Interview with Pavel Epik Kaloyanov
He draws, does tattoos and we are more than proud that he is the artist behind this year’s Bulgaria Tattoo Expo poster. Let us introduce you to Pavel Epik Kaloyanov. We talked about the tattoo industry in Bulgaria and around the world and his inspiration for creating the poster. Here is what Pavel Epik had to say:
1. There are some tattoo stereotypes still existing. Do you remember the first time you saw a tattoo and what your first thought was?
Oh, yeah. In our country the stereotypes along with the populism are blooming. At this point I can say tattoos are starting to be accepted, but many people still can't understand that tattoos could be beautiful.
My first memory about a tattoo is from Obzor. In my grandmother's garden an uncle of mine was cooking clams when I noticed his hands - all covered with sailor tattoos. I could say that in that moment I chose my craft but this wasn’t the case, I just thought they were impressive. He still has them, and even though they were made 60 years ago, they look cool and readable.
2. How and when did you start drawing? How about tattooing?
I can’t answer the first question precisely. Thanks to my parents I grew up surrounded by palettes and painting tripods, but I was avoiding drawing. Graffiti art was maybe the thing that brought back my passion for drawing.
I can answer the tattoo question more precisely. In 2010 I did 3 tattoos thanks to Nasko from Ronin Tattoo in Stara Zagora. He basically made me do it. Even though I quit tattooing later, I am really grateful to him.
3. What are the most important qualities for a good tattoo artist?
Never stop improving, you basically don’t have another option. Be humble and don’t talk too much. We make tattoos, we are not rockstars.
4. How did you learn the craft and what advice would you give to those who want to start tattooing?
It was really hard but I did it with the help of many people, most of them I probably will forget but not on purpose. Nasko, who I already mentioned helped me start. Bartez from Forevermore Tattoo in Plovdiv made me believe that this is something I can develop and has been helping me to this day. Tosheto from Sixth Element in Veliko Tarnovo gave me a hand when I came back in Bulgaria and I started working for him. Most helpful for me were Stiliyan and Kaloyan Smokovi who showed me how to make real tattoos, how to use a tattoo machine, how to use your mind and heart in your work, I don’t know how to thank them.
Young people try to take shortcuts, there are still young after all. But in this industry there are no shortcuts. The only way to succeed is hard work and experience. Every one of the people I worked with has worked hard to have all this knowledge which they gave me. Be a apprentice or not. But don’t discard the traditions with a light hand and listen what the oldtimers are saying (or not saying). They definitely know more than you. Draw a lot and get your tattoos from good people. After that think about becoming a tattoo artist.
5. You have worked in Bulgaria and abroad. What are the similarities and differences in the tattoo industry here and there? We bulgarians are always thinking that we are the worst, is it true?
In many cases it’s true. The good thing we have here are the unexplored possibilities. Here we have a place for development, there is no over-exploitation of the market and no hard competition. These are the bad sides too. We are in a balloon, separate from the world and we can’t see and correct our mistakes.
6. What would you like to change in the industry in Bulgaria? What is missing here and what needs improvement?
We lack diversity here. We are very alike in our tattoo styles. We have to show that there are many possibilities not only one. It would be good to do tattoos, to take a look at good examples, to read books.
It takes traveling, a lot of travelling. There are many things that need improvement but everything in it’s time.
7. Let’s talk about the poster for this year’s Bulgaria Tattoo Expo. There was no theme for it. How did you came up with the idea for Hannya mask and what;s the meaning behind it?
The meaning is like most of asian tattoo symbols - luck and wellbeing. The mask itself is from the Japanese theater “Noh” and one of the hardest to be crafted. When the actor looks down, he is frowning, when he looks up - sad. Aside - smiling. The most popular legend is about a woman who turned into a demon, but there are many different variations.
The poster looks like a typical circus poster we used to see years ago and I think those are the best posters but mine has a tattoo reference.
8. Why do you think there should be an event like Bulgaria Tattoo Expo?
We need it to develop our industry. Thus we can see where are we on the map, to break stereotypes and restrictions. To ask each other questions and think about the answers. To meet people from different countries, to work together for a better and more beautiful future.
Thank you, guys, for taking such uneasy task!