The picture above has been been taken during the last London Tattoo Convention, an international top class tattoo meeting oranized by an Italian guy called Miki Vialetto. Until last week I ignored everything about the convention and Vialetto, eventually I realized I came across one of the most respected tattoo conoisseurs in the world and interviewed him straight away.
As Miki starts talking you already know you’re fucked forever, he spills tattooing in your soul. He’s been in this world since the Eighties, but he’s no tattoo artist: he knows about it. He was 13 when he fell in love with motorbikes, which implied discovering tattoos as well. He managed to get the information he needed in a time where internet and social media didn’t exist and quickly understood that fans were longing for news. He launched some magazines whose relevance and reputation quickly spread in Europe and since then he never stopped searching for tattoers creativity and magic.
“Tattoos have always been part of people’s life all over the world. The first ones date back to Paleolithic and the Otzi Mummy discovered in Northern Italy in 1991 proved to be a man who lived between 3300 and 3100 B.C. whose body was fully tattooed”, Miki explains with a smooth enthralling voice. I find myself leaning of the table as I used to do at school when our philosophy teacher was introducing us to Descartes. “Wherever you go you can find traditional tattoos, Afros only didn’t have them because of the colour of their skin, so they invented scarification which means that there’s always been a unversal desire to bring our own story with you. Tattoos have always been a book written on your skin, where those who knew how to read it, could understand who you are”.
My Mum always told me: “Sailors and prisoners have tattoos, don’t you dare to have one” and my Mum is a glorious 90 years old lady with a very opened mind. She taught me never to yield to prejudice and I don’t blame her for doing exactly so with tattoos. She was born a few years after Cesare Lombroso, an Italian criminologist lived by the end of the 19th century, stated a strict connection between tattoos, crime and evil. Besides Mum was born and raised Catholic and Christianity discouraged tattoos as a sign of rebellion against God giving us a boby resembling him.
“Do you really want me to tattoo you this crap?” That’s what Gian Maurizio Fercioni told a young Miki when he asked for his first tattoo in the Eighties. Those of you who already are into this world don’t need explanation about him, for the others let’s just say Fercioni is the history of tattoo in Italy. Miki tells me this story and even though he’s been trying to give me a disillusioned version of himself I can feel he’s still excited about it. Tattooers todays are more concerned about Instagram followers then creating something stunning. Miki is frustrated about the lack of ethics, he hates to see people copying original tattoes created by others or dealing with this universe without any culture of it. He moans as he sees people tattooing minors or hands face and neck unless the body has already been fully covered. He says old tattooers had great respect of people’s bodies and complains about tattoo massification. Still he talks about that day with Fercioni and there’s a halo around him, an ancestral pride he just can’t control. When Fercioni said it was crap Miki replied he didn’t care, he wanted it anyway and here you go, strangers no more: Fercioni tested his will, Miki didn’t give up and Fercioni let him in, he opened his marvellous world to Miki.
I have only a tiny anchor tattoo on the top of my right shoulder and it took me about 25 years to decide that I really wanted it, but I guess I learnt my lesson with Vialetto. Tattoos are rituals we choose to celebrate. They have to mean something to you and you should treat them as a wedding to yourself. You need a priest, a shaman to make it happen and that miracle man must be the right one for you as much as you are for him. You can’t just enter a parlour, pay and get it, it’s no supermarket, it’s your body and soul merging together and you should take it for sacred. You have to deserve your tattoo, make it happen together with the person who will tattoo you. Otherwise it’s just ink under your skin, and I don’t give a shit for anything like that.
Miki Vialetto between a coloured tattoo by Peter Lagergren and a black and white one by Jak Connolly, on the right.
Photos by Debora Marcati, Stuart McDowell