How Miryam Lumpini Built Her Brand
Many of the most influential visual artists to impact pop culture created works that unapologetically expressed their vivid viewpoint on the world.
From spirituality and politics, to complex social issues and prominent public figures -- every canvas is simply a platform to share their unique perspective, serving to provoke thought and challenge perception within the minds of all who experience the art. More notably, whether assessing the iconic pop artistry of Andy Warhol or reveling in the abstract brilliance of Jean-Michel Basquiat -- great artists are influenced by their lifestyles, transforming everyday adventures, casual conversations and intriguing observations into immediate sources of inspirations.
Instead of studying traditional techniques and attempting to mirror the style of those who've left a legacy, the genius of an artist is measured by an ability to master their own approach to visual storytelling that provides a compelling glimpse into their identity.
For Swedish celebrity tattoo artist Miryam Lumpini, growing up in a richly diverse environment fueled her infectious free-spirit, feeding an early instinct to explore painting and design. Quickly realizing she didn't want to spend her life creating behind a computer while studying graphic design, Lumpini left school and ventured onto an unconventional path. Surrounded by an eclectic group of friends, she began experimenting with tattooing by sketching on her peers. Her simple sketches grew into elaborate portraits and colorful collages of powerful imagery that would soon become Lumpini's signature style.
Since taking the leap of faith and moving from Sweden to Los Angeles, Lumpini has swiftly rose to become a sought-after tattoo artist for a growing roster of superstar clients that range from Skrillex to Jhene Aiko. Her impressive portfolio of top talent even led LA Weekly to name her the 'Rap Star of L.A.'s tattoo world'. Leveraging the momentum to launch her company, Witch Doctor, the 26-year-old has since done a series of collaborations with Red Bull, AfroPunk, Viceland, Ink Magazine and leading tattoo equipment supplier Cheyenne Hawk, who also teamed up to sponsor her world tour. Known for her alluring aesthetic, natural charm and magnetic personality, Lumpini also boasts a massive social media following, showcasing her artwork and offering fans a front-row seat to witness her lifestyle.
I spoke with Miryam about her business model, guiding principles, and keys to turning her artistry into an expansive personal enterprise.
Miryam Lumpini: My brand is defined by energy and originality -- It’s a lifestyle. Every part of who I am comes through my work. It’s a combination of my experiences, from the past to the present. Coming to America from Sweden, I didn’t know the lifestyle here, so I had to adjust to the culture and find my own way. That’s why everything I create is with purpose and a true reflection of my energy and spirit. My lifestyle embodies my artistry, my energy, my spirit, my passions, how I see the world and how I’m experiencing it everyday.
How do you balance being a full-time artist and building a rapidly growing business?
Miryam Lumpini: My team plays a pivotal role in everything that I do. Before, I was doing everything myself, working independently and focusing on building my brand up from there. It wasn’t until I met my manager, Taylor Lockett, that I realized something bigger was happening and I needed to really focus on building a strong business around what I’m doing. She had such a great vision, I could see myself in it, and it gave me the confidence to believe I could really build something solid. Together, we started our company, Witch Doctor. From there, things started taking off.
What was the turning point at which you shifted from realizing you had this natural gift, to art becoming what you do for a living?
Miryam Lumpini: I was in school in Sweden, and I was studying graphic design. I didn’t want to go to art school, because I had already figured my artistry out. I was constantly reading tattoo magazines and finding inspiration. I loved to learn, but was bored with school for some reason. I made up my mind early that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing art in front of a computer. That’s when I started focusing on tattooing people, then going to school. It was during my studies, around 15 or 16 years-old, that I fell in love with tattooing. I was studying graphic design, media, and communications — all of which were interesting, inspiring and gave me a lot. But, I knew deep down it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Once I figured that out, I bought an online kit, started tattooing friends, and that began fueling my drive to really make this my career. I was really blessed, because I had a lot of punk-rock friends at that time, and they were very free-spirited. They just let me experiment on them and it became a fun thing that we did. I was already on social media, sharing my personality and art work, so the fire spread quickly. People started seeing the potential in me, which led to getting my first apprenticeship. In Sweden, you have to be an apprentice for three years, so right after it ended, I moved to Los Angeles and things took off.
What made Los Angeles the dream destination for you to really kickstart your career coming from Sweden?
Miryam Lumpini: Los Angeles was always this symbol of glamour, where all of the entertainment is and cool shit happens. It’s funny, because my best friend Sophia moved out to L.A. right before I knew that I was going to move. Once she moved out to the city, while I was still in Sweden, I was struck with this huge surge of jealousy. I didn’t understand why I was so jealous of my best friend. Then, a few months later, I actually ended up moving there without planning it, which eventually made me realize that energy was more of a universal urge to recognize that L.A. is also where I was meant to be. Her making the move first just sent this lightening bolt signal that it had to happen.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced that have notably shaped your work and how you’ve built your business?
