Miryam Lumpini is fascinating. From the way she looks to what she does for a living, everything about her is attention-grabbing. At 23-years-old, she has more life experience than most people we know. She worked her way literally around the world, from a small village in Sweden to her current high-rise apartment in DTLA. From tattooing Skrillex’s OWSLA tattoo to discovering her talents in different mediums, Miryam is definitely an artist to watch.
Miryam grew up in Stockholm, Sweden and at 10-years-old moved to a much smaller town on the Swedish West coast. She was raised by her single mother, who was an artist herself. But when Miryam expressed that she also wanted to pursue art, her mom warned her how difficult it is to make a living off of it. She studied photography and graphic design starting in high school, which helped shape her artistic sensibilities. But she was never big on school and had little desire to keep studying.
“I was like, ‘I just want to make a lot of money now! How can I make money out of doing art?”
Unlike a lot of artists, once she was out of school Miryam didn’t have an artistic focus or medium that she knew she wanted to pursue. She just knew that she loved creating art and needed to find a way to make money off it. She developed an interest in tattooing because you can make a decent living off of it if you’re good enough at it. She started studying tattoo magazines, and practiced drawing tattoo-like styles, and found that not only did she really like it, but that she was really fucking good at it.
She started hanging around a tattoo shop in her small town. No one would tattoo her because she was under 18, so she bought an online kit and started doing it herself, and practiced on friends out of an apartment.
“I was like, 17 and we were just a bunch of punk ass kids getting wasted every weekend and tattooing each other - all my tattoos looked like shit.”
To become a professional tattoo artist, you have to start out as an apprentice. She started seeking out opportunities to become one, and met someone who linked her with an artist looking for an apprentice. She jumped at the opportunity and moved to the other side of the country to work for him. She gave up everything to go there and it ended up being a super shady situation. The owner had promised her training that he couldn't deliver, and was scamming her out of money she was working hard to earn.
“I was living in this small town in a little apartment, trying to pay my rent and I was like, ‘Shit, what the fuck am I going to do?’ Tattooing is my dream, I want to tattoo. So what am I going to do? Should I just go back to my mom and start bagging groceries or something? What do you do when your dreams just get crushed?”
It got to the point where she knew she had to make a change. She was broke, she wasn’t learning anything, and was pissed for being taken advantage of. She told her story to her boyfriend-at-the-time’s tattoo artist who saw potential in her work and offered her a different apprenticeship. The new gig changed everything for her, and she happily worked and learned under him for almost three years. At the age of 20, Miryam was on the cover of Nordic Tattoo magazine and participated in her first tattoo convention while she was an apprentice. She ended up winning 2nd place in the Best of Show category for a tattoo she did for her friend.
During her apprenticeship, she was designing posters for the Emmaboda Festivalen music festival, whose speciality is booking artists before they get big. In 2011, she told them they should really book this guy Skrillex [“this guy Skrillex…”] because he’s about to blow up. The festival ended up booking him in July 2011, and, yea, we guess he did blow up. When Miryam and Skrillex met at the festival, he was into her tattoos and asked if she would do one for him. She ended up tattooing his OWSLA logo on his right forearm and they’ve been homies since. He invited her to come hang in LA, so she took a trip. While she was out here she fell in love with the city and a boy, and decided to make the move permanent.
She moved to LA with one suitcase and the immediate culture shock was jarring. From immigration and visa issues, to figuring out how she was going to pursue her dreams in a new city, feeling at home in LA took a while. She felt committed to open up her own tattoo studio and the friends she made during her first LA visit had big expectations for her to pursue that. But starting a business is a different kind of work - there were several intricacies and lots of red tape involved. It was taking time away from doing what she loved, so she started to brainstorm other avenues where she could create art. Ultimately, she decided to tattoo on a freelance basis, and discovered a talent and love for painting.
Her art was showcased for the first time at advertising agency 72andSunny’s Born Modern: Physical vs. Digital exhibit in April and she also recently did mural art for a Red Bull x Production Club event. As she builds her first upcoming solo art exhibit, she is preparing mural art for Production Club in exchange for their contributions at her show.
