Hans start to tattooing:
Hans has, depending how you count, had a career as a tattoo artist, spanning over 4 decades.
That is to say about 45 years almost, counting from when he started as a young boy aged 14.
Back then it wasn’t anything you would call professional today. His first couple of tattoos back then, was done with old razor blades and some ink from pens, more specifically some pearl ink, he found in the attic.
The ink, speaking in rough estimates, is still being used today. But Hans knows a lot has changed, which we will get more into later. But Hans had got a job as a fisherman’s boy, and his very first pay-check was used for his first tattoo.
The first few tattoos, inspired by a sailor father:
Hans’ father was a sailor, who happened to have tattoos. This of course left quite an impression on Hans when he was younger. He speculates that his father’s tattoos, was probably what made him want tattoos to begin with. So inspired by his father as well as a tattooed colleague, Hans went and got his first tattoo.
Back then he started out, getting his own name tattooed on his arm, by the legendary Tattoo Ole from Nyhavn 17. Only 14 days later, he went and got his next tattoo, from Tattoo John in Copenhagen’s red light district (Istedgade).
Getting started with tattooing:
A few months after getting those first few tattoos, Hans build his own tattoo machine. It was constructed out of an old racing car toy, he later build another machine out of a mechanical razor.
That was basically how you had to start, for a lot of people back then. If you wanted to be a tattooist/tattoo artist, you had to work for it. They had to make and invent everything themselves back then. Everything from the machines they use to the inks.
From the calm media to a media panic:
Back in the day, the media wasn’t too concerned with tattoo artist, nor were they that negative about tattoos. However after 2003, that all changed. That was when the Danish Tattoo Guild (DTL), went and had some research done on the inks being used for tattooing as well as how they should keep everything sterile and sanitary. The research was done together with leading medical scientists at the time.
However, the first piece of research/investigation came back with a bit of a negative perspective. But it was there the panic then started, about tattoos and the inks. Before then, there wasn’t much of a fuzz about it.
Self-taught country boy:
Hans was, as mentioned earlier, self-taught in the art of tattooing. He was born out in the country of Denmark, in some of the more rural parts. So he started out mainly tattooing his friends. But he also had the great idea, of setting up shop every summer, on a beach down in the country. There he would sit with a parasol, tattooing all the beach guests that might want some ink. He sat there, powering his machine with a car battery and with a little sign saying tattoos.
He sat there tattooing in the sun back then, as well as other things that isn’t too smart today. But back then, no one knew any better, so no one complained or was worried.
Getting started in a studio:
His first job in a studio was with a man called Tattoo Max. He had to lie about his age to get the job, since he was only 17 at the time. But after a year in that studio, he went back to tattooing from his home and all over the place in peoples homes. He even stopped tattooing all together for a bit, when he was 19, as he thought old-school, which was the only style at the time, was boring. Instead he started learning and working with airbrushing cars and motorcycles. He was among the first 2 in Denmark, who did airbrush art like that.
You couldn’t even get the equipment in Denmark at the time. But he got his hands on some and rented a spot at an auto-mechanic, in a small town called Strøby. He did this until 1982, where he opened his first own tattoo studio called Doktor Tato (Doctor Tattoo). Which was located right in the middle of Copenhagen, out in Nørrebro which he and his partner thought was a great idea at the time.
They thought that all the young anti-establishment youths and punkers in the area, would love to get tattooed. However, None of them had any money for tattoos.
First to move away from old-school tattoos:
Hans only did black and grey tattoos, which was unheard of at the time. So no one wanted any black and grey tattoos done back then. People were way too used to old school flash tattoos. So it was tough setting up his first studio like that, as everyone had to be talked into getting work done by him. All the tattoo artists down in Istedgade, back in those days, also told people to stay away from Hans. Whenever he had done some of his black and grey work, they told people to avoid him. Which didn’t help business much either.
Back then there was around 10 studios in Copenhagen, and no one helped each other out, so when Hans goes and opens he first studio, outside of Istedgade or Nyhavn, where all the others were located.
Everyone just thought it would be dead in the water from the start. But even though business went okay, despite what others thought, him and his partner in the shop Lars started feuding and hey had to close shop. But then Hans started at another tattoo artists place, the legend Tattoo Svend.
He was with Svend from 84-86, which was awesome. Then he was with Max again from 87-88 and then in 1990, he opened a studio called Copenhagen Tattoo Center.
The Time of Rock and Roll:
But while Hans was still working from his home, before he started in Nyhavn. The legendary punker Bernie Luther, suddenly knocked on his door one night. He had been send to Hans by some people from German.
So there he was, a full blown punker in front of Hans’ door. Then Hans brought Bernie with him to Tattoo Svend, where both he and Bernie got a job.
Bernie then went directly from Svend to England, for the Donstable Tattoo Convention/known as the London Tattoo Convention today. Where Bernie won everything he laid his hands on. This was the first time the outside world met the legendary Bernie Luther.
The biggest challenge about starting out back then:
The biggest challenge back when Hans started out was that there were neither inks nor machines. So he had to experiment himself, to figure stuff out. Together with Frank Rosenkilde, whom Hans lived close to, they had to figure it all out on their own.
People should listen to what the old timers like Hans and Frank have to say, listen to their experiences. It is all meant with the best intent and they too know that a lot has changed in the world of tattooing.
The best improvements of today:
It is awesome today, that there are lots of tattoo artists and lots of talented ones too. Despite Hans not liking all this Facebook and social media stuff, making people think they are rock stars, for no reason.
Like how you can go onto pages like Tattoodo, where all pictures are of new tattoos that aren’t healed yet.
Hans would rather see pictures of fully healed tattoos, as all tattoos can look better when brand new.
However, he loves that you don’t have to fight for the right to do something different anymore. Tattooing has become more of an art-form today. Both the clients and the tattoo artists know this, and they have become much more imaginative and creative, with their tattoos.
A lack of interaction today:
Hans is saddened by how too many clients today, only interact with their artists online before a tattoo.
This lack of personal contact with tattoo artists, distorts their idea of what a tattoo is and what it takes.
So they begin bargain hunting, when they want a tattoo, because they think all tattoo artists have the same skill and do the same styles. So they end up looking around for the cheapest instead of the best.
People need to start actually coming into the studios again for consultations and talking to the artists. Especially if they want custom tattoos, which are personal to them. Custom tattoos is even what Hans loves about tattooing, he started only doing custom back in the 90’s, as it gives him more of a challenge and lets him be more creative.
Final comments and Timeline Gallery:
But generally speaking, Hans is overwhelmingly positive about how things are today, in the world of tattooing. However, bargain hunters, bad tattoo artists and scratchers, create a lot of problems and you have to do a lot of cover up tattoos, to make up for it. Hopefully the next big thing, will be more regulations and legislation from the government. So tattoos can be lifted out of this grey area, they find themselves in today. Personally, Hans will just keep running his shop for the foreseeable future, as he still loves what he does so why would he stop?
We hope you enjoyed this 5th installment in our “old timers” series. Please keep your eye on Mediazink for more awesome articles. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram (@Mediazink_Official), for more awesome articles and other content.