Name? Cody Gower
Shop? Against the grain tattoo
Location? Smyrna TN
You’re only 30 years, old, yet you’ve already been tattooing for 11 years. What inspired you to jump into tattooing so early?
Honestly, it was my only goal in life. I was 12 years old, growing up around a local tattoo shop and the owner told me if I kept at my art I could tattoo one day. After that, there was no plan B. Tattoo or bust.
How old were you when you opened your shop?
Running a business isn’t easy. Was it a struggle to stay on top of the business side of things while maintaining your chops as an artist?
At first yes. I’m fortunate now. I have a solid crew to help me make things easier. It’s a team effort among us and without the guys with me, the shop and myself would not be where we are.
Tell us a little about your relationship with Axys Rotary.
I’m one of Axys Rotary’s sponsored artists. They’re an amazing company run by two equally amazing people named Dan and Gisella. They actually care . . . not just about their team either but everyone who uses their products. Your following means nothing to them. It’s who you are as a person and that goes a long way.
Can we assume that you aren’t “loyal to the coil”?
While I respect coils, I’m not anymore. Rotaries are helping my hands last.
You came into the industry right at the evolutionary cusp between the “old school” and the “new school.” From your vantage point, what has improved and what have we maybe lost along the way?
The improvement is artists are more together and willing to share knowledge. 10-15 years ago, you couldn’t go hover over an artist in another shop down the street. Now I have dinner with the local guys and hang out with them all the time. What was lost is respect. The younger generation is not willing to pay their dues. They expect to be just doing amazing tattoos and doing the style they are inspired by without putting in the work to get their ability to match their want.
What, in your opinion is the most pivotal issue in the tattoo industry currently?
Honestly, the exposure of the artists who are taking advantage of the clients. Clients trust us to not put them in uncomfortable positions and not be a total piece of shit. World famous and FK Irons recently removed a guy for DM’ing his ‘stuff’ to female clients. Not cool, captain. Not every client wants to fuck you.
Word around the industry is that you’re completely straight edge. Is that true?
Man, its funny. I am, but unlike straight edge people I don’t use the title. ‘Edge’ people tend to be judgy. Other people drinking or smoking doesn’t affect me but I won’t do it. It’s not my thing.
Any closing remarks?
How you carry yourself is everything in this business. Too many people focus on their image in social media’s eye, but its what not what do you when people are watching. Its what you do when people aren’t around. Be the standard in this industry. Set the bar. This business deserves so much more than what its been getting lately.
How long have you been studying the craft?
A: I have been tattooing for fourteen years.
What (if any) certifications do you hold and what associations do you belong to?
A: I hold a certification in Blood Borne Pathogens
What is your area of specialty?
A: My areas of specialty are color, black and grey and watercolor. I love to do color the most and enjoy tattooing other types as well, but I don’t like doing tribal tattoos. I find them to be boring lol, but I’d still do them as well.
What do you find fascinating about the tattoo industry?
A: When I first started tattooing what fascinated me the most was the fact that my artwork would be carried and shown to others through my clients. My cousin was the one who first encouraged me to use my art and skill for tattooing. Now I continue my love for tattooing because of the continued learning of something new every day. Also getting to see other people’s style in art and getting to learn from that and incorporate it with my own style.
A: Last but not least I would like to leave a legacy for my kids, my family and my followers. Having won first place in the New Jersey Wildwood convention hosted by Villain Arts for the most unusual tattoo in 2018 I work hard at being the best tattoo artist I can be, but furthermore a role model to those whom I may have inspired.
Artist: Miguel Luciano
Shop: Inked In Tattoos & Piercing
17 South 5th ST 2fl
Reading, PA, 19602
Phone: shop:484-869-3874 Miguel:717-368-9203
Chico Cortes – Marked 4 Life Tattoos – Miami, Florida
“The tattoo business has evolved so much . . . there are a million artists good artists, but because of TV and social media, you kind of become entwined with the artist . . . You identify and somehow connect with that one artist. So now you’re willing to travel to see that one artist.”
