We talked with tattoo artist Barış Yeşilbaş who continues his creative works at the Base NYC, the tattoo studio he founded in New York.
Who is Barış Yeşilbaş? Would you shortly mention yourself?
This question has become one of the most challenging questions I have gotten over the years, because I feel my mindset has changed as I answer every question when I am asked to introduce myself. Especially after I moved abroad, I recognized that the country I was born in did not allow me to know myself. I have started questioning, identifying, and shaping myself over the last five years.
If I have to talk about my current self, I have a personality who does not give up on his dreams despite everything and everyone.
How did your adventure of becoming a tattoo artist begin after graduating from the department of economics?
Actually, I did not graduate from the economics department; I decided to drop out of school in my last year. Although it was not very difficult to make this judgment, it was a stressful process to stand behind this decision. I did not have the slightest experience in business life. As for my future, I did not even have a single plan. I have never been a scheduled person in my life, anyway.
After quitting school, I found a job as a Foreign Trade Consultant in Istanbul via one of my closest friends. Afterward, I settled in İstanbul, but this experience was very short-lived. After this business career, which resulted in me being fired at the end of my three-month working life, I ended up in the studio where I got my tattoos done because I did not want to waste my time staying at home. When they realized that I was unemployed while conversing, they authorized me to work in the studio until I found a job. I started a new path when I told one of the tattoo artists, "I can handle this; it doesn't seem challenging," while doing studio chores. When the people in the studio witnessed that my first tattoo was not such a poor work, they offered me an assistantship. Then I accepted this offer without thinking. Looking at the process, my introduction to tattoo art was like the script of the movie "Yes Man," directed by Peyton Reed.
We constantly come across the use of colors and geometric shapes in your tattoos. Can you tell us about the story behind this visual language of yours?
I can say that it took me years to create my style. When I began this job, the absence of social media and the scarcity of channels negatively affected my progress in this field. My design approach has gone through many processes, and this process continues. At this point, when people see my works, they can easily guess that I am the creator of art. There are many factors behind this situation, and almost all of them stem from my personality. For example, my stubborn personality, one of the phrases I heard the most when I initiated this profession was "colors are difficult to use; they are fading." Instead of admitting this warning, I continued to go after what I believed in.
My passion for geometric patterns was given to me by my father, who was an architect. The patterns he drew had always been impressive to me as a child, and I wanted to transfer this detail to tattoo forms. Apart from these, there are many popular culture themes that shaped my childhood in my tattoos.
What are the factors that challenge and thrill you in this profession?
It has been roughly twelve years since I started this occupation. Even though I feel their difficulties every day, I am not as affected as when I began my profession. When I started the profession, the lack of knowledge was considerable. In my first years in the profession, I lacked issues such as working percentages, deposits, and appointments. In addition, the fact that proficient people in this occupation did not share their experiences and knowledge was one of the factors that challenged me. Fortunately, since the new generation is more open-minded to sharing information, we come across more stunning, and quality works. Apart from that, the materials used improve day by day, which eases our work. When you talk with people who have been in this field for many years, you realize the extent of progress, especially in materials.
I enjoy the work that we do is an individual field. You are not affiliated with anyone or an institution; no one expects a certificate of competence from you. You do not need anything other than your portfolio for people to get you tattooed.
Leaving permanent marks on people's lives is enjoyable and exhilarating for me. Even if you forget people, they never forget you. Even though years have passed, it is a nice feeling that they come and talk with you when they see you.
You are currently a tattoo artist based in New York. What would you like to say if we compare Istanbul and New York in terms of working life and people's perspectives on this art?
I can say that Istanbul and New York are two very diverse worlds. New York is one of the places where the tattoo culture we are in first emerged. That is why tattooing is an established and accepted industry here. People's perspectives, approaches, or spending habits are different than ours. In Turkey, the tattoo culture took off with the growth of social media. Since it is a newer sector for Turkey, I believe that a special effort should be made to recognize this field and to make progress.
How do you see the future of tattoo art, would artificial intelligence, which has taken place in many areas of our lives, be included in this field?
This issue carries a lot of uncertainty for me. I still cannot foresee where the NFT and Metaverse world will take shape in the following years and where the tattoo industry will exist in this world. This situation excites me a lot because the change in the world we are used to is a unique situation. That is why I feel like I am in a sci-fi movie. The tattoo industry will not terminate, but it is likely to alter the shape. Perhaps a future in which only designs will exist in a completely virtual world and the physical tattooing process will come to an end is waiting for us. I am very enthusiastic about being a part of this change.
What do you do to get inspired? Who are the names you follow with interest in this field or from different fields?
I love to dream; my inner world has always been more colorful than the world I live in. It is a world where there are always more opportunities, no walls, and a world I can find anyone or anything I want. I am talking about a world where every article I read, every video I watch, every music I listen to, and every event I experience expands that place.
There was not a person or group that I precisely followed for inspiration because, after a point, you can do similar things to the work of the person you follow. Still, people's ideas, ways of thinking, and perspectives are important for me.
What are your future plans?
I have always had goals rather than plans. As I mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, I never had a planned personality. When I look back, I see that I have achieved many of my goals or am taking firm steps on that path. Last year, I realized one of my biggest goals: to have my studio. One of my current goals is to take "the Base NYC" as high as possible. I want people to say, "I got this tattoo at the Base," and brag about showing off their tattoos to other people.
Until this age, my goals have always been related to my work; I think I can begin to set goals for myself now.