Language of the Night: Interview with Tattoo Artist Ori Vishnia

Language of the Night: Interview with Tattoo Artist Ori Vishnia

In this interview with tattoo artist Ori Vishnia we talk about the inspirations, emotions, process and more of creating expressive tattoos.

There are too few words sometimes to describe our feelings...they are fleeting, moving, organic things; we can't always tack them down with vocabulary. This is part of why art exists: to express the inexpressible. 

This is why Ori Vishnia's work is so important, so powerful. Illustrating moods, abstract thoughts, and ethereal memories, each tattoo is like a color personified, a state of mind made visible, or an ambience formed into a tangible being. Captured forever in graceful, mysterious waves of pigment, the artwork of Ori is emotional expression that deeply resonates with so many who are looking for a visual language that rings true. 

Can you talk a bit about your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?

I’ve always been drawing, making art in some form - but I never took myself seriously, art didn’t feel like a viable option for me. I was going to school for psychology when I started tattooing. I loved learning but hated the process of school, maybe I was looking for an outlet.

Everything about tattoos feels empowering to me. I’m not even sure if I was fully conscious of that when I started tattooing, but I knew I wanted to create some version of that feeling over and over again. It started with friends, in my living room – hand poking designs we would draw together. I did a lot of research on my own, watched other artists when I got my own tattoos… I didn’t think about becoming a tattooer, it was something that naturally found its way into my life.

I love anything that builds an entire universe, has new languages.

Your style is gorgeous...truly magical. Who are your artistic heroes (tattooers or not), and are there any books, films, or places that really feed your creativity?

There are so many tattooers I look up to and admire, too many to list honestly. People who are pushing the boundaries with what tattooing can mean, creating pieces that feel like some other form of art entirely – that kind of work excites me and thankfully there’s a lot of that right now. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite artists, he was writing books for kids that didn’t condescend or belittle, he was creating worlds out of humor and fantasy in a way you don’t see very often. I was a huge dork growing up (still am), Lord of the Rings had a huge influence on me, both the books and the movies. I love anything that builds an entire universe, has new languages. Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my current obsessions, she is a master at world building.

Your tattoos seem to me to be very symbolic, powerful, and transformative. Can you talk about your process with your clients, and how each piece is conceived?

Wow, thanks! My tattoos come from my sketchbooks, I draw all the time. Sometimes photographs aren’t enough and a feeling can only be captured on paper. I used to write a lot, I think it’s starting to creep back into my tattoos. As far as the actual tattoo process goes - I hand over my books, some of them full and some with only a handful of doodles. Sometimes I’ll sit down with a client and we will talk about combining different elements, or if they get excited about a certain concept or placement I might draw up something new on the spot. It’s meant to be an open conversation, I want my tattoos to feel good more than anything.

The process of tattooing is just as much a part of the tattoo as the end result, I want the entire experience to feel right.

Many tattooists, I think, have a specific idea, mission, or philosophy behind their work. What would you say yours is? 

Tattooing is such an intimate process - how often do you get to sit with a stranger for over an hour and share bits of yourself? It’s such a strange art medium that has been happening since humans have been around. I love it, it’s special to be able to do it every day. The process of tattooing is just as much a part of the tattoo as the end result, I want the entire experience to feel right. That has always been the most exciting to me about tattoos, from the beginning I loved the collaborative process. My goal is for people to walk away with an experience they feel like they had a part in, and a tattoo they are stoked about.

There seems to be a concept of dreams, renewal, and nature within your work...can you perhaps describe some of the designs and their meanings within your pieces?

I don’t prescribe meanings to my tattoos, at least not intentionally.  I love that someone can look at my work and come up with 5 different stories behind what they see, I think that’s what art is supposed to do. I will say that I think all my tattoos come from the same world, all the creatures and plants I draw definitely inhabit some realm together, speak the same language, talk to each other. Beyond that, I don’t know.

Beyond art and tattoos, what are you really passionate about? What can you not live without? What would you be doing if you weren’t tattooing?

Books, music, being outside, the sun. A great day is one where I can read in a patch of grass somewhere, hang out with my friends in the evening – swim somewhere if it’s warm enough. Music is very important to me, I’m not musically talented in any way but I’m not sure how I would exist without it - I’ll sit and make playlists for hours, and I listen to pretty much everything. If I wasn’t tattooing I think I’d be in school studying some kind of biology, ideally doing field work – I might still do that one day.

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Do you have any travel plans, projects, collabs, merch, etc. coming up that you’d like to share? Any hopes for this year or the next?

Thinking about Chicago in August! And probably a couple of mini trips in the fall around the states. I recently bought a car and am excited to have the freedom of exploring places I haven’t been in before. I’ll also be visiting my family in Israel in the winter (I’ll be tattooing in Tel Aviv for a little bit, no dates yet though!) I do have some exciting projects coming up, but I’m not ready to share those just yet... Looking forward to traveling, meeting new people, and expanding my art practice in as many ways as I can. 

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