Since deciding that a traditional apprenticeship and style of learning was not for her, Alba Rey has travelled the world, developing her own style in relation to her experimental work in photography and painting with Indian ink. Her elegant line work accompanies soft shading to create striking depictions of human forms alongside abstracted concepts.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
My name is Alba, born in Spain in 1992.
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I grew up in a family of artisans in south-east Spain in a city call Valencia.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
I´m based in Berlin in Pechschwarz tattoo studio.
How long have you been tattooing?
I started an apprenticeship at the end of 2015, but I started tattooing on my own in 2016. So around three years.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
It had always been in the back of my head. I needed to experiment a bit with other arts to finally realise that it was my passion. Back then, I was living in London and I started getting tattooed by people I looked up to and ended up doing a few apprenticeships with some great artists. I did half a year in a studio and half a year in an other one. After that, I realised that the traditional way of learning was not made for me, and I started to tattoo on my own.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
I got a really good basic training in my apprenticeships. I learned a lot about the tattoo industry and I am grateful for the opportunity that I got, even though those were traditional apprenticeships and I did not agree with many things. With time, I understood that I'm a self-taught person and it is quite essential for me to feel free.
My first years of working in a tattoo studio was at Unikat Berlin. They always supported me with my ideas and trusted me. I found myself as an artist, thanks to the artistic freedom that they allowed me. In my opinion, that was the real training.
Have you previously studied art in an institutional setting? If so, what level of training did you reach and in what disciplines?
I studied pattern making and fashion back in Spain. Later on, I moved to London with the idea to study fashion design. Unfortunately, my family could not provide me with the economic support for a higher education. I ended up doing many short courses about fashion, photography, and art direction. I also worked for free in many projects just to practice and learn. Even though this transition was essential for me to reach the place I am now, I felt really unhappy about the fashion industry. I truly love fashion. I loved making patterns, working with my hands, and all the creative process that goes with this. It would have been the perfect job for me 80 years ago; but the current fashion industry is not for me. I do not feel comfortable with fast fashion and the money driven industry. I was also concerned with the conditions of the workers. Equality and sustainability are very important to me. It was just not my place. In the tattoo industry I feel more free–I like to be independent of big corporations.
Did that training help as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
I think that any artistic education helps. You train your eyes.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
Technically, I started imitating my way of painting. I always painted with Indian ink and I was always interested in subjects of human figures mixed with abstract concepts. My influences come from contemporary art and experimental photography. I am very inspired by the surrealist movement of the 1930s with artists like Man Ray, Magritte, Dali, Lee Miller, Claude Cahun and Dora Maar. The Vienna Secession movement is also a great source of inspiration, with artists like Gustav Klimt. I also love the expressionist painter Egon Schiele. Art Nouveau and Art Deco are also two currents of art from which I draw a lot of ideas.
What do you look for in a shop?
I look for support and artistic trust. I want to work around kind humans.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
Analog photography is one of my biggest passions. At the moment, I am experimenting a lot in the dark room and it is becoming a big thing for me. I also paint quite often.
What inspires you generally?
Melancholy and romanticism, always in a modern and surrealistic way.
Are any other forms of media, traditional or digital, important to your work?
I mostly create my designs on digital media, but I also paint a lot with Indian ink.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
Traveling is always very energizing and it fuels my creativity through all the different individuals that I meet–many incredible people. It is always a great experience and it makes me improve and learn a lot. I love to discover new studios, learn different ways of working, and see new designs. In November I will be back to Paris.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
The tattoo industry is becoming more artistic and individual. I feel that everyday, it is becoming harder to find your artistic identity while creating something new and interesting.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
I would love to think that it will become even more artistic, creating new ways of expression and breaking more barriers.