Meet The Artists Behind The Revival Of Hand-Poke Tattoos In India

This October, if getting inked is on your mind, opt for a quirky stick-and-poke tattoo by these artists
Stick-and-poke tattoos have an intimate, rudimentary feel
Stick-and-poke tattoos have an intimate, rudimentary feelratattooille/shlo_poke

India, and the world, in fact, have had a rich tattoo tradition, going back to centuries when these markings would be symbolic of the person's community, maybe even a permanent form of jewellery or done to commemorate a ritualistic rite of passage. These traditions, like the ink itself, started fading with time. Yet, there are artists who are going back to their roots and going machine-free, taking up the intricate stick and poke style.

Stick-and-poke tattoos are a form of non-electric tattooing–ink is applied to the skin by hand by attaching a needle to a rod-like mechanism, dot by dot, creating intricate designs. This October, if getting inked is on your mind, here are a few artists and studios that are at the forefront of the hand-poke tattoo resurgence.

Shomil Shah, India Ink Archive

A hand poke tattoo design
A hand poke tattoo designshlo_poke/Instagram

A few years ago, Shomil Shah got his first tattoo. He never looked back. Intrigued by the process, he decided to try it out he soon bought a DIY stick and poke kit online, and started tattooing himself. Today, he runs the India Ink Archive which hopes to document, collect and make accessible what remains of this ancient art form. Shah started incorporating traditional designs into his hand-poke tattoo practice. His primary source of knowledge, older women with tattoo markings. "I would start a conversation with anyone who I saw with these slightly faded and spread out markings, trying to understand what they meant, when they got them, where they got them, how they were done etc., and would take some photographs of them if they felt comfortable with it," Shah describes, adding that his enthusiasm inspired many of his clients to send photos of markings on their grandparents or even people they met on their travels.  

Simranh Kakkar, Ratattooille

Kakkar's journey with tattooing began in March 2020
Kakkar's journey with tattooing began in March 2020ratattooille_/Instagram

Kakkar's journey with tattooing began in March 2020 and she considers herself a medium to work with this very intimate art form. "After a couple of months of research, I finally saved up some money and bought myself some basic tattoo supplies. I was in college studying animation, the pandemic had just hit, and at the time my only goal was to learn to safely tattoo myself. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would find a medium that I truly love so much and would take up tattooing professionally," she writes on her website. An artist, animator and storyteller, she currently works on a medium between the printmaking practices of woodcut/linocut and tattoo art, flash tattoos and freehand brushstroke work.

Amiya, Box Juice Tattoos

Handpoked mushroom by Amiya
Handpoked mushroom by Amiyaboxjuice.tats/Instagram

Amiya, a 24-year-old tattoo artist from Mumbai who also goes by the name Box Juice is a talented illustrator and art curator who works on what they call silly tattoos. "I started getting tattoos on myself from different artists and was inspired by the hand and poke technique primarily because it is a medium that is easily accessible. With stick and poke, you have more control over the design and the process. I enjoy the process and my style is a byproduct of 'ignorant tattoos' that have no specific idea," they tell us. 

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