One Helluva Shop in Hell’s Kitchen

Due to inclement weather (why’s it raining again?!), the list of tattoo shops to visit didn’t materialize. Instead, I went to the shop closest to the apartment where I’m staying, which turned out to be a serendipitous find. A big THANK YOU! to the 2 artists I met at Infinity Tattoo, Carlos and Wendi, who took a couple smoke breaks to answer my questions and pose for photos that will (one day) be posted on the Metal Ink website.

Infinity Tattoo

614 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018
(212) 398-2598
infinitytattoo1.com

Carlos at Infinity Tattoo

Carlos at Infinity Tattoo

Carlos Gonzales
Tattoo Artist/Painter
Carlos’ tattoos

MI:  How long have you been working as a tattoo artist?

Carlos:  I’ve been tattooing for 9 years.

MI:  How did you get into it?

Carlos:  When I was an art student in Puerto Rico, a friend who worked at a tattoo shop needed help, so he asked me.

MI:  You were a born natural!

Carlos:  Yeah, I fell in love with it, because you can put your artwork on someone’s skin forever. I think it’s pretty amazing. It sucks when people take stuff from the walls, because that’s not your artwork. I did a demon just now, an African mask.

MI:  Describe the process. How did it happen?

Carlos:  She saw my portfolio online and she told me what she wanted.

MI:  You delivered! Seems you’re into the horror stuff…

Carlos:  Yeah, I also wanted to be in the horror movie business, like doing make-up horror. But it was $30K, too much to do the training.

MI:  What about tattooing in Manhattan is different from any other city?

Carlos:  It’s the same people, same questions, same urge to do it. Germany, Liverpool, PR, Norway. The good thing about tattooing is you get to travel. Like any freelance work.

MI:  What’s your favorite type of tattoo?

Carlos:  I would say dark images, related to surrealism. Something that your subconscious brings. I just let my hand go free, and see what comes out, like a dream. Demons and things, but I’m not religious.

MI:  Haha, yeah you and every other New Yorker.

Dragon painting

Dragon painting

Carlos:  It’s more about the people you do than about the tattoos.

MI:  Tell us about the tattoos on your arms.

Carlos:  They’re all horror-related. Sailor, pirates, Frankenstein, zombies, Bride of Frankenstein, more zombies.

MI:  What’s on your legs?

Carlos:  The left one’s Sailor Jerry Flash. He was in the Navy, I think, and he was a tattoo artist, classic. I got it before explosion.

MI:  You were first. *Smiles.*

Carlos:  On the right is Metaluna from “This Island Earth” and next to it is The Misfits.

MI:  Has anyone ever told you that you look like that character that Johnny Depp played in that film about that director who made horror B movies? You know…

Carlos:  You mean Ed Wood? The Tim Burton movie.

MI:  Yeah! You’re a Johnny Depp look-a-like!

Carlos:  *Laughs.* Thanks, but I don’t cross-dress like Ed Wood did.

MI:  Who are your favorite inked celebrities?

Carlos: I don’t follow celebrities. But one of my friends tattooed Rihanna recently—you know the guns on her sides? His name’s Bang Bang and he works at East Side Ink and Whatever Tattoos. He was on CNN talking about it.

MI:  We’ll be visiting those shops next week! Name some tattoo artists you admire.

Carlos:  Guy Atchison because he does organic, bio-mechanic forms. Very bright colors. Dimensional. Also Filip Leu, who does Japanese work. His whole family tattoos, like his father, mother, even his kid, I think. He’s from Switzerland.

MI:  Anyone else?

Carlos:  Joshua Carlton. He does horror images. If you come in with a poster of a horror movie, he’ll do it, all slimey and stuff.

MI:  That’s great. Slime on skin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wendi at Infinity Tattoo

Wendi at Infinity Tattoo

Wendi Koontz
Tattoo Artist
Wendi’s website

MI:  Let’s start by explaining Metal Ink: we’re like a tattoo-inspired Threadless.

Wendy:  I know them! I used to be an illustrator for teen’s magazines and children’s books. I actually submitted something for Threadless once.

MI:  Nice. How was your experience?

Wendy:  I drew something and my friends were like, “Send it to Threadless!” It was more as a joke, but people got offended.

MI:  Really! Why?

