Once, when I was 14, I traveled to Vilnius to do some shopping. In the bus station, I met one guy who was trying to sell a leather belt. I had some spare cash, so I decided to buy it from him. Apparently, this guy had bought a ticket and was waiting for the same bus as me! During the bus ride, we talked, and I found out that the guy was an ex-prisoner and tattooed all over. After our lovely chat on the bus, I went home with him, where he tattooed me and I got my first ink. Hence, my first ever tattoo that I got was made with a sewing needle and gel pen.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I took in the whole process. It came in handy when friends around me were fascinated by my tattoo and asked to be tattooed as well. The first person I tattooed was my best friend, and later more and more people asked. It was all done in a basement with simple equipment, like guitar strings and beer bottle caps.
I was working in the army, among other things, so tattooing was only a hobby to me. I took up requests as they came, until I noticed that I had so many inquiries about tattooing friends and acquaintances that it was hard to keep up. I realised that there was no time for a regular job if I wanted to fulfill all the incoming requests. So, I changed it up. I took a holiday from work and focused completely on tattooing. One thing led to another, and now I run my own shop called Inked Moose.
When you tattoo for over 25 years, how your artistic expression changes becomes a natural progression as you pick up new styles and techniques. However, I would have to say that I have the most passion for the current style. Although I have to admit that I don’t particularly enjoy what clients ask of me, I can do any style out there. It’s always very rewarding to see satisfied customers at the end of inking!
I’d say that if you do it right, there are barely any big struggles. Although I am basically working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it's like a hobby for me, so it doesn’t feel like work. I guess you could say that owning a tattoo shop and being a tattoo artist are perfect if you’re passionate and a bit of a workaholic.
But one of the biggest challenges we’ve had was during COVID. For 10 months, we were totally shut down. It changed a lot of things. Before, we used to be a team of around 10 artists. Because of COVID, most of them moved back. Our reality was just me sitting in the shop with two of the left artists, going into the negative, while we couldn't do anything about it. I didn’t pay attention to that. Ups and downs are just a part of the business. That’s why if it's something bad, I don't take it personally.
If I had to keep the answer short and honest, I don't know. I know that I will carry on. For my life, it'll be enough tattooing. I think that for another 20–30 years there will be no big changes. What I mean by that is that there will be no drastic changes that would eliminate the industry completely. I can print the best possible picture, but an oil painting is an oil painting. A real Rembrandt is just on a completely different level compared to the prints. Prints have no emotion in them, no matter how good or effective they are. Tattoos and the whole process are unique, and that’s why they're staying.
It’s very hard to say since I am very spontaneous. What I know for sure is that there will be a lot of upcoming shows and conventions and a lot of traveling. Last year, there were 22 countries in total.