MADRID . SPAIN

Violeta Arús: for the love of ink

Violeta Arús is a tattoo artist. Around 25 years old and dressed head to toe in black, her head is shaved and she wears natural makeup. Funny, open and very chatty, her style and lifestyle is urban, casual, underground and independent. Violeta’s house doubles as a studio, where people come for her minimalist linework and dotwork and her fantastical and surreal inkings.

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Violeta Arús

For the love of ink

Welcoming Roam into her home where she lives with her roommate and her black cat, she tells us how lucky she is to have found this place. Right next to Gran Vía (the most crowded and frequented street in Madrid), the house is an old, reformed building with beautiful, wide windows and an enviable location. Inside it is neutral, clean and simple, with much of the furniture repurposed from the streets.

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We see Violeta as an artist rather than an executor and she agrees, ‘I think that is the best way to work. When you start your own business, it is important to know that offering something new works well’.

People go to Violeta because they like her style – they trust that she’ll ink something great on their flesh – but not all tattoo artists work in this way. Acknowledging that simply tattooing whatever people ask for is one way of working, she says she did not want that; she didn’t want to be ‘just another one’. ‘I think it’s cooler to get them away from their first idea and offer them something different, not what everyone has. I think that refusing to be commanded is what made me grow fast as a business’, she continues.

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Tattooing now for around two-and-a-half years, Violeta has embraced the European technique of ‘illustrating with pointillism, detail, weaves’ and adapted this to her style of ‘daydreaming, the unconsciousness, the game of creating that is logical but at the same time it is not… A bit crazy!’ Her approach has developed partly by virtue of saying no. She is firm on this point, ‘I’ve said no many times, I tell them politely that it’s not my job and explain why. If they want to innovate with me I meet them and we work together, but if the idea is very clear in their mind I recommend that they contact another tattoo artist.’ Her style is also ever evolving and the more she works the more she learns about her inking inclinations, ‘little by little I am finding what I like most in tattooing’.

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So, how did this young, strong-minded artist end up tattooing next to Gran Vía? ‘Obviously being a tattoo artist is not something you dream of becoming when you’re young’, she says, ‘No little girl ever said: “When I grow up I want to be a tattoo artist!” Violeta first tried her hand at fashion design which initially seemed to satisfy her love of drawing, her eye for detail, her tendency to be meticulous and accurate, yet, she felt that she didn’t fit in and though she liked fashion it was not her ‘place’. She left home and university and, wondering what to do next, she made a list of things that were important to her in a job. On her list she wrote, ‘be my own boss, my own schedules, related to drawing’, but nothing leapt out until she was given a ‘really basic and cheap’ tattoo kit by a friend because he loved her sketches – “I want to teach you to do tattoos, because I want you to tattoo me”, he said. She became fascinated by the craft and saved up enough money to buy good equipment before ‘doing tiny tattoos to my friends to practice’. One day her flatmate told her the time had come, she was ‘ready to do bigger tattoos’, and it soon became clear that being a tattoo artist could tick off the items on her list and allow her a freedom that other jobs don’t have – it could be a career. ‘The evolution was actually really fast’, she says, ‘from my friends I passed to the friends of my friends… I don’t even know how it’s grown’.

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Born in Ibiza, Violeta has lived in Madrid for 14 years and counts herself as a Madrileña, yet she has spent years traveling to many places and likes to keep things open. ‘I like Madrid’, she says, ‘But I like to do whatever comes, I don’t plan… I do not know where I will end up, but for now I am happy in Madrid.’ It seems that she is in the right place at the right time, a time when, according to Violeta, ‘a much more creative face of Madrid is emerging’. Living in the beating heart of the city she can see that, ‘there are lots of people doing new things that are really cool, this is where things are happening and where different people are. The centre chose me to live in it’, she laughs, ‘this is where everything I like is’. Like her city Violeta’s future seems to be filled with positivity, it’s free and open; she and her budding business will go wherever her dreams take her. ‘I have many ideas in mind’, she enthuses, ‘I prefer not to close my options. On the one hand I’d love to try a co-working space with more creative people, because I am alone here with my cat I miss the simple things like lighting up a cigarette with someone.’ Collaborating with others is something that, in theory, she is willing to pursue and Violeta has in the past done tattoos from other illustrators, ‘I think those kinds of things are very enriching’, she says. ‘Although I like to design, so in a way it would be taking the fun part of my job. I like to create the idea, sketch it, and then make it happen. So, for now, I can’t see the way to collaborate with other people.’

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Her other big idea is more ethereal and wonderful. She evolved into a tattoo artist not just because she found something that suited her style and requirements, but also because she is ‘able to contribute something to the people’, which she finds very rewarding. She muses, ‘There’s a tattoo artist in Japan who lives in a far-off small town, in an old Japanese-style house with amazing views. And people go there just for the experience, even if it takes them a two-hour ride by train’. This blends perfectly with her belief that ‘tattoos also have a therapeutic aspect, that ‘people who come for a tattoo are at a particular time of their lives and they need to tell themselves something’. Violeta has vision, she is not limited but liberated by her craft, she can see beyond it – ‘it would be charming to offer people a place where I would tattoo them, and they would come all the way to this place as a pilgrimage.’

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