Tagged: Hand Poke

Interview with Tattooist Mike Love

26-year-old hand poke tattoo artist Mike Love works out of Black Market Tattoo Parlour in Leicester and Second City Tattoo Club in Birmingham, where he creates bold and solid blackwork tattoos. We chat to Mike about his process, how he started tattooing and his guest spot plans…


How long have you been tattooing? I’m in my third year of tattooing. I am a self taught hand poke tattooer, before this I was body piecer for around four years, there I completed a more traditional style apprenticeship. I have pretty much spent my adult life being in a tattoo shop. 

What drew you to the tattoo world? The idea and practise of self expression. In my late teen years I became massively depressed, after seeking a lot of help I really started to find myself. The things that kept me going and made me happy were tattoos and piercing. I approached a local shop about a piercing apprenticeship and from then on my life was changed. From piercing my love eventually blossomed into tattooing. I discovered hand poke tattooing and was totally transfixed by it. The process mesmerised me. Creating a tattoo by hand from one dude to another was for me. 


Has your style of tattooing changed? What do you love to tattoo? My style of tattooing has changed and still is changing. To be honest I think it changes slightly each day. I mean everyday I try to improve what I do and learn whatever I can. But that’s what I love about tattooing, it will never be perfect. It will always stay true to what it is, yet we evolve as tattooers everyday. 

When I started tattooing I did a lot more of the typical ‘hand poke’ and more ignorant styled work, but this wasn’t me. Traditional tattooing has always had my heart and that’s what I love to see and have tattooed.  I work real hard everyday to be inspired by what I love and create bold and solid pieces that will stand the test of time. For me I love to tattoo anything that’s bold and black. I am constantly creating a lot flash, which is typically inspired by classic traditional flash or pop culture. 


Can you tell us about your set up and the process behind your tattoos? I tattoo by hand, my set up is very minimal. I like to keep it simple and disposable. No bullshit. I hand make each tool for every tattoo combining a chopstick and a tattoo needle. I only ever tattoo in black and I keep my process vegan. 

I am very much into the technical aspect of tattooing. I am all about learning and creating a solid well lined, bold, clean and nicely shaded tattoo. Tattooing by hand is typically a really calming and relaxing process, I gently push the ink into the skin by hand using the needle. There is a lot less trauma to the skin, which typically means the tattoo heals faster and for a lot of people this can be an easier process to sit for. It also doesn’t have to take a long time which some people think it can. Typically a palm size tattoo would roughly only take a couple of hours. 


What inspires you? Are there any artists that influence your work? Man, I am inspired everyday. Whether it’s current events, or things happening in the city that I live in. But you know what, I have so many artists that inspire and influence me, and that I look up to, I wouldn’t be able to list them all. In both shops I work in, there are incredible people and talented artists, which inspire me daily. Tattooing is my life, so most of my close friends and my partner are tattooists, so we talk tattooing a lot and try to influence and  constructively help each other. 

Can you tell us a little about your own tattoos and your style? You know, I just love tattooing. So when I was young and dumb I would have pretty much had anything and everything. Which now has left me with limited space. I don’t regret what I got though, but when I do get tattooed now I really like to get tattooed by people I really look up to and really love what they are about. So normally I chose from their flash, or get a piece they really like, as that way I feel I get a tattoo that really represents that artist. 

Trading with another tattooer is probably my favourite way to get tattooed now. I find it a great way to learn and share a cool experience with another tattooist. 


Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? I normally guest in another shop every month, whether it be the UK or abroad, this is one of my absolute favourite things to do in tattooing. Traveling and meeting phenomenal artists drives me to be a technically better tattooer.  Currently for the rest of this year I do not have any conventions planned, but my next coming guest spots are at One For All Collective in Manchester late August and Seny Tatttoo in Barcelona late September. I am currently taking bookings for both of these via Instagram or email.

Five Favourite Stick and Poke Artists

Our guest blogger Katie Houghton  shares her five favourite stick and poke artists of the moment…

While once considered unregulated, raw and reserved, ‘stick and poke’ is still here, and it’s bigger than ever. Most of the people I know that have tattoos, now have a stick and poke piece to go along with them, and more artists than ever are replacing motor-led machines with the simple needle and ink combo instead. Having recently acquired a couple of my own after lashings of Mexican food and a harrowing hour in front of American Pie, I wanted to see what artists were bringing this out the bedroom and into the mainstream.

Grace Neutral

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Whether you’ve gone gooey eyed over her latest tattoo series on VICELAND or not, Grace Neutral is undoubtedly one of London’s biggest hand-poked names. Don’t let her slight of voice fool you, there’s a brassy, boldness to her lines that are unmissable. While stick and poke is an artwork often reserved for petite and simple pieces, Grace is dominating sleeves and covering skin with some of the most intricate and hardy work in the business.

