than cats, tattoos, and the people who love
them. I talked with legendary tattoo artist
Hanna Sandstrom, aka Kapten Hanna, of Dark
Age Tattoo in Seattle, to get more insight into the creative
process between cat lovers and their tattoo artists as well
as tips on preparing for a tattoo appointment.
KW: HOW POPULAR ARE CAT TATTOOS?
Kapten Hanna: Pretty popular; people get tattoos of
what they love, and pets are pretty high on the list. Also,
classic designs like panthers and tigers have always been
popular. I think people like them for the strength and
IS ONE MORE POPULAR — BIG CATS VERSUS PET CATS?
I’d say about 50/50. I probably do more pet cat tattoos
than other tattooers, and I built up a bit of a reputation as
a pet portrait tattooer.
HOW DIFFICULT ARE THEY TO DO?
It depends on the piece - the placement, size, and design.
A photo-realistic portrait, for example, is harder than a
WHAT ARE THE BEST SPOTS ON THE BODY FOR THEM?
Again, it all depends on the design. I always like to work
with the body, so a classic sleek tiger descending can look
great down a hip/thigh for example, working with the
length of the space. A cute cat face portrait is a rounder
shape, generally, so it can look great on a forearm or a calf.
WHAT DOES THE ARTISTRY/CREATIVE PROCESS INVOLVE?
For portraits, specifically, I always need a clear, high-resolution photograph to work with, but I always like to pick
my clients’ brain about what they love and what stands
out for them to try to customize it to them.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT REFERENCE PHOTOGRAPH OR
PIECE OF ARTWORK?
For a photograph, a clear, sharp photo in high resolution; a
three-quarter view is a great angle. I usually ask for a few
favorites, since not every photograph is right for a tattoo.
don’t always replicate well as tattoos since the original medium wasn’t intended for skin.
WHAT MAKES ONE PIECE MORE ENJOYABLE THAN
ANOTHER FOR THE ARTIST?
Definitely when the client trusts you and your artistic skill
and gives you clear specifics but lets you have some creative
freedom — that always makes for the best tattoos as well.
WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR CLIENTS WHEN THEY’RE
SELECTING AN ARTIST TO DESIGN CUSTOM WORK?
Take your time, and research someone whose style you
connect with. Not every tattooer does every style. And
pay for good work; don’t pick someone just because they
are cheap, because the tattoo will be with you forever.
WHAT SUGGESTIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR COMING
PREPARED TO YOUR APPOINTMENT?
Eat a good meal before, even if you don’t feel hungry, because
your body will need the energy for endorphins. Don’t be
hung over and definitely not drunk. Wear comfy clothes, as
you’re most likely going to be there for a little while, so even
bringing a book is not a bad idea. And you can always bring a
snack or treat if you start to feel light-headed or tired.
HOW LONG IS THE AVERAGE HEALING PROCESS?
It all depends on the person, but generally about two
weeks — sometimes longer, sometimes faster, depending
on the piece and the person.
WHAT PRODUCTS CAN YOU RECOMMEND TO PROMOTE HEALTHY HEALING?
Most artists have slightly different suggestions, but for
soap I recommend unscented liquid soap. I personally
use Dr. Bronner’s, and for aftercare lotion I generally
HOW CAN PEOPLE KEEP THEIR TATTOOS LOOKING GREAT FOR YEARS?
Just like you should with your skin: drink water, don’t
smoke, moisturize with a non-petroleum-based
natural skin lotion, and use natural sunblock.