Archive for design challenge

Design Challenge #3: Everybody Loves Maidens!

Posted in Design Challenges, Maiden of the Month with tags , , on February 7, 2010 by metalinkshop

Announcing Design Challenge #3, inspired by Valentine’s Day and our lovely inked Maidens…

“Everybody Loves Maidens”

We’re calling for designs inspired by any of the past winners of our Maiden of the Month contest!

1st Maiden Radeo
June Maiden Bambu
July Maiden AbbiLee
August Maiden KatieKelly
September Maiden BriannaBelladona
October Maiden Ginary
November Maiden Squee
December Maiden Ashlee
January Maiden Bob

If you include “Inspired by Radeo” or something like that in the title of your design, we’ll know that it’s a submission for Design Challenge #3.

Designs should be focused on creativity, as we are looking for original art inspired by a Maiden’s image and/or her tattoos. You may choose to depict the Maiden herself or create a design based on her ink. Again, creativity and originality will count most, so try to avoid simple designs, such as copying a Maiden’s tattoos.

When your design is finished, you can submit it on the regular Submit Designs page:

Deadline to submit designs: March 1
Deadline to rate designs: TBD

* $300 credit
* Residuals from t-shirt sales
* Automatic entry into our Design of the Year contests

Ideas & Inspiration:
If you need ideas, just go to the Rate Maidens page and check the “Winners” box and click “Search” to view photo sets of all past winning Maidens. You can also view winning sets on the Gallery page.

Email us at if you have any questions, and good luck!

Rotary Motor + Guitar String + Baby Oil = Tattoo Gun

Posted in Designer Interviews, Tattoo Artist Interviews, Tattoo shops in New York with tags , , , , on January 27, 2010 by metalinkshop

Only 4 days left to rate our luscious January Maidens! Rate their photo sets and decide who will win $700 cash, $300 store credit, professional photo shoots, the title of January Maiden of the Month, and of course, bragging rights!


Tattoo Heaven
98 Christopher Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-1893

 Ray Trzaska, tattoo artist

Ray Trzaska, tattoo artist

Ray Trzaska
Tattoo Artist

MI: Tell us about how you became a tattooer.

Ray: Every since I was a little kid, I liked to draw, work with modeling clay and things like that. I was always creative, always building or making stuff, with wood or whatever I could find. Then in my teenage years, I partied and got away from my artistic side. As young adult, I was incarcerated. That’s where I picked it up again.

MI: Your artistic side? Is that where you learned how to tattoo?

Ray: Yeah. I used to draw a lot when I first got incarcerated. People saw my artwork and they said, “you should start tattooing.” There, you make everything yourself. You make the machine out of any kind of motor, a cd player, tape cassette player, hair trimmers, any rotary machine or motor we could get our hands on. You use guitar string, peel the coil off the guitar string, for different gauges for whatever kind of needle you need to make. Prison is like everywhere else—you can get whatever you need, and there are people who specialize in everything. We’d get gloves from boxes they had for when they do shakedowns. So it was able to be done in a sterile manner. You make a new tube, make a new needle, wear gloves…

MI: What about the ink?

Ray: Well you make a baby oil candle—you put a wick in there and it makes a black soot. You catch it and scrape it off. You mix some mouthwash and alcohol and you boil it. It’s actually some pretty black ink. Some of the best work I’ve ever seen was done in prison.

MI: What’s your tattooing style?

Ray: I guess I’m pretty versatile, not stuck on one specific form of tattooing. I’m not totally into the whole Asian/Japanese thing, what I prefer to do is big pieces like sleeves or back pieces, black and gray custom work.

MI: Influenced by the how and where you learned to tattoo?

Ray: Yeah I think that has a lot to do with it. I like black and gray, but I have my own style. There’s movement, flow in my tattoos. I like to have movement in any kind of work, especially the filler work.
To be honest, I don’t get to do much of my own work. Sometimes it’s just a job. People are stubborn and they don’t take your advice, they don’t listen to what you have to say. It’s not so artistic, and that’s when it becomes a job. I like original custom work, when people bring me ideas.

MI: Your artistic purity gets compromised.

Ray: You have to, to survive in New York with all the competition. If you’re not Paul Booth here, you gotta do whatever comes through the door. If someone comes in and says they want a little kanji, you have to do it. At least until you build your reputation and then you can say fuck off.

MI: Tell us about the design you submitted to our contest, “One.”

