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.

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33 Responses to “An Open Letter To Tattooers Everywhere.”

  1. I think exactly as you do. I saw the Chad Koeplinger backpiece too and time stopped. I’m so grateful great artist like you and all the others (and the ones you forget to mention, like Eckel, Adrian Edek, Electric Pick, Yori, Uncle Allan, Deno..) put up a blog and share your amazing works and your thoughts. i consider myself a tattoo apprentice (with no “formal” apprenticeship) and part of my poor knowledge in this matter come from all the blogs, myspaces and webs… This is indeed great time for tattooing, with the incredible chance to see what artists around the globe are doing. You thank tattooing; i thank you for this post, and thank tattooing too!

    pd: your birdgirlhead is absolutely brilliant.. i didn’t look at it as much as the Chad Koeplinger backpiece, ’cause your is smaller! but i consider both part of that group of tattoos that have the power to inspire people and make oneself stop and think about it with admiration
    pd2: i’m realising this reply sounds as well as asskissing… fuck it! your work is brilliant anyway and that was a nice letter to read

  2. BACKED 100%

  3. Thank you for writing that. I’m not fortunate enough to be a tattoo artist but am definitely a collector and spent years as an academic researching tattoo history. As a result, I have met many tattoo artists and am fortunate to call some friends. Because I love tattoos (and the great culture that surrounds them), parts of the letter gave me goosebumps, but it also made me rethink my own craft . . . thanks!

  4. I’m not a tattooer (full-disclosure, I have aspirations) but I love reading about the history of tattooing and prowling the blogs of contemporary artists – yours being one of them. (And I have a growing collection of work I really love.)

    Thank you for writing this and loving/being grateful/seeing the magic in/being passionate about what you do. It was really refreshing to hear this from a tattooer these days.

    Also, your tattoos are very nice and if I’m ever in your neck of the woods I’ll be looking you up!

  5. “Let yourself go wide-eyed” – I feel like this sums up all of the above nicely. I love your attitude.

  6. Dead on.

    I’m just a guy who gets tattooed but I got the same wave of inspiration and stupid excitement when I stepped into Smith St. I was encapsulated by all the cool shit I thought of as a kid to draw, but couldn’t get exactly how I wanted it to look. For me they got it. That’s the thing tattoos do for me. They make me reminisce about drawing battles in grade school. The raddest came out on top.

  7. this is awesome. makes me feel psyched about the “current” generation of young tattooers. also, after getting waverly’s sample colors a few months ago paynes grey and melba were the two colors i went out of my way to buy outside the basics….love those colors.

  8. so very very true!

  9. I see a ball leaving the park. Knocked it right out of there dude. 100%. PMA and high five. Talk to you more in depth soon.

  10. Yes. My sentiments exactly. Thanks.

  11. Thanks for putting something out there in defense of us young whippersnappers. No matter how long any of us have been tattooing, or doing anything, there’s always going to be someone above us looking down (except maybe for Bowery Stan) and someone below us trying to catch up.

  12. Miss CheeVious Says:

    What Doug Hardy says… AbsoTUDEly a spot on sentiment.

  13. Shawn Porter Says:

    Well said man. Well said.

  14. no, not a kiss as at all! you have a passion and it is very apparent! your note gave me chills!

  15. wow. im glad to have gotten tattooed by you at the boston convention. and am glad to have gotten tattoos by the people you mentioned in your letter and have machines from some of them…. well written letter. see you at taki’s con later this month mang

  16. what about lady tattoo artists that are knocking it out of the park? there definitely are some…

    • I just rattled off what instantly came to mind. Of course there are Female tattooers who are killing it. Nikki Balls, Valerie Vargas, Jill Bonny, Sara Schor, Claudia deSabe, Rose Hardy…

  17. thanks. i actually just wanted to know as yr work is so fantastic i figured u must know the ladies who are killing it too!

  18. Sweden. We have a lot of rock stars in the biz… (( But efter couple of word about if I start to talk on the internet about them fuckups being fuckups and everything comes to the right place quick… but me are tattooer as well…I know the shit… but some may not… I hope every working man in the industry will think like you just wright… well done mate..

  19. Excellent article and very well put! Going to print this out for all my artists. It is hard to see the forest through the trees some days but you nailed it. Thanks!

  20. Thank god somebody finally wrote something about tattooing these days that isn’t negative! I agree with all of your points on the downside of tattooing but it is extremely refreshing for somebody to take the time to point out the great oppurtunities of tattooing in this day and age and the fact that no matter what we have to deal with we are so fucking lucky.. I myself am a tattoo artist in awe of the greats of our past and present, and your rambling paragraph just got me so hyped on the rest of my day at the shop…off to draw.. thanks

  21. absolutely fan-fucking-tastic! i am not a tattoo artist but a tattoo lover and there’s nothing worse than getting the stink eye from some guy who thinks their too cool to tattoo you. most of us are serious about tattoos, we put time and effort and lots of money into getting something permanent on our bodies and we let YOU do it, give us a bit of respect and feel honored that we want your artwork on our bodies forever! thanks for sticking up for the customer, i feel that’s something that definitely needed to be said so I really appreciate your kind words. Thanks again!

  22. prix tatouage…

    […]An Open Letter To Tattooers Everywhere. « The Laughing Hyena[…]…

  23. thanks for writing this. I am new to tattooing (4 years in a few months!) and am PERPETUALLY wide eyed, excited, and so GRATEFUL to be able to be a part of this and to have met tattooers who teach me and let me watch them tattoo and give me advice and help. It’s truly amazing. To see all of the work that is happening and has already been done. And I can’t understand why I see so many tattooers not much further in than me sometimes who complain about the job. I really don’t. Anyway, I want to always be appreciative and I think this post was well written and inspiring.

  24. YES! if you cant understand this post, or the names aren’t familiar, you have some serious research to do. Tattooing is truly all or nothing, be passionate and educated about who/what is out there to make our art and lives better. or make room for the next guy who will give their all. not to mention a better tattoo. Respect

  25. well said… if i was able to concentrate long enough to write down my feelings on the same subject, it would read pretty much the same….. that said, I’ve got some drawings to work on……..

  26. so good, right on the mark with this man. your a big inspiration to me as a tattooer. and same with all the people you mentioned. keep on rockin man.

  27. That inspirational post is worthy of TED!

  28. Very well said! I am also blown away by some truly remarkable people that are in tattooing today!

  29. Good ass fucking article!
    I really feel the sense of your words, that’s exactly what inspires me everyday, to be part of the Trade’s history

  30. […] and I'm going to add Ron Henry Wells. What first really made me pay attention to him was this "open letter to tattooers everywhere" that he wrote last year about how, while acknowledging that there are some bad things going […]

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