via Dazed Digital
Madame Buraka is something of an enigma in the tattoo world. If her job wasn’t to permanently mark someone’s skin with her signature style of tattooing then you’d never really know that she was ever here at all. Constantly on the move, her Instagram – where she goes by the moniker MADAME BURAKA (@burakatattooflash) – is her tattoo studio. It’s there that she takes appointments and shares her flash book (the book you liaise with before deciding on a design). Her cult-like following track her as she travels the world and, because of this, she’s able to book up any cancellations within hours.
Born in Latvia and raised in Germany, Buraka began tattooing just three years ago, at 23, when she was studying for a Communication Design degree in Barcelona and staying with a tattooist friend because her loan hadn’t come through. Inspired by some graffiti kids she had met, she began to draw and lent a selection of illustrations to the friend’s flash book before realising the demand for them and deciding to give it a shot herself. The first thing she tattooed was a palm tree and from that day – she says – she hasn’t stopped… and neither have her clients.
When we meet on a rainy day, in London’s Camberwell, Buraka has no visible tattoos, is wrapped in a Nike jacket and has her blonde hair scraped back into a pony tale with gold sunglasses perched on her head.
The first thing you notice about Buraka is her energy. A necessity, perhaps, to keep up with her globe-trotting lifestyle where she’s inked everyone from New York to Italy, London and Paris. She’s also infectious, passionate and opinionated, and we quickly bond over broken nails and fuckboys, and how tattooing can be cathartic – giving me insight into how her mind works, shared below.
You don’t work out of a tattoo studio.
Madame Buraka: No, I am like a travel tattooist – sometimes I am staying three months and sometimes I just get bored and move on.
Where are you doing them now you’re in London?
Madame Buraka: I bring people to my room in a very comfortable, private space and work there in my bubble. I try to make the possibility for people to enter into my world and if you work in a studio you mostly have some other people in your bubble which aren’t belonging to your world.
You said your work is quite personal so I guess having that space is important?
Madame Buraka: Exactly, but also when I travel sometimes I just set up in a kitchen with my friends or have a gallery space in Paris. Or my friend runs like a kind of screen print company and he has a little back room and I bring people there. I can set up everywhere. For example, in 2014, I went to the MoMA book fair in New York and I met this guy who was curating it and he was like “if you want to do it and do tattoos here, do it”. It is not legal so if the police or security come then you just close up. So I was at the MoMA book fair when I was like 24-years-old and tattooing people and having like 4,000 visitors coming (to the fair) everyday, and I was like how is this to touch the public – it is like public sex, you feel so weird.
You have a lot of pressure on you.
Madame Buraka: Yeah a lot! I know, with like 4,000 eyes watching me – it was crazy.
When did you start tattooing?
Madame Buraka: I started tattooing very unexpectedly. At 20, I was studying Communication Design in Germany and I was very bored.