How long have you been tattooing? Actually, 20 years this month.
How did you get into the field? Well, it’s kind of a funny story. The woman who taught me used to have a [tattoo] shop on South Avenue [in Rochester] years ago and I grew up in the South Wedge there. A kid I went to high school with, his family was friends with her family and we used to kind of go in there, you know, we were young, after school or whatever – hang out. So I knew her from then. And then she knew I was an artist too. I was always the kid that, like, painted all the punk rock and metal-head kid’s leather jackets for them. And then when I got my first tattoo, she did it for me … when there wasn’t so many tattooers and tattoo shops, she was like the place to go. And she actually offered me an apprenticeship, kind of out of the blue. So it sort of just kind of fell in my lap.
What was the first tattoo on your skin?
The first tattoo I got was, like, this fish, a bass that I drew up. And that went on my shoulder blade.
What was your first tattoo as an artist?
The first tattoo I did was on my friend from high school and it was just something really small. Usually when you first start, it’s just something really simple. So it was like this small tribal piece on his chest.
Any memorable tattoos (good, bad, funny, etc.)?
After doing it for so long you know, there’s so many really. It’s just like a really cool, fun job. You get to do a lot of cool things. So as far as being one thing that sticks out, not really. It’s just sort of a collective thing. It’s just been a cool thing to be able to do.
What is your favorite style?
There’s a few different things I do. I like American traditional. I like Japanese traditional. And I also like doing, like, black and gray – portrait stuff and what not. You know I guess a lot of the stuff I don’t like is a lot of this newer, super, hyper realistic color kind of stuff. I just don’t think it has the longevity of something that is more bold and outlined. It’s just a philosophy. I think tattoos should look a certain way and people are taking it to these extremes. Which is fine – not taking anything away from it – it’s just not for me.
Do you have advice to someone looking to get a tattoo?
Really do your homework. You know today, pretty much all really good shops have gone to fully disposable everything. We used to use stainless steel tubes for our needle guides and even now, those have gotten to a point where they’re really high quality disposable. Even really bad shops will have an autoclave. So sterilization isn’t necessarily… I mean it is still something to be concerned about but not as much. But now there are just so many shops really, where the quality of work is what you need to look for. If someone is offering to undercut a shop, and do something for a lot cheaper, you’ve got to ask yourself ‘Why? Why can’t they charge the same amount and compete?’ And it’s hard for people who have never been tattooed before to really know what the possibilities are to know what a good tattoo is and what a bad tattoo is. You’ve just got to look at portfolios. Look at them really well. Ask around. If you see someone with a really nice piece, ask them where they got it done. When you walk into a shop, they shouldn’t have an attitude with you. They should really take the time to answer your questions. It’s kind of a gut feeling really.
Is there anything you won’t tattoo?
I try to stay away from tattooing people’s faces and the tops of their hands. That’s kind of reserved for, you know, rock stars and tattooers. A tattoo on your hand is definitely going to impact the type of work you can get in the future. And you know, if you’re 18 years old and you’re getting your neck all tattooed up, it’s really going to affect what you can do later on. And of course, I’m not going to do hate tattoos and [swastikas] and that kind of stuff.
Tattoos are becoming more acceptable in society. What are your thoughts on this change and how society views tattoos?
It’s good [that they’re becoming more acceptable] … Sometimes you long for the days when there weren’t million tattoo shops, you know? There wasn’t a shop on every block and it was a little more, kind of, fringes of society sort of thing. But the more it gets accepted, the more people are getting it done. I think it’s good. We do all sorts of people from all different walks of life.