Depending on the size of her paintings, an individual project can take up to a month to complete. She likes her current situation because it allows for her to practice multiple mediums of art and can simultaneously do paintings, tattoo and murals. The combination of painting and tattooing was a better use of her time and talents, as well as a better way for her to creatively express herself and feel personally fulfilled.
When she starts a painting, she never knows how it will turn out. Her vision changes daily. She first freehand sketches an idea on paper, which she then transfers over to canvas, then layers paint on top of her sketches as her visions evolve. Her goal with each painting is to tell a story, and she wants its audience not to simply view the art, but rather step into a world they’ve never been before. Inspired by fairy tales, storytelling and imagination, her paintings are an experience.
Miryam is worldly. Her art doesn’t focus on just one influence, but rather combines and showcases all of her life experiences. It is inspired by a combination of animals, wilderness, and the woods, reminiscent of her Swedish upbringing, mixed with patterns she sees in her current city environment. It’s an urban-nature fusion.
Her upbringing and experience in Sweden has shaped the person she’s become today. She has struggled in both her personal and work life. She was raised by her single mom in a remote Swedish town, where chopping wood for fire and a frugal lifestyle was all she knew. She has a lot of grit. Her resilience and ambition has given her the thick skin that you need as an artist and especially as a girl in a masculine industry. She has the drive to build things for herself, and goes for it, no matter what people tell her or what the social stigma is.
She’s at a point in her life where she’s comfortable trusting herself. Miryam has authentic, genuine confidence that we’re inspired by. During our conversation she spoke words of wisdom that deeply resonated with us as we pursue our own creative endeavors.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks and to figure out what works for you, and trust your instincts to pursue your passions. Even if that means leaving everything you know behind and not knowing what the future holds. Don’t ever do it for anyone other than yourself and understand that no one can pave that path for you. And don’t let your past experiences, no matter how reckless, define you, embrace your ambition and what it’s taken to get you to where you are. Embrace the person your experiences have created.”
Miryam is in the process of creating her first solo art exhibition with 72andSunny’s Karen Oliveros and creative agency Production Club, coming in July.
Fashion influences / style? Where do you go shopping?
I have always dressed a little weird. When I started elementary school, I was the only black kid in my small town, so I did everything I could to blend in. But one day I was just like, “Fuck it, I’m tired of trying to blend in” so I became part of the 2005 emo kid era. Then I turned more into a scene kid, where I embraced being different. When I moved out here, I only had one suitcase so I’ve started to rebuild my wardrobe here. I go to Hot Topic, Melrose, Fashion District… a little American Apparel and H&M. I love mixing affordable items with expensive details and can generally walk into any store and find something rad.
What are some specific places in LA that inspire you creatively?
I really love Huntington Gardens, it’s beautiful because there’s not a lot of nature here, and I come from a place with a lot of nature. They have different gardens with different climates: they have a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, rose garden, a cactus garden, desert garden, all kinds of different environments. So whatever environment I feel like being in, I can go there. That’s kind of how I feel about my paintings as well.
I really like Kombucha drinks and coconut water. I’m trying to not drink too much alcohol, because I’m trying to be productive right now. I’ve definitely lived a rock & roll lifestyle in my past... when I was a teenager, I would drink whatever. Now when I go out I like vodka soda because it doesn’t make me as hungover. I like tequila though, I just take a shot of tequila. I can drink a little whiskey, but nothing too sweet.
Favorite brunch spots?
I really like that there’s a big selection of raw and vegan food in LA. I’m not vegan myself, but I really enjoy eating that kind of food because I feel good after. Around [DTLA] I really like Panini Cafe… and I try not to go to Bottega Louie that often even though it’s right there. [PANINI CAFE<3]
Bloody marys or mimosas?
Depends. Bloody marys for sure, mimosas make me tired and ruin my day, haha. I love champagne though, and I love orange juice. Different things for different days.