Junior Gets Creative with Artistic Expression


Haakonsen began exploring their passion for art through tattoos with stick-and-pokes. (Courtesy of Sebastian Diaz/The Fordham Ram)

Sebastian Diaz, Editorial Director

If there’s one thing that consistently provides Annika Haakonsen, FCRH ’24, with immense pride, it’s the ability to see the fruits of their labor as permanent pieces of art attached to living, breathing human bodies. 

It was 10 a.m. and the morning fog had barely settled down by the time I entered Haakonsen’s tattoo studio in Ridgewood, Queens. I found myself in the industrial, artistic space for two reasons. 

Not only had Haakonsen agreed to speak with me about how passionate they are for the tattooing arts, but they had also agreed to do so while threading my chest with their tattoo needle. While I formulated questions in my head, Annika prepped the ink and sanitation tools.

For Haakonsen, tattoos represent more than just a side-gig. According to the artist, the beauty of tattoos can be found in tangibility: 

“That is a piece of art, yes,” they said, referring to tattoos, “but it has a function and a purpose that is very different than a drawing on paper or something that’s hanging on a wall. It travels, it moves, it grows, it ages. Maybe it’s the art history major in me. I love to create and I’ve always loved to create. I love learning about the function of art, which is why I knew immediately I wanted to be an art history major and this is just something cool that I can relate to those interests to in a tangible way.” 

From the initial stages of designing tattoos on paper or digital illustration to placing the Saniderm patches over a finished piece, the entire process satisfies the artist in Haakonsen. 

“With tattooing, yes, it’s a lot about the art, but it’s also about the technique,” Haakonsen said over the hum of the needle and soft emo tunes playing from a portable speaker. “It’s about the equipment you have and the set-up and just all of those aspects combined together into an art form is just really awesome.” 

While Haakonsen is now a fully-licensed tattoo artist with professional tools, an incredible color selection and an extensive portfolio under their belt, their career is just shy of a year old.

The artist explained how they were originally inspired to start giving tattoos by another friend named Ash who had been giving stick-and-poke tattoos for some time. “They taught me how to stick-and-poke,” Haakonsen said as they adeptly maneuvered their tattoo needles across the grooves in my chest. “They poked one for me and I did one for them. I bought a $50 stick-and-poke kit off of Etsy and started f***ing around on my own legs.” 

When their friends had caught notice of Haakonsen’s self-tattooing skills, popular demand asked for the artist to begin giving stick-and-poke tattoos to others as well. As their trade continued, ambitions rose and the inevitable next step was to take it up a notch:

“As I started coming up with more and more designs and makeshift flash art, the designs that I would come up with, I was like, ‘I should invest in a tattoo pen.’ That way, I could do more designs I want to do and expand my repertoire with what I’d been doing.”

While saving up for professional tattoo equipment, Haakonsen encountered more support from their friends than they expected. 

“My friend Echo, as a present, bought me a tattoo pen,” the artist said. “Their one condition was, ‘I buy you the tattoo pen, you tattoo me.’ Hell yeah. Done deal. They were very integral in me just getting started and being like, ‘I could do this if I wanted to. This is something I could do.’”

Considering the fact that their friends were the ones who had encouraged Haakonsen to follow their passions for tattoo art, they reflected that community has been the most significant factor in finding satisfaction through tattoos. 

When thinking about their history and growth as a tattoo artist, Haakonsen places a lot of credit on a community of friends and artists who have helped cultivate a nurturing environment.

“The great part about tattooing and being community taught, what I’ve learned is through solo research and working a studio space with other artists and doing trades with other artists who have more experience than myself,” Haakonsen explained. “I remember I did my very first official tattoo trade with Sammy, who is one of the artists in this studio space and a really wonderful person. I learned more in that four-hour session doing a trade with them than in the past four months on my own.” 

For the uninitiated, tattoo trades are exactly what they sound like: two artists enter an agreement to place their art on the other’s body.

Haakonsen continued to explain how influential it can be to work with more experienced and kind artists: 

“To have someone there to sort of mentor me and be, like, ‘oh, you don’t need to use this much stencil stuff, you can just put it on your finger, you don’t have to put it directly on the skin,’ or, you know, have them say, ‘this is the kind of needle that I use because of this, this and this and it would probably work really well for your style and what you wanna do,’ that was really rewarding to have someone who is already part of the community teach me and validate me. That was really cool and it made me feel really excited to continue and to learn more and grow more. As with all art, it’s a process.”

“Community is one of the most important things to me, period. Community is so integral to who I am and what I value. Becoming a part of the tattooing community has just solidified that so much for me. Everyone that I have met thus far has been so kind and supportive,” Haakonsen said as their needle continued to pierce my skin. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now if not for the community and the people I’ve met through community.” 

Looking down at the magnificent piece etched onto my skin, it was evident that tattoos mean so much more to Annika Haakonsen than a way to make money. They symbolized the immortality of art and the substance of a network that truly looks out for one another.