“Many customers put it in the same pigeon hole as trash polka, which I am not really happy with. I don’t want to copy or imitate anything under any circumstances” – Interview with Florian Karg

“Many customers put it in the same pigeon hole as trash polka, which I am not really happy with. I don’t want to copy or imitate anything under any circumstances” – Interview with Florian Karg

How did your journey into tattooing begin? 

FK: My journey into tattooing began very early at a time where it wasn’t yet as easy to become a tattoo artist, around 13 years ago, but I was very determined.

Did you go through a formal apprenticeship?

FK: I did not do an apprenticeship as a tattoo artist, but you always learn from other artist. Back then I did do an apprenticeship as a farmer, because I wanted to take over my parents’ farm, but sometimes things work out differently than you think.

How did your friends and family react to your decision to become a tattoo artist?

FK: My whole family wasn’t really impressed, except for my gran, who was always really excited about it. But when they all realised that I had success and could make a living from it, and that I enjoyed it, they could all accept it.

Is there anything that you wish that you had did differently at the start of your career?

FK: That’s a tough question, of course you can do a lot of things wrong, or think that you could do something differently or better. But in every respect I think that, no matter what happened, good or bad and wrong or right, led me straight to where I am now, and made me what I am today.

Your tattoo studio, Vicious Circle, is based in Blaichach, Germany. Which has a population of around 6000, what is the tattoo lifestyle like there? Blaichach also looks like a lovely peaceful, relaxing place. Was this a factor in you deciding to open your shop there?

FK: The studio is in Blaichach in the beautiful Oberallgäu [a region in southern Bavaria, in the foothills of the Alps], which is my home town. The reason for this is that I have rebuilt part of the farm into a studio, and so I can work from home. Because my customers are usually from far away, it doesn’t really matter where the studio is, and I like my peace and quiet. Of course it is a very rural area, but the people are still pretty open-minded.

What was the first tattoo that you ever did?

FK: The first tattoo I ever did was on myself, with needle and thread, aged 15 – a small pattern on the arm. I have experimented with tattoos on myself a lot before I started punching holes into my friends and acquaintances next.

I know a lot of tattoo artists that ‘hate’ the tattoos they produce, are you the same?

FK: I could never tattoo anything that I would hate myself, so I cannot really comment much here.

Did you ever experiment when you first started tattooing or has realism always been your preferred style?

FK: Of course I started out doing a lot of “tradesman” work – many ornaments and lettering, and then I experimented a lot with colour, before returning to black and grey. But realism was my first big love, and still is.

Is there anything that you would like to tattoo more of?

FK: I am looking forward to every new project, and always to new ideas and concepts – therefore there is nothing that I would like to do more often, because anything you do too often becomes boring.

How much creative freedom do you like to have when coming up with a piece?

FK: I am in the lucky position that generally nearly all customers give me a lot of creative freedom and also a lot of trust, which is good for both me and the customer. However, it is important to me that the customers like their tattoos in the end and are happy with it, and don’t just have a picture on their body that I think is cool.

Your work is reminiscent of trash polka but you manage to take an already unique style and make it even more unique. What inspires you to create tattoos this way?

FK: This is certainly true, and many customers put it in the same pigeon hole as trash polka, which I am not really happy with. I don’t want to copy or imitate anything under any circumstances. But every style is a conglomerate of a variety of styles, and since many different artists inspire me, I guess that is the same for me. But I think this will never become stagnant, but always develop further – let’s see where the journey leads. Stagnation is death.

You boast some of the best large scale pieces in the tattoo industry, how does it feel when you have someone willing to give so much skin and display your work on them for life?

FK: Of course I feel really honoured, but I don’t think it’s about size – I am happy and it is an honour for me, every inch of skin that I am allowed to adorn, whether that is the whole upper body or just the size of a palm does not matter to me.

Who are your favourite tattoo artists?

FK: By now there is really a huge pile of damned good artists or craftspeople, and many who can do both art and craft. And every day the numbers are growing. So I can’t really say, but the one person I have admired from the start, and from whom I have learned a lot, is Andy Engel – for me, he is one of the greatest portrait tattoo artists.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

FK: In my free time I love being out in nature most, the farm on which I live always brings a lot of work with it, too, so I am never bored, and if the weather should be bad once in a while I’m sure to find an empty canvas in my studio.

I absolutely love your paintings and artwork, do you happen to enjoy painting more than tattooing?

FK: I would say that both are alluring in their very own ways. With tattooing it is working on and with the client, and of course the challenge with skin and all the other influences. With painting it is simply the freedom to not have to think, but to simply do something without consequences.

What has been the hardest moment in your career thus far, and what has been your favourite?

FK: The most difficult time was definitely the beginning, anyone who remembers me from that long ago will be aware that it was a hard time – not just physically but also financially, to pull something like this of as an 18 year old.

My most beautiful moment was when Miki Vialetto asked me personally whether I would like to come to London for the Tattoo Convention, that was like receiving a knighthood for me, and then I even won a prize at the convention. That meant a lot to me, and was a very valuable moment.

Is there anything that annoys you about being a tattoo artist?

FK: What annoys me about being a tattoo artist is really only that there are not enough hours in the day for all the stuff I would like to do.

What tattoos are the most challenging for you?

FK: I would say that this is less about the tattoo than about the skin, bad skin or difficult skin is always a challenge.

How long is your wait list and what would be the best way of getting a tattoo from yourself?

FK: My waiting list is 18 months, and everyone who contacts me will get a response. However I do have to select in terms of the designs, seeing as the demand is so great, I only accept customers where the idea for the tattoo really suits me.

Thank you again for the honour of getting to know you, Florian. It was a pleasure!

About Tim

I'm a UK based staff writer for Tattoo-Map and an avid tattoo enthusiast with a penchant for realism...and skulls, because everyone loves skulls.