Ray: Basically the design is an image of me and my kid’s mother. It’s based on a picture of us. She’s actually an artist and she takes a lot of images and does drawings from those images. She would send tons and tons of images to me when I was incarcerated and I would look for something to spark my creative interest.

"One" by hostileink

The actual drawing is 4 feet by 2 feet. It’s charcoal done on vellum and basically it’s what I want to get tattooed on my back. The drawing was a gift for her. I also made a sculpture from the same image. It’s two people becoming one.

MI: Hence the title. The sculpture is really beautiful. How did you make it?

Ray: The sculpture is made of soap. I shaped it down then watered it and turn it into clay. It’s the same way you would work with clay, build upon it and shape it, carve it.

MI: How did you get the color?

Ray: I stained it with coffee, buffed it out with a damp cloth and polyurethane.

MI: Thanks for sharing your story and best of luck in Metal Ink’s design contest!

10,000 Tattoos & Counting…

Posted in Designer Interviews, Tattoo Artist Interviews with tags , , , , on January 15, 2010 by metalinkshop

40% Off All Metal Ink Merchandise! Shop our New Year’s Sale and take advantage of this once-a-year discount before it’s too late! Sale ends Saturday, 1/16/10. Use code “shop2010” at checkout to get your 40% discount!

Joe Drache, tattoo artist

Joe Drache, tattoo artist

Accent Tattoo
207 South State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482-4904
(707) 462-6884

MI: How long have you been tattooing?

Joe: I’ve been tattooing for 20 years. I started out as amateur at 17, using homemade equipment and doing it the wrong way. It was a weekend hobby for 8 years before I did an apprenticeship in a tattoo shop and I learned how to do it correctly.

MI: This was in Ukiah?

Joe: This all started in Virginia where I grew up. I was living around the Norfolk area, where at the time it was illegal to have a tattoo shop. But there were shops within 100 yards of where I lived.

MI: Who was the clientele?

Joe: I had some sailors but mostly it was middle class people, people who knew me, or found me through word of mouth. I tattooed police officers. It wasn’t a serious crime. If I had gotten caught, I would have been fined $50 because I didn’t have a shop or a license. Most of these people were coming to me on someone’s recommendation—they had already heard of my practice. Even as an amateur, I was using brand new needles for every client.

MI: Describe your style.

Joe: It originally grew out of my own drawing ability. I was drawing pictures since I was a baby. I always drew monsters, girls, motorcycles, typically boy stuff. I started looking at magazines, and pretty early on, 15 years ago, I started getting influenced by Paul Booth.

MI: His work is so black and gray, very dark images.

Joe: Not only visually dark, but emotionally dark. Usually involving murder and brain matter and what have you.

MI: So how did you develop your own style?

Joe: It wasn’t until I went through my apprenticeship that I learned how to tattoo the right way. The first thing I learned how to do was copy my boss, to do everything the way he does it. Once I had that down pat, I was able to infuse it with my own flavors, so to speak. What I do best is fine line black and gray, which was the style of the guy who taught me. I’m still very much his student, but I try to take it to my own level.

MI: Who are artists you admire?

Joe: Robert Hernandez, a really phenomenal tattoo artist from Madrid. In my honest opinion, he’s the best artist in the whole world. I try to emulate his techniques, texture, light, shadow, surreal subject matter.

MI: How many people have you tattooed?

Joe: The number’s probably close to 10,000. I can do the math…back in the early days when I was an amateur tattooer, I was busier. There were some days I would do 10 tattoos in a row. These days I do about 3 a day.

MI: Incredible! Tell us about one of your favorite tattoos.

Joe: Probably one of my favorite tattoos of recent times is the WWII scene I did on a guy’s leg. But I have a new favorite tattoo every 6 months because I keep outdoing myself. I haven’t quite hit my plateau in terms of my skills.

MI: So was this person a veteran?

Joe: No, his dad was in WWII and he had become a WWII buff. I was happy to take on the subject matter, and from there I ran with it and I started throwing all these ideas at him and he really just went along with it for the most part. I wanted to include the tank and the two men battling hand to hand. I wanted to capture all the archetypical angles. Then on the bottom there’s the paratroopers and the dogfights going on…

MI: It’s definitely a detailed piece, with a lot going on.

Joe: I used a little bit of white to help accentuate the foreground pieces—it’s to separate things and create the illusion of depth.

MI: Never heard of using white ink in that way!