Chico Cortes has a point. It’s the digital age. The world is smaller in a sense because everything is at your fingertips, but it’s also exponentially larger, because—well—everything is at your fingertips.
But he’s not going to make you travel to see him or his crew, nor is he willing to simply employ the “post and pray” method (that’s when you throw your best work on IG and SnapChat and beseech the deity of your choice for traction) to garner new business. He’s coming to you, or at least, to a convention near you, along with a rotating cast of 15 (give or take) artists handpicked for quality and style.
“It’s the Marked 4 Life Pro Team,” the 20-year industry veteran begins. “Of my team, at any time, 12 out of 15 are award winning. They’re mostly from the East Coast. We do about 20 shows a year, so there should be a reality show in this somewhere. For now, all we do is travel and come back to the two shops in Miami.
“But of course, since I’m arrogant,” he later adds with a chuckle, “the focus is mostly on me.”
If his self-analysis were true, it wouldn’t be without good reason. Those two shops he mentioned are the two branches Chico’s Marked 4 Life, a staple in the southern Florida tattoo scene that has churned out more renowned artists than most could name in one sitting. He is also the owner and operator of I.N.K. Gear, a tattoo-themed apparel brand that’s beginning to make waves of its own. But as the conversation unfolds, it becomes apparent that his assertions might just be playful bluster.
He might paint himself as an ego-maniac, but an arguably better description would be introspective and self-aware. This especially becomes apparent when he remarks on his own career.
“I was a tattooer,” he says of his early career, with the emphasis on ‘er.’ “A lot of people don’t know the difference. It’s like the difference between someone who rides a bike and someone who is a stuntman. I was the bike rider with training wheels . . . I was very basic, very flash oriented. Whatever I saw, I copied and that was it . . . I don’t want that in my shop anymore. I guess that’s pretty fucking hypocritical, since that’s what I was and maybe what I am.”
This snippet comes from a much broader conversation about his personal evolution within a rapidly evolving industry, but the hyper self-awareness all but negates his previous assertion. Say what he might, his focus is really on his diverse team of artists, many of whom he has personally apprenticed. His description of their work is straight-forward but speaks volumes.
“Quality,” he says. “Quality and friendly service. I think that’s what sets us apart now. Before, there weren’t that many tattoo artists and you pretty much had to deal with that attitude or that arrogance . . . it’s not like that anymore. Now, we’re a dime a dozen. We’re all over the goddamn place . . . it’s not hard to find a tattoo artist. You’re probably related to one and you don’t even realize it.
“I’m one of the guys who actually give a fuck,” he later adds “I care what comes out of my booth. I care about what comes out of my shop. I tell my tattoo artists that they have to tackle every tattoo with the respect of their first and the dignity of their last because that tattoo is going to travel places and their name is going to be spread miles beyond their reach.”
Considering the miles they travel, that’s saying a lot. If they’re coming to a convention in a town nearby, they shouldn’t be hard to find. Just look for the giant, 20’x20’ booth, the equally massive banners and the dozen or so dudes in matching Marked 4 Life t-shirts.
“We’re a little bit different than the rest of the guys there,” he offers. “It’s not the same cookie cutter booth. People are drawn to the difference.”
Chico’s Marked 4 Life Pro Team
Austin L. Ray
When we last left Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles in 2010, he was feeling less than optimistic about the world at large. On The Monitor’s epic, 14-minute closer, “The Battle Of Hampton Roads,” he asked, “Is there a human alive that can look themselves in the face / without winking, or say what they mean / without drinking, or believe in something / without thinking, ‘What if somebody doesn’t approve?’” already knowing the bleak, negative answer.
Stickles kicks off his band’s third full-length, Local Business, with a reiteration of sorts, singing, “I think by now we’ve established everything is inherently worthless / and there’s nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” Indeed, Local Business brings with it no such reprieve to the everyday doom and gloom explored in both The Monitor and 2008’s The Airing Of Grievances. If anything, as that opening line suggests, the album is here to remind listeners that evils resulting from conformity, social constructs, eating disorders, and all manner of other things forced upon their modern consumerist society are regularly occurring scourges that must be taken on at all costs if they are to truly live.
