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«As if I were in love»

Tamara Jörg


Creative, young, courageous, adventurous, bustling, a cheerful soul – describing Tamara Jörg requires more than the usual three characteristics. The 29-year-old works as a tattoo artist in the Engadin. She took the bold step and opened her own tattoo studio. First in Pontresina, then she moved to S-chanf, and now she welcomes her customers in Samedan. Standing still is not for Tamara.

St. Moritz is where she grew up and went to school. Here she still finds her most important retreat. On a meadow in the woods between St. Moritz and Surlej, a tree stands apart from all the other trees. It was planted for Tamara’s late father. 10 years have passed since his death. These days, coming here is not as hard as it used to be. Says Tamara, as we approach the site, «It is rather a place that gives me calm and grounding, when I need it.” Tamara’s father was a forester; he loved the woods.

Wood sculptor, forest ranger, tattoo artist

It was not by chance that Tamara connected so strongly to the forest, to the element of wood. She took to it naturally, although she clearly states that her career choices had nothing to do with her father. We are sitting in the grass, next to the tree. While she talks, now and again, Tamara plucks a blade of grass, toying with it. After graduating from high school, she completed a four-year-apprenticeship in Brienz to become a wood sculptor. Since back then, she has shown an interest in where the material of her work comes from. Then there was a second apprenticeship as a forest ranger that she never finished. An injured knee interfered with her plans. And then came the tattooing. This passion, discovered by chance, has never left her since. «It was a beginner’s course in tattoo art in Innsbruck, and I was immediately hooked. Each morning I got up with a smile on my face because I was so much looking forward to the course. It was as if I were in love.» Those Mondays mornings …!? She loves them as much as she loves every other workday.

However, the path that led her from the course in Innsbruck to her own studio “Woodattoo” in the Engadin was a long one. First of all, it was all about learning all there was to know about the trade. Practice, practice, practice – on foam rubber, porcine skin, banana peels and artificial skin. But the thing is that you can only see if a tattoo is skillfully done after the skin has healed. So in the end there was no way around doing real-life testing: on the skin of friends, on the skin of her own mother. “They all placed their trust in me during a time when I did not have the skills I have today”, Tamara says and laughs. Trust. A value that still is very important to her - even now that she is a pro – because her customers share their personal stories with her. Tamara’s task is to turn these stories into art and to preserve them on skin. “I remember well the first times – my hands were shaking.»

«I am no artist»

Change of scenery. We stroll through S-chanf, into the village centre. At that time, Tamara still had her studio here. In this quaint village at the edge of the national park, with Engadin houses and a church bell tower that dominates the scene. By all appearances, a tattoo studio should not fit in. But the image of a grubby dark studio is long outdated. And also the expectations of what a tattoo artist should look like have changed. Tamara is an example of this; she is part of the hip, modern, creative scene.

Still, the young Engadin woman does not consider herself an artist. An artist needs time and takes time to create his or her works. «I, however, receive an order from a customer and have to attend to it – I cannot afford to brood on it for months,” she says. However, she does truly engage with her customers who mostly come to her with a story. “It is an honour to be part of something so personal.”


«My tattoos are my diary»

The thing about tattoos telling a story … Tamara knows about it all too well. Tattoos embellish her body: on her back, at her ear, on her thigh, on both feet and – most strikingly – on her whole left arm. The tattoo even stretches across the fingertips. In the work we find animals, lines, shadows – nature’s elements, mirroring Tamara’s life. She does not explain them, those personal experiences that she processed in that creative way. “Other people have diaries, my skin is the paper on which I write.”