With a passion for illustrative and detailed black work, we bring you Kat Richter as our featured Tattoo Artist. Get to know more about her, her work and her journey here.
Brought to you by Zappa.
Name: Katharina Richter
Shop: Obsidian Black Tattoos
Years Tattooing: 3
Tattoo style: Black work, Illustrative, Detail.
Hourly rate: I charge per piece. Starting price is R500 and goes up depending on size and detail
Tell us about your journey into becoming a full time tattoo artist?
I started working in the industry back in 2013, when I was 16, in a little Studio on Florida road.I was still in school, so I dedicated every weekend to work – I’d go in, do designs, handle the clients, observe the other artists working there, and basically just did a lot of admin.A year later, We had to do work experience for a project in Grade 11, and I chose to do these three days at a different Studio. I ended up staying at said Studio for the next 3 years, coming in on the weekends, doing admin, designing and observing.
The first year out of school was an exciting one, as I could then finally work full time and eventually start tattooing.My final year at this Studio is when I started my journey properly, by actually tattooing clients, but unfortunately my sister became sick, and so my career became a very ‘on and off’ situation, as I was dealing with personal matters.I left that Studio, with the aim of finding a new place to work and grow, but ended up opening my own, private Studio, in December 2017.I slowly started establishing my client base, got to practice more and improve my skills and so my journey had started once again.
What first attracted you to the trade?
I was a little rebel, in an incredibly conservative school, so anything that went against their system immediately attracted me towards it – including tattoos.In all honesty, it wasn’t even my idea to become a tattoo artist. I was just that kid in school who was constantly drawing – including drawing on myself, so it was actually my classmates who brought up the idea by asking “why don’t you become a tattoo artist?”, which lead me to thinking about the trade, doing some research on it and falling in love with it.
I loved the idea of permanently adding your artwork to someone’s body/ life. He/ she is a walking canvas that is constantly showing off your work. It’s a form of art, expression, and self identification.Art can be rather lonesome – but not with tattooing! You’re always dealing with clients, conversing with them, making sure that you’re on the same page regarding the design, brainstorming and sharing stories. What’s not to love about the industry!?
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
Highlights would definitely include the traveling aspect of the career. You can take your work anywhere in the world. I often travel to Cape Town and Johannesburg and am hoping to take that overseas soon.
Last year I attended the SA Tattoo Convention for the first time – there I got to see and experience brilliant work from both local and international artists. It was definitely a day to remember!
Other highlight would definitely include opportunities that arise in the industry – job offers, travel, large scale projects, clients who give you free reign and so on. There’s so much to look forward to and to be thankful for in this career.
How would you best explain the experience of tattooing a client for the first time?
The first time I ever tattooed someone was possibly the most nerve-wrecking experience of my life. My hands were shaking, my mind was racing and I just felt like all eyes were on me. It took me a few months, and a few clients, to get beyond the crippling fear I would experience, before tattooing someone.
How would you rate and compare the tattoo artists in South Africa to some of the best artists from around the world?
I would never compare. Each and every artist has their own style and techniques, and depending on where you’re from and what you’ve been exposed to throughout your life, you have different influences, interests and perspectives, which I believe would heavily influence your art.
We have some absolutely incredible artists in SA, whose standards of work is mind blowing, and each year I find more! We have so much potential in SA and we’re always seeing many of our great artists, taking their work overseas.
If you could have the opportunity to guest work in any international shop, which would it be and why?
Tenderfoot Studio, in Brooklyn, NYC. If you could see the images of this studio and the work that comes out of it, you would understand why. It’s beautiful and it speaks to me 100%. Total Kat environment – plants everywhere, a beautiful, bright and sunny Studio.
Which local and international artists inspire you?
Locally would definitely be Tanya Swemmer (@ladylucktattooer) – her work is neat, clean, crisp and shows an array of incredible skill, influences and passion. It’s perfectly balanced.
Anna-Claire Travers (@tigertitz) would be my other local choice. Personally I am the biggest fan and have my entire back done by her. Her lines are crisp, her solid work is.. well, solid, and her design work.. oh my. I have so much love for her art – it’s original, it’s bold, it’s neat, it’s Anna. You can spot it from a mile away and I love and appreciate that in art. To me, there’s so much ‘Durban’ influence in her work – the South African aspect, the cultures, traditions, patterns, animals, etc. Anna has however moved to London, where she is working at Dharma Tattoo.
Regarding international artists, I would go with Pony Reinhardt (@freeorgy). This is another artist, whose work you could spot from a mile away. Her design work, composition and attention to detail is impeccable. She primarily works with nature concepts – a lot of botanicals, fossils, animals, skeletons, shells, cosmos, trees and so on. Often, there’s is also a story/ reasoning behind each composition and placement, as well as a lot of knowledge, love and passion behind her work. I absolutely adore this, as these are themes that I love to work and surround myself with. It’s truly inspiring to my work.
I also enjoy Michele Volpi (_mfox). He does meticulous, fine, delicate, detailed work, that’s almost ‘encyclopaedia textbook illustration’ inspired. I love his concepts, illustrations and work – it’s definitely the style I’ve been wanting to take my work towards for a while now, so it’s truly inspiring to view his work.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy doing the most and why?
It’s always black work. I love to do esoteric inspired pieces, illustrative pieces, encyclopaedia textbook illustration inspired pieces.. anything with detail and/ or plants is just up my alley. Usually I just have the outline/ concept sketch and I free-hand all the detail and shading in, as I work, to create an original piece and allow a form of artists freedom.
How do you like to make sure you keep progressing as an artist?
I’m always following other artist’s work and their progress, trying to learn as much as I can from everyone I come across. It’s important to stay inspired. I experiment with as many art forms as I can – from painting to sketching, digital illustrations, all the way to pottery, to keep me busy and to keep my mind open to other art forms, as well as channeling creative energy and not being stuck with only one form of art (tattooing).
What are some of the weirdest requests you’ve received?
I honestly wouldn’t see any of the requests I have received as weird. I guess the weird request is still in the stars, waiting for the right moment.
How would you best describe the feeling or pain of getting tattooed?
That’s a tough question, as everyone is different. Everyone takes and describes the pain differently is certain areas.
Personally – lines can be like little cat scratches and shading can feel ‘hot’ and burn-y. Some sting, some don’t. Every area of the body is different. Sometimes it can even feel pleasant.
For anyone wanting to book an appointment with you, what’s the next step?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me directly on Instagram – @kat_r_art.
Tattoos by Kat Richter
Photos by Ballyhoo Agency.