If you’ve ever screamed “THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE” approximately a dozen times in your kitchen, scaring the neighbors and maybe even yourself, then you know what it is to live like this.
Heavy shit, man. But Titus Andronicus fans expect as much by now. They’re used to Stickles’ ragged, Oberstian voice straining to stay above a chorus of air-guitar-worthy riffage, songs that frequently stretch beyond the six-, seven-, or eight-minute mark, and a veritable avalanche of big ideas. Stickles’ voice is cleaned up a little here, as is the production, and his band has tightened up as well. Where the first two Titus albums included contributions from more than 30 musicians, Local Business—and its subsequent tour—features only five.
While Stickles probably isn’t too much fun at parties (he’d spend all his time sulking in the corner or railing at the establishment to someone who’s not listening or complaining about the futility of even having a party in the first place), he would be a good pal for intense porch discussions. Listening to his band is a little like that—a window, of sorts, into the mind of a troubled, intelligent person who needs to air his grievances in order to truly live.
Three guitars, a sense of humor in the face of despair, and an unwavering commitment to the underrated art of the rock ’n’ roll sing-along are what define Local Business. The brief, rollicking, mostly instrumental “Food Fight!” prefaces the lengthy, self-explanatory, overtly lyrical “My Eating Disorder.” On “Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter,” the exhilarating repetition of “I hear you took it to another level: Here it goes again!” is on par with “You’ll always be a loser!” and “Your life is over!” in the canon of raise-a-beer-and-shout Titus Andronicus lines.
There might not be a better rock band right now at pairing an everything-is-fucked worldview with an it’ll-be-okay-with-another-guitar-solo chaser, and no frontman better at pairing the glorious freedom of being an individual with the pain and responsibilities and confusion that come with that individuality.
“Don’t tell me I was born free,” Stickles begins “In A Small Body,” completing the thought with, “That joke has been old since high school.” That sums up Stickles’ modus operandi. A square peg in the first world’s round hole, Stickles espouses a classic punk-rock ethos within the framework of quote-unquote “indie rock,” shining a light on his frustration so that others can relate. He says what he believes without thinking about the approval of others in a way that keeps suggesting maybe everything’s not so worthless after all.
The All American Tattoo Convention
April 12-14, 2019
Fayetteville, North Carolina
There’s a legendary connection between tattoos and the US military. For active service personnel and reservists to honored veterans, tattoos are a constant reflection or their loyalty, not only to their branch or unit, but also to their country. Tattoos also showcase the pride in camaraderie with fellow soldiers or in remembrance of a fallen comrade. The goal of The All American Tattoo Convention is to give some of the bravest heroes in the world the opportunity to be tattooed by some of the best tattoo artists in the industry.
2019 marked the third tour of The All-American Tattoo Convention, appropriately held in Fayetteville, North Carolina, nearby Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the free world.
“There’s a misconception that you can’t get a good quality tattoo around a military base. There’s no one style that’s representative of the military anymore — there are so many different people in the military, and people from all over the world come to military bases like Fort Bragg,” says Ryan Harrell, owner of Fayetteville’s American Tattoo Society, who puts on the convention with wife Nicole. “Being in the military, most of the people in the service don’t have the opportunity to travel wherever to get tattooed — so it’s a big deal to be able to bring such a diverse group of talented artists to our show.”
Three-hundred-26 artists, to be exact, and 256 booths filling up the 75,000 square foot hall at the Crown Complex Expo Center. Many of the artists, such as Dave Clark, Cactus Jack, Tony Four Fingers, have military connections whether they themselves served or had family who wore a uniform.
USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to US. Military members, veterans and their families, provides grants for former service members who are now professional tattoo artists to participate in the event. There’s even a Veterans Row where those artists are recognized.
An all-veteran parachute team kicks things off with a skydiving demonstration, and the Rolling Thunder, a veteran motorcycle club, hosts a Missing Man table where POW and MIA’s were remembered with a single red rose and a moment of silence to open the convention.
