Each piece is perfectly suited to its owner...each image wonderfully depicts something close to their heart. Deborah Genchi wields a tattoo machine as gracefully as a paintbrush or calligraphy pen; her work blends watercolor, illustration, and realism with an awe inspiring depth.
Kind enough to give us some insight into her process, gorgeous tattoos and working philosophy, Deborah Genchi spoke to us about how she became a tattoo artist, which masters of the craft inspire her and the incredible power of art.
Can you talk a bit about your artistic background? How did you get into tattooing, and is it always what you wanted to do?
I was born into a family of artists, where there are painters and portraitists uncles, my father always played the guitar and my grandparents used to draw with me, in the afternoons, after homework. Therefore I grew up fascinated by their arts and obviously I've been drawing since I was very young. I have not achieved academic artistic studies, my whole path is completely spontaneous and self-taught, based on my realistic sensitivity.
I approached the tattoo world 8 years ago, when I got tattooed for the first time and started tattooing 3 years later. Since I previously liked making realistic paintings and portraits on commission, I appreciated even more the idea of being able to create small works of art under the skin for people who asked me to represent their stories and deeper meanings.
Actually, I was studying Foreign Languages and Literatures, so I could not imagine that I would undertake this profession soon after, but I know that I could never give up on art, as it has always been my way of communicating and what I come back to after daily commitments.
How has your style developed over the years? What artists, art movements, books, or music inspires you to create?
I started tattooing blackworks, associating realistic or illustrative subjects with dotwork, but as soon as I started using colors I realized that I loved more making paintings on skin, so I rather found my pictorial vocation in tattooing than the portraiture one.
Having a deeply realistic mind, I found myself very close to Frida Kahlo, whom I have known for more than 12 years, as it was my uncles who told to me about her, because like her, as a child I drew the reality around me and everything it happened inside and outside myself, putting everything on canvas. So she has therefore been my artistic guide for a good many years, but I also deeply love the vividness of the colors of Van Gogh and the crazy dreamlike surrealism of Dalì.
They three are definitely my greatest inspirations, but every studio of every great artist in history has given me something.
In actuality, on the other hand, unlike what usually happens, I am not inspired by those who perform my own art, but by those who create works completely different from mine, such as Roberto Ferri, Italian painter, Jago, Italian sculptor, Apollonia Saintclair, erotic artist or several avant-garde or abstract tattooists. It is, in fact, what's different that attracts me and that opens my mind, pushing me to create ever more refined and meticulous subjects and going out more and more outside the box.
As books, I prefer esotericism, palm reading, Bukowski, Jodorowsky and everything that focuses more on the spirit, magic and psychology, that gives me that bit more sensitivity in the realization of the perfect subject for my clients. But the biggest inspiration is Nature.
All of your tattoos seem very personal to the client. What is the process like when people get a tattoo with you? How do you develop your designs?
I work a lot with my customers, I set up consultations, which are sometimes really confidential, in which they talk to me about their idea, the story or the meaning associated with the tattoo they would like to see under their skin. Then, based on all the main points, I draw by myself and far from everyone. I need concentration and listening to my feelings, remembering their emotions at the time of consultation. I consider myself very empathetic and I try to make subjects so that they are different from what is commonly seen, making them more conceptual, delicate but with very strong meanings. I never copy works already tattooed before. Everyone has the right to have a small or large personal tattoo to carry with them. I need every client to rely completely on my sensibility, not only artistic, but also from the point of view of symbolism, energy and human.
I feel like many artists have a philosophy or mission behind their work. Do you have one, and if so, what is it?
Yes, I believe that every true artist holds a philosophy behind every job. I see the tattoo as a talisman, like a portal that can keep us company or that can remind us of what it symbolizes, every day, that can take us back to time and learn from our experiences, as well as being of great visual embellishment for our temple body. Here, as an esthete I am, I believe that they can tell about us an ancient Japanese vase and make us unique and with even stronger personalities, but basing more on internal and personal feelings, I give much more value to what I said first.
Do you believe artists have a responsibility to the world? What do you think makes a good artist? How do you define success?
The artist is one who doesn't know to inspire others. The artist is a state of mind, not a job. I personally believe that anyone who makes art, and not just for profit, but that after having created for work, come home and also created for himself, is a person who tries to regenerate himself with his own energy, who write a daily diary, turning their feelings in drawings, music or sculptures. I believe that art, in all its forms, is pure energy and it's nice to see artists feeding on other artists, it's nice to see minds collaborate, unite perceptions and vibrations and see what comes out of it. I think that art is something immaterial, it is not tangible, because in my opinion it is not the end result of a work that should be appreciated, but all the internal process that pushed that artist to create that particular thing, that's the secret reading that each of us must do. This is what makes a good artist.
Success is a word that has been eradicated from its primordial meaning. Nowadays it is understood as a synonym of "fame" and "popularity", but I believe that success is what makes you happy after having tried something in which you believed and having achieved the desired result. It can be a day spent in a pleasant way with a more pretentious client and having satisfied him, it can be a successful painting better than expected, as well as obviously the achievement of a state of mind or work that gives you balance. But I think that there is never an end point, both in personal and working life, I think that it is always in constant growth, which is why I believe only in small daily successes.
From all the years you've been tattooing, what is your favorite tattoo moment or event that you'll never forget?
Well, surely the most beautiful moment I was at last BangBang tattoos in New York last year, when the experience was coming to an end and I had the opportunity to work alongside artists pleasantly discovered to be beautiful and incredibly humble people. I felt strong energy connections with people very different from me, but who seemed to have known for a lifetime. Each guest adds a piece in the mind and heart that no one can erase. Interacting with an artistic and social environment, it is all about giving and receiving.
Beyond tattoos, what are you really passionate about? What can you not live without? How do you spend your days off?
In my free time, in addition to always bringing work at home, I am a profound naturalist, I love nature, getting lost in a wood, in its silence, breathing oxygenated air, I love the sea and day by day I become active on going green and saving the planet.
I am a very active and energetic person and I practice different sports, I like to change often and try a little all the disciplines, both the most extreme ones like online hockey or crossfit to the most zen like yoga.
I also try to dedicate myself to the family, since most of the time I organize trips both for work and for personal interests, so I often stay abroad. I really couldn't live without traveling and knowing people, cultures, visiting new places and feeling new vibes.
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?
This year, more than others, I traveled a lot, for work and I have guests in London, at The Family Business Tattoo, in Amsterdam, at the tattoo studio of a very dear colleague Broken Teeth Club, both in July, and maybe a guest spot in New York in August. After the summer I will stay at my studio Debrart Tattoos in Bari, as I have a long waiting list of people in Italy to be tattooed and thankfully they are also coming from abroad. We will also be guesting many great artists in Bari, in my city so I will like to be present to meet them, others are already friends.
I plan to start a merchandising collaboration with a friend who makes his own line of t-shirts, Marco Michetti and if all goes well in the winter I should attend a presentation event for a new car to decorate and customize, if I succeed in to be in Italy at that time. For the next year I hope to be able to participate in conventions outside of Italy, like in London or Paris, to collaborate with artists that I respect and shoot more videos to make my personality known, behind the scenes, talk about me, do work shops and show my way of working, time permitting.
The plan of my life is to open one more tattoo shop in the north of Europe, but let's see where fate brings me first.
If everything goes well I will be happy to share it with those who believe in my art.