Skin Deep

How long have you been a tattoo artist?
Since 1974.
Did you learn tattooing directly from your dad?
Of course. I’m the only practicing artist who studied under him.
Would you consider this a family business?
No, but it did start out as one.
So, would you be ok if your kids became tattoo artists?
I’ll be ok, but they have to ask their mother’s permission first.
What sort of clientele would you say you attract?
Anyone who wants to get a tattoo. There was a time when only specific people got tattoos, but now everybody wants to get one. Even teachers.
What’s the weirdest client you had?
I once had this bald guy walk in who wanted to get “hair” on his whole head.
How do people normally react to the pain?
It’s a mix. Some love it, some hate it, and some don’t even finish the tattoo. There was one guy who had to go out for a smoke half way through. Some stop after the outline, some stop at the shading, some don’t even finish the coloring.
What happens if you make a mistake?
I just go “oops” and tell them what happened.
Don’t they give you shit for it?
No! How dare they! I’m holding the needle!
What’s the weirdest design that someone’s asked for?
Piss girl! It’s a picture from a fetish magazine of this naked girl who’s squatting down and pissing into a wine goblet. I gave the guy a week to think about it, but he eventually got it on his arm. He’s very happy and proud of it too.
What’s the weirdest body part someone’s asked you to tattoo?
For women, there was this lady who asked me to tattoo her nipple pink. It doesn’t work though. For guys, it would be their manhood. There was this one guy who actually got an erection when he got pricked by the needle.
Have you ever refused anyone a tattoo they wanted?
Yeah. Racist designs like a Nazi swastika; blasphemous images like an upside down cross; and facial tattoos. I don’t do facial tattoos unless you’re Maori. And if you’re not a Maori, why the hell would you want a facial tattoo?
What’s the most dangerous thing that’s happened to you as an artist?
I accidentally poked myself with my needle, but didn’t know if the guy had any diseases.
Your body’s a completely clean canvas. Why haven’t you gotten a tattoo?
I want to be different from other people. But the truth? I’m scared of pain!