Along with the typical tattoo contests are special military related categories including Best Military Theme Tattoo and Best Tattoo by a Veteran — that class alone had more than 50 entries with the top three places going to Tony 4 Fingers, Chris Jones and Benjamin Buttler; all three are authorized artists from Operation Tattooing Freedom. Winners of the contests received a unique metal sculpture of a tattered American flag made locally by Metal Works Inc (metalworxinc.net).
A lifetime achievement award was posthumously given to Brandon Gallero, a longtime Fayetteville tattooer, who apprenticed many artists in the area, and passed suddenly in 2019.
According to Harrell, 80% of the tattoo clientele in the Fayetteville area are active duty or veterans, and the goal of the convention is give back more than just with art. Part of that respect and support comes from the facts that a portion of ticket sales is donated to Fisher House, an organization that provides a “home away from home” for veterans’ and military families while their loved one receives care on the base, and Operation Tattooing Freedom, which matches US. Military Veterans suffering from different conditions, such as PTSD, with artist local to them to help them cope with their issues. More than $18,000 has been raised over the last three years.
“When you live in Fayetteville it’s hard to not have some attachment to the military,” Harrell says. “We owe a lot to the military, not only for helping to provide us (as local tattoo artists) the lives we do and allowing us the opportunity to be able to put great tattoos on members of the military, but just for everything that they do.”
Defiance Tattoo – Kent, Ohio
It’s only fitting that Rob Bohn, who grew up as part of the punk and hardcore scene, would name his tattoo and piercing shop, Defiance.
“It may be more mainstream today, but twenty years ago, being tattooed was an anti-social thing. It was a statement of freedom and individuality,” Bohn says. “My problem in life, and one of the reasons I’m in the tattoo culture, is that I don’t like rules.”
Defiance Tattoos, which opened in 2006, is located a few blocks from Kent State University with a student population of close to 30,000. As you’d guess a big part of their clientele are students. Getting a tattoo is often part of the college initiation whether it be athletes who’ve just joined a team or freshmen asserting their independence. When bands are playing on campus or in local clubs, you can often find them at Defiance before or after the gig getting some fresh ink.
Bohn describes Defiance as a hard working street shop. Of course, they do custom work, but their lifeblood are walk-ins and their ability to take any request no matter how large or small and turn it into art.
“We don’t fit in with other shops because we do things our own way. I’ve got friends that own custom shops, which is cool, but they like to set their own pace; a street shop is a different mindset. People talk about art, which is great, and that’s definitely a part of it, but we do what the customer wants,” Bohm says. “The way I look at it, is that this is a business that allows me to feed my family and pay my bills.”
“People tend to forget where tattooing came from,” Bohm adds. “Back in the early days, tattooers were not really artists, and so a lot of it was flash and very simple designs.”
Defiance has a two story layout with a lobby and piercing room on the ground level and tattooing happening upstairs where there are five stations and a drawing table where artists work on custom projects. Bohn is the shop piercer. He’s joined by tattooers Christine Zwick, Larry Spano, Michael Jagel and Chase Ogle.
Defiance is nothing if not consistent. Not only do they produce quality work, but they’ve been named Best Tattoo Shop in Kent, Ohio by Kentwired.com for the five straight years.
Name a style from American traditional and black & grey to new school color and script, and the tattooers at Defiance have it covered. Piercings are more of the standard ear, nose and belly button variety — on any given Saturday, Bohm during the school year will easily do fifty piercings.
“Piercing to me is like a working class job — I come here to work and give customers the best experience possible,” Bohm says. “They may not be the most interesting piercings, but it’s fulfilling for me because it’s cool to come in every day and hang out with cool people in a cool atmosphere. I love working as a team and achieving things together.”
Bohm has been a professional piercer since 1999. He was in his first year of college at the time, and fell into a piercing apprenticeship and worked his way through the ranks. Doubling as the manager of some of the shops where he worked, he also gleaned what it really takes to make a successful career out of something you really love to do.
“If you want longevity in this industry, you’ve got to treat it like a business,” he says. “There’s an edge to a tattoo shop; the people who work there might look different, they might play wild music or monster movies, but most importantly, you’ve got to accommodate your customers and give them a great experience.”
