Now, we can see that it was the respect for the art and the understanding of those who gave their time to make this possible. It wasn’t easy to be a tattoo artist back then. You can become a tattooist without the need for a formal apprenticeship by simply YouTubing. I don’t feel like most kids have an understanding of the background of these artists. Their tattoo work is so exceptional, but that’s because older generations have provided room for us to grow. It is important to me to keep in mind the tradition, craft, and the generations that came before.
How did you take inspiration from Mark Mahoney’s style and make it your own?
LA is the city where I was raised. Mark, one of the pioneers of single-needle sewing, was my birthplace. Freddy Negrete is, of course, the Godfather. Although it was a privilege and a blessing to work alongside these guys, it also proved very difficult. What does it take to make a name for oneself among legends?
Just focusing on what I did was enough. I took notes on their aesthetic and technical application, then applied it to different motifs and designs that weren’t as common at the time. It wasn’t a set intention, I just wanted to do the best that I could and I had faith that the outcome was going to be something I could be proud of.
How does it feel that your work has opened the door to so many people who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten tattooed?
It’s cool that you can neutralize something that maybe was taboo and open communication both ways. Growing up in a conservative household, tattoos were taboo. Having a career as a creator was also taboo. Going from then to now, it’s a triumphant feeling. In the past, I only tattooed heavily-tattooed individuals. Now there are more people receiving their first tattoos than collectors. It’s interesting to see people from all walks of life getting tattooed.
How did you feel about opening a studio after working for Shamrock Social Club many years?
That was certainly a frightening feeling. When you’re under someone else’s roof for so long, that’s all you know. It was a huge risk. It was sad to leave a place that you’re so comfortable with and are so grateful for. Hideaway, however, is great. It’s my own personal laboratory and have a bit more freedom. You grow, and you learn from other things. Sometimes your environment must grow along with you. Hideaway has become my second home, where I can think and create.
You also made a significant accomplishment by collaborating and working with top fashion brands such as Converse. What are you thinking?
I think it’s the same way they look to skateboarding as well. If it’s something that resonates with exploration and creativity, they’re drawn to it. Tattoo artists are among the most imaginative people I know. They’re constantly being challenged by ideas to create an image. And I think lifestyle wise, we’re pretty free people and have an interesting perspective on life. Perhaps it was earlier in my professional career. But we’re just artists for hire. Every day, we wake up to draw on other people. This creates an atmosphere and lifestyle I find quite interesting. They want to have a piece.
How have these collaborations allowed you to share a side of yourself that you haven’t been able to through tattooing?
It’s a different canvas, a different landscape, a different approach to my personal art and design. Everything has its place. My views about fashion and how to express them are different from tattoo-wise. They’re a great exercise in how I can have a voice with a different tone.