Joe: The white ink is mixed into the foreground elements. You think they’re jumping out at you because they’re slightly different. It’s not like you notice the white since it’s mixed in.

MI: Your work is phenomenal and it’s great to see that you recently submitted a design, “Repent,” to our design contest. Out of curiosity, as a tattoo artist, are you able to tell which designs in our contest were drawn by fellow tattooers vs graphic artists?

Joe: Only to some degree, because more and more graphic artists are coming into the tattoo industry.

MI: Well, if you have an artistic bent, it’s all you need! Good luck with “Repent” and for all our readers, please support Joe by casting your vote for his design on!

*Winning designs are printed on t-shirts, and designers are awarded $700 cash, $300 store credit, plus residuals from t-shirt sales on!

Con Gusto With Julianna Justo

Posted in Designer Interviews, Tattoo Artist Interviews with tags , , , on January 12, 2010 by metalinkshop

Only 4 more days to shop Metal Ink’s New Year’s Sale! Get 40% Off Everything in Stock! Take advantage of this once-a-year sale now by visiting and using code shop2010 at checkout to get your 40% discount.

Julianna Justo, tattoo artist

Julianna Justo, tattoo artist

Art Throb
611 E Valley Pkwy
Escondido, CA 92025
(760) 480-8288

MI: You have 2 submissions in our design contest, Machine Cross Bones and Inky Buddha. Both pieces are beautifully drawn. Have you tattooed them on anyone yet?

Machine Cross Bones

Machine Cross Bones

Julianna: No, those are just drawings I did. One thing I like about being a tattoo artist is that at every other job I had, I used to get yelled at for doodling, whereas they actually like you to draw because it helps you to be a better tattooer.

Inky Buddha

Inky Buddha

MI: You’re 24, which makes you the youngest tattooer we’ve interviewed on the blog yet.

Julianna: Yeah, I’m pretty young.

MI: How long have you have been tattooing, and how did you get into it?

Julianna: I’ve been tattooing since 2005-2006. I’ve been into art my whole life. I went to school for graphic design but I just didn’t like it. I liked working with my hands more. I have a friend here in San Diego who taught me everything he knew, gave me some gear. I hung out for 6 months at his shop and did my apprenticeship there. Then I worked at a shop in Arizona for a short time, then came back to California and started working at Art Throb.

MI: Tell us about current trends in tattoo subject matter and placement. What are your thoughts?

Julianna: Well, it used to be all about the tramp stamp, now it’s the ribs—every girl has the rib tattoo.

MI: Is it still flowers and butterflies?

Julianna: And cherries on the hip, that’s very trendy too.

MI: What do you like to tattoo?

Julianna: I like black and white. Actually, I like everything, I like modern, traditional, I like color tattoos, but I prefer black and white. It’s the same with drawings too—pencil would be my favorite medium.

MI: What’s the most interesting, bizarre, unusual tattoo you’ve done so far?

Julianna: There’s stuff that happens every day that’s pretty ridiculous. Last night I did 3 lip tattoos. There were 3 guys, and they each got “M.O.B.” with a dollar sign at the end, you know money over bitches? Not very original. It reminded me of my first tattoo.

MI: Your first tattoo was on the lip? Pretty ballsy.

Julianna: It definitely hurt yeah, and mine says “classy.” My mom was not too stoked on that one. So anyway, they asked if it was okay to drink after getting tattooed, and I was like, no you’re not supposed, because it thins your blood and it’s not going to hold the ink, it’s just going push it out. And they weren’t even 21!

MI: What do you mean by that, push it out?

Julianna: It’s like if you get a cut when you’re drinking, it bleeds so much more. I tell people all the time it’s not guaranteed that it’ll hold, even if they don’t drink. I’ve done maybe 40-50 lip tattoos and maybe 50% have stayed.

MI: That’s so low!

Julianna: On the other hand, it’s the fastest healing place because it’s the inside of your mouth. It heals in like a week. Usually you have to go over a lip two times for it to stick. I tell people I will do one free touch up.

MI: That’s a generous offer. Thanks for your time and best of luck in the Metal Ink design contest!

“Surface and Visual Interest”: Jon Butcher Explains Painting vs Tattooing

Posted in Tattoo Artist Interviews with tags , , , , on December 22, 2009 by metalinkshop

We recently spoke with Jon Butcher, who owns and operates Leviathan Tattoo along with Mr. Jason D’Aquino. Both are extremely talented tattoo artists, and we are delighted to have their work in our design contest. Go to Rate Designs on to view and vote on their artwork!

