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There was a time when tattoos were for bikers, the word “Mom” on a bicep, or “Love” and “Hate” across the knuckles. The elegant and refined world of fine art and the smoky, regret filled tattoo parlors on the ‘dodgy’ ends of town were as far away from each other as could ever be possible.

But, those days are over, and now many tattoos are considered to be beautiful representations of our stories, and our lives, snapshots of images that represent who we are and how we became.

Enter Buse Kanlikilic, born in Turkey and now living in Dublin, with a Masters degree in Fine Art, her tattoo’s are literal works of art. Here’s her story….

My official title is …

A tattoo artist and a muralist.

That means that I …

Have been tattooing people for 5 years and studied Fine Arts in college including my master degree in NCAD. Up to a few years, my tattooing practice was mostly part-time as I had to concentrate on my art projects in the college. But for the last two years, I’ve been able to focus on tattooing a lot more than ever and my passion for it increases day by day. I was always into art and drawing, and I knew I wanted a career in art. I managed to get into one of the best art colleges in Istanbul and started learning about art history and all the different techniques of drawing and painting.

Towards the end of my undergrad studies, after getting my first tattoo, I started to get really fascinated by the tattoo art! But the idea of starting to invest my time, money and energy in this field was too scary at first. Later on, I realized that it would be so silly to ignore this interest just because it was something completely out of my plan. Support of my friends and family helped me a lot to get over my fears and I finally I got in touch with a greatly skilled tattoo artist. Thankfully we got along so well; we bought all the necessary equipment together, he showed me the basic techniques that I needed to know and here we go… I started practicing tattooing day and night! First on some fruits, then on my voluntary friends:) Suddenly, I had the opportunity to get better and do something new in another artistic field.

I always saw tattooing as a true art form. It seems like it took a long time for society to see that, but time is changing and tattooing is gaining a lot of positive attention from the public. In my experience, tattooing and painting murals always get along with each other. Changing the scale of the working area from tattooing something millimetric to painting a gigantic mural, really pushes my limits and keeps my creativity alive. That’s why I always try to make time to practice both of them.

The three best things about my job that make me jump out of bed in the morning are …

  1. The fact that my piece of work would travel with the person who I tattooed, becoming a part of their life journey. You have this instant satisfying result where your art comes alive on somebody’s body. For me, getting a tattoo from an artist that you like their style, is like collecting art pieces and carrying them with you wherever you go!
  2. The opportunity to practice and get better at what you love. On tough days at the studio, I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to work on something that I love. Gratitude and curiosity are the best vehicles that push my personal and professional growth.
  3. One of the most rewarding parts about being a muralist, on the other hand, is that when you finish painting a wall, it is there for the access of everyone! It can easily change the whole ambiance of an indoor or outdoor area and it can even change people’s mood in a positive way. This January, I had the fantastic opportunity to paint the reception area of the new Facebook office opened in East Wall. For nearly two months, I painted seven walls to be exact, alongside creating some three-dimensional installations.

I guess everybody always looks for what good they can bring to this planet and for me, it has to be something visual.

The three not-so-great things about my job that make me roll over and bury my head in my pillow are …

  1.  You can only tattoo for so long before your body starts to give out. You’re basically sitting hunched over and holding a static position for hours every day. It’s really common for tattoo artists to have some back problems. Sometimes it can be really hard to get off the bed but I try not to skip my morning yoga routine and then do quick stretches between the tattoo sessions. They keep me going!
  2. Your artistic medium is a living, breathing thing that changes. Depending on the location of the tattoo, the skin can stretch and move while you’re tattooing. If you have a chatty client, you have to keep reminding them to stay still when you’re in a critical part of the tattoo. Every so often I find myself holding my breath while drawing a big straight line or something that has to be super precise! You have to cultivate a zen-like ability to only focus on the thing right in front of you, and nothing else.
  3. When someone comes with a completely absurd tattoo idea to you without considering if it would suit to your style at all. Thanks to Instagram, you have your visual portfolio for people to see your style of tattooing before reaching out to you. But still, there are those occasions where I have to refuse people or redirect them to a different tattoo artist.

I bagged this job by …

My courage! Being a tattoo artist wasn’t an easy path to choose and hold on to but if you keep believing in yourself and keep trying your best, the results are rewarding! It’s one of those things that requires a great deal of practice, like playing an instrument. The longer you do it, the better you get.

The best advice I could give someone who likes the sound of my job is …

be patient and don’t forget to listen to yourself. Always stay curious, keep learning new stuff and your hard work will pay off. What has helped me the most is to have an open mind and accepting the good things as well as the struggles that the process can bring. Staying creative and curious will always influence your tattooing, design, painting or whatever is that you are passionate about doing.

You can follow Buse and her amazing work on her website, or on Instagram.