"We are a space for everyone to come together with mutual respect and understanding"
Ever since he was a child, tattoo artist Nick3XL who's based in the Netherlands, has seen tattoos as a form of body armour, a way to protect and express yourself. This feeling is something he carries into his work. Every tattoo he creates works in harmony with both his client's body and their personality, and his minimalist studio is set up to create a memorable ritualistic experience. He believes the experience of getting tattooed is as important as the design that ends up on your skin.
We loved chatting to Nick to find out more about his beautiful ornamental black work tattoos, that he uniquely calls "Patterns From The Universe"...
How would you describe your style of tattooing?
My work is heavily based on tattoo styles such as Berber and Tribal with influences from Voodoo patterns and alien crop circles. This all comes together in my own vision that I call "Patterns From The Universe". I draw inspiration from places such as Asian temples, Indonesian wood cuttings and many other native art forms. I've always been intrigued by ancient forms of tattooing from around the world.
Do you offer flash or custom designs?
I offer both flash and custom work. My portfolio is always fully stocked with designs for my clients to choose from, and more often than not we use these as a jumping-off point for the project. I draw my designs on a flat canvas, but as the human body is in no way a flat surface, the design evolves and adapts as we go through the process of transferring the artwork onto the skin.
I prefer not to send art work ahead of the appointment, as I'd rather sit with my clients and work on the design together, face to face, collaborating to create a finished product that ends up being entirely personalised to the individual.
Where is your studio based? Tell us about the space...
Our studio is named Zeitgeist Kollektiv and it's based in Haarlem the Netherlands (a 20-minute journey on public transport from Amsterdam.) Haarlem is known as the restaurant capital of the Netherlands, so you can always find an amazing restaurant or wine bar. We are a private studio, based in a quiet industrial area overlooking the beautiful river Spaarne.
"It was my mission to create a space that is welcoming, tranquil and inspirational"
I opened Zeitgeist Kollektiv in 2021 during the pandemic. Prior to this, I worked in three different tattoo shops and during this time I came to the realisation that tattoo shop culture is generally based on old school traditional values – which can feel aggressive and intimidating to some. It was my mission to create a space that is welcoming, tranquil and inspirational – not just for my clients but for the artists working with me.
The interior of the studio has a minimalistic look and feel, meaning our clients can focus on the ritual itself, without any triggers or distractions. Being a private studio, we also have the ability to offer one-on-one private sessions for those who may struggle with anxiety disorders or autism. We want clients to feel at ease, open to expressing their emotions and desires without fear of judgment.
Zeitgeist prides itself on being a queer safe space – which, in my opinion, is vital in the tattoo industry – however we are by no means unwelcoming to our straight artists and clients. We are a space for everyone to come together with mutual respect and understanding. Zeitgeist Kollektiv strives to unite rather than divide.
Do lots of people travel for your work?
Outside of the Netherlands, my clients predominantly travel from Germany and the UK – given that it's relatively close by. Since evolving my style into what it has become today, I've found there's more of a demand for this unique bold ornamental style. This has afforded me the opportunity to travel for work, which is one of the big benefits of tattooing. I've had the privilege of working in places including Sri Lanka, Berlin and London. By introducing myself to people from all of these places, I've found that clients are subsequently inclined to make the journey to see me again in the Netherlands.
How long is your waitlist? How do customers book in?
Most of my inquiries come through Instagram DMs and emails. As I am always on my phone, I make the effort to reply to all messages quickly. It's important that each and every person that takes the time to reach out to me feels appreciated and taken care of.
I tend to book out full day sessions for everyone no matter the size of the design. This allows the chance to fully tailor the experience to the individual, taking all the time we need to go through the process together. Each session is personalised, with input from both myself and the client from start to finish.
My waitlist is usually no longer than two months, but I have the luxury of creating my own schedule as the owner of my own business. This means that I can work around my clients' schedules to accommodate everyone as best I can. It is such a honour if someone is willing to make the journey from near or far to see me so I work as hard as I can to fit everyone in.
For more great tattoo artists, aftercare advice and industry insight, check out the Stories & Ink Journal.