“Call me before coming, because not anyone may come to my studio” explained by message Doncho Dossev before we made this interview. This statement was surprising but had a very simple explanation: Doncho’s studio doesn’t have street-side gable. Doncho’s studio is first and foremost Doncho’s house, where a selected clientele of guests come to the calm and friendly tattoo artist, because they know him and value his fine work.
Twelve years ago, I had a studio to rent, that I rented to a tattoo artist. One day I was alone in the studio and a woman entered. She wanted a tattoo; a simple lettering and I could see that she was well-off. I am an artist, so the only thing to do was to get down to it. I was happier than ever but also very preoccupied. At least my work was fine.
That’s a surprising way of beginning tattoo making. You hadn’t any experience before?
Well, I passed around 10 years of my life to work as a painter in Barcelona before. But I was painting walls, the interior of houses. We had nothing at this time, so I had this job to provide for my wife and my baby. I was drawing during weekends and I also made a little airbrush on cars and motorcycle, but that’s it. Then, when the Spanish crisis struck, we came back to Bulgaria.
Since how long are you installed in this studio at home?
I am in this house for 6 years, but I wanted it for a long time. This street is like a historical museum. And VT is an incredible city, all built up in rock. Here you don’t fear earthquakes (laugh). And it is also the center of the artistic life of Bulgaria. Just think about it. It’s a small city, so if you are good, you can make a name after a few years. Tattoo artists are like mafia here (laugh), but we are all friends and each one has his specialty, so we don’t fight at all.
Isn’t it peculiar to welcome customers in your own house?
Well, because my studio is in my house, people that come in, also come into my life. So, I only tattoo people that I agree to welcome at home. Actually, in the past 2 years, I mainly focus on people I already know. But of course, if there are good vibes with a person who contacts me on messenger, there is no problem for me.
I especially work in black and white, and with either photorealistic or abstract designs. Usually, I tattoo images from Pinterest. I also really like pictures from National Geographic. And of course, I do my own drawings too. But I work with everyone in a different way. Everyone has its own universe. There is a saying: “Roma was made by talking”. It is the power of information. It is very important to communicate with the people I tattoo. And if I don’t like an idea, I’ll say it. They also pay me for that. If I tell nothing, it’s like they are paying for nothing.
Did you think about sharing your experience?
I already had five or six students since I began. Many have a studio of their own now. There was one German girl who was living in VT. I made her a sleeve, then the other, then she bought me a machine and went back to Germany (laugh).
Are you working full-time as a tattooist?
I am working from Monday to Thursday, from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Not on weekends. I prefer to keep some time for my family, it is very important to me. I also work on various other projects; flat rentals, dog photo contest, team-building workshops based on painting… So, I don’t need to kill myself by tattooing every day.
Because it is an exhausting job?
It is hard. For the back, the eyes, the ass… So, I’ll continue to work for maybe five or ten years, then I’ll retire. Maybe just tattooing for pleasure. I would like my studio to become a family business though. Actually, my son tattooed me when he was 7 years old. But he rather became an architect now (laugh).