Amanda Toy is an Italian artist: painter, sculptor, illustrator and, above all, tattooist. At the end of the last century, she affirmed herself in the world of tattooing revolutionising it. The most traditional old-school style, in her hands, becomes an explosion of colour and positivity. She has given life to a unique style, able to inspire the entire female artistic scene and beyond. Amanda strongly believes in magic, angelic spirits and unicorns, which guide her every day in her art and life in general. "TOY Tattoo Parlour", the studio she opened in Milan, is a surreal and enchanted place, just like its foundress.
We had the pleasure of interviewing her and immersing ourselves in her fantasy world.
Hi Amanda, welcome to DareClan! We are very excited to have a chat with you and find out more about your "magical world".
Can you tell our readers something about your early days in the tattoo life?
Hello everybody! My first involvement in the art of tattooing dates back to the mythical 90s. Precisely in 1996, when I took part in my first convention and a whole world opened up to me. It was an underground, magical and mysterious world that overwhelmed my personality. I joined it without hesitation and with extreme enthusiasm.
From that moment on, this world has been my guide and the passion it generated continues to the present day.
“I owe my success entirely to colours...”
Scrolling through your Instagram account we are overwhelmed by a joyful atmosphere and positive vibes conveyed by the explosion of colours and the friendliness of your unique style. In fact, the 'Amandatoy' language is now recognised worldwide and is a reference point for many artists. When you first started this job, did you ever think you would become a trendsetter? What do you believe are your major strengths that led you to such great success?
I’ve always tried to be myself, even in bad times. I have attempted to draw out the 'positivity of opportunity', which for me means looking at negative experiences not as a punishment, but as an opportunity. In other words, I always try to find the good side in bad things. Sometimes it hasn't been easy, but I managed to do it.
I have always loved colours, they are the driving engine of my personal development: I live in colours and I think in colours. Years ago I even used to eat in colours, meaning that one day I would decide to eat only yellow foods, one day green, one day red and so on hahahah. I owe my success entirely to colours, in addition to my stubbornness. I am an ambitious sunny person and this is definitely one of my strengths. I believe these are the keys to my success.
Has your tattooing style always been the same over the years? Have you ever been afraid that people might not like it or understand it?
When I started tattooing, the coloured style was not understood. Black and white designs were very popular while proposing coloured motifs was a bit of a puzzlement. In addition, my subjects were out of the ordinary compared to what people were used to seeing. They were funny, amusing and had rounded shapes. Let's say they were a bit difficult to understand, but, to be honest, I never worried about whether or not they would be appreciated. I always did what I wanted to do.
Over the years, my style has changed a lot, both in terms of the subjects and the message I wanted to convey. Although the core style has remained the same, I have worked on technical details. For example, at certain times I offered a thicker line with a darker colouring to generate a greater impact and transmit more energy, while at other times I preferred thinner lines, I tattooed without using black, but just playing on the flat colour contrast. At some points in my career, I worked on squarer shapes, but I always ended up returning to the roundness that belongs to me.
Then, finally, I added a mantra of positivity to my tattoos, as if they were motivational memos.
“One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star" (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
Your followers know about your unbridled passion for unicorns, so strong that you have even designed your own collection of "Unipop", colourful unicorn poop aimed at spreading positivity all around. Furthermore, on your Instagram bio, you wrote: "Born From Chaos and a Yunikōn". Can you explain the meaning of this sentence and where your passion for magical white horses comes from?
My passion for unicorns derives from the fact that, when I started to discover meditation as a form of my own personal space to free my mind, I also started to read up on other forms of energy, after having had experiences in the angelic field. Let me explain: for months, every day, I found hearts all around me: heart-shaped spots, heart-shaped shadows, hearts made of plastic paper, etc. I think these were beings of light trying to manifest themselves. This event started my research, which, among other things, led me to unicorns, more precisely to a book entitled "Angels & Unicorns: The Celestial Company". While reading it, I started to have ‘magical’ dreams in which the main characters were unicorns, so I began to depict them.
Unicorns feed on negativity, turning it into a monument to positivity. My idea of this monument is represented by my Unipops. They are sold by weight, that, not only determines their price, but also the degree of positive energy they are able to convey. Each Unipop is unique and contains a secret message, a kind of superpower, as well as a 'certificate of authenticity’ that mentions the name of the unicorn who produced it. I made three editions and they were very popular: they all sold out in a couple of hours. Positivity always wins!
My background certainly contributed to my passion for these creatures: I like to believe that I come from chaos, I have a punk soul that has always led me back to unicorns and spirituality. There is also a statement that really struck my mind: "One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star" (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra). Hence the words in my bio: "Born From Chaos and a Yunikōn", which means ‘unicorn’ in Japanese, a tribute to rounded kawaii shapes.
We've noticed that you have a lot of tattoos on your skin. Which one do you feel most connected to? Can you share its story with us? Have you got any tattoo you regret?
The tattoos I am most connected to are three. The first one, from a very romantic point of view, is the tattoo related to my job. I have it on my forearm and it depicts two small bottles: a ‘love’ bottle that crosses with a bottle with ‘ink’ written on it. You can guess its meaning: ink and love combining together.
Another tattoo I'm very fond of is the one I made myself on my leg and which I also tattooed on my boyfriend’s skin. It represents a lion looking at a flower enriched by the words "everything is magic or nothing". It represents our bond of love.
Finally, I really like the pink tattoo I got myself on my ankle that depicts my little dachshund Valentina.
I've never regretted a tattoo, but I'd like to remove some old ones. The only reason is that tastes change and I would like to tattoo new stuff, but, well… there’s no space left on my arms!
In addition to tattooing, your great passions are painting, sculpture and illustration. Do you think there is a link between these forms of art and the world of tattoos?
It’s true, in addition to tattoos, I have carried on my passion for painting and illustration. I have always enjoyed sharing my subjects in several ways. Undoubtedly, I consider tattooing as the main form of love, while painting and sculpture are its natural evolution. Concerning sculpture, one thing I had always dreamed of is to transform 2D images into 3D sculptures in order to perceive them as more realistic as possible.
In my opinion, the link is not between tattooing and art, but between the need to create and the means through which the creations can be shared.
And lastly… what would you recommend to someone who has just bought his/her first tattoo pen and wants to kick this business off? What are the strategies to become a successful tattoo artist?