Our first Artist Spotlight of 2014 is on Mikey Slater of 1920 Tattoo located in Helen, GA. Mikey’s traditional tattoo style reminds us of the old school tattoos you would see from the masters who revolutionized the tattoo industry. We caught up with Mikey during the holidays:
AnoTat2: How long have you been Tattooing?
Mikey: I have been tattooing for 17 years.
AnoTat2: Have you always wanted to be a tattoo artist? Do you work in any other medium?
Mikey: I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was a kid. I was all over the place.I did take a bunch of art classes when I was young. That’s what started my love of art. As far as an other medium? I enjoy painting with pretty much anything on anything. Painting flash is at the top of my list though. I love painting tattoos.
AnoTat2: When did you first get tattooed? What was it and any story behind it?
Mikey: I got my first professional tattoo when I was 18 and in the Navy. My buddies and I walked into Fat Joe’s in Jersey and picked one out for each other. I think I picked my buddy a Man’s Ruin tattoo and I got an Aztec sun… haha. I got the short end on that one.
AnoTat2: From different resources it appears you have worked in CA,FL and now GA; what shop do you call home now?
Mikey: 1920 Tattoo.
AnoTat2: How does the clientele change from state to state?
Mikey: I would say that now days clientele doesn’t vary as much because of the Internet and how mainstream tattooing is. It pretty much broke down all the barriers as far as that goes. Used to be that it would very depending on the amount of military presence in each state. More military, more tattoo shops, more clients, more knowledge.
AnoTat2: From your online portfolio it seems you like doing traditional style tattoos; is this the style you have always done? Why traditional with all the other styles out there today?
Mikey: I have always done traditional tattoos. My love for tattooing lies in the traditional tattoo. I started tattooing when I was in the Navy so it kinda goes hand in hand. Its a folk art. It is my belief you should have to master traditional tattooing before you are allowed to try your artwork out on skin. It’s just really conceded of someone to think that there so much better than everyone else the they can just skip the learning to tattoo part. If you can’t put on a traditional tattoo correctly you can’t tattoo.
AnoTat2: In the course of your tattoo career which artist have influenced you or have driven you to push your limits as an artist?
Mikey: I would have to thank Shawn Buss and Morgwn Pennypacker first for getting me on the right path. Morgwn taught me how to paint flash the Pike way which to me is the only way. Shawn pushed me as a tattooer and introduced me to a lot of my influences today. Second would be Mike Wilson and Chris Garver who I had the pleasure to work with in Miami. Both of them complimented my traditional skills but challenged me to try and master all the styles of classic tattooing. Basically allowing me to tattoo whatever someone wants when they walk in the door. Black and Grey (realistic), Traditional, Japanese, and Tribal. I had to go back to the drawing board and learn allot of new techniques in drawing and tattooing. I was tough on my ego for a while but I’m slowly starting to get there and realizing the benefits of being a more well rounded artist. Freddy Corbin, Bill Canales, Rob Benavides, Mike Bruce, Tim Hendricks, Luke Wessman, Lil D, Keet D Arms, Joe Vegas,Tim Mcgrath, Paul Dobleman, Lango and Bill Connor have all been a constant inspiration that push me in tattooing and also in life. All Great Tattooers and even better people. Lastly every tattooer I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
AnoTat2: Apprenticeships have changed a lot over the years, do you feel new tattoo artists have earned their dues? Watching one of the tattoo TV shows it was almost comical to watch the artists try to put their own tattoo machines together from a kit. Most of the old school tattoo artists that earned their apprenticeships all they did was work on tattoo machines until they could build and tune the in their sleep. Do you think the industry should go back to that as a minimum standard?
Mikey: Its funny you ask that. I don’t think the majority of new tattooers even know what dues are. Tuning Machines.. how about making there own needles. I bet they don’t know how to do that either. I could go on and on. Bottom line is it’s to late I think to take it back. But as a shop owner I can guarantee anyone who works at 1920 Tattoo will be able to. The problem with tattooing today is the lack of respect. Respect for the trade! Respect for those who came before you!
AnoTat2: Being a tattoo artist from an era where tattoos were not mainstream, how do you feel this change happened?
Mikey: I would say the Internet and the media (TV) has pushed tattooing into the mainstream.
AnoTat2: With the popularity of tattoos there has been an increase of new tattoo shows on TV; how do you feel about them?
Mikey: It’s funny to me because if you would have told me there was going to be a TV show about tattooing in the 90′s I would have probably told you you where out of you mind. It’s still amazing to me to see it on TV. I can still remember making fun of Miami ink when it first came out with my buddy Chris Winn in CA. Next thing you know I’m working there… haha.
AnoTat2: Do you feel these shows hurt or help the industry as a whole?
Mikey: I would have to say that the show have a ying-yang effect on the industry. For every bit of good they have done for the industry they have done just as much bad.
AnoTat2: Did you ever have to ask someone to leave the shop and refuse to tattoo them for any reason? If so what was the story behind it?
Mikey: Yes I have had to ask more than one person to leave. I think it has it’s place in the tattoo shop. I refuse to buy into the corporate stigma’s that go along with the mainstream mentality that is prevalent in tattooing today. The last time I had to ask someone to leave the tattoo shop was pretty strange. I helped a handicapped man in a wheelchair up the stairs to get a tattoo. Next thing I know the counter girl came in my station crying. She said a man was showing her some borderline kiddie porn pictures and wanting to get one tattooed on him. I was shocked to find out it as the handicapped man in the wheelchair. We only helped him 3/4′s of the way down the stairs on the way out!
AnoTat2: Luke Wessman, An Artist that we respect and introduced me to your work; How did the two of you meet?
Mikey: I met Luke Wessman at a shop called Monster Tattoo in San Diego. He came in and his hands tattooed by Morgwn Pennypacker. That was 2002 I think. At the time he was working at Lucky’s in SD. It wasn’t until we worked together at Love Hate Tattoo(Miami Ink), that we really hit it off and became good friends. We would work our butts off all day at the shop and then go paint after work. He has a really strong work ethic which I admire. He is a great tattooer and an even better person. I am very fortunate to be able to call him my friend.
AnoTat2: Do you attend any tattoo shows or conventions? If so which ones?
Mikey: I usually attend a few each year. I enjoy going to the Queen Mary Convention that is always a good time. I haven’t attended as many as I want to this last couple years but that is about to change. I want to attend the Richmond, SFO, Queen Mary and Salt Lake in 2014.
AnoTat2: What is the easiest way for someone to book an appointment with you?
So if you live in surrounding areas of Helen Georgia make sure you stop in at 1920 Tattoo and see Mikey for a traditional tattoo that will be well worth the trip.
Make sure you see the rest of Mikey’s tattoo photos below in the online gallery.~AnoTat2