Diana Kull is a lovely tattoo artist based in Tallinn, Estonia. I had the opportunity to meet her in her studio; a cute, hidden nest for tattoo enthusiasts and not only. Her ornamental designs are so delicate it’s pretty difficult to remember they’re tattooed on skin, due to their unbelievable elegance and simplicity. She’s a really calm person and we had a really pleasant conversation; talking to her you can feel she loves her job and she’s happy with what she’s doing right now! 🙂

How’s Diana?

“My background in reality is in fashion design; after university I took some time to decide what to do next, so I travelled and just did some freelance work as an illustrator meanwhile. 

I was just lucky I can say; I never thought of tattooing as something to go into professionally, but four years ago a studio that I went to to get tattooed was looking for an apprentice, so I decided to make a portfolio with some ideas and try! 

It’s funny because tattooing wasn’t something I was aiming towards, but now it is the perfect thing to do for me, and I can’t imagine myself doing other things!

What do tattoos mean to you?

“There’s not a right answer, because people get tattooed for very different reasons. There are people with very emotional projects that are really important to them and have to do with their family, someone that’s passed away or connected with memories.. but there are also people that get tattooed just because “Oh, I like that flower!” 

And I think that’s fine as well! It’s ultimately up to the person that gets the tattoo how they need to be on their body and I’m happy to make it happen!”

Are your tattoos all meaningful to you?

No, I have some tattoos that are just.. fun! I have a little pig, which is a friendship tattoo with one of my colleagues, because we have some jokes about them; there are some pigs around the studio as well!”

Do you think tattoos have a therapeutic power? 

“Yes, absolutely! Some clients are getting tattoos because maybe there’s a part of their body that they don’t feel so comfortable showing, but when there’s a tattoo on it, it will make them love that part instead! It is something that I heard a lot about, and I think it’s very beautiful. It’s a strong psychological help: it’s something in your body that you see everyday. If you, for example, have self harm scars and you make the decision to turn that negative part of your past and cover it with something with a beautiful meaning, it can certainly help.”

Lots of artists consider their art a meditation in their lives. Would you consider your tattooing process the same? Is it a relaxing moment for you or do you see it differently?

“I’m very happy while I’m tattooing!

Because I’m a self employed artist, I need to do all the jobs. Sometimes prior communication, making finances work and answering emails gives me lots of stress, but the moment from when the person comes in until we’re making the tattoo, that’s always a good stage for me! Even if some days I feel a little bit sad, it always makes me feel better. 

It is for me a meditation as well, yeah. I get a really good line and it makes me SO happy!”

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Are you truly happy with your career now?

“Yeah, I do! 

I tried different things in art; fashion design, which was my first idea, didn’t feel like mine after I finished university. I also did some freelancing illustrations, but doing it professionally I felt kinda.. lonely. – I still do illustrations! There’s a child’s book that’s coming out soon:)

But, well, you’re at home, you do things, send them and there’s no exchange of energy. 

I think that this is a really important part of tattooing to me: the communication and connection; every person has a new idea and a new vision, so it’s always interesting to see different points of view. It’s always “keeping fresh”!”

How would you define your own style? Which are your favourite tattoos to make?

I do some graphic fine line nature stuff mostly, lots of animals and botanical tattooing.

I do both black and white and colour, but my personal preference is definitely just to make nature motives. I really like to make small details as well!

I’m really happy when people are covered in plants. I feel like natural lines flow so beautifully on the body, because it’s also moving. On paper you have the design, flat and static, but as soon as you see it on a person it starts to live with them; it’s kinda magical. Sometimes it surprises me how beautiful it looks when someone has a design on their skin.”

Do you remember the first time you ever saw a tattoo? 

The first time I saw a tattoo I don’t think I saw it as a cool thing; it was just.. weird. 

It was my grandmother’s husband and he had, from the army, a terrible blue.. thing on his arm and I was like “Is it a stick figure man?” “Does this picture come out?”.” 

What do your parents think about your job

“When I got my first tattoo, I was 18 and my mom wasn’t super happy about that. But things changed over time also for her, and now she wants a tattoo from me as well! 

I see this a lot from my customers who get tattoos from me and then their moms come too! 

Probably it meets more their aesthetic, so they change their minds and perceive tattoos differently. 

I had people coming to celebrate their pension also by getting their first tattoo. I did a few post-pension tattoos as well!

Have you got a “crazy client” story

“Especially since we moved here I didn’t have crazy customers, but I have one fun story from before I was tattooing!

I was travelling during that period and I was staying in a hostel. There was a girl who asked me to draw a picture for her, knowing that I could draw. I said “Okay, sure!”, I grabbed some pencils that were there and I drew for her this little picture on a piece of paper; what she wanted was a picture of a pink flamingo on roller skates with sunglasses and a lighting bulb on its wing. She was super happy about that!

Then I saw her again the next day and she told me “Last night I went out and I saw this 24h tattoo shop, so I got this flamingo tattooed all across my butt!” 

I also sent her a message when I started tattooing to ask how her flamingo was doing, and she was still super happy with that, even after 3 years this happened!

I’m happy to say this is the story of my first tattoo design.

It never happened to you to copy another artist’s tattoo design on a client, or to make the same design twice?  

“People usually send me some inspirations usually, and that’s very helpful to see their ideas, but I always make a unique design for each client. 

I think this changed a lot with time: 5 or 10 years ago it was the norm to go to a tattoo shop, bring an already-done design and get it tattooed. Artists now are moving towards their own style instead. It’s dangerous to copy others, as well as unethical and rude.

I heard about this story, and I’m not sure how it went at the end. There was this silly movie in which an actor had the same exact tattoo Mike Tyson has, and the tattoo artist sued them saying it was plagiarism and copyright; in fact, they didn’t change anything about that tattoo. I think he won, because it was his original artwork!

You put so much time into drawing and creating a design for someone and somebody just copies it.. I mean, it took me 8 hours, drawing takes time!”

What are your “rules”?

I wouldn’t do anything political or hateful, that’s obvious. And usually I don’t get requests for anything out of my style, but if someone asks, and I say no, I always recommend someone who could do it!

I think that’s also a really nice thing that I’ve seen happening also to me; many people told me I was recommended by someone else.”

That’s really cool, it feels like nobody makes tattoos “just for money” anymore! What do you think?

“Yeah, because at the end nobody is happy with that. You don’t enjoy doing it because it’s not in your style, you don’t like it, and the customer won’t get the best that you can do!” 

Thank you for reading! And thank you Diana again for your time and to have shared with us your experience and thoughts about your amazing career!

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