Defiance Tattoo – Kent, Ohio
Dear. Ms. Angel,
I have been getting calls and requests for “curated ear piercings” and to be honest that wasn’t part of my training. I haven’t said no, but I also don’t know whether I’m doing it right. I’m not even sure if I know what it means exactly. Can you help me out? Also, a lot of those customers ask about gold jewelry but we only have like three pieces of it here. How can I convince my boss (the owner) to get more of it in the shop? Thanks.
Thanks for the great questions. First, I think we should define what that term means: A “curated ear” refers to new piercing(s) and/or upgraded jewelry for existing holes that work with the individual anatomy of the ear to produce a unified, aesthetically pleasing look. Instead of focusing on each piercing as a separate entity, it involves viewing the entire ear and the ornamentation for it as a cohesive creation.
On social media, the phrase (and hashtag) achieved greater popularity in 2018, so only the newest of piercers could have had that terminology used in their training. But in one sense, a “curated ear” shouldn’t be that different from what any good piercer already does. That is, you should always carefully evaluate and work with the individual anatomy every time someone comes in for a piercing. I frequently see piercers thoughtlessly doing whatever a client asks for, without taking personal suitability into consideration. The results are often poor both aesthetically and for healing.
In the case of ears, each build will often “suggest” placement(s) that may be slightly different (or a radical departure) from what the person had in mind. I would provide a mirror to show each piercee which of their anatomical features call out for adornment. I’d explain any potential issues in requested areas that I found less suitable, such as minimal tissue, uneven surfaces, or vessels in the pathway. Further, I would not hesitate to make recommendations for all of the “best” spots—regardless of which piercing(s) they came in planning to get. Customers would routinely revise their plans after a guided survey of their own anatomy and hearing my discussion on the particulars of their ear and how jewelry would rest in it.
If you aren’t already doing this, I highly advise that you always show patrons the piercing options that are presented by their unique anatomy. Even if they don’t follow through with all of your ideas that day, they might find themselves inspired, and return for more at a later date. I call this “planting seeds” for future piercings.
Search for areas that call out for attention: atypical configurations, pierceable ridges, particularly flat expanses, or other structures that differ from the norm. Some people have a small, harmless bump on the rim of the helix toward the upper ear on one or both sides. It is known as “Darwin’s tubercle” or (bump or point)(ii). Depending on the ear and any existing piercings, these can be especially interesting to frame with jewelry in different ways, because they are so distinctive. Remember to leave some negative space (unpierced parts) too! Overcrowding an ear seldom leads to the most attractive results.
To make recommendations, first get an overall impression of the client. Evaluate any regular earrings, body jewelry, and other ornamentation they’re wearing, including metal type/color. Observe their clothing, color palette, and personal style: rocker, casual, vintage, preppy, bohemian, etc. Based on what you can see and your impressions, formulate a few suggestions for jewelry and potential placements.
There should be a unifying element to the ear, but in general, you don’t want to go too “Garanimals” and have everything match exactly. The idea is to combine pieces that work well together—often a mix of rings and studs and/or varying sizes in similar or related styles of jewelry.
Propose some kind of theme that presents itself after you get a feel for their fashion sense and build. It could be one of these, or any other combo that you can imagine:
- * A grouping of piercings placed in a geometric formation
- * Multiple jewelry pieces with a certain gemstone or color combination of stones
- * Stud ends in a motif such as nature (bees, flowers, butterflies), or moon and star, or other imagery like skull/snake/dagger/lightning bolt, or all triangular-shaped pieces, etc.
- * A row of piercings with an array of stud ends that ascend or descend in size
Start with what you think is the very best proposal and try not to overwhelm them with too many possibilities at once. Listen carefully to their feedback and tailor further input based on their stated preferences.
Note that three fresh cartilage piercings at once is a reasonable maximum so as not to overload the body’s healing capacity. As piercers should all know, cartilage can be quite tricky to heal since it doesn’t have its own blood supply. Further, it can be exceptionally difficult to heal piercings on both ears simultaneously. For this reason, piercing one side at a time is preferable.
