The Girl With the Matchsticks: Interview with Laura Yahna

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The Girl With the Matchsticks: Interview with Laura Yahna

In this interview with Laura Yahna we talk about Berlin, horror flicks, and freehand tattoos.

The haunting eyes of harpies stare out from under their wild manes, birds serenely stand while varied botanicals and spooky stairs wind their way around the skin in a graceful dance of black ink. These are the musings of Laura Yahna. Known for her free handed depictions of dark art, her portfolio is one that hints at a world full of magical brujas whispering their esoteric secrets into the natural universe. 

What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be an artist?

I was always drawing lots as a kid and later studied graphic design.

How did you get into tattooing and why was it the art form you were most interested in?

I started to become interested in tattooing quite early and got my first tattoo when I was 18. Since that I was really into it. I got myself a tattoo machine somehow, but before tattooing regularly it took some more years. I was very lucky because the woman that became my mentor saw one of my tattoos and called me to ask if I would be into a real apprenticeship. I said yes.

I was into punk music and hardcore when I started being interested in tattooing. At this time I probably tried to find something my surrounding would be against the most. Tattooing seemed to be a good option I guess. But to be honest, I don't really remember the exact reasons why I became obsessed with tattooing....it just attracted me and still does.

Your style is immediately recognizable as your own, especially due to the fact that you consistently freehand your work. Can you talk about what visuals, books, films, or artists (tattooists or not) inspire your work and how your style has evolved over the years? What is it about freehanding that you enjoy so much?

Thank you! I was always into dark stuff like comics of John Sinclair and scary movies. My little brother and I watched a lot of movies we probably were too young for. My mother once brought a movie home called “Watership Down“ because she thought it was a movie for kids...and we became obsessed with it. I even designed a rabbit tattoo for him a few years ago but we never actual tattooed it.

I used to listen to a lot of dark aggressive music when I grew up...that changed a bit as I grew older but I will always be attracted to melancholy and darkness in any kind of art I think.

The freehanding evolved mainly because of traveling. I found it super practical and time-saving since I don't have to prepare so much anymore. I also feel a new level of flexibility. Some clients come with concrete ideas and at the end we do something completely different. I am always super happy when my clients come with more than one idea and give me the freedom to play around.

You’re also an artist that regularly collabs on rather big projects. Can you talk about the process of working with two artists and a client to create a work of art? Why do you think collaborating is such a strong part of your work as an artist?

I've only collaborated on a tattoo 2 times. The first time with Jessi Manchester in Los Angeles. She was way more experienced since she collaborates often and I learned a lot from her. And the second time in Chicago with my friend Noelle Longhaul aka laughingloone. With her I also collaborated on a shirt we did to support Lupinewood Collective!

Do you have any rules when it comes to tattooing? 

I don't tattoo face, neck or hands if my clients are not heavily tattooed or very young.

I’ve had many friends pick up and leave the US to go and live in Berlin. I’ve heard it is an incredibly queer and arts friendly space that welcomes progressive exploration and creation. What are your thoughts on this? What is the arts community like there and why do you think Berlin is a conducive environment for the arts?

I think Berlin is lots of things and it also depends on the people you are surrounded by, what you see and feel mainly about it. Since I am not really a part of the queer scene I am not in the position to talk too much about it. I experience Berlin as an open and tolerant city. I grew up here and as a woman it was pretty easy for me and I have the feeling I never had to fight as hard for being respected as female friends or coworkers had to from other places in the world.

What are you passionate about beyond tattooing? What do you do on your days off or vacations?

At the moment my biggest life topic is to be more connected to myself.

Any travel plans, collabs, or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Wait and see!

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