Lotte Vanns

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Lotte, a plant enthusiast and illustration student, calls herself a ‘confused human bean’ on her Instagram account, but nothing about her work confuses me. A perfect example of the divine line work coming out of hand-poked tattoos, Lotte Vanns not only showcases the female form in all its honest, and often delicate glory, her range of flora, nods to fauna and wispy lines summarise everything I like about the art of stick and poke.


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From Taiwan to Sydney, this is a stick and poke artist that likes to get around, but that’s not just what I like about him. I’ve always been the person that thought hand poked tattoos were reserved to one colour palette and one colour palette only, and that’s black. Not only proving that I am very often wrong, Zzizzi rejects modest and cutesy lines for thick, chunky ‘ignorant’ themed line work that screams of the fun of the 80s with a little rock ‘n’ roll thrown in for good measure.

Kelli Kikcio

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Born in Canada but currently staking her tattoo claim at a studio in Brooklyn, New York, Kelli is something of a creative butterfly, dipping her toes in production, art and design combined. Yet another example of the simple satisfaction that comes from stick and poke, Kelli defines the art with direct and natural lines that play with female figures, flowers and crisp imagery to generate a flash collection that keeps me coming back for more.

Ngh Mgco

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If I had my way, this entire piece would be dedicated to hand poked botany, but it’s the likes of Ngh Mgco from Russia that add a firm edge to femme-esque pieces. More old school than most that stay devoid of a machine, the bold pieces, dark colours and noir feel to Ngh makes his work enticing and rich in a scene of simple, light stick and poke. I like his edge and the bravery of anyone sticking it out under those thick lines.

Interview with Indy Voet

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to handpoke tattoo artist Indy Voet, who works out of Purple Sun in Brussels, about his clean, straight lined tattoos and his relation to body modifications…


How did you get into tattoo art and body mods? I started at the desk of a piercing shop when I was about 18, after about a year or two I was piercing full time and quite interested in general body mods. Since then I pretty much always worked in piercing and tattoo shops, piercing, getting tattooed, going to conventions etc. I would say the general transition into tattooing came during the last two to three years and voluntary or not I feel good about where I am right now and the people I am with.

Have you always loved the idea of hand poked tattoos or did you just try it on a whim? It felt more natural for me coming from the piercing background. It started out as just a few small things here and there on tattooers I knew, and then it all evolved from there to what I do now.


Sometimes you work with classic tattoo machines. Do you like to mix the two techniques? I started using both not so long ago after a push and a gift from Jean-Philippe Burton. I guess for me it’s about making good tattoos no matter if it’s by machine or by hand. It helps me achieve a visual I can’t by hand, sometimes for certain styles, and it opens up to more options but of course I have a lot more to learn.

Are you more into symbolism or traditional art? I have to admit I am into a lot of different things and a lot of different influences. I try to get inspired by quite obvious tattoo references as much as less obvious ones.


You do quite simple and very clean tattoos. Where do you get inspiration from? I guess that, by looking at my tattoos right now, the clearest influences are ethnic art, patterns and tattoos on one side, and western traditional on the other side.

What is the best part of your job? I actually love the whole process, from searching, to drawing, to meeting people. But if I have to choose the best part, that one is seeing the tattoo healed and settled. Seeing people and customers wear it in their everyday life. Seeing it interact with the rest of their tattoos but also with their general style. I enjoy that quite a bit and I always find it curious.


What about the tattoo community in Brussels? Are you planning to travel somewhere soon? Brussels is not a huge capital city but I guess there was a good number of shops that opened during the last few years. I am grateful I get along with a lot of the local tattooers and shops. The fact I can go to say hello or chill at other shops, I really appreciate that. I’m trying to do some city trips within Europe, where I can meet people I know, and once or twice a year I plan overseas travels.

What are the parts of the body you enjoy the most to tattoo? I would say ears for sure but I also enjoy fingers, eyelids, the torso etc. I guess as long as I technically can do a good job, and as long as it’s possible to make the design work in harmony with the spot, I am happy to continue to do so.


What are your top three images to tattoo? I don’t really have three but I would say anything simple with straight lines or anything not too serious, western old school are always fun for me to do.

Who are your favourite artists at the moment? Too many to mention, but to mention a few: Marine Martin, Burton Ursaeminoris, Bouits, Jacob Redmond, Matt Shamah, Florian Santus, Ronnie Ronson, Horimatsu Bunchin, Bastien Jean, Cokney, Chriss Dettmer, Jeff Zuck, Kane Trubenbacher, Toothtaker, Rudy Fritch, Dan Santoro, Gakkin, Lockhart, Josh Egnew, Duncan X and many many more!