Alina Ruda joined tattoo collective Future Berlin in 2018, and has since experienced a vibrant creative progression. As someone who has always drawn, Ruda turned to tattooing and was disciplined in teaching herself. Her strikingly simple designs are at once fierce and humorous.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
My name is Alina Ruda. I was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1992
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I grew up in a place of my birth Odessa–a city on the coast of the Black Sea with a port. In the days of post–soviet Ukraine there were some harsh times there. Living in this port city, it was always inspiring to see boats leaving for unknown lands. I think I had a kind of normal childhood with loving but busy parents (who were working hard to provide for us), going to school and having normal friends in the crazy Ukrainian 90’s.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
Now I am part of tattoo collective Future Berlin. Since April 2019, we have had a studio located in Berlin, Germany, which we moved to from a private space. I joined this group of amazing artists in the summer of 2018. My work has exploded in new dimensions since I first worked guesting at Future Berlin.
When I started to try tattooing I was living in the Ukraine. When I started I was working for a pretty long time on my own at my private space in Odessa. Then, for around two years, I was working in a private tattoo space that my best friend and I made for ourselves in Odessa. I then moved out of Ukraine for the first time and was working in the most cozy shop in Tel Aviv called Lev Tattoos, which had a very contemporary approach to tattooing. After living for eight months in Israel I moved to Berlin.
How long have you been tattooing?
I’ve been doing tattoos since 2014. The work was not always regular and during the first year it was more like a hobby when I was just practicing on friends. But over the next few years, pretty quickly it became one of the main things I put my attention to.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
I always was passionate to draw and dream how I might survive as an artist in the modern world. So mostly before tattooing I was drawing a lot, while looking for a meaningful purpose at the same time. Since being teenager I was into different underground music scenes and tattoo culture was always embedded in this. I tried tattooing once and that was it, I decided to learn. At the start, I was inspired by what was happening with the appearance of black line tattoos as a powerful medium in the tattoo world. I was learning by myself, just trying to create something I liked on the skin. My work from the beginning was mostly black tattoos. I was always trying to improve my individual style and to not be afraid to experiment.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
I was never trained through an apprenticeship. It was mostly self-education, and the sharing of experiences from the tattoo community; any advice I could get from there. Generally, the circumstance of my training was tattooing my friends in my room. The few times I tattooed myself, it helped a lot to figure out aspects of the process. I was watching other people who were working at home and built a place for myself where I could also tattoo at home. We had a lot of fun and I got some practice. I started trying to take nice pictures and post on social media, which is when I started to get more work, and from that it became more than a hobby.
What was the biggest thing you learnt when teaching yourself to tattoo?
I think it is a lot about concentration and discipline. Basically, I think I proved a lot my skills in drawing and design through tattooing. I also developed communication skills. Tattooing in some way makes you closer to people.
Have you previously studied art in an institutional setting? If so, what level of training did you reach and in what disciplines?
I never studied art in institutions. After school I went to university to study philosophy. I studied art only from a historical point of view and studied theoretical understandings in institution.
But meanwhile, I was trying to create drawings for friends who were in bands, designing their album covers or party posters. At this time, I was using Wacom tablet more than traditional materials for drawing.
Did that training help as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
No, I don’t think so, but maybe my studies helped me to be more concentrated and focused on self-education.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
Firstly, I was looking into more detailed blackwork pieces. Very quickly, I realized that I wanted to find simpler, and at the same time stronger, ways to express ideas on skin. I was constantly researching and experimenting for a long time, slowly coming to find more clarity in my drawings. I always worked to have some simplicity in my designs, whilst keeping the meaning in the image the essential part of the design.
A big creative push and confidence in my work came to me after I joined the Future Berlin crew, a project curated by Gael Cleinow (@_hand_job_tattoo). When I realized more completely how I wanted to approach tattooing, I wanted to have my style naturally evolve into what it is.
I prefer to let others describe my style. I think now it is not about belonging to certain categories. Perhaps we can better describe ourselves with hashtags, such as the ones we use on Instagram. Previously, there were not any publications or books naming and categorizing the style of contemporary tattooing. We have our Instagram accounts and some sharing platforms that support this type of tattooing. It is more about a period in time; this is contemporary tattooing. We create specific designs, retaining individual approaches in tattooing. And this makes your work your own brand. We are constantly creating and experimenting in fields that we can name our personal style.
What do you look for in a shop?
Besides a well-organized working space, there are always people behind it. The most important part of a shop is the people who build a team. For me, my priority is to be surrounded by people who are aware of their work, are in love with what they are doing, and have human respect to each other.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
I love to connect my life with movement. Yoga, biking, long walks are what I love to do alone or with friends. Traveling and international environments make me interested to learn other languages. I love to paint on clothes and walls, I love to try different ways of being creative. I work on photography projects as well using film photography.
What type of photography projects do you do? How do you these influence your tattoo work or vice versa?
I like taking pictures when I travel and I meet different, amazing people. I am inspired to see intersections of local cultures and all manifestations of freedom and thinking. My research is more about aspects of femininity. When I travel I arrange meetings with people, that often go hand in hand with tattoo culture–but the meetings are not specifically about tattooing. They are more part of my research about female experiences through connection with the body and environment. The idea for this project first came to me while I was traveling in Argentina. I’ve got a lot of nice shots, and although I’ve just started I’d love to organize a bigger project. I’m still processing what exactly I’m gonna do with this content.
What inspires you generally?
Inspiration for me is based on a fact of constant mutual exchange based on our world. In my understanding, each action has an impact on reality. I am inspired to impact on people’s reality by putting all my best intentions into my work and through meeting each new person I tattoo. I am inspired by being able to express my sensations of being through my drawings, and that people find resonances with themselves through these images and sacrifice part of their skin to contemplate it in every moment of life. Inspiration for my visuals come from contemporary digital image culture. I find myself in constant dialogue with souls around me by sharing my sensations of life through images.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
I am passionate about adventures. I find it natural and enjoy moving to get new experiences and connections around the world. I think traveling is a really important part of self-education in life. Traveling makes me understand better who I am and how human problems are equal to everyone everywhere. Exposing myself to different cultures and situations is really important for me in the sense that it grows my inner maturity and respect towards life.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
Today we can see so many different styles and artists that you never could before. Sometimes it seems to me that it is even too much. Maybe the main challenge of tattooing today is not getting into total consumerism. I think it is really challenging to stay original. There are thousands of people all over the globe copying big artists’ work without the intention of producing or developing their own style. I think tattoos have become a mass phenomenon, so it is already a challenging environment.
How do you stay individual in this over saturated tattoo world?
I can say that I’m trying not to overthink in this direction. You just are who you are and this is one of the secrets of authenticity. People who are individual and authentic are not scared of challenges or experimenting, are always ready to be watched by others, while also being ready to defend their work–this is inspiring. But anyway, everything is copied numerous amount of times. So, for me it seems like the way to defend your own individual approach to work is just doing what you like and you want to do with all your heart. This doesn’t only concern tattooing, but also our wider lifestyles.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
What I see now is that tattooing has become a medium for a lot of points of view and ideas. I like the idea that tattooing is opening doors of creativity in a way. Creators of tattoo designs more and more go for branding and extend the usage of their designs in a lot of different ways; creating products or art pieces beyond tattooing. I like the idea that tattooing can open a door for artists to different ways of working with designs and creating communities between people. I would love to see more cross paths with music, video, performance, productions, brands etc.