The island of Tenerife, of the Canary Islands, is home to stunning beaches, colorful Carnivals, the third largest volcano (Mount Teide) in the world and tattoo artist Amayra. Amayra began her professional career nine years ago and since then, has become a sought after neo traditional artist who pulls inspiration from Balinese masks, Japanese tattooing and photo realism. We spoke with the go-to artist of Spain’s archipelago to learn what drew her to tattooing, why she calls Tenerife her home and why she waited almost a decade to get her first tattoo.
How were you introduced to tattooing as a career and what was the industry like at the time?
My first experience with the world of tattooing was when I was studying sculpture in art school, and a classmate gave me some plans to make a handmade tattoo machine. With a fork, a pen and an engine, I made my first tattoo machine. But since I understood absolutely nothing about electricity, I connected it directly to the current and it exploded, leaving the nuns’ residence where I was staying without electricity all weekend. It wasn't until a while later, in 2010 when I accompanied a friend to get tattooed and brought my designs to start as an apprentice in a tattoo studio. It’s very difficult to learn on your own with the little bit of information that was available at that time, so starting at a shop as an apprentice was the best way to learn. The truth was that I was very lucky to meet people who helped me from the beginning.
What appeals to you about neo traditional?
What attracts me most to this style is durability, blunt lines and solid colors. I’ve been a multidisciplinary artist since I was a little girl and I like to try all the techniques. So in tattooing, I’ve done the same thing— tattooed color, black-and-grey, Japanese, watercolor and neo traditional. Let's say that my style is a mixture of the different techniques that I've learned over the years and although it has a lot of influence from the neo traditional, it also has elements of Japanese and realism.
What inspires you about Japanese and Balinese mythology and why do these masks make great tattoos?
When I was little, my father had a Balinese furniture store. He traveled to Bali often to buy merchandise and I was especially amazed by masks and wooden figures. Both Japanese art and the Balinese have a very fluid movement in common, as if they imitated wind, water or fire, and I think that movement adapts perfectly to the shapes of the human body.
How would you describe the tattoo community in the Canary Islands?
I live in Tenerife and although I travel a lot to work, I still think that there is no better place to live than my island. In an artistic way it is a bit limited, so soon I will go to Barcelona for a season to continue learning, since there is a super high level of tattooing there.
Aside from tattooing, what other mediums do you work in?
In addition to tattooing, I like to paint with acrylic. What I like most is sculpture, which I studied. Although, lately I only do sculpture when the carnivals of Tenerife approach to make a beautiful costume. On the other hand, when I tattoo, I think of the body as a mixture between drawing and sculpture, since it’s about making flat drawings on a 3D surface. I pay close attention to how the tattoo is going to look with the body in motion, so that every angle you look at has an interesting perspective.
I’ve been told (by Ryan Ashley) that you don’t have a single tattoo. Why is that and do you plan to get a tattoo one day?
The truth is that recently I got my first tattoo after nine years as a tattoo artist. It’s something not very big on my calf, to know how the experience is, because my plan is to get a symmetrical tattoos on both sleeves, chest and neck. I have not tattooed more so far because I see many tattooers who regret having tattooed too much, because now they can’t have a large and beautiful tattoo in a clean area. They have to cover some of the tattoos that were made when they started or have them erased with laser to do something better.