No Compromise, No Regrets - Sass

Published: 23 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 196, March, 2011

Their name has been on the hitlist for months now and after a successful run at Tattoo Freeze, we swept the decks and made the time to give this thoroughly deserving studio their afternoon in the sun…

Sass – who exactly are you and what’s your background?

"My real name is Aleksandr but my friends have called me Sass since my schooldays, and it’s stuck. I was born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn is a very beautiful city and I have many friends there who I’d like to thank for helping me become who I am today."

Where and when did your love affair with tattoos begin? 

"I used to draw tribal designs on my classmates arms with a black pen so that they would look cool at the discos and it worked! People didn’t know any better, they thought they were real... and the girls loved it! So I guess it was around this time I started dreaming of becoming a tattoo artist. But when I bought my first computer I fell in love with all kinds of graphics programs, particularly Photoshop and so for two years I worked as a web designer and illustrator. The knowledge I gained in these areas helps me with my tattooing today."

How did you learn to tattoo?

"Unfortunately in Estonia we don’t have many studios and unless you were willing to pay big money it was close to impossible to find an apprenticeship and I couldn’t afford it. I would have loved the opportunity to do things the right way and learn my skills through a formal apprenticeship, but had no choice but to take the bad route and try and learn the hard way, by teaching myself.

I saved for my first machine and slowly started working. I was aware this was the wrong way to do things and a lot of the time regretted my decision. I even considered hanging up my machine but my friends and the love of tattoos inspired me to continue following my dream. Slowly but surely, after many small tattoos I began to learn and realise what I was dealing with and started to make progress.

It took two years to build a small portfolio and start looking for a job in Europe. The Internet really helped here, I posted links to my work on forums and eventually No Regrets contacted me. They were impressed with the work I was producing at such an early stage and asked me if I’d like to come over. I agreed and one week later they flew me to England and my professional tattoo career began."

How would you describe the kind of tattoos you make? How did you come to the style you are making presently?

"I remember when I was starting out I typed, ‘Best tattoo studio’ into Google and the first result was Brandon Bonds’ All or Nothing Studio, Atlanta. I was really impressed and inspired by their work; especially the portraiture and I knew this was the kind of work I had to be doing.

So my style is mainly realism, but I love to experiment with colours. I try to mix them up, adding shades and tones you might not expect. I like to play with my ink palette and aim to achieve volume and depth in my tattoos. I think it’s good to try new things, be creative, be progressive. 

It has taken a while to select the right equipment to compliment my style, to find products I feel comfortable with, but through experimentation I have found a combination of machine and needles that allows me to blend colour like nothing I’ve ever used. They fit with my style perfectly and allow me to work at my full potential."

What or who are you inspired by?

"So many tattoo artists and painters inspire me today, too many to name them all, but Nick Baxter and Mike DeVries provide huge inspiration, as do Paul Booth, Nikko Hurtado, Den Yakovlev, Brandon Bond, Bob Tyrrell, Cecil Porter, Jesse Smith, Roman and Paul Acker. I often find myself on YouTube watching other artists work and of course I’m hugely inspired by my No Regrets studio team. I am lucky enough to work with some very talented artists. 

Music also helps with my creativity, when I prepare to draw, I listen to my favourite tracks."

Is there a relationship between the tattoos you make and the tattoos you wear?

"I like many styles of tattoos and I am slowly building a collection. Most of my tattoos have a lot of meaning to me and conjure up happy memories. Some of them are just for the fun of it!"

What are your opinions on tattoo conventions?

"I love them! I started working at conventions only recently and the more I go, the more I like it. It is an incredible experience to see how other artists work and be inspired by those trying to progress with their artwork. I like to work at conventions to showcase my artwork and allow people to watch me work and ask me questions. I am always happy to answer and of course have fun with friends at the same time. They are an excellent way to interact with likeminded people and share knowledge. 

I also think it’s a great way for the public to educate themselves on the standard of work out there and what they should expect from an artist. I think there should be more of this."

Can you say a few words about your customers?

"I really believe that before you get tattooed you should spend some time looking at tattoo magazines, research online, visit conventions and ask questions. You need to find out for yourselves what is beautiful and what is not. Find your artist and let that artist realise your idea as well as is possible. It is essential to trust your artist and allow them to make suggestions and changes; they probably know what will translate to a well-rounded tattoo better than you.

Sadly, I find many customers have limited ideas and in some cases bad taste!

I don’t like it when someone is willing to go to his or her artist without looking through their portfolio or choose their studio based on price. A cheap tattoo is very rarely a good one and a good tattoo is rarely cheap! Many come with ideas that don’t translate well into tattoos or just bad ideas. It is our job to steer customers towards a good design, open their mind to the possibilities and educate them. A lot of clients get the tattoos their friends have or their favourite celebrity have. For me this is childish and unimaginative. Although I do have many great, open-minded clients!

I’m obviously flattered that my clients choose to wear my art and I would like to thank all the great clients I have for their support."

Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

"My parents for putting up with me for all these years I was a naughty child!  And thank you to all my friends for helping and supporting me and of course, my colleagues at No Regrets for giving me this opportunity. I don’t know what I would do without them. 

Lastly, thank you to my lovely girlfriend for all the help and support she gives. Oh and Skin Deep, cheers guys!"


No Regrets

4 Nottingham Road

T: 07756 663 696


Text: Paula Hardy Kangelos; Photography: No Regrets