Miryam Lumpini has a magic touch. The Sweden-born tattoo artist has a true talent for creating stunning art work that lives on the skin forever. Her dreams of becoming an established presence in the male-dominated industry brought her to the land of sunshine where she now has her own private tattoo studio. There she creates a calming environment for clients to talk through their designs and bring their visions to reality. Lumpini has her own striking style that serves as an important part of her women-run business. She has tattooed celebrities like Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, Jhené Aiko and model Slick Woods further amplifying the visibility of her art. From runways and stages to murals, Miryam’s art can be seen living and breathing in full color.
We caught up with Miryam right before a session at Bang Bang‘s SoHo location to learn more about how she got her start and what she’s looking forward to.
When did you decide you wanted to be a tattoo artist? How did you get the experience you needed to become a professional?
I decided I wanted to become a tattoo artist early in my life. I had to travel one and a half hours by bus each way just to get to school so I used to buy magazines and read on the bus. I used to read all the tattoo magazines because I thought they were very interesting sharing the stories of artists and detailing their artistry. I used to read about known artists like Victor Portugal who I later ended up becoming very close friends with. I started by actually buying myself a kit online when I was 17 because I was so eager to start tattooing that I couldn’t really wait until I was 18 to get an actual apprenticeship.
What was it like moving from Sweden to America to pursue your dream?
Moving to America was very mind opening. I use to see the world from a very Swedish perspective and when I moved to America I had to learn a whole new culture, a whole new way of thinking, a whole new lifestyle. It was a lot! There are so many different cultures here in Los Angeles where I live and I’m forever blessed to be here because some of my biggest inspirations come from these cultures. Wherever I travel to (I travel a lot for work), I’m always happy to come back to LA. DTLA has a lot of young and creative energy and I enjoy being around the local people.
Tattooing is a multi-step process. The artist has to create a sketch, transform that image to fit someone’s body and then finally tattoo it. What’s your favorite part of the process?
This is a very beautiful question because not a lot of people pay attention to what the process actually takes when tattooing. There are many important steps from beginning to end that you can’t skip out on. When I work with my clients I first have a consultation where I basically try to just really feel the vibe, feel the emotion, feel their purpose, feel their persona, and feel their energy. That makes it way easier for me to create an extra personal and beautiful art piece that brings out my client’s purpose. That’s also how we get to know each other so usually we have tea or a snack.
My specialty is free-handing tattoos which means that I use a marker before I tattoo in order to shape the body perfectly with my art and let the piece flow specifically just for your body shape. I do this before tattooing instead of using a stencil. That’s when I get to be very free as an artist and get to be very custom about my design. I’ve partnered with BIC to release BodyMark, a temporary tattoo marker that is amazing for professional artists to free hand tattoos but also just as good for the regular person wanting to be creative and have fun with their skin. I’m super excited to be able to use this product on a daily basis in my profession but also share it with the rest of the world.
Tell us more about your signature moth design. What does it mean to you?
I have always been very fascinated by moths in the way that they are nocturnal but also attracted to light. I feel like when I sleep that my soul travels through dimensions like as if I were a moth and I feel and I see the lights, even though it’s nighttime. They also remind me of our human patterns. How at night when people usually get off work, they finally get to dress however they want, they might go out, be more vibrant feeling, more free, flying around like moths attracted to the lights. When we really get to express ourselves that’s the energy I want to stay close to, so as to not get caught up in what society wants us to be versus who we really are.There are so many different species of moths and so many different wing patterns. Endless inspiration!
How did you get the nickname the “Witch Doctor”?
Miryam Lumpini is my name but I knew that I wanted to go by something just for people to define my uniqueness because “Miryam Lumpini” is not always easy to remember. I asked my friend, ‘what do you really think defines me?’ and she looks at me and she says you’re like a witch doctor. It’s so funny because when she said that I felt this feeling of ease that it all just made sense. At first I didn’t really know why exactly but I started looking into it and I realized that my purpose in life is to be a healer. I’ve always had healing powers and I always knew that if I can use them in the right way I can help heal the world. The way I do healing is with my art. I cover a lot of scar tissue and old tattoos — things that people don’t want seen on their bodies anymore. My style of tattooing is very colorful and vibrant so it works well to cover up with since I specialize in free handing. I have a lot of people come to me for a cover-up tattoo and sometimes afterward they write me long letters about how I changed their lives, how people look at them differently and with more confidence now.
Wellness and healing are integral parts of your business and brand. What are some ways that you manage stress and promote wellbeing? How do you balance being a creative and a businesswoman as well?
As a tattoo artist, you are inserting an energy into someone’s body forever because once the tattoo is done and on the skin, every time they look at it, they’re going to remember the artist, how they got it and everything that happened around the session. That’s why I prefer working out of my private studio because it gives a more exclusive and personal experience to my clients to remember. Being a businesswoman and an artist are two full-time jobs and the only way to balance that is time management, discipline and making sure to have a lot of fun. I try to snack a lot throughout the day and have tea breaks in order to restore my energy and reset my mindset, hydrate a lot, listen to tons of good music and keep good people around that won’t distract me but who’ll bring a good productive energy too.
Also yoga, hikes and healthy food!
Do you have any advice for young women who wish to enter the tattoo industry?
If there are any young women out there who want to enter the tattoo industry I would recommend that they do some research, lots of it, to really figure out the reason they want to be in it. They need to figure out how hard they’re actually going to work for this because the more energy, heart and soul you put into it, the better and the more respected of an artist you will be so you’re gonna have to put your all into it. It’s important to find a good tattoo shop to do your apprenticeship. I had to go through different apprenticeship experiences before finding the right one, but no matter what the experience is, just don’t give up in trying to find one that’s right for you.