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Talia Migliaccio

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The Artists Upgrading Stick 'n Poke Tattoos

Stick and poke tattoos are just as they sound: a needle, some ink, and your flesh. There's no machinery involved, just the slow and calculated piercing of the skin by the artist (hence why stick and poke is synonymous with "hand-poked"). The result is a tattoo with character: a series of lines and dots with more negative space than filled-in areas. They're typically small and delicate, often with charming imperfections because — surprise — it's hard to tattoo by hand. The technique offers a level of personalization that goes beyond the content of the tattoo.

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"I believe people are attracted to the kind of experience that hand-poked tattoo artists offer," says Katie Rita, a hand-poked tattoo artist based in Olympia, Washington. "Many tattoo shops have a doctor's office vibe, macho energy, and a depersonalized feel about them (not to mention the loud whine of the tattoo machine)." By contrast, "hand-poked tattoos often happen in much more intimate settings, allowing people to connect with their tattoo artist and experience the tattoo process in a more meaningful way."

"Hand-poked tattoos happen in intimate settings, allowing people to experience the tattoo process in a more meaningful way."

Fellow hand-poked tattoo artist Talia Migliaccio echoes this sentiment, saying she is attracted to the method in part "to be able to offer full personal ceremony to my clients." Rita muses that "the technique is getting a lot more visibility these days thanks to platforms like Instagram," explaining that DIY artists can expose their work to a greater audience. "I have definitely noticed an increased demand for hand-poked tattoos."

The rise of the underground stick and poke tattoo certainly hasn't gone undocumented by mainstream media. W magazine made note of its popularity with artists in May 2014, Vogue called them "the new septum piercings" in December 2014, and GQ covered the technique's "stylish rise" in August of last year. It's safe to say that hand-poked tattoos are no longer under-the-radar, eclipsing their jail cell origins and longstanding punk tradition. (Admission: I have a small, wonky heart tattoo on my inner right ankle done with a sewing needle, India ink, and a handful of girl friends circa 2006. I may or may not have had pink hair at the time, though the DIY tattooing 100% happened in the furnished basement of my dad's suburban bungalow.)

We've noticed a growing number of artists doing delicate, dexterous work with the lo-fi method discovered, of course, via Instagram. Here are six of the coolest hand-poked tattoo artists we're following, from Olympia, Washington to Kiev, Ukraine. Some are super well-known, holding appointments around the world, while others are self-taught (and barely of legal drinking age) with just over 1,000 followers. Check them out, add them to your feed, and if you decide to get poked yourself, please make sure you do it safely and with your own ideas.

Tati Compton — @taticompton

Tati Compton (Tatiana Kartomten) is based in London, but the native Californian is currently working out of LA. Compton's work includes delicate renderings of human forms like hands, nude bodies, and skeletons. She interprets a lot of classic tattoo iconography — like crescent moons, scorpions, and roses — with graceful curvature and consistent, steady line work.

A photo posted by @taticompton on

A photo posted by @taticompton on

A photo posted by @taticompton on

A photo posted by @taticompton on

Jenna Bouma — @slowerblack

On first glance, it's hard to believe Bouma's work is hand-poked. The Brooklyn-based artist works in large-scale (This chest piece! Wow! How!) as well as small, with a knack for filled-in areas. Recurring themes include vintage babes, beach scenes, and animals.

A photo posted by jenna bouma (@slowerblack) on

A photo posted by jenna bouma (@slowerblack) on

A photo posted by jenna bouma (@slowerblack) on

A photo posted by jenna bouma (@slowerblack) on

Talia Migliaccio — @taliamigliaccio

Talia Migliaccio has a background rich in visual arts, taking to tattooing in her final semester of high school. "I've been hand-poking exclusively for the last three years," she tells Racked. "I had a quick affair with machine tattooing," she says, "but that only lasted about 10 tattoos. I was over it pretty quickly, but it did teach me a lot in terms of what I do and why I do it."

"My dream with tattoo is to fully integrate its ancestral roots of magick, ceremony, rite of passage, and beyond," she explains, aiming to "channel imagery for individual that may heal, transform, mark time, or open doorways."

After half a year of traveling with no formal home base, Denver-raised Migliaccio will settle into a work/live studio space in Topanga Canyon, CA come February.

Katie Rita — @splendidsilentsun

Katie Rita has been tattooing for just under two years, almost exclusively hand-poking. Talia (above) taught Katie the method; the two grew up together in Denver, attending the same magnet arts school for middle and high schools.

Based in Olympia, WA, Rita also dabbles in printmaking, painting, illustration, and is a budding arts educator. Her many disciplines are evident in her tattoo work, which ranges from delicate, repeated geometries that almost mimic hieroglyphs to interpretations of tarot cards, and abstracted animals. "I strive to help people reclaim and retell the stories of their own bodies," she tells Racked. "In this way, tattooing feels like a radical act to me."

Sally Rose — @sallyrosetattoos

Sally Rose blends dark humor with a lighthearted spirit for works that beg you to take tattoos a little less seriously. Think ghosts with top hats, skeleton hands throwing peace signs, and teeny smiley faces with freckles for eyes.

#fresh #swallow #sticknpoke for my day 1 @as_i_please - love u !

A photo posted by my name is sally (@sallyrosetattoos) on

Yaroslav Putyata — @yar.put

Way out in Kiev, Ukraine, Yaroslav Putyata is doing stick and poke tattoos in magnificent color. Hot pink and super-saturated teal are favorites, popping up in dinosaurs, palm trees, and as impressive gradients.

A photo posted by Yaroslav Putyata (@yar.put) on


A photo posted by Yaroslav Putyata (@yar.put) on

A photo posted by Yaroslav Putyata (@yar.put) on

A photo posted by Yaroslav Putyata (@yar.put) on

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