Being a fan of tattoos (I have a fair few myself), and art in general, it was great to sit down and with Aussie native, Petrie, in his old tattoo studio in Punavuori and talk all things tattoo! Petrie, born and raised in Perth, Australia, by a Scottish mother and New Zealand father, now resides in Lockerbie, Scotland, where he's helping his dad set up a brand new tattoo studio - but he still comes back to his old home regularly as a guest artist at the now renamed Luna Kreativa on Iso Roobertinkatu.
So, how'd you originally get in to art and turn that in to a a love of tattooing?
I remember first seeing tattoos on my Maori cousins, they had their bodies and even faces done all in the traditional way. But I was a white person and not suited for those tattoos, but I loved the art.
I loved drawing - ever since I can remember picking up a pen. I got a scholarship to a high school to study art, but after that I didn't really enjoy the way art was taught at university so I decided it wasn't for me. I was in a band at the time so I headed off around the world with them and just continued my drawing while on tour. People would see my designs from around that time and tell me they wanted them as tattoos. I ended up getting ill and heading back to Scotland for a while and, while there, I got an apprenticeship to learn how to become a tattooist and that was the beginning of it. It fit in with my lifestyle and was, and still, seems to be the only job that fits in with me.
Can you still remember the first tattoo you got yourself and the first one you actually did on someone else?
Oh god, yeah! It's a really stupid one and a bad story - the on myself that is! I wasn't even ever planning to get any tattoos but a friend of mine was an apprentice and he was brand new to it all, and we ended up just tattooing each other in this little studio. I still don't think that first one is even finished yet! It was the first one, but more of like a memory input. He went too deep in places and it took like 10 hours and I was like "can we just call it a day?!".
My first tattoo on someone else was a Hello Kitty image on a Japanese friend of mine. It was tiny and so wobbly. So wobbly! I had no real idea what I was doing. She knew it was my first one and that as it was so small she could always get it covered, but she kept it because of the memory, you know. And from there it blossomed.
So how did you end up in Helsinki and how did the studio come about?
I'd always wanted to come to Finland - I love the cold, I'm really not a heat person - Australia did not suit me! I moved here for an ex - a (German) girlfriend at the time. I was working here at the studio when it was Harness, and the place eventually got offered to me. I took it over, but it was a learning curve for me as I'd never been a boss. There were a lot, a lot, of struggles. There were people with egos, thinking they were God's gift, coming in the door back then and I really didn't need that. I started working with Tuukka (Luna Kreative) and me and him just got along as neither of us were interested in the hype - we just wanted to tattoo!
After a while, my dad, who's a fantastic artist, needed a new job, so I offered to teach him tattooing. He's 61 and just started. But we have a studio now in Lockerbie, Scotland, of all place, this tiny little village - and everyone thinks we're Norwegian! So now we've got this cool little studio. It's really pleasant and it's even attached to our house there, so it's perfect. Everyone helps out, including mum, so it's fantastic. There's not always a lot to do in Lockerbie, so that's why I keep coming back to Helsinki - I still love it here and it keeps me busy.
So you're no longer the resident artist here, but the guest artist.
Yeah, I keep coming back to guest at the studio. I still have a lot of clients here in Helsinki, so whenever I pop back every month or two, people just book in with me and Tuukka lets me have free reign of the shop to get on with my work.
Are a lot of the clients returning customers then?
Yeah, I have a lot of regular and returning customers. There's a lot of people that have started designs with me and are continuing to build them up. There's a lot of people who have started with sleeves, then they add to the chest, and just keep going. There's also other regular customers that come in once or twice a year just to add little ones to their collection. And then there's the more hardcore customers who come in and want a full body suit! I don't like rushing projects like that, so the perk of going back and firth means both the customer and myself can have breaks from the project. They have time to heal and I have time to start drawing up the next part so that it can continue next time I'm back.
What's your process for designing and doing a tattoo?
Firstly, I make sure I talk face to face with the person. I get them in to the studio and ask them to bring every single idea and reference material with them. We'll sit down with a coffee, have a chat about requirements, brainstorm, and I'll write everything down and then start coming up with ideas of designs that I can fit in to that space.
I like to utilise the space properly. I don't want cluttered tattoos with lots of minute detail. A lot of the time, tattoos like that will look cluttered initially and then even more when they start to fade a bit - it just looks crap. I plan for the future, too. When looking at designs and placements, I always make sure to discuss future plans. If someone is getting some text on their arm, are they also planning on getting a sleeve at some point in the future? If so, that's not going to work! The consultation isn't just about this one piece, but what it'll all look like in the end if you end up adding to it in the future.
The initial discussion takes about 30 minutes, I'll take a deposit if they want me to begin on drawings, and then I'll start sketching all the ideas out and send as many as I can over to the client for their thoughts and input. Once we're decided, the date gets booked in.
As most of my stuff is custom, I'll start by spending some time working on the stencil and basic shapes, and then I'll draw directly on them so that the design fits on the body perfectly. I want every piece to be different so I draw directly and freehand a lot. I don't want to be doing these "bread and butter" designs from a book, so I'm just constantly drawing and designing myself. Even if a customer sees a design that I've previously done and wants it, I won't do it without changing significant things about it - not unless it's some old, well used, kind of design that everyone uses, like an old sailors tattoo design. Once I've finished with a design it gets ripped up and is never used again.
If someone's now keen to be inked by you, what's the best way to get in touch?
Drop me a message on Facebook. I don't run a public studio with drop-ins. Everything is done by appointment so that I can completely concentrate on the customer and the work. That's the case for both Helsinki and the studio in Scotland.
A big thanks to Petrie for sitting down and talking to myself and Finsider TV. Check out Petrie's work and get in touch via his Facebook Page and, also, Luna Kreativa who now runs his old studio downtown.
Further thanks to Tant at Finsider TV for documenting the discussions and the great videos, and Tatu for allowing us to take lots of images/video as he was being prepped for the next part of his ever-increasing piece!