer.
Do you have a background in art?
Since I can remember, my life has always been accompanied by art; in my specific case, figurative art. I have been drawing since I was a child. Technically, I was trained by attending the art school and the Academy of fine arts. I basically don’t know how to do anything other than draw and I consider myself an extremely lucky person to have made my passion a job.
How would you describe yourself as an artist? What is your philosophy about art?
I can define my work as a narrative because I love to create little stories around my characters. But I have no clear idea of myself as an artist. Self-definition implies a deep knowledge of oneself and I know myself so little. I think the part of me that is still unknown to myself is the part that creates, translating my thoughts into illustration. I would define myself as a person in progress, an artist hungry for experience. Art is such a vast, unfathomable concept and for this reason, I consider myself more an artisan, a laborer. Art is beautiful and it should bring some good in this strange suspended geoid in which we live.
Have you always been a tattoo artist? How does someone become one?
I started tattooing in the last year of high school. Fun fact: my grandfather pushed me to do tattoos. I think I was 17 at the time and he was my first client and his first tattoo. Becoming a tattoo artist is a particular path. In Italy, at the time, the idea of tattooing was still taboo and I did not receive a real apprenticeship. There were few tattoo studios and competed for the primacy, so I consider myself a self-taught and still thank all my friends who have acted as guinea pigs during my journey.
I think nowadays it is easier to become a tattoo artist. The equipment has improved, there is definitely much more openness to this world. Even if this has led the world of tattoos to be a bit of a business, an industry, losing that charm of mystery. Here in Berlin, I am experimenting a lot. This place gives me the possibility to have continuous stimuli and it makes me able to tattoo my illustrations, without having to compromise, which is so cool.
In my case, for example, being a very romantic and extremely nostalgic person, I find in the Pre-Raphaelites and in folklore, the perfect summary of my spirit. There is love, loss, hope, nature, supernatural, darkness. There is another world, as in a rarefied bubble.
Xandthedeath, do you have any tattoo artists that you admire or find inspirational?
Oh, there are a lot of illustrators and tattoo artists who inspire me and that i admire. I work at Das Kabinett, a private studio and my colleagues are the first sources of inspiration. We exchange opinions and ideas, we support each other and it is beautiful. Living in Berlin, I had the opportunity to meet exceptional illustrators and admirable tattooers. This world is now full of such interesting and lovely people, many of whom deserve more exposure.
We can feel the inspiration from the eastern European folklore in your design, but also from horror, grotesque, fantasy, and pop surrealism. Can you explain to us what drove you into this mix and tell us more about your inspirations?
For me, it is very difficult to describe why I am so attracted to this absolutely precise list that you have made about my inspirations. Sometimes, I think it is just something we like that pops out in front of us. Sometimes it is almost a remote feeling that it felt in front of an image, compared to another, we can also speak of taste and inclination.
In my case, for example, being a very romantic and extremely nostalgic person, I find in the Pre-Raphaelites and in folklore, the perfect summary of my spirit. There is love, loss, hope, nature, supernatural, darkness. There is another world, as in a rarefied bubble. My style is the sum of all the things I like that I have been able to study or research. In my work, I prefer figurative art, theoretically I also love anti-academism, fluxus, informal, art brute and punx undisciplined art.
My imaginative world is an alternative world in which nature and creatures coexist peacefully. There is an intense message of struggle and the search for justice. My favorite word is Resistance, because resistance to things, the tenacity to fight for an ideal, are themes that have always accompanied me, Resistance is romantic.
You often create pieces that you want to do, and I feel that they somehow are all part of the same universe. What is your process to find ideas for your tattoos?
My imaginative world is an alternative world in which nature and creatures coexist peacefully. There is an intense message of struggle and the search for justice. My favorite word is Resistance, because resistance to things, the tenacity to fight for an ideal, are themes that have always accompanied me, Resistance is romantic. All my characters are ready to defend themselves and to defend the weakest. My imaginary world has this common thread: the tenacity of resistance, the beauty behind the struggle, the softness.
What is the kind of piece that you love to tattoo?
I love tattooing animals, usually enriched with naturalistic elements such as plants or mushrooms. I like the softness of the fur and playing with the anatomy. Animals are a great source of inspiration. In my eyes, they seem to belong to this planet more than us human beings. At least they deserve it more than us. I also love tattooing women, sometimes bruised, sometimes sad, but always proud.
Can you explain the similarities and differences in creating art on paper and on the human body? How do you prepare mentally each day for a tattoo session?
The process of making a paper illustration from a tattoo design is very different. The support changes, the movement changes, you need to be careful with the amount of details and balance. In the illustrations on paper, you can add infinitesimal details that would be lost on the skin. The inks, over time, will expand. When I have to design a custom tattoo, I set the composition following the natural shape of the body. In short, they are two different supports, which open up to different opportunities, both interesting and exciting.
What is your process for creating a tattoo for a client? For me, there is always a good part of collaboration between the artist and the client. How do you maintain to keep your style with a commission and how often do you have great freedom for a creation?
I consider myself very lucky because most of my clients leave me a lot of space for my personal interpretation. With Instagram, I believe that everyone can fully understand, know, and appreciate the style of a tattoo artist and then feel free to indulge in his creativity. I love working with my clients. The goal is trying to understand their request and then interpret it in my style and imagination. I happen to work a lot on self-harm scars. The feeling of being able to cover something painful, with something beautiful, fills me with joy. This job puts you in contact with so many different people, with whom you will share a small and lovely (and sometimes painful) experience. I am so thankful for all the people who trust me, all this is wonderful.
Do you have any plans or artistic projects in the future? Regarding your illustrations and your style, we could easily imagine a graphic novel or even a Tarot?
I am the classic person who has a thousand projects in mind and completes half of them. My biggest dream would be to produce an illustration book, perhaps accompanied by stories. I am starting to collect ideas and hope to be able to finish it next year, let’s hope.
Thank you for this lovely interview, it’s been such a pleasure. Beautiful Bizarre is amazing.