When you think of tattoos, ‘delicate’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind. But that’s only if you don’t know Tati Compton. The 29-year-old traveling artist has perfected her own brand of occult-inspired stick-and-pokes that blend spirituality with divine feminine power. Using fine black lines, Compton inks her sexy yet subversive subjects—from a chain-smoking nun to the angel of death. And it’s not just her intricate style that’s revolutionized the industry. Through her pieces, Compton injects a brash femininity into a notoriously male-dominated space. But that doesn’t mean she’s trying to change the rules.
“I guess I navigate [the industry] as a female,” she explains, “but I don’t really pay it too much attention—domination is a delusion to me.”
Having perfected her craft over the last 8 years, Compton has created a sizable following across the world and online. With almost 200K Instagram followers and a new book, she’s made a place for stick-and-pokes outside of punk, bringing that DIY energy and raucous spontaneity to every piece she does. That’s probably what makes her work so appealing to so many different people—aside from her technical ability, Compton’s tattoos can make anyone feel cool.
BULLETT caught up with Compton to talk about the art of handpoked tattoos.
Name: Tati Compton
Favorite Song to Tattoo To: “The Money Will Roll Right In,” Fang
How did you get into tattooing?
I started doing them with friends in San Francisco.
Because it could be spontaneous with minimal supplies, DIY and free.
Is there something you get out of them you don’t get out of traditional tattooing?
One could consider handpoke or machine-free tattooing traditional as that’s how they used to be done before electricity. But personally, stick and poke tattoos arose organically, and intimately—they commemorate a moment in time and a feeling rather than the significance of the tattoo itself. It’s more about the act.
What was your first tattoo?
I was 21 and it was matching dots on my finger and wrist with my friend Mose. It was the first time I got a tattoo and gave a tattoo.
What was the moment you went from liking tattoos to deciding you wanted to be a tattoo artist?
I was working at an ice cream shop in the Inner Richmond in San Francisco, and I was sick of all the jobs I’d ever done. My friend said I should become a tattooer, but it took a long time for it to actually come to fruition.
Your work has a lot of occult imagery and a lot of female imagery. Where does that come from?
I used to want to be a fashion designer when I was a kid and would draw women everyday—I had sketch books full of designs of women. And I wasn’t raised with any religion, so there was freedom spiritually and religiously which allowed me to seek whatever touched a nerve within myself.