interview with Torsten Malm | studio malm | estonia | 12/09/2019


 Hello Torsten Malm! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please start by telling us something about yourself and what made you start tattooing?

I was working on my PhD in Mathematics at Aalto University in Finland when my girlfriend (now wife) Kätlin was learning to become a special effects makeup artist. She started drawing a lot to improve, and pushed me to do it with her. At first I hated drawing, but the more I drew, the more I started to love it. I had a completely new passion for art thanks to her.

Q: Every beginning is difficult in each profession, even when it comes to tattoo art. Did anyone help you learn the basic skills? What thought kept you motivated to keep pushing forward?
A: We started on our own, but Jari Kajaste was our mentor who helped us get the basics. He saw potential in us and decided to take us under his wing. Seeing other artists creating better and better work kept me motivated. I wanted to learn as much as it took to get on their level. I definitely knew that I needed to keep moving around the world to learn even more. This hunger for knowledge still remains and I am constantly trying to improve.

Q: What type of art is your major creative source? Any favourite artists you look up to?
A: Definitely nature and basically all types of art but specially in a realistic key inspire me. If I had to choose some forms of art, then I would say classical oil paintings, realistic tattoos, and photography inspire me the most. I respect all artists who are serious about their art and I have numerous artists I look up to, but if I would have to name someone, I would say painter Cesar Santos, and tattoo artists Andrey Kolbasin, Dmitriy Samohin, and my wife Kätlin Malm. Obviously there are a million more artists I look up to, and always will, but it is impossible to mention everybody in this interview.

Q: How tattooing became part of your daily life? How much time took you to gain confidence and start working as a professional?
A: Tattooing just became my life because I put so much time and energy into it. I can’t say there has been a distinctive point when I felt like I would knock it out of the park for sure. I have always tried to just do my best, and a certain amount of insecurity will always remain I hope. I have now just become more comfortable with what I’m doing, rather than being overly confident in everything that I tattoo. I feel that it isn’t a good approach if one feels too confident in their work and feels like they can’t learn anything new.

- Do you remember the first tattoo and the client? How was that experience? Tell us in a few words.
My first tattoo was for free. I remember that my hands were shaking more than ever. It was definitely a scary experience, because I was second guessing myself the whole time. That feeling - second guessing myself - was the main feeling for the next few years. I am more confident now, because I have grown to become comfortable in what I do. Now it is more about the art rather than techniques. I have a better understanding of who I actually am as an artist, and in which direction I’m moving.

Q: Today your work looks awesome. Probably my favourite are your color portraits. Excellent job, very artistic and detailed touch on each. I don't believe I've seen any full black and grey tattoos but yes that's because I keep staring at the colour ones heh Are you more comfortable doing color work or it's the clients that require those type of tattoos?
A: Thank you! I have done black and grey tattoos and sometimes I still do, if I feel it fits the theme better. But I enjoy doing tattoos in color more.

Q: How would you call your style or you like to keep it free from labels?
A: If I had to, I would label it as color realism, but I would rather keep it free from labels to let my style develop naturally. Right now I’m just focusing on creating the best pieces I can. And I try to take on only those projects that actually interest me as an artist. That way I can develop my style along the way.

Q: The Baltic countries are a huge inspiration for me. So much beauty, architecture and nature not to mention you the people and your culture. How the tattoo scene is growing there? In my opinion, I think that almost every other day, there are new talented young people bringing new stuff to the industry.
Q: I don’t know much about the Baltic scene because I have a really specific clientele (most people are traveling here from other countries), but I have seen a lot of extremely talented artists entering the scene, or already working for a longer period of time. It definitely keeps me motivated as a young artist to be up to par, because I have been doing this for only 5 years. I have a feeling that the clientele in the Baltic area is starting to get more educated and they are more interested in getting a quality piece, rather than a cheap price tattoo.

Q: What are some of the best parts of being a tattoo artist? Any challenging parts too?
A: I’d say the best part is that I get to do what I enjoy and I get to do it with my wife. There are many challenging parts too. I would have to say that because we have our own studio, instead of renting a chair at someone’s studio, we have more challenges along the way. We never know what the future holds, but that goes for most entrepreneurs. Even if there are some challenges I wouldn't change anything.

Q: You work with your beautiful wife in your studio in Talin. How much the team work is helping you both to grow artistically? Do you collaborate together sometimes on one tattoo?
A: I love working with my wife in Tallinn, I think it is one of our strengths because it helps us both to grow a lot. We’re always discussing tattoos we have done, or new ideas that we would like to tattoo. We have always jokingly said that we share a brain. We have done collaboration pieces and we also have a few projects in progress right now. For example, we’re doing a charity tattoo, all of the proceeds are donated to Sea Shepherd Global.

Q: How often do you visit tattoo events like conventions or seminars? Do you think those things are (genuinely) helping the industry to get bigger and better not just creatively but health awareness wise too? What's your opinion?
A: I visit conventions in a healthy amount. The decision to go to a convention or not depends on how the convention is built up. I love conventions which have seminars about art, hygiene, industry etc. In my mind those kind of conventions are more focused on the artists and the knowledge. The other tattoo conventions focus more on showcasing the art, and those are best for networking, and creating comradery between artists. I think like with everything, there are good and bad sides.

Q: What would you do differently if you were starting in this job again?
A: I wouldn’t change anything. All I have been through has helped me to get to the point where I am now. Even if some of the experiences weren’t as positive, back then I still learned something from those moments. Those situations helped me avoid similar situations in the future and taught me what to do if I’m ever in a similar situation again.

Mr.Torsten Malm Thank you so much for the interview.
Kind regards,
The team