Stina Sardinha may not be a name you’re well acquainted with, but it should be. Given how long she’s been tattooing, it?s quite surprising that she doesn’t have one preferred “style” when it comes to tattooing. With talent a decade in the making, it’s no wonder this rising star has started to attract some well-deserved attention from the tattooing world.
TattooSnob: Let’s get the most generic question out of the way. Tell us a little about yourself!
Stina Sardinha: Well, I’m a tattooist in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, it’s about an hour from Boston. I work with a great bunch of guys including my husband, James. I’ve been tattooing for about 10 years now, which is also how long I’ve been vegan. I’ve recently become a mother, which is the most amazing thing in the world.
TS: It seems like most artists have a point at which everything “came together” for them. When that was for you?
Stina: I think most of us have a few times it all comes together and a few times it all falls apart.
Probably the biggest “come together” point was a few years ago when my friend, Shaun, was opening a new studio. I had just come out of a 3 year relationship, quit my job at a street shop because I couldn’t stand the owners anymore, and was kind of traveling around trying to plan a path. Shaun offered for me to work with him until I decided what to do with myself. Obviously, I decided to stay. The group of people we have is pretty awesome and we all bounce off of each other, learn new things from and teach each other. Once I was in a healthy atmosphere that allowed me to grow as an artist, I started putting a lot more effort in.
TS: Your shop’s website states that you are able to tattoo in a wide array of styles; your portfolio is certainly representative of that. Is that because you prefer to tattoo in as many different ways as possible or is it based off demands of your clientele?
Stina: Ha! When you live in New Hampshire you kind of have to be more flexible. Most people don’t even know that a tattoo can have more than a hand scrawled name and a Cherry Creek rose. So not only are you a little more limited, but you have to have the charisma to help a person expand their view of tattoos. You have to get pretty creative to be able to twist a simple zodiac or kid tattoo into something you’d be stoked to show off as a portfolio piece. However, I do like to try new things and explore new techniques. I always see things other tattooers have done and think, “How can I emulate that technique in my own work?”
Stina: Plants, animals, people… and I like to stick to a range of semi-realistic to traditional. I won’t tattoo without lines unless it’s shaded enough to hold up. I don’t need every tattoo to look like it’s traditional, but I don’t want to see my tattoo come back in 5 years faded and without clarity.
TS: You obviously have a lot of requests for work. What’s the best way for someone to get in touch with you? How long can a client expect to wait before being able to get an appointment with you?
Stina: Best bet is to email me: Stinasard@gmail.com. It depends on the time of year, how cool the tattoo is and how complex. It might range a couple of months or more…
TS: I hate to bring up the whole “being a female in the tattoo industry” thing, but I have a legitimate question on the topic. As a woman, do you feel that you’re approached with different work that customers wouldn’t normally have a male tattooer do?
Stina: Absolutely! This is a conversation I have with the guys all of the time, haha. I have a lot of women who feel more comfortable with me, yes. That means I end up with a ton of women who want children/name based tattoos or really delicate, feminine tattoos. It’s kind of funny because I never cared for flower art before, but after you tattoo a few thousand flowers you start to get pretty good.
The other thing I get more of is dudes who want control. Some people see a woman as easier to boss around, so I get a lot of control freaks. “Move this leaf 2 millimeters to the left, this petal needs to have a tiny curve, and this line should be a little more straight” or, “I need you to match the color of this water to this swatch I’ve brought and make sure it’s exact.” Some guys think it makes them seem smarter, or better if they can tell you what to do. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell those people apart from regular people until you’ve done the drawing and are about to do the tattoo.
TS: Is there one tattoo you’ve done that you’d consider a personal favorite?
Stina: Probably not a favorite exactly. Since our styles kind of change and evolve all of the time, it’s easy to look back and see things you’d do differently in each tattoo. That being said, I do really like the Lady Stobbs tattoo and also the Neutral Milk Hotel song Illustration that I did on my husband. For some reason, I don’t have the best photo of that one, but it had a lot of different elements.
TS: Let’s talk about the last time you were tattooed – who did it, and what was it?
Stina: Well, since I was pregnant I haven’t been tattooed in over a year. The last time I got tattooed was by Nick Baxter. He had recently moved to Texas and was coming up for the Paradise Tattoo Gathering convention. For some reason we decided to finish the 8 hours or so that I had left on my sleeve in one day.
Unfortunately, the only parts we had left were the underarm, my elbow and the top of my shoulder. It’s all sorts of animals, vivisection and butchery. I have at least one old person a week tell me its beautiful. At about 7 hours into the tattoo I was pretty much crazy. I was biting my own hand; babbling maniacally and writhing around like a snake while sweating all over Nick. Later, Nick sent me a picture of us laughing, which I don’t recall one bit.
TS: Are there any artists out there you’d like to be tattooed by, space and time permitting of course?
Stina: Certainly–there are some amazing people out there! Seth Wood, Chris Conn, Lars Uwe, Shige, Russ Abbott, Sabine Gaffron, Uncle Allan and Jeff Gogue. Annnnddd probably like 10 other people I’ve forgotten.
TS: What are some of your favorite tattoo conventions to attend/work at? Do you have any you specifically like to work, or any new ones you’ll be checking out this year?
Stina: I haven’t done a lot of conventions. They’re a lot of work and since I have a new baby, I’m not up for traveling too far away this year. I’ll probably do the Manchester and possibly the Boston convention.
TS: With joke tattoos on the rise, I’m sure you’ve done at least a handful. Tell us about some of the more humorous ones you’ve done.
Stina: Well, I’ve probably done more funny tattoos that are supposed to be serious, than joke tattoos. I would say “Kiss me, I’m Irish” with a smiley face on a penis kinda tops my list. During our conversation I asked if he was afraid that this tattoo would be a deal breaker. He said that no, it wouldn’t be and in fact would be quite popular with the ladies. Another penis tattoo was on a guy who had the same name as a cartoon character so he had that cartoon done on the tip of his penis.
I also had a young girl a few years ago who insisted on getting JC Chasez tattooed on her wrist. She told me that when he saw her (somehow) standing in the huge crowd at his next Backstreet Boys concert, she would show him the tattoo and he would truly see that she was his soul mate and he would drag her onto the stage and eventually marry her. Seriously.
I just don’t think joke tattoos are big in New Hampshire, yet… but with these sort of serious tattoos, I’m not sure I need anymore humor in my work life.
TS: So you’re a full-time tattooer & a mom – what else do you have going on?
Stina: Oh geeze. Well this year I’m working on a bunch of paintings that will eventually go to an art show, but no promises yet. Our entire studio does charity events every year. Last year we did tattoos for $30-$70 with the proceeds going to an abused dog that needed an amputation. With only 3 of us working, we made 3,000 dollars in one long day. We’re not sure what we’re going to do this year. Ideas anyone?