Kipod Tattoo Studio

Published: 01 May, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 160, May, 2008

Kipod Tattoo is a unique place run by equally unique people; the guys are Russian by birth and Jewish by faith, which makes for a rather captivating story, and not least because they ply their trade in Israel’s capital city, Tel Aviv. As with all of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism doesn’t look too kindly upon tattooing, but according to Michael, Ari and George, Israeli tattooing is still riding a decade-long wave of popularity that looks set to continue.
So without further ado, let us introduce you to the crew at Kipod Tattoo…

Can you tell the readers a little about your studio and those involved in it?
Our studio established in 2005 in Tel Aviv, in the city centre. KIPOD in Hebrew means “hedgehog”. We have five people in our team:

Vitaly is a professional piercer, he is 32 years old; he is a talented and unique artist and the soul of the company. He’d served his apprenticeship at Bizzart Tattoo Studio in Jerusalem as well as his older brother Michael (36), our leading tattoo artist. Michael did his first tattoo when he was 21.

Michael has been tattooing since 1996. His schoolmate did his first tattoo when he was 15, at home. He studied at Art School in Russia as a painter, later he graduated as a dental technician and after the emigration to Israel, he worked as a technician, but being an artist, he wasn’t satisfied with his job and soon found out that he could become a tattoo artist and started with his apprenticeship. Afterwards Michael worked in different studios in Tel-Aviv, ‘till the opening of KIPOD.

Ari (31) is another tattoo artist at the studio, tattooing since 1998. His first tattoo at the age 20 was done on himself while he was practicing during his apprenticeship. Ari is a self-taught artist, versed in Architecture and Interior design. After the Army (national service), he started his apprenticeship at Max & Guns studio in Eilat and carried on in Andromeda Studios in NYC in 1999. Afterwards Ari had his own Tattoo Clinic in Haifa. In 2006, he worked at Enhance Body Art Studio in Wiltshire, UK. He has worked at KIPOD for almost a year now.

George (25) is also a tattoo artist, and Michael’s student. He had his first tattoo done at 18, by Michael. He did his apprenticeship at KIPOD and has already been working for a year. George’s way into tattooing is proof of the fact that if somebody wants to improve himself and become a professional, then apprenticing and studying from tattoo artists, being involved in working studio with all of the bits and pieces of professionalism such as techniques, drawing, aftercare rules, sterilization, chatting with clients etc. etc, is the best way to success.

Dima (27) is the major person in the business. The manager and administrator, he had his first tattoo at the age of 18, and then he met Michael. They became good friends and after few years, he got into the tattoo business and with Michael and Vitaly and together they founded KIPOD. Dima is the man who looks after the business very tastefully - a good salesman and an awesome organiser.

We were all were born in the former USSR, and repatriated to Israel in the early 90s. As it is known, tattooing in the Soviet Union was associated with the criminal world and all the history of Russian tattoos comes from the dark side of camps, prisons and Army barracks – anyway, there is enough literature published recently about this issue. So, with us all being “good Jewish kids”, we couldn’t belong to this lifestyle and really didn’t like it; the agenda was completely negative. After moving to Israel and travelling across Europe, we saw the tattoos done by professional artists and were shocked by the difference and amazed by ability to make beautiful, colourful and artistic tattoos!
Since we opened, we’ve been to London’s ‘06 and ‘07 tattoo conventions as visitors but not as participants. We met other artists, watched them working, met many nice people, got some equipment and really enjoyed the atmosphere there. Now we can see ourselves ready to take a part in such an event and we’d really like to come!
During our travelling to Europe, we noticed that people were very positive towards tattoos, in particular in UK, Holland, Germany and Sweden. In our country for the last ten years, tattooing culture has been in its prime; Israeli people are much less sceptical about it. It seems like tattooing has stopped being just a part of underworld, and the age of the customers became broader and much more middle-aged people from all kinds of backgrounds have become interested in tattoos. Today on the beaches of Tel Aviv, you can hardly find anyone “naked”; almost everyone has some mark on his or her body. Each town in Israel has a few tattoo studios in it. Of course, Judaism as a religion that totally forbids tattooing, so religious people have a ban on tattooing, but many people who study Cabbala, especially from the EU and USA, have sacred Hebrew writings and Judaic symbols; these are very popular indeed. Anyway, we have a democracy here (at least it looks like it!) so we don’t have any problems at all with opening and carrying this kind of business. On the other hand, we have no support from the government either. We hope the tourism to Israel will grow up and we pray for peace.