Jon Butcher

Jon Butcher

MI: You’re from Arizona. Is that where you started tattooing?

Jon: I moved to Buffalo for the purpose of tattooing. I learned out here. I moved to Buffalo 5 years ago. I spent a couple of years hanging out in a shop, and at first I was cleaning up and observing. I didn’t start tattooing until 2007, and so now I’ve been working for about 2 ½ years.

MI: I’ve seen your 2 submissions to Metal Ink, “Diamondback” and “Sea Monster.” They’re both really gorgeous, but I’m curious about your design “Diamondback”—there seems to be something very southwest about it, in terms of the subject matter and the colors. Is that what you were going for? A homage to your hometown?



Jon: I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision. I mean, I love the southwest. As far as the city of Phoenix goes, it didn’t really inspire me. But as for Gila monsters and roadrunners and Arizona wildlife, I love southwest nature and animals. I can’t help but want to make things look like that.

MI: Were either turned into tattoos?

Jon: No, I painted those designs. For “Diamondback,” I only used black paint and Lipton tea. It’s just watered down black and watered down tea in layers. It looks fuller that way, using the simple cool of the gray and the warmth of the sandy tones of the brown.

MI: Do you find your painting influencing your tattooing? What informs your tattooing? Your style is hard to categorize, but traditional seems to be a major influence.

Jon: I’m attracted to traditional tattooing because of the boldness and colors in it. The clunkiness is appealing to me, but I can’t draw that way. At the same time, I don’t want to be a traditional tattooer. I want to learn from it and take from it. I want to expand upon it. For example, in “Sea Monster,” there’s some play with the background fire and clouds—patterns that are more organic. But as far as that influencing my tattooing, I feel like my drawings are ahead of my tattoos, because I have to make my clients happy and that’s my first objective as opposed to doing what I want.

Sea Monster

Sea Monster

MI: What are some of your inspirations, and who do you admire?

Jon: I’m attracted to lots of different styles. I’m influenced by painters as much as people who tattoo. And when it comes to tattooing, I feel like I do not have a consistent style and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing necessarily. Right now I’m experimenting and playing around.

MI: It’s interesting, seeing your work, that you do run the gamut. Besides traditional style tattoos, you do birds in a very painterly style, and there’s a dice man that looks like a sketch done with pencil…

Jon: If I was interested in making tattoos look like paintings, it would be easier because that’s my background. I want to do something different than photo realism. People who do that are obsessed with rendering everything perfectly. For example, I did a cardinal few days ago, and I feel like it’s a good representation, as far as being traditional in spirit but also deviating from that tradition as to create some softness and movement without sacrificing boldness.

MI: Name a couple artists you admire.

Jon: Bert Krak is my favorite. It’s almost like his name echoes his tattoos, they’re very simple, concise, and they have a lot of personality to them. Also Jeff Gogue—his tattoos reflect very closely the same ideas that I want to express through tattooing. His Japanese inspired work is very non-traditional Japanese, but because he understands the tradition, he has deviated from it in such a way that it is more successful than the traditional style, in my opinion, in reference to space, layers, transparency and shifting focus, which are the backbone of traditional Japanese tattooing.

MI: Let’s talk about your background – you went to art school?

Jon: I went to the Art Institute of Chicago.

MI: Did you have classmates who wanted to become tattooers too?

Jon: Most people who go to art school don’t know what they want to do afterward. Probably 95% percent of people who graduate from art school, 5 years later will never make another painting in their life. There’s not that much room in today’s world for successful painters just because the business I s not there. So they have to branch out and do other things that satisfy their artistic intentions.

When I was in art school I wasn’t intent on becoming a tattooer. If I was to recommend how to become a great tattooer, it wouldn’t be going to art school. I think it could inform you and help you make more interesting tattoos, but the best way would have been to do an apprenticeship.

MI: How is tattooing different from painting (besides the obvious)?

Jon: So everything that you tattoo is going to change. It has to be successful for a lifetime. My goals in painting are different from my goals in tattooing. With painting, it’s a lot about surface and visual interest, and lots of prettiness and lots of subtle things. There’s no room for very tiny subtlety in tattoos. Everything’s gotta be bigger, simpler and bolder. If you look down at a tattoo and you’re squinting at it and it still looks good fuzzy, then it’s going to look good in 30 years.

MI: Is that what you do when you’re working on someone?