It can’t hurt to follow the principle of piercing from bottom to top when possible. That way, if there is bleeding, you’re moving above it, instead of having it get in the way of subsequent piercing(s).
Regarding your question about gold jewelry: start a running list and add to it every time a request for gold comes in. Write down specifically what the shopper was looking for. If there’s much demand, it should be evident pretty quickly, and you’ll have something concrete to show your boss. It will demonstrate all the sales he’s missing out on, and you will already have the start of a shopping list. You should read my article from last year entitled Buying and Selling Gold Body Jewelry (iii), which contains an abundance of practical information to get you going. Some brief excerpts:
“…you are not required to launch in with a massive order initially; you can begin slowly and build up your inventory over time.”
“I’d suggest that you start by purchasing some gold pieces for the most prevalent piercings you do in the most common sizes you already use.”
“…it might be best to focus primarily on yellow gold (and rose, if people have asked for it), since the white is more similar in appearance to what you already stock.”
Since curated ears encompass existing piercings, this provides a great opportunity to sell additional jewelry.
There’s no one correct way to create a curated ear. The point is to work with the individual anatomy and produce an aesthetically pleasing overall effect with the piercing placements and jewelry. If you and the client are both happy with the results, then chances are you’ve done it correctly!
Austin L. Ray
Judd Apatow’s Funny People did indeed include a bunch of funny people. Adam Sandler. Seth Rogen. Jonah Hill. Jason Schwartzman. Andy Dick. Sarah Silverman. Aziz Ansari. Dave Attell. The list was pretty thick. Oh, and it also included RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.
While perhaps not usually known for his comedic chops, the man born Robert F. Diggs is no stranger to film. He’s appeared in American Gangster, Coffee and Cigarettes and Ghost Dog, amongst others, but never has he worked so extensively in humor. “It was challenging in one essence, because I’m not from the comedy world,” Diggs says. “These guys are seriously funny.” Here are six things RZA learned on set:
Seth Rogen is not a rapper:
It was like a freestyle battle and he won, because we were doing comedy. If Judd said try it again, we’d try it again and Seth would change the joke. I felt compelled to change my line to keep up with his freshness, but I wasn’t able to. There were a couple times I got stuck and said the same joke two or three jokes. If he was rapping, I would have had him all day.
The importance of being courteous:
It was a unique experience. I’ll be taking what they showed me, [like showing] courtesy to every person on the set. I learn this each time, but this movie consolidated it. Everybody, down to the guy who picks you up in the morning to drive you to the set, plays an important part in the production. My respect for what they do helps make a better film. The fans never see that; all they see is the results. The guy that picks me up at 6 a.m. had to get up at 4 a.m. He doesn’t leave until I leave. If I have a 10-hour day, he has a 14-hour day.
Adam Sandler is cool:
Touring around the world, I have a fan base, but in Hollywood, I’m new. A lot of these people, I’m fans of theirs. I’ve seen Waterboy and movies like that. Getting a chance to share a moment with a guy like that is kinda cool. Adam was a charismatic kid.
Stay on point:
One lady came up to me [in the movie] and I had to give her some turkey. But I didn’t know [the actress] was a comedian. I thought she was an extra, but they hire comedians for all these spots. This lady tore me up! I actually felt like a guy behind the counter being chastised by a customer. She definitely threw me off beat.
Judd Apatow owns:
He had total control over the set, and it was like spontaneous combustion. We were doing [scenes] and Judd was yelling out jokes, which shows his comedic power. He’d be like, “Say this! Say that!” I knew he was doing it to me, but he was doing it to the other actors too. In comedy, you can do that. It’s something I’ll utilize if I ever become a director.
Stand-up comedy is awesome:
My funniest moment was in a night-club scene. Adam and Seth and Aziz had to do actual comedy sets. Those are some of the funniest moments because the jokes were actually stand-up jokes. The cast and the crew had a chance to see an actual performance. I wasn’t prepare for that. That was a treat for me.
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