Bite #12 – SSTR

You Do You

Contemporary Bites Archive

Bite #12 by SSTR


London, United Kingdom


My name is Mara, I was born in Tuscany thirty-one years ago, and six years ago I relocated to London. I took the long way to settle in my current practice and profession. I first explored the Fine Art side of the creative industries, then got a Master’s degree in Creative Entrepreneurship and finally and fortuitously combined all this when I discovered tattoo art.

I moved my first steps into this industry about two years ago, and at the beginning of 2020 I took the leap and tried to make it as a creative professional. I started SSTR, as a practice that encompasses a number of activities revolving around tattoo art, and branching out and connecting to multiple creative disciplines. So far I have managed to cover illustration, performance art and, most recently, retail of tattoo material.


Everything changed after the lockdown.
My practice is based on the direct contact artist-client and a high level of physicality is necessarily involved. During the days when it was becoming clear that distancing people was the only – probably long and dreary – way out of the crisis, it dawned on me that the profession I had chosen for myself and fought for for the past year was not not going to support me during this time. Not from a purpose point of view, nor from a more dry financial one.

At moments I found myself regretting the decision to leave the security of a 9 to 5 job just a couple of months earlier, to take my chance on my dream profession. Other times I was choked by the anxiety of not being in control of my circumstances. News from my home country were disquieting, I couldn’t be close to my friends and family or bring myself close to people or place the way I was so used to.

Before becoming a career, art has always been a resource for me. A way to make sense of the world and the particular time/space I inhabit, a tool to explore and project my identity, to develop and share individual and collective narratives.

When I started reading the whole thing in these terms I started seeing the opportunity to create something meaningful, as a way to frame and explain exceptional times and states of mind. Change and limitations opened up new ways of experiencing my practice, not as a crippled version of the thing that used to be before, but explored from angles that I wouldn’t have considered in a “normal” situation. This crisis definitely expanded my horizon as an artist and added a new dimension to my practice.


I found to be more focussed than I’ve ever been, set on a state of mind that can’t and won’t consider the alternative of not making it through.

I knew I couldn’t be thinking and doing the usual things. It was clear to me that the challenge was to preserve the energy that drives my practice, and adapt it to the specific circumstances.

I looked at the idea of separation and connectedness – both the one provided by the web and between the different elements of the subculture I represent and work within. I wondered where my practice intersected these elements, and what was the specific value it could provide in these unique times.

Then I considered the inclusive, affirming and stimulating character of the experience of hand poke tattoo art, and its accessibility to pretty much anyone who, provided the tools and minimum direction, is willing to give it a try.

I started by making available the tattoo material I wasn’t using, I arranged in a ready-to-use handpoke kit, put it in a shiny envelope and shipped it around the world. I enjoyed the process and people seem to like the idea, so I soon restocked and set up an online shop.

Every day images and videos are coming through to my phone, from people all over Europe attempting their first handpoke tattoo. It’s a completely new experience for me and a result that I couldn’t ever have envisioned when I started into tattoo art.

The virus, the pandemic and the global lockdown have definitely made the world a different place, and I believe a different way of doing things is nothing but the truest sign of the times we are living in.

This was my try.





Title: You Do You

Artwork and text: SSTR

Format: photography /
performance documentation

Date of submission: 2020/05/13

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