Martin Jahn has developed his skills by working at some of the best tattoo studios in Germany and around the world. His tattoos are both striking and poetic, marrying soft shading with elegant line work and intensely rich blackwork. Jahn draws influence from both nature and architecture, harmonizing this dichotomy through its placement on the body.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
Martin Jahn. I was born in Pirna, Germany on June 5th,1988.
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I grew up in an artistic family in a small town of East Germany. Almost everyone in my family was or is a painter, musician, or both.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
Right now, I am about to set up my own atelier which will open pretty soon. Previously, I have worked at AKA Berlin, Noia Berlin, and Erntezeit Tätowierungen. I had the best times ever at all of those places.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
When I was a kid, around eight years old, I always wanted to have the same tattoos as Axl Rose. In general I’d always wanted to be tattooed, but he was the one. So it started quite early. I just got a gun and started. That was it.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
I taught myself the basics, but obviously I learned so much more as soon as I started at AKA. The things you see, you get told and shown—you just get it all, and it never ends. I’m so grateful for all the people who pushed me and took me by the hand. Too many names, too many wonderful people.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
I don’t have ‘a style' necessarily. I draw how I am able to draw and I just keep trying to develop it. I like aesthetics and weirdness.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
It was always BMX and I still ride from time to time. If I would call hanging with friends, having dinners, and listening to music an actual hobby then something is probably wrong— although of course I love doing those things.
What inspires you generally?
Architecture and nature—both things are really strong but still stand in such a big contrast to each other. I love contrasts if they fit, if that makes sense. I love Bauhaus, but I’m not too specific about the eras I am interested in. My grandfather was an architect back in the day and I always looked up to him and what he was able to create. On the other hand, I grew up in the countryside and was surrounded by nature my whole childhood. Somehow, this created a really beautiful connection in my head I guess.
"For one thing, all the people you meet teach you something or share something with you. Every studio has its own energies, different supplies, and so on. When I travel I just learn, learn, learn."
Are any other forms of media, traditional or digital, important to your work?
Photography, graffiti, and paintings.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
Mostly I’ve been traveling for work: Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, London, New York (which I still have a big crush on). All beautiful cities, too many stories, good, bad, or funny. Traveling has had a big influence on my approach to tattooing. For one thing, all the people you meet teach you something or share something with you. Every studio has its own energies, different supplies, and so on. When I travel I just learn, learn, learn.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
Never stop. Don’t take breaks. Don’t get lazy. Do not have an ego.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
I've got absolutely no idea, and that is fucking exciting.