Image by Cian O'Leary (@ycocreates)
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Erin Kosobudska (@kosobuddha). From training as an artist in Malaysia, to vegan tattooing, to writing and illustrating her own book... Erin is one cool cat and a super talented artist.
So Erin, how did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Odessa, Ukraine. I was a troubled teenager, struggling with life, mental health, drugs and alcohol. I was shipped off to the UK at the age of 15, where I have been residing since.
I went to a boarding school, then studied at Southampton Solent University, where I met my current partner. My path in life was not clear to me until I was in my mid 20's. Most of my life I've just been floating in my own head with my inner demons, struggling to find what it is I want to do with my life.
Around the age of 25 I started to become confident that I belong in the world of arts, but wasn't sure where exactly I fit in. Then by chance, tattooing came to my peripheral vision as an option, and suddenly it all made sense to me. Everything has aligned within me, and brought me out of a life slump with a wave of inspiration and motivation. It was around the Same time that me and my partner were planning to move to Malaysia.
I took that opportunity to find myself a tattoo apprenticeship in Malaysia, and luck was on my side as just after 2 weeks I found an apprenticeship with an amazing studio in Kuala Lumpur. I have lived there and worked hard to become a tattoo artist for 1.5 years but then had to move back to the UK because of Covid.
Overall I have been tattooing for about 2 years now, i cannot convey enough the gratitude i have for tattooing as it has truly transformed my life. Creating my art, meeting my lovely clients, marking their skin and hearing their stories truly fulfills me and inspires me everyday to be the best version of myself.
I am now a resident at Briar Rose tattoo and work alongside incredible all female artists.
You have a very unique style. What would you describe it as? Would you say it’s a mix?
I always struggle to describe my own style, as it's always evolving and it's a direct representation of my inner world and the influences around me. But I would say my style is bold yet delicate with dreamy and eerie qualities to it.
Who are your top 3 favourite artists and do you think their influence shows through in your work?
It's really hard to choose just a handful of artists, from the vast array of very talented artists who have inspired me, but i guess the strongest influence would come from the following: Matteo Nangeroni, for his impeccable skill and surrealist quality to his designs, Amare With Love for her playful and mystical illustrative style, Freeorgy for their devotion to the natural world and strong illustrative style, and Le Rey for her delicate abstracts.
I’ve noticed that you and some of your tattoos have similarities, for example the two dots between your eyebrows. Are these symbolic of anything or just a stylistic choice?
The two dots on the forehead, that you can see in many of my designs, and that I myself have also, is just an aesthetic that I've had for a long time now. It is borrowed from Japanese practice of Hikimayu, which sometimes can also be seen in anime. But to me, it just feels really right to have the dots there, they are part of me now and therefore part of my designs also
Veganism seems to be a rapidly growing trend within the tattoo community with both artists and collectors, but what does ‘Vegan Tattooing’ actually mean?
When it comes to veganism, it has definitely become a trend in the past years, but I think it is a good way to be and think, even if you can’t commit to it 100% of the time.
In essence veganism is about causing no harm to animals through consumerism.
But i think a lot of people also care about the state of the planet and two often influence one another. I chose to offer vegan tattooing, because it's a really easy choice, that regardless whether you are vegan or not, you are getting high quality products and tattoos with no cruelty involved 😊
I am now working on offsetting my carbon footprint with Ecologi and significantly minimising use of plastic in my workplace.
I happened to stumble across your book... It's super interesting and beautifully illustrated. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what is it that motivated you to write it?
I created an illustrated book "Me & Em" as a final project for my Masters Degree.
It was in a way, a mirror of what I was going through at that time. The book was all about how social expectations can affect mental health. It is a collection of my own experiences and observations alongside a selection of anonymous anecdotes that I have gathered from other people. It explores the subjects of societal norms, gender roles, gender and sexual identity, religion and more.
I wanted to experience first hand what a person who is trapped in a body with a gender they don't identify with experiences in day to day life. So I shaved my head, hid all my makeup, and was wearing clothing bought at male targeted stores. Any time I had to make a gender related decision I would opt out for a male option. Using male public toilets on a daily basis alongside facing my friends and work colleagues was the most traumatic. But it shed light and gave me first hand experience on the levels of stress and anxiety that trans people and people don't identify with their biological sex go through.
This experience was also an important step in discovering my own gender identity
Do you feel that as an artist with a platform it’s important for you to share your views on these sorts of subjects or do you like to keep your opinions separate to your art?
I always make sure my page is a safe space for everyone, and that i conduct my values and ethics through my art and posts, but i personally prefer to have my kosobuddha account mainly for art.
Be sure to check out the rest of Erin's work on her Instagram @kosobuddha and her book: https://issuu.com/kosobuddha/docs/me_em