An Open Letter To Tattooers Everywhere.
I was dicking around on Facebook one afternoon and I stumbled upon a photo that Chad Koeplinger had just uploaded. It was a picture of a tattoo he was about to start. A snake and mongoose and roses as a full back piece. I believe he drew most if not all of it on. I ended up just staring at it like a freak for a few minutes when something hit me. That’s the exact same feeling I got when I listened to Bad Brains for the first time when I was 15. I was immediately blown away, and genuinely inspired. I felt the need to work as hard as I could so maybe, some day I might do something that makes someone else feel that way.
I was inspired by something that literally just happened in tattooing. Not something that happened in 1935, of 48, or 74. Something done by someone who is a current tattooer working very hard in tattooing RIGHT NOW. For some reason I thought about just how often that happens to me on a daily basis in regards to tattooing. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that yes, I definitely missed out on some amazing things that happened in tattooing based on when I got involved in the craft, and even more amazing historical events just due to date of birth, and as much as I love those reading about those things, and hearing the stories, as much as I feel like I missed out on some serious history, I realized that I am INCREDIBLY LUCKY to be a tattooer in this day an age.
Yeah, yeah, the shows ruined the world, the government is going to invade us, it’s not what it used to be….Yep. I get it. I agree with most of it, and to be honest, if you were around before it blew up, then I can understand your feelings. Doesn’t mean that it’s a good place to dwell. And newer tattooers like myself? There is no reason on earth that you shouldn’t be 100 percent psyched and inspired by the things being created by a huge amount of tattooers, machine builders, ink mixers, and tinkerers CURRENTLY. Not historically, but RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
Just take five minutes and ponder it. I mean you don’t even have to dig deep. Let’s just start with the fact that there we are alive in the time of Horioshi III? That alone should make you feel like you won a lottery. You can go see Ed Hardy give amazing lectures, you can still get a tattoo from Bowery Stan. It’s still possible(though it may or may not be easy or immediate)to get a tattoo from Filip Leu, Chris Travino, Timothy Hoyer, Bob Tyrell, Jack Rudy, Chris Garver, Bob Roberts, Scott Sylvia, Richard Stell, Freddy Corbin. How about Chris O’Donnel, Mike Rubendall, Rudy Fritsch, Grez, Jeff Rassier, Arron Coleman, Chad Soner, Kore Flatmo, Scott Campbell, Tim Hendricks, Mike Roper? Amazing. Knocking it out of the park regularly. Have you seen tattoos done by Chad Koeplinger, Jeff Zuck, Dan Trocchio, Nick Colella, Seth Wood, Isaac Fainkujen, Erick Lynch, Krooked Ken, Tim Biedron, Shige, Thomas Hooper, Jondix, Duncan X, Shinji, Mike Shea, Dana Hellmuth, Lars Uwe, Zack Spurlock, Dan Sinnes, Cory Lenherr, Xam, Danny Reed? HOOLEEY SHIT!
You can go to Smith Street today and there’d a good chance you could get tattooed by every person in that amazing shop within that same week. You can go to Rock of Ages and get tattooed by Steve Byrne and Tony Hundahl. You can get a Tim Lehi Back piece, or a Jason Kundell Chest piece. You can get Katie Sellergren script.!You can just go get a fucking Mike Wilson tattoo! Not to mention the countless tattooers out there who I’m either forgetting(and already feeling bad about it), or not aware of. Countless. I don’t give a shit what anyone says, there is still magic in tattooing, and I see it EVERY DAY. We have real life magicians in our craft and they are everywhere and most of them are real fucking accessible!
That very incomplete list of tattooers not making you see yet? Fine. Let’s talk about Seth Ciferri, Aaron Cain, Jim Rosal, Brian Hibbard, Gus, Dan Dringenberg, Jimmy Whitlock, Mike Kruse, Soba, John Moniz, Karl Hedgpath, Korie Wilson, Juan Puente, Scott Sylvia, Josh Ford? Have you tried a machine made by any of these guys? Why wouldn’t you? Why be upset that you don’t have an original Jonesy(even though that would be amazing), when you can have a truly well crafted machine by builders that are true scientists in the field of machine building. Builders who’s machines can actually help your tattooing on a day to day basis? Have you used Waverly’s ink? How about Phil Holt’s Old Gold Small Batch? Waverly’s Payne’s Grey, and Melba, and Phil’s Red, and Golden Yellow have changed my life for the better and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts.
Tired of this list, too? Still need more reasons on why you should be exited to be a tattooer in this day an age? How about The State of Grace convention in Sf? The London Convention, The Montreal Convention, The Milan Convention. Not to mention Taki, Mick, Pierre and everyone who kills it to put those conventions on for the benefit of US! Need more reasons? The Ben Corday Book, Jerry books, and pretty much everything Hardy/Marks puts out, both Volumes of These Old Blue Arms, put out by Solid State. Chuck Eldridge and The Tattoo Archives, Tattoo Artist Magazine, Lucky’s Supply….
Then there are the clients. More now than ever before. Sure maybe some present certain difficulties, sure some don’t really even want tattoos. Some just want to have the “me too guys, I got one, too!” story. Who cares? They are coming to you to give you money to do the job that you wanted so fucking bad. Do you have to love everyone? no, but you should be fucking thankful and feel lucky as Hell they walked through your door to get that tattoo that you’re giving them the stink eye for wanting. Show them some fucking gratitude, and you could have a client for life. The fact that someone would take time out of their day, travel at all, never mind long distances, just to get tattooed by me at all makes me feel like I owe tattooing everything. Just personally, the opportunity that was given to me by the people who taught me, Ricky McGee and Clay McCay. The hospitality that I’ve been shown by all the guys at Three Kings Tattoo, Broad St. Tattoo, Congress St. Tattoo, Ink and Dagger and Mr. Tattoo.
Honestly there really are things that you can be justifiably upset about within our craft. Absolutely. And you definitely should be aware of those things and cautious about them. And yes, there’s no way you can be 100 percent everyday, all day. We all have a bad day sometimes. But there are just so many more reasons to be fucking amped to be around it today, and it shouldn’t just make you feel lucky. You should feel like you owe every thing to the tattoo gods, and the tattooers out there that you want to be, the one’s you take so much from, and who’s sweat and effort have made this the thing YOU CHOSE to be a part of, what it is today. Tattooing isn’t your little thing to show off to your friends. It’s something bigger than all of us, made up by us and those that came before. To keep it special and preserve it for the future, you should make yourself as aware to just how amazing it really is, let yourself be genuinely impressed. Maybe stop being so cynical, and perpetually “over it”. Let yourself go wide-eyed, and fucking tell the people that the effort they put in matters. That they’ve made some difference. Who cares if you think you’ll look stupid? You owe it to tattooing to actually fucking love it. If you’re going to make money off it, you better fucking worship it.
I feel like I kinda got off the rails there. I’m sure not a real writer and I guarantee that I miss-used punctuation, let sentences get away from me, and may have miss-spelled something. I am almost 100 percent sure some people will read this and see it as some ass kiss, name drop letter, or something ridiculous like that. What has two thumbs and doesn’t give a shit? This guy. I felt the need to declare my love for tattooing and complete respect for the people who continue to inspire and push me even if I am just some random dude.
Thank you so goddamned much.