Jon: Oh no, that’s just my way of explaining it.

MI: Okay, that’s a relief. Well, thanks for your time and best of luck with your submissions in our design contest!

Stay Gold with Sagent Staygold

Posted in Designer Interviews with tags , , , , on November 19, 2009 by metalinkshop

Today we spoke with Sagent Staygold, newest member to submit tattoo art to our design contest. To see and vote on Sagent’s two beautiful designs, log in and go to the Rate Designs page. While you’re there, be sure to check out all the other designs up for voting. Remember, you choose what we print, so flex your power!

Backdoor Tattoo
1316 Del Paso Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815-3610
(916) 927-2136

Sagent Staygold

MI: Tell us where you got your name, Staygold.

Sagent: It means, you know, stay gold—don’t forget your dreams. When you see the sun rise and you get that feeling of being new even though you’ve seen it before…it should always feel new. It’s from the movie The Outsiders. Some people get “stay gold” tattooed on their knuckles.

MI: Do you feel like you’re an outsider too?

Sagent: Sure. I’m from Hamburg, Germany, and I’ve moved around a lot, Philadelphia, some other cities. Every time I go to Hamburg, I’m an outsider. I was always the outsider. I’ve had to start new wherever I went so…

MI: So you wore it proudly, being an outsider? And it was like a message to yourself, to stay gold, whenever you had to start over again in a new city?

Sagent: Pretty much, yeah.

MI: Where did you start tattooing?

Sagent: I’ve been tattooing since 1997. I started in Ohio, then I moved to Philadelphia in ’99, then I moved to Cincinnati and I stayed there for a couple years. In 2003, I moved to Germany which lasted for a couple months. I’m so Americanized that I couldn’t stay there any longer.

MI: In Hamburg?

Sagent: Yeah. I couldn’t stay in my own hometown because every one called me the American tattooer.
A lot of people were like, what are you doing here when you have a green card? So I moved back. America is a lot easier than Germany. Too bureaucratic.

MI: You have an interesting career arc. When did you move to California?

Sagent: 2005. I moved to LA.

MI: What was tattooing in Germany like? And how would you compare it to tattooing in California?

Sagent: My stuff is more traditional than anything else, and in Germany, they were a little bit behind the times. They wanted more tribal. And the feedback I got from a lot of shop owners was that no one wants that old stuff anymore. And then I move back and a year later and I ‘m looking at tattoo magazines and everyone wants traditional now. I was before my time.

MI: Is Sailor Jerry one of your influences?

Sagent: I guess he’s known as the godfather of traditional. But there’s also Christian Warhlich, Joe Lieber, Harverd Hoffman…I’m actually going more back to the ‘20s and ‘30s when they were tattooing. Sailor Jerry based his work on their stuff.

MI: Traditional is pretty widespread these days. What’s your signature?

Sagent: My roses. When you see a piece and there’s a rose, you know it’s mine because of the roses I draw.

Sagent's signature rose

MI: What’s special about your roses?

Sagent: I started drawing them and I came up with a pattern. I draw them inside out. I do a bee shape and I go from there. And then I add more stuff or I leave stuff out. Fold the leaves over with the yellow. It’s a traditional looking rose but it’s not a Sailor Jerry rose.

MI: Sailor Jerry roses are simpler.

Sagent: Right, if it was green, it would look like a lettuce head. My rose is pretty stylized.

MI: Both pretty and stylized! And the 2 designs you submitted to the design contest both feature your signature roses. Best of luck and thanks for your time.

Viva Vida by Sagent

Designs inspired by BAMBU!, compiled in one spot for your viewing pleasure!

Posted in Design Challenges with tags , , , on November 2, 2009 by metalinkshop

Thanks for all awesome submissions for our 1st ever Special Design Challenge, Design for BAMBU! We compiled all the entries here to make it easy for you to view & rate them! Enjoy!

You choose which design(s) will get printed, so log on to and rate today! Note: Voting for Bambu Design Challenge ends on Dec 31.

Bambu Faux Chic
“Bambu Faux Chic” by Quakerninja

“Bambu” by Jun087

Bambu Twist
“Bambu Twist” by Flash13

Qetza bambu
“Bambu” by Qetza

legend of holy pink
“Legend of Holy Pink” by Raven

“Bambu Eyes” by RydellSG

Bambu by Lyra
“Bambu” by Lyra

Ink Cap
“Bambu Ink Cap” by Laylangel

“BAMBU” by Mrdavidpoe