If you have an ambitious plan to become a world-famous tattoo artist, it’s worth trying your hand in the USA. However, for this you will have to be patient and stock up on finances. The heroine of our article, Alena Zozulenko, has already passed this stage. Today she lives and works in New York. We asked Alena about the peculiarities of the creative process and what else she has time for, besides her primary job.
— Alena, tell us how managed to join Dote Create Group studio, with which you are currently collaborating in New York?
— I met the owner of the studio, Zlata, through my colleagues when I was working in St. Petersburg. We became friends and about a year and a half ago I received an offer of cooperation. Dote Create Group employs different artists, each working in his or her original genre. I make tattoos in the style of graphic art. I think it attracted Zlata’s attention and that’s why she offered me to work with her.
— Did the studio somehow help you with moving to the United States?
— Yes, of course. The studio helped me both with the search for a lawyer and with the preparation of documents. I must say that such relocation is very costly. Not all tattoo artists can afford it, but on the scale of the studio it is quite a feasible sum of money. To be honest, at first I couldn’t even believe that a company could help its potential employee with a move like this, but for a business in the USA this is a common story. Now I have already refunded all the costs to my employer. You can earn money here pretty quickly, given the will. However, it is spent quickly, as well. It should also be taken into account when moving.
— How does your workflow usually go?
— There’s nothing new. Everything is standard. A client writes to me a request to make a tattoo, some kind of castle, for example. Then I make a sketch in several versions and show them to the client when he or she comes to the session. Then we work together; we adjust something, whip it into shape, and choose a place on the body for the future tattoo and its size. I really like it when the client is involved in this process. In the end, he will be having the tattoo, not me (laughs). In fact, tattoo artists in America always have a lot of work and a lot of clients who want to embody truly original ideas.
— Is your work paid by the hour?
— Other artists have an hourly rate in the studio, but the management made an exception for me, I have fixed wages for a full working day. This is convenient, because I deal with large projects, something like sleeve tattoos. It is important to me that the client does not constantly look at the clock and does not count the tariff. That’s why I usually take one person a day and get completely involved in work. One session lasts on average from five to seven hours. It also happens that one job takes several days, but in such a case a lot depends on the client and his or her individual characteristics; for example, the pain threshold. If a person is under great pressure during the session, I need more time to make a tattoo of the highest quality.
— And what other individual characteristics are there?
Skin type is also a very important factor. In some persons, it is naturally dry and, in this case, it is more difficult to apply a tattoo. I recommend moisturizing the skin with special products in advance. It is best to do it two or three days before the scheduled session. The secret of a good artist is an individual approach to each client and the most important thing to understand is that any problem can be solved if a professional is working with you.
— Have you thought about opening your own studio, recruiting your own team of professionals?
— I thought about it, but there is no rush. I want to work in different cities, in different states. For example, I really liked Boston. I would love to work there if my studio opens a branch in this city. Boston attracted me with its special atmosphere. It somehow reminded me of London, where I also managed to work. For now, the plans are to travel around the USA, see everything, and study everything. Well, then, who knows, maybe I’ll come up with the opening of my own studio.
— How difficult is it to start a business in the United States?
— I don’t think it’s very difficult, but each state has its own rules for entrepreneurs. In some cases, a doctor’s office is required in the studio. In addition, there are different requirements for the premises; it must have a certain floor area. There are many such subtleties, so you need to study them in advance. But I can say one thing for sure: the American authorities are interested in the development of small and medium-sized businesses. This is what the economy is built on here. So entrepreneurs can count on support from the state; subsidies, preferential loans and so on. And it works for absolutely everyone, including LGBT people. For example, a gay couple can open their own business and ask for help from the authorities or public organizations. There are a lot of programs to support entrepreneurs in America. This can be seen on the example of my colleagues. Those who have already worked here for several years as tattoo artists are starting to think about their own tattoo studio.
— What else do you have enough time for besides your primary job?
Firstly, I continue improving my English, I study with a teacher. Secondly, I joined the Art Students League of New York, the school of classical painting. There I met an artist; he worked in St. Petersburg at the Academy of Arts and then moved to the United States. And now in October I will create reproductions of masterpieces on the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the future, I want to continue to mastering oil painting.