Tattly Artist Q&A: Stina Persson

Our latest Tattly Artist Q&A is with the wonderfully talented Stina Persson, the artist behind some of our ever popular watercolor designs. Catching her on Skype on a grey Stockholm afternoon, Tattly team member Katherine chatted with Stina about her studio, working in watercolor, and her thrift-store addiction! Scroll on to read the full Q&A.

Katherine: It looks like you have a wonderfully bright studio there.
Stina Persson: It’s bright, but messy. I should move things around. My studiomate isn’t here, so then it becomes all like this. (Stina looks around behind her and gestures to clutter which is out of sight)
K: When your studiomate’s not around there’s no one there to make sure it’s clean for, right!
S: She’s coming tomorrow though so, I better… (she runs off and shuffles some things around!)

K: You share your space with just one other, right?
 My brother works with me sometimes, but then I share with this amazing interior designer. She’s a very inspirational woman. She used to have this tv show for Swedish kids where she restyled their rooms but together with them and without the parents knowing, and making it really wild. She has all these very fun, different projects. Isabelle McAllister. She has a great blog and great Instagram feed, and she’s really lovely!

Stina Persson Interview

K: So let’s start with a little about you: you’ve lived in a number of places, and you’re currently based in Stockholm. Are you originally from Sweden?
 Yeah I’m a Swede, but a southern Swede, not from Stockholm.
K: What made you choose to move and study in Italy?
 Coming from a very cold country I just wanted something warm and I’d studied Italian in school so it kind of made sense. My best friend wanted to study fashion design and I said “should I come with you?” and she said “this school has courses in Arts so why don’t you take one of those?” And I did.

K: You studied Fine Art in Italy, Fashion Design in Italy, and Illustration at Pratt here in New York. What lead you into watercolor illustration?
 I didn’t actually do any watercolor in school. When I took the class in Illustration at Pratt, I think most illustrators back then were really jaded and kind of sad about the industry because it changed. It wasn’t so well looked upon. This was in the late ‘90s, like ‘95, ‘96, and they were all really disillusioned because they had been very good illustrators and then they didn’t have any work. So I think everything I learned in school I avoided a little bit. Then illustration picked up again and it became this very exciting thing that so many people do at this point. But watercolor, I don’t know, it comes easy to me I think. I don’t have to struggle too much. If I can choose I prefer black ink. Working with watercolor can be a slippery slope into being kitsch or too feminine or too soft. I like it more edgy and hard.

K: You can definitely see that coming across in your work. It certainly doesn’t feel soft, but instead it is quite edgy or strong, as well as being feminine. A lot of your work seems to be focused on the woman or feminine form, is there something in particular that draws you to the female/woman as a subject? 
I think the shapes of the woman are more interesting than a man. A muse is more common than a, I dunno, a muso I think. Also then you have makeup and hair, and I mean not always but often [that’s] easier to exaggerate and to work with. I think I’ve gotten a lot of work in things that are about technology or like, a car, and they want it to be more feminine, so then they ask someone like me to give it something more soft or something more feminine. It’s kind of become a niche.

Stina Persson Interview

K: You do a lot of both commercial and personal work. I’m wondering if you find there’s a difference with how you approach the two?
 I think that in the beginning there was a big difference. My personal work looked one way and then my more commercial work looked a very different way. Over the years I think I’ve managed to be more happy with my commercial work, making it look more personal. And I’ve kind of become better at convincing clients that my personal way is the way I think, which is great!

K: Where do you pull inspiration from, how do you stay fresh?
As I’m getting older I think I get more inspiration from nature and its shapes. And also people-watching. (Stina makes a bit of a face, like she’s about to admit a dirty secret or indulgence) I’m a real thrift store addict. You know, old magazines, and prints, and dresses, and stuff like that. I try to stay away from looking at too many illustrators because I think that, I feel I get more inspired by artists or people who are not exactly in my field. I mean, not because people aren’t talented or to be inspired by, but I think for me, I get more material from elsewhere.

K: Being a thrift store addict, does that mean you have a large collection of stuff that you’ve picked up over the years or are you more of a looker…
Unfortunately I have lots of stuff. Like dresses. I think being a Swede with a short summer, I have way too many summery dresses and summer clothes, and like, one winter jacket!

K: Do you have any specific rituals or routines that you use to get into working each day?
Yeah I do. I go to the local coffee shop and I get my coffee. I bring my own cup because I don’t want to waste too many paper cups, and it tastes so much better. And then I listen to BBC. A lot. When they start cricket results I turn it off and get into podcasts or something like that.
K: What are your go-tos?
 This American Life, This is Criminal, Reply All, Radiolab, yeah, the regular ones, I think that’s the normal bunch.

Stina Persson Interview

K: You’ve mentioned that you love working with ink at the moment. Do you have any favorite tools that you like to work with?
 I like watercolor too. I mean I love color. (Turns around and looks at collection of brushes that is out of sight) I really like these inexpensive brushes because I tend to mess them up, like this bamboo pen. But I have SOO many brushes, I mean tons and tons. 
K: Do you end up keeping all of them, or is it a sort of a trade-one-out-when-you-get-a-new-one type of thing?
S: That’s what I tell myself in the store, “this time I’m going to take care of these” nah, not going to happen… but you can still keep them. I mean, like this one (picks up a brush with bent bristles, looks at it) when they’re bent they’re really not very good. You leave them in the water, you know, and then you go home and then the next day they’re like that. But yeah. I have many. But I should take better care of them (small wry smile).

K: So, how did you become involved with Tattly?
 I really liked Swissmiss the blog from the very, very beginning. It’s really just Tina, and really a one man company. And she found me somehow, and put me under her wing. Her Swiss wing. And we met, I had a solo show in New York, and she came, and then she asked me, I think I was one of the first that she asked to do something for her. And that was great.

K: How did it feel to be asked to design Folk Flore, your Tattly Does Good design for The Pink Agenda?
I mean, my older sister had breast cancer, and my very best friend did, so I loved to submit something for them, and I think the images that turned out were so beautiful.

K: Which Tattly is your favorite, that isn’t one of your own?
I like them all! I prefer the black and white ones. My kids love the watch. (she starts scrolling through the designs on her computer) I like the typed ones, (while scrolling she asks if she can get back to me later) I really like those ones that are kind of like, like the anchor one, the ones that are a little more retro like… (Stina did get back to me a little later to let me know, and it’s Bear by Nic Annette Miller. That’s one of her favorites!)  

K: Thanks so much for chatting with us!
 Thank you for chatting with me!
Skype: bleep bloop

Stina Persson Interview

Check out all of Stina’s Tattly designs here and see more of her work on her website. We also recommend following her artistic styles on Instagram
A big thanks to Isabelle for the fun photographs!
Missed a Tattly Artist Q&A? Read them all here.

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