I admire the work of Kari Barba, Vyvyn Lazonga, Dawei Zhang, Joe
Leonard and Julie Moon. I try to give each client the style and
look they want though, so I don't have a "style" per se; I
love fine detail and gave up painting because it never looked
finished until I outlined the whole thing with black...Nick is
broadening my horizons art wise though, maybe I'll try paint again
What made me want to become a tattoo artist?
In high school (in the 70s) many of the people I hung around with
broke arms and legs, and since none of us really went to class I would
spend hours drawing on their casts with sharpie pens; huge elaborate
murals; then when the break healed the cast would be cut off and there
goes my cool Rick Wakeman keyboard...This guy came to school with a
tattoo- (He had a mustache, all the ID you needed to get a tattoo in
those days) -A pinup girl on his forearm with a snake wrapping around
the arm 'holding it on". That was the first tattoo I remember
ever really seeing and a light bulb went on over my head: Wow, if I
did this no one would ever cut it off! I decided that I wanted to be a
tattoo artist when I grew up. I had lots of trippy jobs for the next
ten years; telephone operator, bartender, sign language interpreter; I
started really pursuing an apprenticeship right after I got my first
tattoo at 29. I did my first tattoo on my thirty-first birthday.
My favorite style of work:
I love anything that looks 'real'...Flowers, animals, metal objects. I
love to work with other artists to make their tattoo look like they
did it themselves. I love to help people work lots of symbolism into
their tattoo so it means something as well as looking pretty. I love
to do teeny tiny stuff too!
My first tattoo experience:
It was my birthday...A friend of mine had a bunch of tattoos that
looked like they had been done late at night in a bar with a
screwdriver dipped in motor oil. I knew if I did a tattoo with my eyes
closed using my right hand I could do better than what he already had.
I did a small feather with some leather and beads and it was over way
sooner than I was ready for! I felt like I had finally found the thing
I was born for.
The favorite piece I own:
Bluebells I tattooed on my inner right forearm with the word
"Surrender" in the middle. I also love the lower angel on my
back, but I don't really get to see those girls too often.
The most memorable tattoo I did:
Wow, there are so many! Tattooing Nick, because I love him and it
didn't matter if I bobbed his hand...Tattooing this guy with a piece
about how sad he was to be breaking up with his girlfriend while the
two of them talked-- faces inches away from each other--and cried
about how sad it was to be breaking up...This guy who didn't speak
English that I tattooed on his stomach while he sported a giant woody
under my elbow the whole time...ALL the "in Memory" tattoos
that had to be done before the funeral.
Body parts I won't tattoo:
Palms of hands and soles of feet because it will look terrible in a
few years...Penises because...Well because I only want to deal with
one of those and I like it too much to hurt it!...
I ABSOLUTELY NEVER ORDER FROM COMPANIES THAT SELL TO THE PUBLIC. I
make plenty of money covering things that were done in garages or
hotel rooms, but tattooing IS NOT something that someone should try
without a proper apprenticeship!
Do I think there should be mandatory schooling for tattoo artists?
I would like to see state board examinations given to people who want
to do this...A hair-stylist needs to pass a test and all they can do
is make you look bad! I favor the old-fashioned one on one
apprenticeship method of learning this.
Has tattooing changed over the years?:
Of course! Everything has changed! We have AIDS and Hepatitis C to
worry about now, so sterile procedure has become paramount. Also the
people who get tattoos are now crossing every single socio-economic
line. Tattoos have joined the world of fine art and seem to be less
symbols of rebellion or anti-social statements. People's moms have
Conventions and shows:
I'd love to! I have been raising kids for the last bunch of years
though, and can't just leave them (or the shop) to go all over the
place. If it was important to me to be 'famous' as well as just do the
best work I can, then yes, I think that would be important. I own the
first and only professional tattoo studio in my town...I'm busy every
day so being famous would just take too much time!
My advice to someone wanting to do this:
GET AN APPRENTICESHIP! Kids, don't try this at home! Draw, draw,
draw and take your work to professionals until someone will agree to
teach you! There is NO shortcut that will turn you into a good tattoo
artist. (Prison experience doesn't count toward learning this the
right way, sorry.)
Had a bad tattoo experience?
Watch an artist you are considering getting a tattoo from work on
someone else! See in person how good their work is, and how they treat
their clients...I've been doing this for almost 13 years and have
never advertised...I have a steady, loyal clientele because I know how
to treat people and put them at ease; I think making the customer
happy is way more important than inflating my own ego. If you've dealt
with someone who made you unhappy, try someone else, but only after
you have checked out their energy and their work!
Comments or views:
The thing I feel most strongly about is that some people insist on
doing this in their garage or kitchen or whatever...Tattooing
minors...There is a 'prison-style' (I can't even refer to him as
an artist) guy in this town that does the kids who aren't old enough
to see me yet. I see crooked, blobby-pointed, ugly stuff out of his
garage all the time. His work is cheaper than mine; These teenagers
will have to live with these ugly tattoos (or giant cover-ups) for
years if they can't afford laser removal, all because this guy is
willing to exploit their youth and take their money. I hate it that
there is one of these guys in every town! Parents: If your kid comes
home with a tattoo like this, report it to the authorities! Help put a
stop to this kind of dangerous tattooing! It endangers your kid and my
legitimate livelihood. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!