October 12, 2017
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
Stefano Boetti Stizzo, born in Milan, 1978.
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I grew up close to Milan, in a populous town. I discovered punk music and started to fully live inside it. I was the drummer in a band and traveled around Europe playing shows.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
I currently work in my own shop, called Best of Times Tattoo. I opened it in 2009. Before that, I worked in different shops—first outside the city and later in downtown Milan, where I moved in 2002.
How long have you been tattooing?
I started as an apprentice in 1999 and made my first tattoos at the end of that year.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and in what style did you initially learn how to tattoo?
I’ve always been in love with drawing; since I was a child, I loved to draw everything.
During high school, I discovered the tattoo world and tattoo art. I fell in love immediately. Especially with work that had solid lines and solid colors—that was exactly the way I loved to draw. Traditional tattoos and Japanese traditional were my first inspiration.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
The apprenticeship process was very different 20 years ago. It was very hard to buy tattoo equipment. There were no plastic tubes, and we had to make and sterilize needles by ourselves.
Doing the needles was the first task assigned to me at my first shop. It’s very hard work and, because of that, I think it was a good way to measure whether people really loved the job and were committed to it, or if they would surrender at the first obstacle.
You are a self-taught artist. How did you apply that work ethic as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
I love everything about tattoo techniques: needles, drawings, and setting up machines. At the beginning of my career I had no customers, so I spent my time doing just that—especially developing an understanding of tattoo machines and how to set them up.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
I started doing bold traditional, influenced by classic figures like Bert Grimm and Owen Jensen. Every month, I’d look at my past work and find it boring: I always wanted to develop new work. I studied all the master tattooers and then began to study everything about art. Classic paintings, vintage postcards, nautical representations—these are my inspiration every time. I aim for a bit of realism within a traditional tattoo aesthetic, which could be described as ‘neoclassic traditional.’
Have you had or do you have plans to take on apprentices?
I have had some apprentices, but those experiences were not great for me. What I expect from them is what I’d done in my work as an apprentice. They have everything now—things that I only had in my dreams when I began to tattoo. And they cannot understand how lucky they are. Of all the apprentices I had, only one makes me proud now.
What do you look for in a shop?
I prefer seriousness, commitment, constancy.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
Yes, I love cars—especially Italian products. Alfa Romeo in particular. I own some and I used to drive them in a club with my friends.
What inspires you generally?
Beauty and love. I love dreaming and drawing.
Where can we find your work online? What are your usernames on social media?
You can find me on Instagram as @stizzo_bestoftimes. I put pictures up every day!
Are any other forms of media, traditional or digital, important to your work?
I think that this job is 100% craftsmanship. I love to do it in an analog way. I love drawing with pen on the skin when I can, or drawing on the spot in front of my customers.
Is traveling important to your work as a tattooist? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
Traveling is very important! I started doing conventions in California in 2003. I’ve done a lot of them and every time those trips prove important for my knowledge of tattoo art. Traveling let me work closely with my favorite artists, so I was able to understand the different ways that each artist worked.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
To keep the spirit of tattoo art alive—without electronic influences or easy and reductive ways of learning the craft. Because there is no easy way to do it! There is only perseverance.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
I think the fact that our tattoo world is becoming more of a ‘tattoo business’ doesn’t help our arts. Anyway, it doesn’t matter to me. I work in my own way because it makes me happy. I want to employ and work with people that really understand tattooing, and put their love and passion behind it.
Interview Neoclassical TTTism Issue 1