Lee Rodriguez of Wooster Street Social Club (WSSC)
This week’s Artist Spotlight is on Lee Rodriguez of Wooster Street Social Club (WSSC) in NYC. Some of you may recognize Lee Rodriguez from TLC’s hit TV show NY INK. Lee is one of the many talented artists working at the SOHO tattoo studio. We caught up with Lee between traveling to different shop locations and tattoo appointments.
Lee: I have been tattooing full time for about five years, I kinda fell into tattooing indirectly. I had been hanging out at shops since graduating high school because a lot of my friends were either tattooing or getting tattooed. Some years later when Ami opened Miami Ink he asked me if I wanted to run the shop, my best friend James Hamilton was Ami’s first apprentice so I said yes… I guess I owe it all to Jimmy! Thanks, Brutus!
AnoTat2: Did you do a formal apprenticeship? If so who did you do it with?
Lee: Yes, I was offered an opportunity to apprentice at Inksmith & Rogers I met Mike Wilson and Angelo Miller while working the floor at Miami Ink; they pretty much run the show in Jacksonville. I was on a trip to Europe with some of the guys from Miami Ink and I started to seriously consider learning how to tattoo. I wasn’t sure how to go about it or if I could actually do it but that trip and the conversations I had with my friends on that trip persuaded me to go for it. When I got back to Miami I reached out to Mike and he said sure, we can give it a shot, a week later I was in Jacksonville. Everyone at Inksmith helped me it wasn’t just one guy, Jeremy Swed, Kenny Ford, Mike Woods, Jordan Moore, Pauly Granger, Angelo Miller, Mike Bruce, James Buie, Jeff Jibron, Lester Garcia, Pete Razis everyone there helped out and went out of their way to show me things. It was by far one of the greatest experiences of my life. Looking back I should have spent more time there but life circumstances dictated otherwise. The guy I have to give the most credit to Eddy Ospina, he’s probably been the one guy in all this that has pushed me to be better and always encouraged me and supported me. Even if sometimes that support was a kick in the ass or a punch to the gut because I was fucking up. I owe pretty much everything to Eddy, I will never be able to repay him.
AnoTat2: Since the popularity of tattoos it seems everyone wants to be a tattoo artist; do you think the “new” artists are paying their dues?
Lee: This is a touchy subject, times are different and people can access information and equipment differently these days. I think anybody who has respect and love for the craft of tattooing should try to do things properly. Everyone says an apprenticeship is a thing of the past but there’s more to being a great tattooer than just slapping a tattoo on someone. The history has always been my favorite aspect of tattooing, it’s something these new kids have no interest in learning and that bums me out. It’s not something you can Google for the most part; you have to search it out. These newer tattooers who just want to tattoo because they’ve seen some stupid reality TV show and have no love or passion for the craft can lick my sack…
AnoTat2: Do you think this new style apprenticeship in the industry has hurt or helped the industry?
Lee: There are no apprenticeships anymore. Most people offering these “new” apprenticeships can barely tattoo themselves and have no business taking on apprentices.
Lee: I tattooed myself at 13, it was my nickname Lee on my ankle with Indian ink and a sewing needle. At that time in Miami, we all started wearing those low cut socks and me and a buddy thought we would look so cool if we had our names tattooed. So I did mine than his. It’s still one of my favorites. I don’t recommend anyone doing this now, though. Go to your local shop and put some money in a real tattooers pocket. Plus it’ll look way cooler.
AnoTat2: Any tattoos you regret?
Lee: When I worked in Miami one late night while I was cleaning the shop Kat Von D came in and asked me to tattoo her and she would tattoo me; so I did a fucked up heart with some initials and she did an eye on me, I don’t care for this tattoo and wish I didn’t have it. She was pretty shitty to a lot of my really good friends and if I knew then what I know now I would have never got it.
Lee: I’m not originally from America but I grew up here and when I started getting tattooed I was super into Japanese stuff. As I searched out more knowledge and got tattooed the more I learned the tradition of American tattooing and the significance it had with people long ago. People going to war were getting tattoos of their gal’s name on themselves so they would always have her with them. It seemed so loyal and sentimental and real; I just really fell in love with it. As well as the bold and powerful images.
AnoTat2: What artist(s) have influenced you and your work over the years?
Lee: So many guys I look up too its hard to name, but I’m always learning and trying to get better.
AnoTat2: Do you do any other type of artwork besides tattooing?
Lee: I like to paint and enjoy using watercolors. It’s the closest thing to tattooing.
AnoTat2: How did you end up working at Wooster Street Social Club (WSSC)?
Lee: I worked for Ami in Miami so when he opened this shop he asked me, well rather told me I was coming to NYC I’ve always wanted to live here so it was a pretty easy move for me.
AnoTat2: How hard is it to work with all the cameras when you’re filming NY INK?
Lee: It’s weird at first makes you pretty nervous but once you get used to it you don’t even realize they are there.
AnoTat2: Love Hate Tattoos just opened a new studio up in Asheville, NC; will you also be working or guest spotting out of this location?
Lee: Yes, I’ve been there once already and hope to go back in the future.
Lee: I try to work conventions I think it’s a pretty cool way to meet new people and see new places. I go to a few every year like the Frankfurt show, the London convention and there is a really cool one in Wilmington called the Cape Fear Tattoo & Art Expo that I like. I like to do more so hopefully that will happen this year.
Lee: I mostly do walk-ins but the best way to reach me is via email – here.
AnoTat2: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Lee: Hopefully a shit ton of cool tattoos…
~ ☠ AnoTat2 ∴