Miryam Lumpini: The biggest challenge was definitely moving from Sweden to America. Coming here at 21 years-old, and figuring out the structure of an entirely new society -- what it means to be independent, what it means to be a CEO, and understanding how everything works. That opened up a whole new world for my artistic mind, because I was so focused on my artistry. It opened my eyes to seeing that I could take my career wherever I wanted to take it. I definitely want to show people the power of having a team of strong, independent women who are working together to build an empire. I also want to show that our artistry is not limited, and as artists, we never have to put ourselves in a box. My process has shown me the importance of helping each other, pushing each other, and being an example that we can do it our own way.
What is the biggest benefit or advantage you’ve seen moving as a company as opposed to operating independently?
Miryam Lumpini: When we put the team together, the goal was to create a system where I only have to focus on my artistry, which we’ve succeeded at establishing. I feel so blessed to be in this situation, having dynamic women around me that believe in me and each other, bringing their different talents and skills to the table so we all win. I set it up so that I have my assistant, who helps with everything I need on a daily basis. I also have my manager who handles the business and works hard to make sure my best interests are protected. Then, I just have a group of badass women that style, handle PR, and assist with creative. Together, we’re all building Witch Doctor and adding value in our own unique ways. It came to me in a very organic way, because each of them saw how they could bring something special to the table. Building a great team is about having a real connection with each person, knowing that you all genuinely believe in the same vision. You have to respect, support and trust each other one hundred percent for it to feel right. When people see us, they can tell how organic it is, and people often think we’re sisters or really close friends — even though we come from totally different backgrounds and cultures. But, at the end of the day, we all are bosses who get shit done. It’s a beautiful feeling to watch them thrive in their profession, while they also watch my thrive in mine. It makes it easier for me, as a CEO, to just focus on the art, because I can give my trust to them and they always deliver beyond my expectations.
How important do you believe it is for people to see a solid team of five young women working together to build a business like what you’ve established?
Miryam Lumpini: I think it’s very inspiring, actually. I remember getting my hair braided in London, and the lady braiding my hair started asking me questions. I told her I’m from L.A., currently on a Europe tour, and I have my team of girls with me exploring the city. She got excited and lit up, then said ‘maybe we all can team up go on a braiding tour!’ We were inspiring each other, and as women, that’s what it’s about. They were our age and also driven, so it was cool to build that connection and share that moment with them. Perception and representation matters. We have to see the beauty and power in each other, and not be afraid to celebrate each other or offer opportunities. Of course, you want to be smart and trust yourself, but we shouldn’t be thinking that we’re in constant competition or hating on each other.
Your story, personality and artistry are very unique and caught on quickly — What do you think makes so many people buy into your brand?
Miryam Lumpini: Nowadays, it has to be about more than just what you do. People fall in love with who you are now first, then become fans of your work, because they develop a deeper appreciation for it. What’s unique about me is that I’m very young, and I’ve been through a lot of cultural experiences coming from Europe and learning from artists over there, then bringing that to America and seeing how society works in the states. The process of seeing how to become a business woman here in America, while fusing everything I learned and experienced in Europe, all shaped my lifestyle with art as my core focus. People see that who I am as a person and my lifestyle matches my artistry and it all makes sense. It’s my energy and what I stand for. My mission is to provide healing through my art, so no matter your age, ethnicity or culture you come from — you can connect with me and we can share a moment of creating and collaborating on a piece of art that will last forever. We both learn from each other and evolve together in the process, which naturally builds a special bond between me and the people I work with.
What is your approach to creating or your process of working with someone to develop a tattoo?
Miryam Lumpini: My approach is very collaborative. I never go into a session preset on what I’m going to do. People are welcomed to bring references, but everything I do is translated through my style. It’s your vision interpreted through my style onto your body. I use my art to translate your vision. That’s why I feel like the collaboration process is very important in order to make it personal and assure we’re both on the same page. After the session, so many of my clients say wow, it turned out even better than I imagined and I’m happier than I thought because we had a collaborative experience.
You use a lot of colors, symbols and abstract images — How would you describe your style and the thinking behind it?
Miryam Lumpini: My teacher was actually a black and gray artist, but I knew early on that I wanted to only create in color. I feel like color is my superpower, so I started gravitating toward artists who create in color.When I came to L.A., I instantly started painting, which helped me develop my own style. Then, when I was finally able to work in America, that’s when I started tattooing and merging what I learned from painting and my inspirations in Sweden, also looking around and thinking about what people want. I believe people get inspired by me because of my energy, and my art reflects my energy through people. I use a lot of characters and things that symbolize energy, like certain plants, animals, crystals and scenery. I like creating things that can have several meanings depending on how you color it or design it — that is what gives you different vibes. That’s what I ask my clients when we collaborate — what’s your vibe? What do you want to express? Do you want it to be beautiful, calm, angry, or powerful? From there, I match that with my vibe and create something completely original.