Moths, Peonies, & Moonbeams: Interview with Kyle Stacher / Thief Hands

Moths, Peonies, & Moonbeams: Interview with Kyle Stacher / Thief Hands

In this interview with tattoo artist Kyle Stacher aka Thief Hands, he talks about the Portland tattoo community and his first tattoo kit.

The illustrative stylings of Kyle Stacher, also known as Thief Hands, capture the imagination immediately. The feathers of birds, the glittering stars in the night sky, and the silken wings of moths are all beautifully rendered in his unique aesthetic. 

In this interview with Kyle, he talks about how his grandmother inspired him, how getting in trouble as a kid might lead to good things, and how a "Made in China" tattoo machine changed his life. 

What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?

When I was a child, a very young child, I got grounded, A LOT. Usually for swearing under my breath, or fighting with my brothers. I started to draw because I wouldn’t have anything else to do while I waited for my parents to let me out of my room. The first thing I remember drawing was a super hero called Vex Man. He wore a respirator and had some cool goggles. Eventually I wouldn’t come out anymore and would just keep drawing. I just kinda kept interest all through school. 

I was never what anyone would consider an “artist” by any means. I just liked to be engaged in some kind of creative outlet and art just spoke the strongest to me. I started getting tattooed when I was 18, and after that I just became enamored by the culture and the idea of being able to tattoo my shitty artwork on myself and my friends. So being manic and obsessed with it of course I had to make it happen. Well, I could barely pay my bills. 

In 2008, for my birthday, my girlfriend at the time Julia Chapman, who was one of the most supportive and motivational people I have met, gave me a gift that changed my life. A shitty “Made in China” tattoo kit from some store on the internet. The rest is pretty much just hard work, long days, trial and error, working at some really bad shops and some really good ones, learning from some amazing individuals and some bad ones, and now to this day still learning and growing the same.

Who are your artistic heroes, tattooists or not? Are there any films, books, visuals, that inspire you?

The first artist I can that say really inspired me and is my hero is my grandma Lorelei. She mostly worked with block printing and watercolor. Her artwork is amazing and makes anything I’ve ever create feel so bland and uncreative. I wish I could have spent more time picking her brain rather than picking my nose. 

There actually is a TV show that I used to watch when I wanted to feel some kind of inspirational boost. It was called Xavier Renegade Angel. I think it was on Adult Swim. I guess the absolute chaos of the show made my brain fire and have some kind of creative spastic connection.

Quality makes a good tattoo and quality makes a good shop. Happiness is success.

Many tattooists, I think, have a specific idea or philosophy behind their work. What would you say yours is? How would you describe a good tattoo or shop? How would you define success?

I don’t really have any kind of philosophy behind what I’m doing. It’s my job. I love every second of it and appreciate everything about being able to be expressive. There are amazing people I’ve met along the way, but to me, it’s just not this big philosophical kind of thing. You want a tattoo, you get a tattoo. They look cool, they mean this, they represent that. They’re pretty, shitty, artsy, and tough. Whatever the reason why someone gets a tattoo, its special to them. I don’t think artists should be jumping on the customers experience in order to gain a feeling of satisfaction or some kind of godlike status as a provider. They could have gone to anyone else. The artists in mention are the lucky ones that a customer chose them. Not the other way around in my opinion. Hey, I guess that’s a philosophy!

Quality makes a good tattoo and quality makes a good shop. Happiness is success.

You seem to have a very deep connection to nature. Why do you think it’s something that resonates with you? Would you consider yourself an eco-political artist?

I wouldn’t say I’m so much connected to nature as I actually just enjoy tattooing plants and flowers. Including organic subjects along with it makes for a very beautiful composition. Especially when working with the human body, you are able to flow with the muscular structure to accentuate the bodies natural and unnatural curves. I would definitely not consider myself an eco-political artist. Like any rational human being, I do believe we need to take better care of our planet and everything living on it, but I’m not trying to express that though my tattoos.

Can you talk about the tattoo community in Portland and what makes it different or special from the rest of the world? What would you say is your favorite place in the world?

The Portland tattoo community is special because of the unity it has. While, yes, there is plenty of drama and bad blood among some artists, as there is with any other cities. There just seems to be a lot more artists commingling and being friends than other cities I’ve experienced. It’s refreshing and I love being apart of it! I think my favorite place in the world is either Kauai, Hong Kong, or right here in Portland, Oregon.

Beyond tattooing/creating art, what is most important to you? What do you wish you had more time for?

Beyond tattooing and creating art the most important thing to me is my family and friends. My girlfriend Sarah is such a sweet and supportive person and our little pup Rambler is such a good boy. I just wish I had more time to spend with them!

Do you have any plans for 2019 that you’d like to share? Travel plans, collabs, projects, merch releases, etc?


I currently do not have any travel plans, but am thinking about maybe going to Hawaii in August and doing a few tattoos while I’m there. I am going to be starting a collaborative piece with my little buddy Jeff Tarinelli in April! Hopefully it will turn into a thing and we can make some more of these! I’ve been thinking about making more merch but I just don’t feel like the “merch kind of artist” so I never know what to make! 

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