So the new shop is open. Its been about 3 weeks and already I feel like I’m settling in like we’ve always been there. In addition to Cara, myself, and Jesse, we hired our good friend and fellow new dad Matt Macri . So while I have stopped doing walk in Thursdays, we still have at least one artist almost everyday who can handle walk ins, at least until they get booked up too! Another big change is that I am now taking thursday off to hang out with Luna and Cara is tattooing all day Thursdays. I feel so lucky that I get to spend so much time with my daughter and that I have such reliable friends working for me that I can give Luna all my attention and give her mom a much-needed break from baby duty, even it its only one day a week so far.
We had a great “grand opening” party, tons of friends showed up, Kevin Sousa provided the food and Full Pint Brewing donated beer and Cara and her good friend, local fine artist Thommy Conroy hung the crazy amount of art we moved over from the old shop. I took a second out of the busy night to snap a couple of pictures which i stitched together to give you an idea of how much BIGGER the new place is compared to our Oakland locale..
I totally based the idea for the open floor plan and oak toolcarts that we tattoo off of my trips to get tattooed in New York, specifically on the Kings Ave. Bowery location. I really liked the open room idea, and it has already been conductive to a relaxed ability to exchange ideas and critiques as well as a more free flow of conversation between artists and customers. I’m a worrier by nature, and naturally moving across town into a building with a completely different format and with new people should have really set off my panic buttons, but this time I wasnt all that stressed out. I guess I knew that this was a step up for Cara and myself and I was confident that the new space would be a benefit to all of us in the Black Cat family.
I have been working on some really fun stuff and with a few more artists I have been able to focus more on the specific stuff I want to tattoo. It’s always tricky, because I don’t want to sound snobbish or picky, but at 42 years old I feel like its time for me to specialize in the kind of tattoos I can do a really good job on and let the ones that would be good but not spectacular go to people who would do a better job on them. I confess to feeling a little guilt because, if I’m being honest, I’m also a little burnt out on doing tattoos that are not in my area of enjoyment. I guess I have earned the right to pick and choose, others people certainly reassure me of this, but I still feel a little concern that by not taking any and all tattoos that I have somehow become a big-headed rock star. The mind is funny like that, as soon as you get what you want you either want something else or you feel guilty for getting it. Thats why Shunryu Suzuki called the untrained brain the “monkey mind”, jumping and running around this way and that, never stilled. One of the nice things about sitting for a few years is that I can see this monkey mind from a little distance, I still have the crazy running around thoughts, but these days I can watch them without having to pick them up and play with them, sometimes I start to go into that cycle and a little voice says , “ah, best not to go there, buddy” and I can back off.
Anyhow, here are a few recent things I’ve been working on.
A good friend and ray of sunshine in our lives has been talking about a back piece for some time. She has a special affinity for Ganesha but was torn between the elephant headed boy and a Medicine Buddha to honor her herbalist/holistic healer career. In the end we combined the two ideas doing a Ganesha but in the more Nepalese Buddhist style of art. Back-pieces are no fun for the customer 90% of the time, even folks with very heavy coverage and lots of years getting tattooed are surprised at how bad the pain can be. We ended up doing this outline in two sessions.
I finished this dragon on a long time customer and we blended the background a bit up into some tribal blackwork we did a few years ago. I think I am done doing tiny dragons on arms, this piece is a great size and allowed us to get a lot of detail and readability. I love doing traditional inspired tattoos like this nurse/gypsy, It might seem strange to do Japanese and traditional American t first glance, but in reality they are very similar in technique and graphic punch. They both have a long history of stories and meaning that a tattooer can draw on to add depth to a tattoo and if done correctly both will look good for the clients lifetime.
Some tattoos become popular and then fade never to come back, some are perennial favorites that have been around as long as tattooing and will still be getting done generations hence. I have done owl tattoos for 16 years and they never seem to fade in popularity, like a lot of tattoos which have that kind of staying power, an owl tattoo has a visual power which affects everyone who sees it on a subconscious level, it goes beyond the simple image and into a symbol. When we see a heart we think of “love”, when we see a skull we think of “mortality, and when we see an owl we think of “wisdom“.