Adriaan Machete, Acclaimed Neo-Traditional Tattooist

Inspired by the work of Renaissance and Art Nouveau painters, German tattooist Adriaan Machete is renowned worldwide for his delicate and exquisitely colored body art. His professional tattoo career began around 2007 after he apprenticed with Iban Maya. His major break came in 2010 when he was invited to be a guest artist in various studios, from Salon Serpent to Wolf & Dagger—founding his shop and art gallery in Berlin in 2013 and participating in prestigious conventions in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Moscow, and beyond. At the 2018 London Tattoo Convention, we met and photographed him for a Scene360 feature.

This interview delves into Machete’s anthropological studies, spirituality, and zest for life.

Above: Let the heart open to reawaken the soul; our hearts are the gateways to our mystic souls. 
Adriaan Machete surfs the beach on the Spanish island of Lanzarote.

Before becoming a tattoo artist, what jobs did you hold?

I had all kinds of jobs, but mostly with things I loved; I worked in skateboard shops as I enjoyed skateboarding and surfing. Later I baked vegan pizza and cakes and sold them at concerts. I would also sell alternative clothes and records in markets and worked in Berlin festivals taking care of stages or selling delicious food as I always loved music.

“Soul Vases,” referring to the power that links with creation, enables our life and all-natural beauty to flourish.

Did your anthropological studies have any effect on your tattooing? Human connection and comprehension.

It has contributed a lot! I loved studying anthropology in university as I could travel to remote places and indigenous communities to conduct different studies and meet fascinating people. Tattooing, it’s a similar process; every human being is different and unique. Getting to know someone who trusts me to make an art piece on their body and learning about them is an incredible journey. Every person I tattooed had a fantastic story to tell, and I discovered that we are all related because our needs, desires, hardships, and passions are similar. I created beautiful bonds with my customers, as tattooing is a universal ritual.

A large-scale art piece embodies the mighty divinity of female embodiment.

Your tattoos will undoubtedly be characterized as “neo-traditional,” but how do you combine the spiritual component into your work?

I was lucky to be at the right time and place when great German artists Lars Uwe and Jurgen Eckel created the neo-traditional style. Influenced by them, I started my style of neo-traditional. At some point in my life, I had a physical and emotional breakdown and a spiritual awakening. It changed my life completely, and my purpose and journey were focused on spiritual growth. This influenced my art and tattooing as well. I still had my neo-traditional technique and color palettes, but I started incorporating spiritual symbolism to help the person align with their divine self and purpose. So I started using tattooing as a form of spiritual ritual which would allow the client to grow, heal and expand their consciousness.

Machete’s Sri Yantra tattoo represents the interconnection of several levels and a portal to the sacred truth of loving consciousness.

Please describe your spiritual awakening in greater detail.

Because of stress, my body started to shut down, and I didn’t pay attention until one day, I completely collapsed emotionally and physically; in that breakdown, I had a beautiful realization that life itself has a purpose and that I needed to change to evolve as a soul. I also realized that we are all one divine being and that everything is interconnected, that I and everything else is energy, and that how I treat others is how I treat myself. When I understood this, life became wonderful, and all beings of this world made sense to me.

According to the Tower tarot card, all hurdles and challenges in life cover a secret path to enlightenment.

To develop your better self, did you read books and attend classes?

I searched for all kinds of healers to get healed and understand what was happening to me, as a spiritual awakening is intense. As everything happens for a reason, I got guided by my higher self and instructed to find them. I then understood that we need each other to heal and evolve as we are all one (alone comes from all one). I also opened a new world where I read books, attend workshops and classes, and get inspired by everyone and everything with a spiritual purpose.

A portrayal of the never-ending dance of darkness and light.

What advice can you give others about work and life?

I don’t have any advice for others, as everyone is a miraculous being of energy and awareness that can realize itself. But I can say that in the hardest moments, you are never alone, everyone in this world is a part of you, and when you need help to heal or to know who you are, we will all be there to help you as we are all here the most powerful divine connected being.

These Hand tattoos symbolize our darkness and our divine capacity to see beyond the veil of reality.

What are some of your favorite subjects for tattoos?

I’m still fascinated by portraits of women as a way of honoring the aesthetic beauty of human beings, animals for their pure and powerful essence, and objects with a magickal or energetic purpose. Flowers and organic elements remind me of the beauty and divine alignment of the world. So I try to combine all these elements and put spiritual and magick symbolism to create a tattoo that fits the client’s energy to help expand their energy and consciousness.

Machete’s Sunset session; conducting yoga and meditation lessons at Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin.

What do you do if the client has bad/negative energy?

In reality, nobody has bad energy as we are all light. But when we are disconnected, have stress, and are not aligned with ourselves or nature, blockages or diseases start to appear, creating the illusion that a person is bad or negative. In essence, they just got in a direction that is not benefiting them and needs to change.

Illustration of the moon and stars and a mysterious atmosphere that inspires fantasies, lovers, and soul searchers.

Your work is highly illustrative, as seen by the sketch-like lines and color combinations that stand out. Do you sketch on paper first?

Thank you so much! I am an artist who still sketches everything on paper; I love the feeling of the pencils or pens on my hand and paper and my fingers full of colors. I also see it as a meditation and ritual as I usually draw at night hearing atmospheric music; the darkness of the night makes the results pure when seeing it in the morning light. I also use at its fullest my intuition; it guides me to know what to sketch and what to create; it’s a powerful tool that we all have as we are all potential artists.

On the island of Fuerteventura, Spain, where the mountains harmonize with the human body, the artist performs yoga.

You are also a yoga teacher, sound and Shamanic healer. Please explain these practices in detail.

When I had the spiritual awakening and started to change, my life was focused on healing, dissolving old conditioning in me, and growing spiritually. So I started searching for healers to help me on this new path. I also started learning healing techniques to help others and became more aware of my body, health, and energy; I met different people already on this journey. They inspired me to learn and practice yoga, so I went to India to train as a yoga teacher, became a Theta-healing practitioner, and developed my Shamanic abilities to help others. I always believed in magick and esoteric practices, which always helped me along my path. As most people begin their healing and spiritual journey, I have already been through many difficult situations that have given me the tools to assist others who are going through similar difficult experiences.

A tattoo depicts the serpent’s awakening, whose energy lies in our root chakra.

You have a full schedule. What other interests do you have?

Yes, I do! Besides loving tattooing and creating spiritually inspired art, I love surfing and yoga, as they have been the things that complement so much my art and tattooing. So you will find me primarily creating art, tattooing, or being at sea and surfing waves, attending or teaching yoga classes, participating in shamanic ceremonies or giving Shamanic sound healing and going to Kirtans (Indian-inspired spiritual music gatherings) or Satsang (spiritual talks). I feel that I created a life where the things I love to do and my hobbies are the same; I’m grateful for where tattooing has brought me.

Photos © Adriaan Machete