Shaun Kelly, Studio Seven Tattoos
This week’s Artist Spotlight is on Shaun Kelly of Studio Seven Tattoos in Clinton Township, Michigan. Shaun’s tattoo portfolio shows a very broad range of styles from black & gray to full-color cover ups. At the time of this interview, Shaun was in the middle of opening his new shop and we caught up with him as he awaited final word of all the shop’s inspections.
How long have you been tattooing for?
I’ve been tattooing almost 8 years now. Most of the beginning years were part time and full time for the past few years.
How old were you when you got your first tattoo? What was it? Any story behind it?
Wow… I want to say I was 15 and it was definitely NOT a professional tattoo. I wanted the cross from “The Ozzman Cometh” Ozzy album cover. I remember sitting with some friends and we all tattooed ourselves. Using a needle and thread – one poke at a time using India Ink. HORRIBLE IDEA!!! Let’s just say I did cover it years later.
I never really knew what I wanted to do. As a kid, I could always draw but never really seen a career path that was appealing to me. I never really thought to be a Tattoo Artist was an option. After graduating from High school I started taking design/graphic art classes at a local college to pursue graphic design. After a few semesters, I realized that wasn’t going to work out for me either. It was after my first professional tattoo that I first thought about the possibility of being a tattoo artist.
When you were starting out who did you do your apprenticeship with?
I never did an actual apprenticeship. I became friends with a local artist and expressed my interest in learning with him. He set me up with my first machine, power supply, beginners kit and started going over the basics with me. I had him tattoo me and I would just watch every step he took and ask as many questions as I could as I sat there. I did that for a year or so, grapefruits, Bologna, pigskin anything I could tattoo I would. One day he says I have to tattoo myself to see what real life canvas is like and I haven’t put a machine down since.
How do you feel apprenticeships have changed over the years?
From what I see nowadays and what I’ve learned from the old school artists; back then it was Real Artists that really had a passion for the art. They would sit down and draw 100 traditional anchors, 100 “MOM” hearts, 100 eagles…etc. start at the bottom. Learn what a machine is, how it runs and know that machine inside and out before you ever got to hold it. Actually Love the art!! Now it’s”Self proclaimed artists” paying the local shop a few grand to hang out, clean up, do a little grunt work then they’re off and running with a machine in hand claiming to have had an apprenticeship. I am NOT at all saying there are not great apprentices out there teaching great artist the skills needed to be the future of tattooing, but I do believe there is a lot of shady places looking to make a buck off of some half ass artists and a lot of half ass artists out there that believe that what they do is right because they paid 2 grand to their local artist friend. You can’t learn everything there is to know in a one-month apprenticeship.
I’ve always admired Bob Tyrrell for his black and gray and Paul Booth. Brandon Bond, Nikko Hurtado were big for me. Now there are so many artists I really admire like Paul Acker – his work is ridiculous, Liz Cook, Jime Litwalk’s new school style. The list goes on…
We see from your online portfolio that you tattoo in multiple different styles from black & gray, Japanese and cover-ups, what is your favorite style to do?
I like playing with black and gray a lot. I like darker things I guess, but I love to play around with colors as well. I believe my style is a style of its own. I’m not new school or traditional, I am not known for color or black and gray. I like to do a little of everything and make it my own unique style.
You currently are in the process of opening your own studio called Studio Seven Tattoos; what made you decide to open your own shop? Any meaning behind the name?
Working in a few local shops, visiting shops and being tattooed in different locations you see different atmospheres. I don’t think I fully agreed with the ways some places run a business. I love what I do and I worked hard to get where I am. I want my clients to be happy to come to me and even happier when they leave. Not everyone sees it the same. I want to show people respect, welcome them to my shop, give them a clean friendly environment. What better way to do this than to make it happen!! The name Studio SEVEN Tattoos just sort of came to me one day. My lucky number is 7 and historically the number 7 is significant in so many aspects of life; like the deadly sins, wonders of the world, planetary gods, colors in a rainbow, musical notes, days in a week, the world revolves around 7’s. 7 symbolizes perfection, and completion – its deep!!
I like them for the most part. They are entertaining to me. I like tattoo nightmares, they got some good artists on there with a good attitude/ good ethics. I’ll watch that and Ink Masters with my daughter, she likes them too. There are a few that I find give a BAD representation of Tattoo artists, and I won’t watch that it’s a waste!
Do you think these TV shows help or hurt the body art industry?
I think some TV shows spotlight the positives that can come from tattoos and some give bad representations. Overall I think it opens the eyes of public whom many still think tattoos are only for sailors and prostitutes.
Have you ever refused anyone or turn away some from getting a tattoo from you?
Absolutely; I won’t tattoo a face and depending on the situation if it’s someone wanting a tattoo that is clearly a bad idea. Hands and necks I am not going to tattoo on an 18 y old because they think it’s cool. Sometimes we have to look out for them; it’s not always about making a dollar. “I’m not tattooing your awesome boyfriend’s name on you for your 1 month anniversary.”
I like to get to as many conventions as possible. I love meeting new artists and seeing what’s new. It’s always a good time.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I am opening my shop soon. This is an adventure on its own. I’m going to continue to grow as an artist, expand my clientele base and I would like to one day do a little traveling and work a few shows. Every day is a new experience!! I expect you to see more of me in the future!!!
Editors Note: Shaun Kelly has passed all the inspections for the new shop and the doors officially opened on June 19th. So if you are in the Clinton Township area of Michigan make sure to stop in at Studio Seven Tattoos and book your next appointment with Shaun Kelly.~ ☠ AnoTat2 ∴