Where do you get your influences?
Our main influences are native tattoos, traditional tribal, symbolism, street art, futurism, primitivism, Russian classical art, art nouveau and Japanese traditional art, as well as a number of modern tattoo artists that we admire whom we have discovered their unique style. The favourite tattoo styles at Kipod are realism, native and ethnical tribal, freehand, new and old school, graphic designs and definitely our own “KIPOD” designs. Each artist has his preferences such as portraits, multicolour works, etc. Freehand is Michael’s favourite style, George’s specialty is superb tribal and ethnical works… geometrical forms. Ari likes graphic work, freehand, new school and Judaic, but we are all universal tattoo artists and are able to do any kind of work.

Do you offer apprenticeships at Kipod?
Sometimes people come in and ask us if we can give them an apprenticeship in our studio. Unfortunately, we don’t offer apprenticeships to anyone, so we apologise, explain ourselves and wish for their dreams to come true. We can advise each person who wants to become a tattoo artist in the first place to have a good think; is this job really what he wants to do, or is it just a way to get “a cool job and easy money”? Which is completely wrong, and then he must understand all the responsibility and self-sacrifice involved in this profession. We can only suggest how they can improve their drawing and to be self-critical. Because the interest in tattooing is on the rise, we have just started the process of creating an explanatory movie and a book that studies tattooing, so we hope it will soon be published.

Can you name any major changes that you have experienced within the tattooing industry over the last few years?
We think that the three major changes in tattooing in the last 5-10 years are the rehabilitation of tattooing from being the underdog in the society, the development of the Internet and computer software such as Photoshop (which really helps on work and gives a close friendship with colleagues from all over the world) and a big improvement in tattoo materials such as inks and needles, which as a result equals better quality tattoos. We think that any evolution process is for the best and aids the development of the tattoo industry as well.

Who would be your ideal customer and what are your ambitions for Kipod Studio?
The “ideal” customer is the person who knows what he wants and would be able to take part in the creation of his project, one who allows the artist to invent and express himself; a person who has sense of humour, positive mood and respect for the professionalism involved. Anyone who’s not sure in their choice of getting a tattoo done, we recommend that they think a bit more and never do such a thing in hurry. We’ve got an age limit for minors under 18 years old and we’ve never tattooed people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if the design is doable but doesn’t come in accordance with our aesthetical, moral or ethical standards, designs that have frankly racist, vulgar or offensive content will never be done in our studio.
As for our ambitions, we quote a well-known Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, who said, “Beauty will save the world”. This phrase shows our desire to not stop on what we’ve achieved already, to study incessantly every single tattoo, and to improve our creation of beauty and quality. Of course, we’d like to have more interesting works, interesting customers and interesting offers. We want our studio to carry on growing creatively and keep being different in our individual approach to tattooing as an equal form of art.

Who would you like thank for helping you in your chosen careers?
Unfortunately, the man we all want to thank is not with us anymore. His name is Michael Alyukoff (RIP), tattoo artist, and the founder of Bizzart Tattoo Studio in Jerusalem, the mentor who taught us the way and a good friend who inspired and always supported us in difficult moments. Michael tragically died in a bike accident three years ago. He was a legendary person in Israeli tattoo society and the memory of him helps us through the bad days.
KIPOD Tattoo Studio is a family mechanism, which works toward getting better and smoother tattoos. We have no ‘boss’ sitting above and giving orders; everyone knows what his duty is.

So what holds you together?
Love, and respect to the profession and to each other as well as complete confidence and mutual understanding. We think that’s the only one way to success - trust your buddies and work harder than they do, with plenty of humour and without any brain fuck.

Anyone you’d like to thank?
With the Lord’s help and love, we are very pleased to meet the readers, and introduce our works. We want to thank Skin Deep magazine for this incredible opportunity.
Peace. Shalom. KIPOD team.


Interview: Neil Photography: Kipod


Skin Deep 160 1 May 2008 160