Wendy:  I had those tree car freshener things on either side, under the armpits. Some people made comments like, why would you want to call attention to your armpits? That’s gross!

MI:  *Laughs.* I’d wear it!

Wendy:  It didn’t get printed.

MI:  Let’s talk about the tattoo industry.

Wendy:  Tattoo Nation! I saw it on the news, it’s making tattooing like Starbucks. I don’t know how I feel about it. You’re losing the lifestyle and that essence that is a tattoo shop. You lose that when you chain it out. You know, it’s the difference between going to a mom and pop coffee shop vs. going to a Starbucks. It’s more personal to go to a creepy mom and pop diner on the corner, you know, than going to a Dean and Deluca. What are you actually buying with something that’s mass produced? Is it going to hurt the industry or be good? It takes away from finding the right artist. But then again, most people just go to a shop and hope for the best.

MI:  How should you go about it then?

Wendy: Find someone whose artwork in general best fits your personality and go with that. There’s the type, I call “collectors” who seek out certain artists for what they do. That’s the trouble with the chain store model of tattoo shops. Are these chain stores going to make it harder for people to grow as artsits who are sought out for their work?

MI:  Right, like is it going to make the designs cookie cutter? Here’s an analogy: you can’t go to McDonald’s in New Jersey…

Wendy:  …and get a lobster! Maybe it is that way, maybe it’s not. I’m curious to see how Tattoo Nation works. Is it something that devalues what I believe or is it something that’s just a different way of approaching it?

MI:  How long have you been tattooing and how did you get started?

Wendy:  I actually started when I was 19 in Ohio. And I tattooed for about 2 years and then I quit because my parents didn’t think it was a real job. I kinda think it boiled down to respecting your family. I got a corporate job, I worked for American greetings, school, other jobs. But the whole time I didn’t want to stop tattooing.

MI:  So you never got over it.

Wendy:  This is kinda sad but my mom watches Oprah a lot and you know how Oprah always says she didn’t know who she was until she was 30. So my mom was telling me this a couple years ago, and it coincided with what I was thinking about—that I was not happy in any other job that I had. I asked myself, what’s so bad about it [tattooing]? I readjusted what I thought and what other people thought. Doing something just because other people think it’s appropriate is not really a good way to live. So I told my parents, “I know you guys hate it, but I’m doing it again.” It was the whole Oprah thing. It’s not the job, it’s the person that you have to look at. My mom’s from a different generation, where if you’re a tattoo artist you’re a criminal or something.

MI:  So it was all thanks to Oprah!

Wendy:  Yes, thanks to Oprah, my mom kinda changed her mind. Sometimes I feel like writing Oprah and telling her thanks. But I think it’s true once you hit 30, 31, you know yourself better. I did all the things that other people want me to do. It didn’t make me happy, now I’m going to do what I want to do.

MI:  That’s amazing—you took a break for 10 years!

Wendy:  Yeah, I quit for 10 years. Most artists at my level are so much younger than I am. 35 vs. 25

And coming back, I found that so much has changed.

MI:  What changed in the 10 years you were away?

Wendy:  Just a change in perception about how people view tattoos, tattooing. TV shows helped a lot, people explaining why they wanted a tattoo. Most cities had a law against tattooing, but it started exploding in the early 90s.

MI:  Really, a law?

Wendy:  Yeah, a social vice law or something. But cities did away with it. I think in Cleveland it happened in 2005. Most communities like the one where I grew up had laws against it. It was considered a deviant art form that lives out in the backwoods. Nowadays, tattoos are more of an art form and not something you got while doing time.

MI:  Tell us about the type of designs you do.

Wendy:  It’s very feminine. When I was younger, whenever I went to a tattoo shop, I never saw anything that was particularly feminine. There was a hole. There weren’t designs that were downright pretty. If you want me to do something creepy it won’t come naturally to me. Mine is more feminine, floral, girly stuff.

Japanese lady

Japanese design by Wendi

MI:  Are most of your clients women?

Wendy:  Interestingly, they’re not all women. I think it’s all just how you perceive what’s masculine vs. feminine. Like the guy I was just working on, he was getting tattoos that commemorated his daughters.

One Response to “One Helluva Shop in Hell’s Kitchen”

  1. […] Right, I interviewed Amanda in New York! She was working at Infinity Tattoo in Hell’s Kitchen. Interestingly, she has a similar […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: